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Thread: 1966-09-29 Birdland, London

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    1966-09-29 Birdland, London

    Thursday 29 September 1966, Birdland, London
    Noel’s audition “…we played two chord sequences, that’s all, just a couple of chord sequences.”
    Amplification was probably Vox AC 30 ‘Top-Boost’s and a Vox ‘Foundation’ 18 inch bass cabinet with an AC 50 amp.
    Jimi – guitar [Keith Richards’ ‘loaned’ white strat?]
    Noel Redding – used Chas’ Gibson EB2 bass, [but found the 4-string awkward. Ed.]
    [According to Kathy, Noel played guitar at first (rhythm, I presume?) with Chas on bass]
    Aynsley Dunbar – drums
    [then just settled in with ‘John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers’ feat. Peter Green, one of the most popular and respected UK bands with plenty of work, and on their way to recording one of the best UK LPs of 1967, ie not looking for a job with a ‘black’ guy who was completely unknown, wasn’t sure of where he was going, didn’t sing, hadn’t any gigs lined up, hadn’t any original material and were only paying pocket money! See Mitch’s comments on if he had been offered - before he was sacked by Fame: “I was still with Georgie Fame, not on a wage but getting paid by the gig, doing quite a lot for an eighteen to nineteen year old kid. It would have been difficult to pass up, say £120 a week average, and go – as it turned out – to basically nothing.” That ‘nothing’ was "£15" a week (Noel. ~ The average labourer's wage for 40 hours), "£20" (Mitch. ~ The average tradesman's wage for 40 hours) Ed. ],
    Mike O’Neill – Vox Continental piano
    [then ‘between bands’ (by this time he was ex-Ivy League – they had broken up in January. Mitch, it has been said, played session on all their recordings; ex-Tony Colton & the Crawdaddies and formerly ‘Nero’ of ‘The Gladiators’ - they had broken up in Apr 64 (nearly 2 & 1/2 years ago, ie he was looking for a ‘gig’].
    Producer: Chas Chandler.

    Noel’s diary has:

    Mercy, Mercy (Don Covay)
    [Notably covered by the Rolling Stones in ’65]
    Land Of A 1000 Dances (Chris Kenner)
    Hey Joe (Billy Roberts)

    “Tonight Let’s All Make Love in London,” interviews - 1966, a 1967 TV film release.
    [Peter Whitehead (director) and Dolly Read? (a ‘Bunny Girl’. London Playboy Club & Casino had opened on 1 July)]
    PW: “[Describe a ‘dolly girl’]”
    DR: “How can you describe a ‘dolly girl’? Probably young...”
    PW: “Where do ‘dolly girls’ go in London and which clubs?”
    DR: “Oh, the clubs? I suppose the Scotch and Dolly’s, heh, Dolly’s. And-em, I think Birdland is a new one, which I’ve been to once or twice, it’s quite swinging. Eh, otherwise there aren’t really that many ‘with it’ clubs in London, but the one’s that are, are great. You know you just go there and drink, talk, relax, do what you like, no-one cares.”

    Noel: “I went round and played at this club called the Phone Booth [sic]. Chas Chandler was there and Eric Burdon walked past – real stars! Chas asked me who I had played with and I said Johnny Kidd. I had – I’d once played with his guitar in a dressing room.
    Burdon had got a guitar player already. So Chas asked me to come down to this other audition. He asked me if I could play bass for a bit. So I went down and there was Jimi Hendrix with a guitar. He showed me some chords, we tuned up and played. It was ‘Hey Joe’. He bought me a drink and said he’d just come from America. Then he gave me ten bob and a bar of chocolate. I was really hungry.”

    “[I came]…back again the next day to this place [‘Birdland’]. Burdon vaguely remembered me. I played guitar for him; he liked it and asked me to stick around for a while. So there I was waiting, when Chas Chandler came up to me.”

