The second extract from Tony Brown’s book Jimi Hendrix – The Final Days. This the start of the opening chapter, with Jimi having flown from New York to London for the last time. Tragically, he would die just 22 days later.
Throughout the book there are conflicting accounts of the way Jimi spent his time away from the stage, most notably Monika Dannemann’s claims about Jimi’s whereabouts that others dispute. Danneman took her own life in 1996 after being found guilty of contempt of court, specifically of making false allegations against Kathy Etchingham, Jimi’s long term girlfriend in the UK.
Accompanied by his road manager Eric Barrett, Jimi Hendrix arrived at London’s Heathrow Airport from New York on the morning of Thursday, August 27, 1970, after a largely sleepless overnight flight. Ahead lay an appearance at the Isle Of Wight Pop Festival, scheduled to take place the coming weekend, and a major tour of Europe. He told an Evening Standard reporter at the airport that he was pleased to hear about the large crowd already gathering for the festival. “The more there are the better... I really dig this festival scene,” he said. Little did he know that this would be the last time he passed through British Customs after a flight across the Atlantic.
Jimi was nursing a slight cold that was to become worse as the days progressed. He was also tired and run down from the lengthy recording sessions he had recently undertaken in New York at his new studio Electric Lady. The previous evening he’d attended a party to mark the studio’s opening, and he’d had no rest before catching his flight. Although usually in good health, Jimi did suffer more than usual with colds – a legacy of irregular eating and sleeping, constant flying from one climate to another and the amount of work and dedication he put into everything he did.
From Heathrow Airport Jimi and Barrett drove in a black Mercedes to Central London where Jimi booked into the Park Suite at the Londonderry Hotel in Park Lane. He tried to catch up on his sleep during the daylight hours then, as darkness fell, he dressed and went to the Speakeasy Club on Margaret Street near Oxford Circus for some evening entertainment.
The Speakeasy was a favourite haunt of the music industry and in the past Jimi had often jammed on its tiny stage. He was guaranteed to bump into people he knew or acquiescent girls and, sure enough, Jimi met up with Angie Burdon, Eric’s wife, and her friend Carol McCulloch, and invited them back to the Londonderry hotel to spend the night with him, which they agreed to do.
Meanwhile, Monika Dannemann, a German ice-skating champion of Jimi’s acquaintance, had arrived in London from Düsseldorf on August 24, and booked into the garden flat of the Samarkand Hotel at 22 Lansdowne Crescent in Notting Hill. In a statement she gave to the police on September 18 she stated that Jimi had moved in with her at the Samarkand on September 15, but she later insisted that she contacted Jimi on the day he arrived in England and that they moved into the Samarkand together that evening.
“I was with Jimi at the Speakeasy,” said Monika, contradicting the evidence of several others. “There was a lot of people, but not the crowd that Jimi normally was with. It was more people I knew or we just encountered... but the normal crowd say ‘No, no, no, it can’t be’ but they don’t know because they were not there. The first night that Jimi arrived I was with Alvinia (Bridges) in the Speakeasy because Jimi was saying he would get there. We saw Billy Cox and we went with Billy Cox to the hotel and we got together with Jimi and spent some time in the bar downstairs at the Londonderry Hotel. And then Alvinia parted and Billy Cox parted and Jimi and I went to the Samarkand Hotel.”
Whatever occurred in the night, there is plenty of evidence to confirm that the following morning Jimi awoke, still full of cold, in the bedroom of his suite at the Londonderry Hotel alongside Angie Burdon and Carol McCulloch, neither of whom were dressed. An argument developed between him and the two girls, probably over their continued presence in the bedroom. Jimi wanted them to leave and they had refused. Jimi became angry and began to wreck furniture and fittings in the room. The girls became hysterical, so Jimi banged their heads together and threw them out of the bedroom into the adjoining sitting room. Afraid to return to retrieve their clothes, they sat around wondering what to do. Finally they called Kathy Etchingham, Jimi’s long term English girlfriend, and asked her to come to the hotel to mediate.
Kathy Etchingham: “Angelia phoned me at home about eleven in the morning and said they were up in the hotel with Jimi, and Jimi had gone bananas, and their clothes were in the bedroom and they were in the sitting room and that they were frightened to go back in there to get them so they could get dressed, and would I go round. And I said that I would come down. Angelia said, ‘Well get a cab, get a cab, we’ll pay it’. When I got round there, I saw that the glass plated coffee table had been broken. I walked straight into the bedroom and got their clothes, and then I went back and sat down and asked Jimi what was wrong, what was the matter. He said, ‘Oh Kathy, tell them to go, tell them to go’. When I went into the bedroom, it was so hot. Jimi had the fan heater set up to the top temperature, and I remember sitting there saying, ‘It’s bloody hot in here Jimi’ and he says, ‘No, no, no it’s fine, I feel cold’. And I remember him saying, ‘What they doing, what are they doing?’ and then he said, ‘What are you doing here?’ and I said, ‘Well they phoned me, they wanted their clothes’. And he said, ‘Well take their clothes and tell them to go’.
“Angelia said that he suddenly went bananas and started banging their heads together. I stayed there and chatted to him for a bit, and then I left. He’d had enough. I know what was going on, he just had enough with all these people, he had no privacy, no quiet, you know. And it was okay as long as he wanted it to be alright and then as soon as it was finished, he wanted them to go, but they were obviously hanging around. ’Cos that’s what he was like, he used to pick up these birds and take them back to the hotel and as soon as he had finished with them, he wanted them to go. He wanted them to get dressed and go, and that’s what he used to do. In the earlier days when he wasn’t too out of it, he would put up with them hanging around. But I think towards the end there, he just couldn’t stand it. He wanted to be on his own, he wanted them to go.”
A series of press interviews had been set up by Track Records and Jimi’s PR, Les Perrin, for later the same morning and Jimi had to prepare himself and the suite for the busy schedule ahead. In what can now be seen as a remarkable change of mood, Jimi quickly forgot about the unpleasant scene with the girls that had erupted earlier, and settled down mentally for the upcoming onslaught of reporters.
Throughout the entire day Jimi was invaded by London’s music press. At one stage, there was a backlog of journalists building up in the bedroom, as one by one they were filtered into the sitting room to speak with him. For the most part Jimi appeared to be happy and in good spirits, but he seemed to be concerned about his upcoming appearance at the Isle Of Wight, where a host of other top acts – including The Who, The Doors, Joni Mitchell and Jethro Tull – were also due to appear. He felt that he’d been away from England for too long, and that his British fans might have forgotten him in the meantime.
Tomorrow’s extract will cover Jimi’s appearance at the 1970 Isle of Wight Festival, his last show in the UK.