The date is June 4, 1967. The place is the Saville Theater, in London. In the audience that night are Paul McCartney and George Harrison of The Beatles. This is what they saw….
The video is Jimi Hendrix playing “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”. That wouldn’t be so unusual except The Beatles recording of the song had been released just three days before.
Hendrix had released “Are You Experienced” a few weeks earlier. His legendary performance at the Monterey Pop Festival was two weeks away. Although a lot of the public was not yet familiar with him, Hendrix was already getting a reputation as one of the greatest and most innovative guitarists in the world. And there was a developing mutual admiration between Jimi and The Beatles.
It would be one of his first gigs in London. Jimi was a sweetie, a very nice guy. I remember him opening at the Saville on a Sunday night, 4 June 1967. Brian Epstein used to rent it when it was usually dark on the Sunday. Jimi opened, the curtains flew back and he came walking forward, playing ‘Sgt. Pepper’, and it had only been released on the Thursday so that was like the ultimate compliment. It’s still obviously a shining memory for me, because I admired him so much anyway, he was so accomplished. To think that that album had meant so much to him as to actually do it by the Sunday night, three days after the release. He must have been so into it, because normally it might take a day for rehearsal and then you might wonder whether you’d put it in, but he just opened with it. It’s a pretty major compliment in anyone’s book. I put that down as one of the great honours of my career. I mean, I’m sure he wouldn’t have thought of it as an honour, I’m sure he thought it was the other way round, but to me that was like a great boost.- Paul McCartney in Many Years From Now by Barry Miles.
Hendrix showed what he thought of The Beatles and the record by performing the song just a few days after its release. It wasn’t the only Beatle tune in his catalog. He also did versions of “Tomorrow Never Knows” and “Daytripper.”
McCartney shows his respect by still playing “Foxy Lady”. He also tells a couple of Hendrix stories during his shows as a tribute.
As for the Sgt. Pepper’s album, it was one of the first concept and psychedelic albums. It’s sold 32 million copies worldwide, making it the highest selling album of its time. It was the first rock LP to win the Grammy for Album of the Year. Rolling Stone magazine ranked it Number One on their list of The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
Professor Kevin Dettmar, writing for the Oxford Encyclopedia of British Literature said it best, “Sgt. Peppers is the most important and influential rock and roll album ever recorded.”
Today we looked at the Sgt. Pepper’s album. Last September, I wrote about the anniversary of Abbey Road.
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