Jimi Hendrix Plays the Beatles: “Sgt. Pepper’s,” “Day Tripper,” and “Tomorrow Never Knows”

Who invent­ed rock and roll? Ask Chuck Berry, he’ll tell you. It was Chuck Berry. Or was it Bill Haley, Jer­ry Lee Lewis, Lit­tle Richard? Mud­dy Waters? Robert John­son? Maybe even Lead Bel­ly? You didn’t, but if you asked me, I’d say that rock and roll, like coun­try blues, came not from one lone hero but a matrix of black and white artists in the South—some with big names, some without—trading, steal­ing, licks, spot­lights, and hair­dos. Coun­try croon­ers, blues­men, refugees from jazz and gospel. Maybe look­ing to cash in, maybe not. Did the tee­ny-bop­per star sys­tem kill rock and roll’s out­law heart? Or was it Bud­dy Holly’s plane crash? Big Pay­ola? There’s a mil­lion the­o­ries in a mil­lion books, look it up.

Who res­ur­rect­ed rock and roll? The Bea­t­les? The Stones? If you ask me, and you didn’t, it was one man, Jimi Hen­drix. Any­one who ever cried into their beer over Don McLean’s maudlin eulo­gy had only to lis­ten to more Hen­drix.

He had it—the swag­ger, the hair, the trad­ing, steal­ing, licks: from the blues, most­ly, but also from what­ev­er caught his ear. And just as those val­orized giants of the fifties did, Hen­drix cov­ered his com­pe­ti­tion. Today, we bring you Hen­drix play­ing The Bea­t­les. Above, see him, Noel Red­ding, and Mitch Mitchell do “Sgt. Pepper’s Lone­ly Hearts Club Band” in 1967, mere days after the song’s release. As we wrote in a pre­vi­ous post, “The album came out on a Fri­day, and by Sun­day night, Jimi Hen­drix learned the songs and opened his own show with a cov­er of the title track.” And, might we say, he made it his very own. “Watch out for your ears, okay?” says Hen­drix to the crowd. Indeed.

Just above, from ‘round that same time, hear Hen­drix and Expe­ri­ence cov­er “Day Trip­per,” one of many record­ings made for BBC Radio, col­lect­ed on the album BBC Ses­sions. Fuzzed-out, blis­ter­ing, boom­ing rock and roll of the purest grade. And below? Why it’s an extreme­ly drunk Jim Mor­ri­son and a super loose Hen­drix jam­ming out “Tomor­row Nev­er Knows,” or some­thing vague­ly like it. Morrison’s vocal con­tri­bu­tions come to noth­ing more than slurred moan­ing. (He’s very vocal in anoth­er cut from this ses­sion, called alter­nate­ly “Morrison’s Lament” and “F.H.I.T.A”—an acronym you’ll get after a lis­ten to Morrison’s obscene refrain.)

This raw take comes from a jam some­time in 1968 at New York’s The Scene club. Also play­ing were The Scene house band The McCoys, bassist Har­vey Brooks, and Band of Gypsy’s drum­mer Bud­dy Miles. John­ny Win­ter may or may not have been there. Released on bootlegs called Bleed­ing Heart, Sky High, and Woke Up This Morn­ing and Found Myself Dead, these ses­sions are a must-hear for Hen­drix com­pletists and lovers of decon­struct­ed vir­tu­oso blues-rock alike. After what Hen­drix did for, and to, rock and roll, there real­ly was nowhere to go but back to the skele­tal bones of punk or into the out­er lim­its of avant psych-noise and fusion. Don McLean should have writ­ten a song about that.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

In 1969 Telegram, Jimi Hen­drix Invites Paul McCart­ney to Join a Super Group with Miles Davis

Jimi Hen­drix Unplugged: Two Rare Record­ings of Hen­drix Play­ing Acoustic Gui­tar

Jimi Hen­drix at Wood­stock: The Com­plete Per­for­mance in Video & Audio (1969)

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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