    “One of the nicer clubs, ‘Birdland’ was very weird during the day with all the lights on. I found Eric[Burdon] and we ran smoothly through a couple of blues-type numbers. Then, awkward silence... I had the feeling the spot was already filled [it wasn’t. Ed.].
    I was hanging around hoping when Chas Chandler (bassist with the chart-topping ‘Animals’, TV star and all-round god) came over and asked if he’d heard me before. I reminded him of the night at Joint Bentley’s club on Baker Street when Eric had sung with us. Chas asked if I could play bass and sit in with this other guy, gesturing to a bloke who was pacing uneasily in a distant corner. He was dressed in a horrible tan raincoat [see 14-10-66 Nancy & 5-10-67 George pub photos. Ed.] and grotty black winkle-picker boots with zips! Awful! In London in those days, we all wore Annello and David’s (theatrical shoemakers) Cuban/Spanish short boots with squared toes. I said I’d have a go.
    Chas introduced me. Jimmy, his name was, and he seemed quite pleasant and friendly. He also introduced me to drummer Aynsley Dunbar and pianist (Vox Continental) Mike O’Neil, Nero of The Gladiators. Meeting Nero was a highlight of that day for me. Jimmy mumbled the chords of a song called ‘Hey Joe’ and we ran through it two or three times before briefly trying a couple of sequences in the same vein as ‘Have Mercy’. Jimmy was amazed I remembered the chords so easily. But what’s a blues progression when you’ve been in Germany learning new songs between sets? No one sang. It didn’t seem like much of an audition. No talking, just this American guy playing nothing particularly special and the feeling that someone was planning a group.
    We finished up and Jimmy came over and said, ‘Can I have a chat with you?’ I made my favourite suggestion that we nip next door for a half of bitter. He hadn’t tasted bitter yet, and found it strong compared to American beer. We chatted about nothing and about music. I wanted to know if he’d ever seen Booker T? Or Sam Cooke? He had! That improved him a lot in my estimation.
    Jimmy commented on my hair, which I’d begun to grow even though it was curly like his own and therefore not trendy. I told him his hair was a bit longer than my image of an American - which was based on the G.I. look of short back, sides and top. He said l must be groovy to have hair like that, and as we walked back he asked if l would come up to the audition room the next day as he hoped I’d be in a new group with him. Chas then asked me to come back. I said I could if he’d give me ten shillings for the train fare.
    Once home, I excitedly told Mum all about it. She was very happy for me. I thought it would be bloody great to be in a group with an American – someone who had grown up listening to all that exciting music on the radio. This was fantastic! He seemed a reasonable player and a nice guy, plus Chas Chandler’s involvement gave Jimmy a lot of credibility.

    “I sat in with this coloured gentleman, a drummer and a keyboard player, we played two chord sequences, that’s all, just a couple of chord sequences, and afterward the coloured gentleman said to me, ‘Oh I really like you. Do you want to play with me?’ I said, ‘Well I can’t really play bass you know,’ and he replied, ‘Look, can you come back tomorrow?’ I said, ‘If you give me ten shillings, yes’ So I got the ten shillings and went back the next day, I was taken to the office, saw Chas Chandler and Mike Jeffrey, and they offered me a job. They also said that they were looking for a drummer. For that first audition the drummer was Aynsley Dunbar and the piano player was Mike O’Neill, from ‘The Gladiators’ [he was then very ex. The Gladiators broke up in 1964. Ed.]. So we came back to London and tried out a couple others, including a guy from up North who was very good.”

    “I played with Eric [Burdon] and he vaguely remembered me. That’s when Chas came up and said can I play bass. I said, ‘No, but I’ll give it a go.’ I was handed this bass, which was Chas’ bass. We went through three tunes with no vocals, as far as I can recall it was ‘Have Mercy’, ‘Land Of A Thousand Dances’ and Hendrix told me the chords for ‘Hey Joe’. We just played it through.
    The drummer was Aynsley Dunbar. Keyboard player was [Mike] O’Neill who used to have that band Nero and the Gladiators [ex-Apr. ’64. Ed.].”
    The first play we had, he wasn’t really playing lead. He was just playing rhythm, basically, I think he was trying to suss out people. It was very early, but my mum always said that I came home on the train and said, “This bloke’s really good.”
    I’d met Americans before when I’d worked in Germany, so I always had this thing: I sort of liked Americans for some funny reason. Two other impressions was, he was wearing this horrible raincoat and it wasn’t raining, and he had winkle pickers on, by which time winkle pickers had gone out of vogue: everyone was wearing those Cuban heel things.
    This American gentleman said, ‘Can I have a chat with you?’ So we went to this little pub next door and sat in the corner…I found the guy highly polite and really nice. He asked me about all about the English music situation at that point, which was ‘Kinks’, ‘Small Faces’, the ‘Move’, etcetera. I’d never been to America so I asked him had he ever seen Sam Cooke, had he ever seen Booker T, that sort of stuff. We had a pint of best bitter [see above ‘half’. A popular type of dark English beer served at room temperature. Ed.] each and he said would I join his group. And that was it.
    He’d never been in England and I think he sort of appreciated the fact that we just went down the pub and talked about the music.”

