Jimi Hendrix Wreaks Havoc on the Lulu Show, Gets Banned From the BBC (1969)

Can you imag­ine Jimi Hen­drix singing a duet with Lulu? Well, nei­ther could Hen­drix. So when the icon­o­clas­tic gui­tar play­er showed up with his band at the BBC stu­dios in Lon­don on Jan­u­ary 4, 1969 to appear on Hap­pen­ing for Lulu, he was hor­ri­fied to learn that the show’s pro­duc­er want­ed him to sing with the win­some star of To Sir, With Love. The plan called for The Jimi Hen­drix Expe­ri­ence to open their set with “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” and then play their ear­ly hit “Hey Joe,” with Lulu join­ing Hen­drix onstage at the end to sing the final bars with him before segue­ing into her reg­u­lar show-clos­ing num­ber. “We cringed,” writes bassist Noel Red­ding in his mem­oir, Are You Expe­ri­enced? The Inside Sto­ry of The Jimi Hen­drix Expe­ri­ence.

Red­ding describes the scene that he, Hen­drix, and drum­mer Mitch Mitchell walked into that day as being “so straight it was only nat­ur­al that we would try to com­bat that atmos­phere by hav­ing a smoke in our dress­ing room.” He con­tin­ues:

In our haste, the lump of hash got away and slipped down the sink drain­pipe. Pan­ic! We just could­n’t do this show straight–Lulu did­n’t approve of smok­ing! She was then mar­ried to Mau­rice Gibb of the Bee Gees, whom I’d vis­it­ed and shared a smoke with. I could always tell Lulu was due home when Mau­rice start­ed throw­ing open all the win­dows. Any­way, I found a main­te­nance man and begged tools from him with the sto­ry of a lost ring. He was too help­ful, offer­ing to dis­man­tle the drain for us. It took ages to dis­suade him, but we suc­ceed­ed in our task and had a great smoke.

When it was time for The Jimi Hen­drix Expe­ri­ence to go on cam­era, they were feel­ing fair­ly loose. They tore through “Voodoo Child” and then the pro­gram cut to Lulu, who was squeezed awk­ward­ly into a chair next to an audi­ence mem­ber in the front row. “That was real­ly hot,” she said. “Yeah. Well ladies and gen­tle­men, in case you did­n’t know, Jimi and the boys won in a big Amer­i­can mag­a­zine called Bill­board the group of the year.” As Lulu spoke a loud shriek of feed­back threw her off bal­ance. Was it an acci­dent? Hen­drix, of course, was a pio­neer in the inten­tion­al use of feed­back. A bit flus­tered, she con­tin­ued: “And they’re gonna sing for you now the song that absolute­ly made them in this coun­try, and I’d love to hear them sing it: ‘Hey Joe.’ ”

The band launched into the song, but mid­way through–before Lulu had a chance to join them onstage–Hendrix sig­naled to the oth­ers to quit play­ing. “We’d like to stop play­ing this rub­bish,” he said, “and ded­i­cate a song to the Cream, regard­less of what kind of group they may be in. We ded­i­cate this to Eric Clap­ton, Gin­ger Bak­er and Jack Bruce.” With that the band veered off into an instru­men­tal ver­sion of “Sun­shine of Your Love” by the recent­ly dis­band­ed Cream. Noel Red­ding con­tin­ues the sto­ry:

This was fun for us, but pro­duc­er Stan­ley Dorf­man did­n’t take it at all well as the min­utes ticked by on his live show. Short of run­ning onto the set to stop us or pulling the plug, there was noth­ing he could do. We played past the point where Lulu might have joined us, played through the time for talk­ing at the end, played through Stan­ley tear­ing his hair, point­ing to his watch and silent­ly scream­ing at us. We played out the show. After­wards, Dorf­man refused to speak to us but the result is one of the most wide­ly used bits of film we ever did. Cer­tain­ly, it’s the most relaxed.

The stunt report­ed­ly got Hen­drix banned from the BBC–but it made rock and roll his­to­ry. Years lat­er, Elvis Costel­lo paid homage to Hen­drix’s antics when he per­formed on Sat­ur­day Night Live. You can watch The Stunt That Got Elvis Costel­lo Banned From SNL here.

Relat­ed con­tent:

‘Elec­tric Church’: The Jimi Hen­drix Expe­ri­ence Live in Stock­holm, 1969

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Comments (16)
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  • erez says:

    watch at 6:25, he real­izes his gui­tar is out of tune and has such a great reac­tion. It’s nice to see god makes mis­takes too.

  • Friso says:

    @erez: yeah, this is the way inno­va­tors expe­ri­ence mis­takes, think­ing: how fun­ny!! Let’s adjust and expe­ri­ence some more! Hen­drix was known for his play­ful­ness and always mak­ing fun and jokes while mak­ing music.

  • And at 6:40 Jimi throws in the sig­na­ture gui­tar riff from The Bea­t­les’ I Feel Fine dur­ing the Hey Joe Turn­around. I’m a steal that one! :)

  • jeff monk says:

    This is an amaz­ing exam­ple of con­tained feed­back, soul and rock. Wot­ta guy. RIP Jimi!! Been a fan since 1969 when I was eleven!!

  • Rogério O. says:

    In fact, Hen­drix sang a duet with Dusty Spring­field (“Mock­ing­bird” ‑unfor­tu­nate­ly, as far as I know, no image of it sur­vived). I guess that’s why Lulu want­ed him on her show ‑this was the result. :-) Great video.

  • Robert S says:

    That blast of feed­back to which the com­men­ta­tor referred sound­ed to me like Jimi kick­ing his wah ped­al on for an instant while Lulu was intro­duc­ing the next num­ber. Any­one who uses a wah ped­al has done that inad­ver­tent feed­back blast, and I doubt very much that it was mean spir­it­ed.

  • Louis Goldworm says:

    Up tight cen­sor­ing, con­trol freek. Did they teach you how to freek out when thing’s don’t go your way in pro­duc­er school ? or is Radio, and tv so con­trolled by “Big Broth­er” with the excuse of time being the key issue, or is it mon­ey ? Pow­er cor­rupts and absolute pow­er cor­rupts absolute­ly.….

  • David P. Turnbole says:

    Imag­ine! A trained drum­mer! Love it!! Jimi always rocked!!

  • Old Hippie says:

    I loved the part where he is so high on hash that he for­gets the words to his own song! :-)

  • Glenn says:

    If Jimi did­n’t want to do this duet with Lulu why did­n’t he just say it to the pro­duc­er before even going on stage? Why be rude?

  • Robbie.... says:

    I remem­ber watch­ing the TV pro­gram because the Jimi Hen­drix Expe­ri­ence were on the show. I did not know this sto­ry until just now. So thanks for retelling it.
    I loved the show and wished it could have gone on longer, a bril­liant per­for­mance.
    We lost a unique bril­liant tal­ent when Jimi died at only 27. A dan­ger­ous ages for Rock and Roll per­form­ers…

    P.S I also like Lulu.

  • Max is Back...back again. says:

    Lis­ten to the break at 6:40. You can hear him play the riff from the Bea­t­les’ “I Feel Fine.”

  • Robert Goodhand says:

    The BBC actu­al­ly lost this video for a while. I remem­ber on the Old Grey Whis­tle Test peo­ple had writ­ten in ask­ing Bob Har­ris to play it and he said they could­n’t find it. Then a few weeks lat­er he said they’d found it and it got played again. That was actu­al­ly the first time I saw it maybe around 1971.

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