The Woburn Music Festival, held over two days on Saturday 6 and Sunday 7 July, 1968, saw the only official UK performance of the Jimi Hendrix Experience during that year. The band's previous UK performance was at the Christmas On Earth Continued concert at London's Olympia on 22 December, 1967, while after Woburn, the band did not play in the UK again until 18 and 24 February, 1969 for their concerts at the Royal Albert Hall in London. The Festival was organised by Melody Maker in conjunction with Rik & John Gunnell by courtesy of His Grace the Duke of Bedford. Tickets for the two-day event ranged from a mere 10 shillings for the afternoon of 6 July and 15 shillings for the evening of 7 July to £1 for those attending the evening session of 6 July with the Jimi Hendrix Experience. Woburn Abbey maintains an archive but unfortunately, no records exist of the Jimi Hendrix Experience performance. According to staff at Woburn Abbey ..."We have spoken to various long serving members of staff and regret that they could not recollect the Jimi Hendrix Experience concert of 6th July 1968...the events file for this period has not survived....There are no examples of tickets or posters in the archive."
The Experience flew to England on Thursday, 4 July from New York City, scheduled to headline the evening session of the Woburn Festival on Saturday 6 July. Noel Redding's diary entry for the Saturday reads as follows:
Got up at 1 o'clock. Went to Jimi's hotel. Came home. Washed my hair. Collected Pat [a friend of Noel] from Grannies [the King's Road clothes shop Granny Takes A Trip]. Collected Jimi. Wrote another song. Had a pint on the way down. Loads of photos in the Abbey. Did the gig, went down a bomb. Gerry [Stickells] drove home. Went to Blaises [club - with Jimi]. Saw Mick Avery [drummer of the Kinks] and Terry Doran [personal chauffeur of George Harrison]. Went to bed about 3:30.
The Jimi Hendrix Experience performance begins with the band being introduced by the MC, DJ Emperor Rosko, "You're about to witness a little experience". The band takes it's time to tune up and the MC jokes " This is quite a normal experience, tuning up beforehand, especially when your materials been in the hands of the Spanish Customs Department". Since the band didn't perform in Spain until after Woburn on 15 July, Rosko's comments presumably are a reference back to April 1967 when they were banned by the authorities from appearing on Spanish TV because of their long hair! The tape contains a great deal of banter and talking to the audience from the band members, from Hendrix himself making comments about the equipment ...We're having slight difficulty with our amps cause this is the first time we've used them this year, heh-heh-heh..., referring to the band's absence from the UK until this concert. The beginning of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band is missing because the recorder didn't switch the reel-to-reel deck on in time. Following that, Hendrix introduces the next song ...Here we go - a thing called Let Me Stand Next To Your Old Lady And Smoke Some Of Your Fire. Here we go... Before Tax Free, Hendrix comments ... We'd like to continue on with this...instrumental that...We have some friends in Sweden named Hansson and Karlsson and we'd like to do one of their songs. It's called Tax Free - it goes something like this here...Before we go on I'll tell you the truth. Like I said before, we ain't played in a long time so we're...just jamming really...
After Foxy Lady, Noel Redding introduces Voodoo Child...Continue on with a song that...we recorded for our new LP. It's nothing but a...hard rock... and Hendrix finishes It's called Voodoo Child before he launches in to the now familiar intro. Afterwards, Hendrix again apologises for the sound ...We're very sorry that we had to play through broken amplifiers... Like I said before, it's really a hang-up. And it's very hard to get our own sound across. So we'd like to end it and say thank you very much for showing up and...we'd like to do this last song, Purple Haze.
Many people who attended the Woburn Event have fond memories of the concert and of the Jimi Hendrix Experience in particular. Hendrix fan, Mike Griffin recalls ...I can remember an extended version of Red House with some fantastic blues instrumental parts. Just straight blues. I mean it was just beautiful. Because Hendrix was so sort of hyped up at the time with the whole psychedelic thing, it was really nice to hear him play some really, really good blues.
In the New Musical Express issue of 26 October 1974, in an article entitled Great Rock Solos Of Our Time, guitarist Fred Frith commented "A lot of people wanted to play like Clapton; but a lot of people wanted to BE like Hendrix...As a straight blues guitarist he was brilliant. I can well remember a breathtaking and unusually disciplined eight chorus solo in Red House at the Woburn Festival."
The Jimi Hendrix Experience show at Woburn was professionally recorded on a 7.5 ips, 2-track, mono, reel-to-reel tape. It is not known who actually recorded this tape but the master tape was stored in a small studio in London, where it sat on the shelves among a wall of tapes. In the early 1970s, the studio went bust and an employee rescued some of the tapes before they were destroyed. Additionally, a film crew was present to record the event. Nothing is known of the whereabouts of this footage, but if such footage were to surface it would be an incredible find and a wonderful companion to the recording offered here.
Photograph courtesy of Mike Wells.