    Jimi: “I was thinking of the smallest pieces possible, with the hardest impact.”
    “Noel comes down expecting to play guitar, you know, he was trying for ‘The Animals’, so I dug his hair style, so I asked him to play bass.

    Chas: “I was looking for drummers and bass players, even though I didn’t know what the band was going to be or what kind of line up it would have. We were just looking for musicians.”

    “Two weeks after we arrived in England I was in the offices in Gerrard Street. A kid came in and asked if he could audition for lead guitar with the New Animals. But the place was already filled. I told him we needed a bass guitarist to work with Jimi. I lent him my bass and told him to go and meet Jimi and jam a bit to get to know him. He played bass for the first time and Jimi liked what he played. Jimi said: ‘I think we’ve found a bass player.’ And Noel said: ‘I’ll switch to bass. I don’t see anybody else playing lead guitar with this bloke.’
    Noel was broke and I had to lend him five bob to get home.”

    “One day this kid with the same haircut as Hendrix turned up at the office [Anim] asking to audition as the new guitar player for ‘The Animals’. I said that I was sorry, I had just fixed the last guitarist yesterday, Vic Briggs had joined and there was no room [? Briggs wasn’t even asked to join until October – after the Paris Olympia gig. Ed.] but how did he fancy playing bass? He said, ‘I’ll do anything. I’m absolutely skint.’ So we went straight down to ‘Birdland’. I happened to have a bass, a Gibson EB4 [sic, it was an EB2. Ed.], and told him that I was looking for a bass player for this guy that I had brought over from The States. I knew that Jimmy was down at the club screening musicians and I told Noel that he might want to permanently pack in the guitar and go to bass after seeing him. Noel had never played bass before but he played for about two hours. Hendrix said, ‘Fine, I like this guy. He’s the first one.’”
    “Noel turned up with the same haircut as Jimmy’s and asked to join the Animals and I said, ‘Well that seat’s gone, but I got this guy in from America looking for a bass player.’ He was pink [‘pink lint’ – ‘skint’ ie no money. Ed.] then, so he said I’ll do anything.”

    Mitch Mitchell: “Apparently he [Noel] got the gig because he had the right haircut – but them’s the breaks, you know?”

    Noel’s mum says he told her: “I met a guitarist who’s going to be the greatest guitar player ever and I think I’m going to join the group.”

    Kathy [no one else mentions her or Lotta being there at all, but then it was a bit of a ‘boys club’. Ed.]: “Jimi needed a drummer and a bass guitarist and auditions were held in a small, seedy [see above comments by others - it wasn’t ‘seedy’ it was one of the hipper clubs in London and not long opened! Ed.] basement club in Soho with black walls and coloured graffiti. Chas and Jimi were judging musical ability and asked Lotta and me if we thought they looked right. They wanted the act to look sexy and fit in with Jimmy’s image, as well as play well. The first drummer’s name was Aynsley Dunbar and the guitarist was Noel Redding. He was really a rhythm guitarist but was able to play a good bass line, which was what they were looking for, and he looked the part. Chas immediately gave him the job. Noel was an ordinary young man from Folkstone with no airs or graces. He just wanted to play guitar and get paid for it. Aynsley had played with ‘The Mojos’ - we had met in the North before I came down to London. He was very good and they were quite prepared to offer him the job.” [she doesn’t seem aware that he was actually a member of ‘John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers’! Ed.]

