Jimi Hendrix in… Norfolk

Monterey, The Isle Of Wight… and Dereham!

STEWART TURNER recalls that time Jimi Hendrix played in a tiny Norfolk market town


 

Supergroup Cream playing a pokey village hall usually reserved for jumble sales and scout groups, fuzzy garage-rockers The Electric Prunes headlining in a ramshackle seaside pavilion: one of the most defining aspects of the ’60s was the ability of nondescript, provincial towns to attract big names to their venues.

Dereham, a small market town in the middle of Norfolk, is the perfect example. Bands like The Small Faces, The Move and The Action all played The Tavern Club at the height of their fame. Syd Barrett’s Pink Floyd even passed through with their acid-propelled freak-outs and psychedelic light show, passing way over most people’s heads in a county that proved stubbornly resistant to the dubious charms of eastern mysticism and flower-power. But Jimi Hendrix is the one that sticks in the minds of mid-Norfolk baby boomers. Dereham-born Nick Sands witnessed Hendrix’s crunching guitar pyrotechnics back in October 1967 as a 17-year-old, and recalls that promoter Brian Cross pulled off the coup of the decade by booking the Experience to play at a time when they were pretty much the hottest band on the planet.

The gig was originally pencilled in for January, but when Jimi’s brooding, slowed-down version of US garage band staple ‘Hey Joe’ shot up the charts, he was bundled into the studio to quickly record a follow-up. He agreed to play later for the same fee, and by the time the band returned to this tiny town with a population of fewer than 10,000 in October, they’d already played The Monterey Pop Festival and toured America.

From the picture Nick paints of Dereham in the ’60s, it’s amazing anyone ever played there at all. He remembers Melody Maker running a feature on the 10 worst places to gig in the country, polling the biggest bands of the day for their thoughts. Dereham came fifth – one place higher than The Gorbals, a bleak, post-industrial area of Glasgow, which was widely regarded as the worst place to live in the country.

This was a place where bottles once rained down on Rod Stewart and battered Jeff Beck’s guitar to the point of no return. Geno Washington once played part of a frenzied set to an empty venue because of the townsfolk’s peculiar tradition of leaving the venue for a late-night conga around the market place. By all accounts, it was a weird place to perform.

But Jimi was different, and The Tavern, by now rechristened The Wellington Club, was so crammed with bodies that impromptu al fresco congas were a physical impossibility. Undeterred by the promoter’s canny price hike, hundreds of wide-eyed and sweaty teenagers witnessed a set that ran through most of the Are You Experienced? album, with ‘Foxy Lady’, ‘Purple Haze’ and ‘Hey Joe’ soundtracking the bizarre spectacle of a couple of bouncers chucking pints of water onto the crowd in a bid to cool things down.

The defining moment that cemented the gig in Dereham folklore was a typically theatrical pelvic thrust that planted the head of Hendrix’s Stratocaster through the false ceiling, taking out a few spotlights in the process. The 24-year-old star was firmly cut down to size when he had the costs of repairs deducted from his wages later that night.

This wasn’t Hendrix’s first visit to Norfolk – he’d earlier pocketed £39 for playing Norwich’s notorious Orford Cellar, a place where the emphasis was on more on raucous, sweaty R&B rather than personal space and fire escapes. But The Wellington Club was the one that stuck, and with plans afoot to commemorate the gig later in the year; the story looks set to live on for a long time yet.

 

Read Kris Needs’ Hendrix epic in the next few issues of the magazine

 

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Father John Misty ‘Total Entertainment Forever’

For those of you who enjoyed our FATHER JOHN MISTY interview in issue #66 here’s his brilliant new video. We loved Adam Green’s Aladdin and are so pleased to see cast member Macauley Caulkin playing a crucified Kurt Cobain and what resembles left-overs from the film’s set. It’s a lot of fun, so kudos to Misty for taking this route.


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Shindig! Broadcast #36

Jon ‘Mojo’ Mills and Thomas Patterson talk less than usual and play lots and lots of music


Tracklist

‘Oh Calcutta’ Nick Perito

‘Life Is Just Beginning’ The Creation

‘Another Cold & Windy Day’ Bee Gees

‘I Can See The Light’ Les Fleur De Lys

‘Satt Att Se’ Dungen

‘A Song For A New Age’ Tim Blake

‘King Of The Dawn’ The Sundowners

‘Morning Joy’ Peter Walker

‘Colorado’ Danny Holien

’You Do Too’ Mortimer

‘Crying To Be Heard’ Chris Harwood

‘Rainy Day In June’ Stoneground

‘It’s Gonna Be High Tonight’ Ashton, Gardner, Dyke & Co.

‘Heaven Is In Your Mind’ Three Dog Night

‘Rainmaker’ Traffic

‘PF Sloan’ Unicorn

‘Desert Island Woman’ Chilli Willi & The Red Hot Peppers

‘The Ballad Of John & Julie’ Unicorn

‘Jakten Genom Skogen’ Dungen

‘Things That Would Be Helpful To Know Before The Revolution’ Father John Misty

‘1970 In Aspic’ Robyn Hitchcok

‘Hangin’ On’ GospelbeacH

‘Real Love’ BNQT

’Souvenir Shop Rock’ Savoy Motel

‘Look & You Will Find’ John Woolley & Just Born

‘Baby What Do You Want Me To Do’ Sons Of Fred

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