Mitch Mitchell On Jimi's Death
From Mitch Mitchell's book "Inside The Experience" 1990
The following Thursday night, the 17th, I had to drive up to London. About quarter to seven I went to see Gerry Stickells, who said that Hendrix had called about fifteen minutes previoiusly, would I give him a call.
I called him up and he asked me what I was doing. I told him I was just off to visit Ginger Baker and then we were going out to Heathrow Airport to meet Sly Stone, who was flying in.
Jimi was really excited about Sly and said, "is there any chance of a play?" So I said, "funny you should say that, yeah, the idea is we're all going down to the Speakeasy for a jam." Jimi was really up for it and agreed to meet us there about midnight. His agreeing was no surprise: anywhere in the world, Jimi was always up for a play: it took precedence over anything.
Anyway, we met Sly, who was knocked out that Jimi wanted to play and, after checking him in at the hotel, we went down to the club. We got there and we waited and we waited. By one o'clock people were starting to sort of look at each other and by two they were starting to say it was odd.
In the end we all sat there till closing time which was about four. I remember having this odd feeling when I left that was hard to define. If nothing else it was just so out of character for Hendrix not to have shown, especially as he'd appeared full of beans earlier and really wanted to do it.
I drove back to my house, about an hour and half's drive. I didn't go to bed and sat up for what seemed like a few hours, but may well have been longer. I'm not sure of the time, but I got a call from Eric Barrett, telling me that Jimi had died. I just couldn't believe it. I couldn't release any emotion at all. I finally got some sleep about six the next night, but waking up later, it was a bit like when Jimi had crashed his car in Benedict Canyon and had come in and told me about it, you know, "Did I dream that?" Again I woke up thinking, "was that the truth?" and, of course, sadly it was. I couldn't handle it at all.
The worst thing was the funeral, it was like a circus. I flew out to Seattle with Noel, who I'd seen a few times in the past months. He hadn't seen much of Jimi , but he had been to the opening of the Electric Lady studio and there was still a lot of affection between all of us.
What led up to Jimi's death remains a matter of speculation and is unlikely ever to be fully explained. Suicide is generally ruled out, although he wasn't going through a wonderfully happy period, and foul play seems more the stuff of conspiracy theories, which leaves "accidental death" as the most likely cause.
The whole thing with the night Jimi died is odd. There are definitely a couple of hours in there that no one can account for. We know that he went to see Alan Douglas, who was in town, likewise Devon Wilson. Devon was staying in Mayfair, not far from the Speakeasy, so I can see him going there to pick her up enroute to the club.
Earlier on in the evening Jimi is supposed to have got stuck in traffic at Marble Arch and talked to people in an adjacent car, who invited him to a party, which he ultimately went to. I find that very odd as well. At some point, later on, he definitely phoned someone -- Gerry, I think -- in the course of which he said something like, "I'll never do that again," but what that referred to I don't know.
Jimi was spending most of those last days with Monika Danneman who - no offense to her - was not the great love of Jimi's life. There have only been two of these , Cathy Etchingham in the early days in England, and Devon Wilson. I do know, though, that Devon Wilson was becoming a bit of a handful by then and he wasn't overjoyed to discover she was over here as well. Sadly, Devon died under mysterious circumstances herself a few years later.
What did happen we'll probably never know. I certainly don't think it was suicide. Undoubtedly, he'd been tired and depressed, especially after those last European gigs, but definitely not suicidal. I think it was a tragic accident, but some of the circumstances surrounding it are certainly odd.
In the end, all you can say is, "What a fucking waste." He was irreplacable, both as a friend and musician. I miss him as much today as twenty years ago. There was so much more that he was capable of and his music would have changed as would the musicians he worked with, including drummers. I like to think, though, not that I was the perfect drummer for Jimi, but that maybe once a year we'd always get together to do some gigs, each of us having played with other people in the mean time. There is no doubt, though, that he was not simply a hard act to follow - more an impossible act to follow.