Home Read Classic DVD Review: Jimi Hendrix | Experience

Classic DVD Review: Jimi Hendrix | Experience

Hendrix deserved better than this 70-minute set of odds and ends. So do his fans.

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This came out in 2001 – or at least that’s when I got it. Here’s what I said about it back then (with some minor editing):

 


If any ’60s artist was tailor-made for the DVD revolution, it’s Jimi Hendrix.

Along with being one of the most-recorded (and most-bootlegged) performers of his time, Jimi also seems to qualify as of the most-filmed. By now, we’ve all seen so many different clips of him playing Purple Haze behind his head, picking a solo with his teeth and sacrificing one of his trademark Strats to the guitar gods, you’d think he travelled with his own camera crew. It’s as if every time he plugged in the guitar, somebody else plugged in a film camera. And now, all their grandkids are hawking the footage on the Internet.

Check out any fan site and you’ll likely find countless hours of Hendrix video for sale — professionally shot versions of his famous performances at Woodstock and Monterey; privately filmed footage from dozens of smaller concerts; obscure TV and film appearances; endless documentaries about the man, his music and his untimely death. Much of the stuff is priceless. Some of it is doubtlessly worthless. But for years, it’s all been out there on the market, crying out for the hand of an archivist — someone to sift through all the footage, source it correctly and compile a comprehensive, multi-disc package to serve as a permanent record of Hendrix’s filmed career (and complement last year’s tremendous four-CD Hendrix box).

Sadly, the new Hendrix DVD Experience is a far cry from definitive. Hell, it’s a long way from extensive — just a single, no-frills disc with about 70 minutes of footage from various live and televised performances, anchored with a previously released 1967 BBC documentary. Mostly, it’s stuff any fan already has in their collection.

Which is not to say Experience isn’t worth adding to your library. If you haven’t seen it, the titular 27-minute documentary (also released under the title See My Music Talking) is an entertaining look at Jimi through the groovy, psychedelic lens of swinging ’60s London. The bulk of the piece consists of interviews, backstage footage and assorted pop-star tomfoolery, but Hendrix and his Experience — drummer Mitch Mitchell and bassist Noel Redding — do deliver decent versions of Purple Haze and Wild Thing, and Hendrix even plucks his way through a 12-string acoustic version of Hear My Train a Comin’.

Even if it’s not exactly in-depth, it’s still fairly entertaining. As are most of the other goodies included here. First up is an in-studio taping from Swedish TV in 1967, with the band laying down Wind Cries Mary and Purple Haze before a gaggle of kids seated on the studio floor. From the same year, there’s a wild ’n’ woolly live version of Wild Thing from a concert at Paris Olympia, and a promo clip for Hey Joe. And from ’69, there are two songs from a rather disappointing Swedish concert, where a bored-looking Hendrix aimlessly jams, noodles and generally goes through the motions of Red House and Cream’s Sunshine of Your Love. Finally, for no good reason whatsoever, there’s a horrifying promo video from a 1997 re-release of Dolly Dagger, featuring go-go dancers getting down in an ice factory (don’t ask). And that’s it — no commentaries or extra audio tracks, no book, no subtitles, zip, zilch, nada.

Admittedly, all the stuff on Experience — with the exception of Dolly Dagger — is pretty cool. But the package could and should be so much cooler. Let’s face it, 70 minutes of odds and ends can’t even come close to doing justice to one of the most important and influential careers in rock. Hendrix deserves better. So do his fans.