    “The first audition was for the rhythm guitarist and it was held at Birdland in the daytime. Birdland was a small club in Duke Street, St. James. Noel Redding was being auditioned for rhythm guitar and there was a piano player and a drummer. I can’t remember the piano player but I think the drummer might have been Tommy Brown of Nero And The Gladiators. [ex-Nero & the Gladiators, they had split two and a half years previous. As she also said, “Tommy Brown had gone off with Johnny Hallyday.ie In 1964, with Mickey Jones (also ex-Nero, ’64), Tommy & Mickey 1st backed Sylvie Vartan (France’s 1st real ‘rocker’ of note), before Johnny started using her band as his backing band also. Ed.]. Chas played bass guitar and they all did a few numbers together.
    It became obvious that Jimi didn’t really need another guitar. He was virtually a solo player. Chas asked Noel if he could play bass guitar instead, to which Noel said that he didn’t know bass but he’d give it a go. Noel could play nearly any sort of stringed instrument, even violin, and had been a professional musician since school. I don’t think he had ever played bass guitar before but he knew what was needed and just took Chas’ guitar and played an absolutely steady bass line. That was it – Jimi had a bass guitarist and the deal was made in the pub next door. I think it was that evening that we met Johnny Hallyday and Chas agreed to a tour in France even though he hadn’t got a band together yet and didn’t even know what form it would take.”
    “They don’t have to be brilliant” Chas said “Because Jimmy can carry them with his playing. They just need to be proficient enough to keep up with him.”

    “I can remember Chas saying, ‘Look, he can play a solid bass line, so, he looks all right, so he looks fine.’ They didn’t want anybody who was going to do anything fancy. They didn’t want anybody trying to do their thing on stage.”

    “Noel’s memory is different from mine. I don’t remember going ‘round to the pub at all and having a pint. And Jimmy didn’t drink pints [Noel earlier only said that he had tried bitter for the first time, ahalf pint. Ed.]. So I think that’s just Noel thinking everybody has a pint. He [Jimi] drank half pints though! He’s photographed in the BBC bar in 1969 drinking a half pint of bitter! If I remember rightly, we left with Chas and Lotta and he’d already gone. I don’t think we went into any pub ‘cause if we had’ve done, I’d have remembered standing there talking to him, but I didn’t actually meet him again until later.”

    Terry McVay: "I had access to the Animals' blue van in which there were two SE [sic, ‘AC’ - presumably J-McD doesn’t get the Geordie twang? - The Animals used Vox gear. Ed.] 100 ‘top-brand’ [sic, ‘Top-Boost’. ‘100’ seems to be a slip for ‘30’, see below. Ed.] amplifiers and one [Vox] Foundation, single eighteen-inch bass amplifier [this speaker cabinet would have had a separate AC 50 amp to drive it. Ed.]. That's what we were using for the auditions. [Hendrix wanted to find better amplification for himself. So] I took him to Shaftesbury Avenue, 'Music Alley' as we called it, where all the music stores were. He blew up Burns amplifiers, Selma [sic, ‘Selmer’. Ed.], Sound City, everything in sight; everybody in the stores would stop and look. It became a daily routine, go to the store to look for a new amp and then go to the auditions. He would plug into the borrowed SE[sic, ‘AC’] 30s [the ‘100s’ presumably was a slip? The 100’s were what they used for concerts. Ed.]and say, 'I hate this shit,’ I'd laugh and say that it was all we had!"

    Vic Briggs: “[Vox amps] weren’t loud enough! At that time, there was no Vox that had more than two 12-inch speakers [wrong, he’s thinking of the AC 30 & AC 50, the AC 100’s (100 watt amp) cabinet had four 12-inch speakers plus two mid-ax horns. That was what the Yardbirds, Animals, Beatles, Stones etc. used on stage. Anyway it's not the amount of speakers that make 'loudness' - it's the power of the amplifier. Ed.]. Well, Marshall designed a box with four 12-inch speakers. And then they designed two boxes with four 12-inch speakers in each that could be stacked on top of each other. This is eight 12-inch speakers.” [there was nothing to stop you stacking two AC 100 cabs – they’re just boxes Ed.]

