Jimi Hendrix actually attended one of Fleetwood Mac’s first rehearsals.
“I’m sure he’d heard about Peter Green,” Mick Fleetwood told us. “I remember he was very shy. Shy but suddenly bigger than life. Which is often the way with shy people. Here was this guy who’d been saying ‘yes sir, no sir’ to us, and then you’d see him on stage and he’s eating half a Marshall amplifier.”
Below, Fleetwood reveals what Jimi Hendrix means to him.
“There was this strange sort of rumour that had started in London. ‘Something is coming.’ ‘Have you heard about him?’ ‘He’s like nothing on earth’. ‘I can’t explain what’s gonna hit you’. Then we were all told about the show at the Bag O’Nails. Everyone tried to make it back from their various gigs, and if they weren’t playing they were all down that club. I was there with Peter [Green], Eric [Clapton] was there, Pete Townshend, Jeff Beck.
“Next thing we know, this mysterious rumoured entity, known as the Jimi Hendrix Experience, jumped on to this tiny little stage, which was completely consumed with two stacks of Marshalls and Mitch’s drum kit in the middle. All you can say is that everyone in that audience – especially guitar players – was sitting or standing with their mouths wide open.”
“Fleetwood Mac was rehearsing in a basement off Oxford Street. Unannounced, [early Mac producer] Mike Vernon came down and he had obviously hooked up with this young man known as Jimi Hendrix. And with all deference to the rest of the boys in Fleetwood Mac, including me, he was there to see and hear Peter.
“He was the sweetest, shyest creature. But you could tell there was a sense of mystery and mischief. He reminded me of Brian Jones – really shy and yet… not. Brian didn’t get a lot of credit. Jimi did. But they were both a very similar vibration.
“He didn’t play guitar that day. But you knew instinctively there was a presence in the room. And he just sat and hung and spoke a little bit here and there, then drifted off. And we had just met Jimi.
“There were other instances. Later on, in New York, we were playing at Steve Paul’s Scene club and Jimi came down, got up and jammed. I was being a bit of a worry wart. I remember hearing: ‘We don’t have a left-handed guitar.’ And, idiot that I was, I’m going: ‘What are we going to do?’ And I remember Jimi saying: ‘That doesn’t matter.’ And he proceeded to pick up one of Peter’s spare guitars and play it the wrong way round.
“It was so extraordinary, the complete command of his instrument. You go: ‘Well, how do you make a guitar do that? How’s he making this shit happen?’ And in the end it’s the touch. Jimi could literally pick up a guitar and play it upside-down with all the strings round the wrong way. He was part of the guitar. When you witnessed Jimi play, it was a total implosion of soul, body, music, touch, and the guitar just happened to be a tool in the middle of all that. Seeing that in motion was literally like poetry.”
What he meant to me
“One thing we learnt as young blues musicians is that if you’re a support player – which a rhythm section is – it’s important to catch the moment. The guys in the front are doing their shit, and you’re setting the stage, so you’re constantly listening and watching like a hawk. If you look at the Experience on stage, I just love the way that, like a teacher, Jimi conducted everything. Not only with his playing, but with body language and sign language, so Mitch and Noel could stay with him.
“He was a very kind player. He could fly into the stratosphere, but he would take the other players there with him. I always thought that was something I learnt from Peter as a player, and hopefully somewhat as a person. I get reminded of that [by Hendrix]. So that would be the lesson learnt. The kindness of the way he played, with everyone.”
The legacy of Jimi Hendrix
“How do I feel now when I see a T-shirt or poster with Jimi Hendrix on it? Well, the Irish sentimentality from my father’s side of the family means I would go: ‘What a crying shame.’ The very sad loss of someone so talented… You felt duped that someone like that had left. That Jimi hadn’t completed what you knew he should have. He was twenty-seven. What is it about that number? Jim Morrison. Janis Joplin. Kurt Cobain. There’s about eight or more who all left when they were twenty-seven. And they were all meteorite-type talents in their various ways.
“I think you have to end up celebrating Jimi’s music, and there’s a lot of it that he left behind. Without any shadow of a doubt, he would still have been an extraordinary player. I think he’d have remained incredibly inventive. He was such an alchemist. I can’t believe he wouldn’t have been enthralled, even at eighty years old. I would say, one hundred per cent, our man, had he remained with us, would have been beautifully active and developed all sorts of gifts to hand down to us to enjoy.”