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Thread: 1966-10-05 Birdland, London

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    1966-10-05 Birdland, London

    Wednesday 5 October 1966
    Birdland [Kathy: “Die Fledermaus”?], London, JHE

    Mitch Mitchell’s audition, the first time what was to be ‘The Jimi Hendrix Experience’ played together.
    Noel was probably still struggling with the six-string Burns bass, see Mitch’s comment below.
    Amplification was probably Vox AC 30 ‘Top Boosts’ and a Vox ‘Foundation’ 18 inch bass cabinet with an AC 50 amp.
    Producer: Chas Chandler
    Songs Mitch remembers:

    Mercy, Mercy (Don Covay)
    [Jimmy played on the original. Notably covered by the Rolling Stones in '65]
    Chuck Berry
    Wilson Picket
    James Brown
    ‘basically R & B stuff’

    Mitch: “So there we were in this tiny basement club, playing with these ridiculously small amps.”

    “I didn’t know then that Noel had only just picked up a bass for the first time. Burns, the guitar company, had lent him a six-string bass, and he was still very guitar oriented.
    [Note: the Burns, ‘Split Sound Six String Bass’ (1962-64) was the only 6-string bass they made, apparently less than 200 were produced. Ed.]

    Jimi: “And then we had a jam session at some club in England, and that’s how Mitch, Noel and I got together.”

    Noel: “There was another guy [drummer] who we played with, from up north somewhere. I can’t remember his name.”

    “Then, on 6 [sic, ‘5’] October, along came Mitch Mitchell, fresh from Georgie Fame’s Blue Flames’.

    “Chas introduced us to this guy, Mitch – drums, who had just left ‘Georgie Fame and The Blue Flames’.”

    Mitch: “At the audition it was strange. I met this black guy with very, very wild hair, wearing this ‘Burberry’ raincoat. He looked very straight really, apart from the hair. We didn’t talk much at first – you’ve got to remember this was an audition for me sandwiched in between two sessions. Jimi was very soft spoken and gave the impression of being very gentle, almost shy. It was immediately apparent that he was a good guitarist, but at that stage I was more knocked out that he could cover so many different styles as well. You name it, he could do it. I think we did ‘Have Mercy Babe’ [ie “Mercy, Mercy”. Ed.]first. Jimi didn’t really sing, more mumbled along to the music – Chas really had to coax it out of him. But we both clearly loved the same types of music.
    So there we were in this tiny basement club playing with these ridiculously small amp’s and for about two hours we ran through what we all knew – your Chuck Berry roots, Wilson Picket, basically R&B stuff which everybody knows and accepts, just feeling each other out.
    I didn’t know then that Noel had only just picked up a bass for the first time…I remember throwing a few things at Hendrix. I really like Curtis Mayfield and The Impressions and I was astounded that he knew that style really, really fluently. He wasn’t that flash as a guitarist on that occasion, it was more just going over rhythmic structures, after which Hendrix said, ‘Okay I’ll see you around.”

    Mitch: “The band I was working with broke up on the Monday, on the Tuesday I got a phone call saying, “Do you wanna go and play with this-ah, have a play with this guy, and so I went down to-ah, a little club somewhere in the depths of Soho, and-eh, there was Noel, who had been, sort of, litterally been recruited, I think, the week before, who I-I didn’t know. I didn’t know him. I hadn’t worked with Noel before, and-eh, it’s the first time Noel had ever played bass, or picked up a bass. He was originally a guitarist, and Jimi was there in a, sort of, Burberry, sort of, trench coat. Humphrey Bogart, sort of, trench coat, looking, you know, relatively-ah straight, apart from, you know, the, sort of, the hair an’, we just sat down and went through a lot of different rhythms. Oh, we played for about, I suppose for about an hour and a half.”

    Mitch: “It was like going through a bit of Wilson Pickett, James Brown.”