    John Entwhistle: “When we first started calling ourselves the Who I used a Marshall 50 watt amp with a 4x12 cabinet. I had the first 4x12 cabinet that Marshall made. We[ie him & Pete. Ed.] more or less forced them to make 100 watt amps by changing to Vox, who already had one out [the AC 100. Ed.].”

    Eric Burdon: “The first time I heard him play was in a rehearsal room putting together ‘The New Animals’ and this shadowy figure stepped into the room wearing a large western, sombrero kind of hat, beads around it [Note: Jimmy hadn’t started wearing a hat at this time. Ed.], and looked almost sort of purple, you know [no, we don’t know? Ed.], in the darkness of this club [everyone else says the lights were on – it was a rehearsal Ed.] and he just grabbed hold of Vic Briggs’ [Note: not a member of ‘The Animals’ at this point. Ed.] guitar and in the same instance said ‘‘Do you mind if I have a jam?’’ you know, and cracked up into a blues, up tempo blues jam with John Weider and Barry Jenkins and Danny McCulloch from my band. Just leapt in and chased them on this incredible jam and I mean the sounds just rocketed around the room, like ricocheted around the room. I was totally stunned and from that point on I became unashamedly a Jimmy Hendrix addict…’’[a load of bollocks from Burdon - as usual. Ed.]

    [Minus the utter bollocks, but still over-the-top (if it ever actually happened)]:
    “The first time I heard him play was in a rehearsal room putting together ‘The New Animals’ [this much is quite likely Ed.]. Jimi stepped into the room and he just said, ‘Do you mind if I have a jam?’, you know, and [cranked] up into a blues, up tempo blues jam with John Weider and Barry Jenkins and Danny McCulloch from my band [a possibility? No one else mentions this jam. Ed.]. Just leapt in and chased them on this incredible jam and I mean the sounds just rocketed around the room. I was totally stunned and from that point on I became unashamedly a Jimmy Hendrix addict…”

    Vic Briggs: About three weeks after the Paris concert [ie ~1 Nov!] I began rehearsing with the Animals. Since I was now under the same management office as Jimi I would see Jimi, Mitch and Noel from time to time, sometimes at our management office, sometimes in the clubs. There is a story on the internet, apparently put there by some well respected researcher, where Eric Burdon says that the first time he saw Jimi, Jimi walked into an Animals rehearsal, picked up my guitar and started jamming with the band. Well, it's possible it may have happened but it certainly was not with my guitar. I did not start rehearsing with the Animals until about a month after Jimi came to London [ie he apparently thinks Jimi arrived in October, as this is when Jimi jammed with Brian Auger. Ed.].

    Jonathan King [‘Incredible Stories 18’]: “I told you about Jimi Hendrix [...] but the one thing I didn’t tell you was the story of how I made him a star. Well, it’s not quite true, but one day he was ‘round here [...] one evening. I cooked him dinner and we were having a chat and I said to him, “Jimi, I have to tell you, I’ve got your hit record,” ‘cause he hadn’t had any hits by then and nobody had ever heard of him. So, I took him upstairs to my music room [...] and I said to him, “right, okay, listen to this,” and I put on the single that I’d got that had been a hit in California - a small hit in California - but nowhere else in America. But I loved it and I came back and I played it to him and it was by a group called ‘The Leaves’ and the song was ‘Hey Joe’. Anyway he absolutely loved it and said, “Oh, you’ve got to give that to me,” I said, “No, no, no, this is the only copy,” and I’ve still got it, by the way. Uh-I will make you a cassette tape, which we did in those days, illegal, very naughty Jonathan, breach of copyright and I gave him the tape and sure enough he recorded it. It turned into a huge hit and I still have the letter from him saying, “Jonathan my dear, many thanks for being the one to play me the song that made me a star. Love Jimi” [...etc. Obvious pish. Ed.]
    Last edited by stplsd; 09-04-16 at 01:28 PM.
    Frank Zappa: "Rock journalism is people who can't write interviewing people who can't talk for people who can't read."

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    Re: 1966-09-29 Birdland, London

    'Jonathan my dear' indeed! - I'd really like to see that letter, funny how he hasn't produced it.

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