    Mitch: “I suppose we got through a lot of material in the two hours, but I got a little pissed off because I didn’t really know how Jimi wanted me to play. I said, ‘Well do you want me to play like Ginger Baker?’ but I had no idea that Jimi wanted a kind of three piece situation, like ‘Cream’, at that stage. Nor I think did the management. The idea was for Hendrix to come over and front, not exactly a soul review, but for them to put together a complete backing unit for him, and why not? I was fortunate that he didn’t feel that way. In fact, I’m not sure that Jimi knew exactly what he wanted, that didn’t come until we rehearsed properly the following week.”

    Noel [changing memories]: “By which time Jimi and Chas were asking me. So I said, ‘Well, I prefer a straight drummer. And Jimi said, ‘Yes, Chas,’ ‘I don’ know’ or whatever.”

    “I should have asked Aynsley Dunbar shouldn’t I? But we got Mitch.”

    “Mitch was jazzy and very flamboyant. I think he was similar to [Keith] Moon. Moon was a brilliant drummer. I’d say Mitch was probably the best at the time.”

    Jim Marshall: “All my pupils had to learn everything: jazz, big bands, the lot and he had that sort of feel of jazz and big band, plus his bit of showmanship and I suppose that impressed Jimi Hendrix. I think it suited Jimi Hendrix’ style.”

    Mitch: “After the initial session, I think it was only a few hours later, that I got a call from Chas saying, “Yes, we’re interested, would you like to have another play?” And I said, “Well, quite honestly, what is the deal?” “We’ve got the two weeks work and that’s all I can offer you at this point. I can give you twenty quid a week!” [According to Noel they only got £15 per week initially. Ed.]
    I didn’t exactly leap straight at it, “Well the two weeks work sounds great. The only stipulation is that I don’t work for a wage. I’ll muck in for the two weeks but we’ll work it out after that.”
    I didn’t know Chas Chandler very well at that point. I’d seen him working with ‘The Animals’, obviously as ‘The Blue Flames and ‘The Animals’ had done several gigs together, but it was just like a nodding acquaintance, didn’t know that he’d given up playing completely, but he obviously had great faith in Hendrix. He’d sold his bass to finance Jimi, and that sort of thing.”

    Mitch: “Chas said there was a gig in Paris the next week with Johnny Hallyday and asked if we fancied doing it. So I said “Okay” and spent three days rehearsing [actually four. Ed.]. And then off we went and that was how it started.”
    [‘Sounds’ (11 December 1971)]

    Mitch: “The first idea was that Chas brought Hendrix over and there would be an employed backing band.”

    “But, you know, we weren’t friends, we never met or anything. I don’know, just one of those things. Three guys being thrown together and sort of, ‘There you arr, you’re a group now and see what you can work out,’ you know.”

    Chas: “Jimi and I went back to our apartment and tossed a coin to see who was going to be the drummer – we couldn’t make up our minds. We had to start rehearsals, the tour started in only ten days [actually seven. Ed.]. We were lucky, Mitch won the flip. We rang him the next morning and immediately started rehearsals to get an act together for the Johnny Hallyday tour.”

    Chas: “We actually tossed a coin, and it came down for Mitch.”

    Chas: “We had quite a few drummers lined up [who were they then? The only other mentioned was Tommy Brown and that was not going to happen Ed.], and we narrowed it down to Aynsley Dunbar and Mitch Mitchell, who just got kicked out of ‘Georgie Fame’s Blue Flames’ [He wasn’t “kicked out of,” Georgie disbanded the entire group and went “solo”. Ed.]. Neither of us could make up our minds, neither Jimi or I, so we ended up spinning a coin – it’s a pity the coin ran the wrong way. I don’t like Mitch Mitchell, he was going to get thrown out of that band every week.”

    “Mitch Mitchell had just split up with ‘The Blue Flames’ and he was looking for a gig, and it was a toss up between Aynsley Dunbar and Mitch Mitchell, and literally we just spun a coin, we couldn’t make our minds up, and it fell for Mitch.”

    Terry McVay (‘Animals’/Eric Burdon roady & Mike Jeffery employee): “It came down to two drummers, one was Mitch Mitchell, the other Aynsley Dunbar [just repeating Chas’ earlier story? Ed.] I knew Aynsley from ‘The Mojos’ and Mitch from ‘The Riot Squad’. ‘The Mojos’ were part of the Liverpool scene [he also doesn’t seem aware that Dunbar was actually a member of John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers! Ed.]. That was in nineteen sixty four when I was working with ‘Goldie and The Gingerbreads’ [also managed by Mike Jeffery. Ed.]. We had done a tour with ‘The Riot Squad’ so I had gotten to know Mitch.”

    Kathy: “Then Mitch Mitchell auditioned the following week and they were completely unable to choose between Mitch and Aynsley. “Let’s toss for it” Chas said eventually.” [just repeating Chas’ earlier story? Ed.]

    “The next audition was arranged for a drummer the next week. Again there would be a keyboard player and Noel would play bass guitar this time. Chas knew that Aynsley Dunbar was free [No. He wasn’t free, he had joined ‘John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers’ (feat. Peter Green - a brilliant guitarist, singer and songwriter) quite recently, and went on to record their 1967 LP ‘Hard Road’. Ed.] but he wanted to try another drummer as well. Tommy Brown [ex-Nero & the Gladiators, April '64] Ed. had gone off with Johnny Halliday [a long time ago, with Mickey Jones he 1st backed Sylvie Vartan, before Johnny started using her band as his backing band also. Ed.] so he was out [ie he was never ‘in’. Ed.].
    In the meantime we went to the Cream gig at the Polytechnic and gave Eric a nasty turn and then a few days after that there were the auditions for the drummer. Chas had heard that Georgie Fame’s drummer, Mitch Mitchell, was free so two drummers could be auditioned separately one after the other.
    The auditions were at a small dark club in Soho. I think it was at Die Fledermaus [this club is never mentioned by anyone else. Ed.] up at the top end of Dean Street. Chas had arranged a keyboard player and I think Noel was using a six string which might have belonged to Chas. During the audition the penny dropped with Chas. Jimi didn’t need a keyboard player. They could form a power trio like Cream who we had seen just a couple of days previously. I think he also realised it would be cheaper to have just three people on tour.
    In the taxi back to the hotel we debated which drummer to have. They were both very good. Chas wanted to know what Lotta and I thought and I suggested Aynsley because he was good looking and I’d seen him play with the Mojos. Chas didn’t know what to do so he decided to toss a coin. The first flip fell on the cab floor so he did it again and Mitch Mitchell won the toss. The Jimi Hendrix Experience was formed on the toss of a coin.”

    [It seems highly unlikely that Aynsley Dunbar would have even considered, at this point, joining (see Mitch’s comments below.) an un-named, un-formed band, that only had a couple of gigs as a support act lined up, with a bassist that was just ‘learning’, a guitarist who was completely unknown and who hadn’t written a song or shown that he could sing yet! He was a member of John Mayall’s Bluesbreaker’s (joined in July), a very well established band with plenty of work, one that Eric Clapton had not long left, and had recruited Peter Green [no slouch! Ed.] as his replacement just prior to Aynsley joining. They went on to record the (1967) Hard Road album (which some consider superior to the more famous 1966 Clapton LP) with them; before Dunbar left to join Jeff Beck. Green & Mick Fleetwood left a couple of weeks later to form Fleetwood Mac.
    Mitch: “If I had heard something in the weeks before, would I have done anything about it? 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 [ie £15 a week. Ed.]
    “Peter Green in fact gave Hendrix a great run for his money and was one of the few guitarists that wasn’t in awe of him, you know, he didn’t say, ‘Oh God, I’ve seen Hendrix, I’m gonna die!’]
    Last edited by stplsd; 12-19-17 at 05:52 PM.

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  3. #2
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    Re: 1966-10-05 Birdland, London

    In a radio interview, Kathy remembered that Dunbar actually had won the toss when the coin fell on the taxi floor.

  4. #3
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    Re: 1966-10-05 Birdland, London

    Quote Originally Posted by Ezy Rider View Post
    In a radio interview, Kathy remembered that Dunbar actually had won the toss when the coin fell on the taxi floor.
    It is above in my post and I'm 100% that, that should read, "remembered"
    Last edited by stplsd; 09-06-15 at 03:27 PM.


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