Jimi Hendrix Opens for The Monkees on a 1967 Tour; Then After 8 Shows, Flips Off the Crowd and Quits

hendrix monkees

It’s easy to dis­miss The Mon­kees. Crit­ics and lis­ten­ers have been doing it since the six­ties, although the band has also come in for its share of reap­praisals, par­tic­u­lar­ly for their psych-rock album Head. (That’s the sound­track from the 1968 Jack Nichol­son-direct­ed art film of the same name: “One of the weird­est and best rock movies ever made.”) But what­ev­er you think of The Mon­kees’ music, you have to admit: they had one of the most extra­or­di­nary careers of any band in rock and roll.

They began in 1965 as a troupe of actors in a sit­com Mon­kee Micky Dolenz describes as about “an imag­i­nary band… that want­ed to be The Bea­t­les,” but “was nev­er suc­cess­ful.” In a very short time, the four members—Dolenz, Peter Tork, Davy Jones, and Michael Nesmith—had mas­tered their instru­ments and learned to write their own orig­i­nal songs.

It seemed that almost overnight, they’d gone from lip-sync­ing boy band come­di­ans to gen­uine pop stars. (Dolenz describes it as “the equiv­a­lent of Leonard Nimoy real­ly becom­ing a Vul­can.”)

In the sum­mer of 1967, “at the height of Mon­kee­ma­nia,” The Mon­kees Almanac informs us, the band embarked on a 28-city tour through the Unit­ed States and Eng­land, open­ing at the Hol­ly­wood Bowl just five days after their TV show col­lect­ed two Prime­time Emmy Awards. The odd­est thing about the tour: for eight dates, Jimi Hen­drix opened for the band with his new­ly formed Expe­ri­ence, “one of the strangest pair­ings in rock and roll his­to­ry.” But at the time, writes Men­tal Floss, “the pair­ing actu­al­ly made a lit­tle bit of sense for both acts.” The Mon­kees want­ed cred­i­bil­i­ty, and Hen­drix need­ed a U.S. audi­ence.

He was already a huge star in Eng­land, but, despite blow­ing the crowd away at the Mon­terey Pop Fes­ti­val that spring, Hen­drix was most­ly an unknown quan­ti­ty to U.S. music buy­ers. But Dolenz had seen him play in New York and was suit­ably impressed. When he sug­gest­ed Hen­drix for the tour, the Expe­ri­ence’s man­ag­er Mike Jef­fery jumped at the chance, think­ing he could lever­age The Mon­kees’ huge crowds to break Hen­drix in the States. Hen­drix him­self expressed much less enthu­si­asm, hav­ing called The Mon­kees’ music “dish­wa­ter” in a Melody Mak­er inter­view.

So how did it go? Not well, as you might imagine—certainly not the “West Coast Suc­cess” the head­line at the top of the post trum­pets. Mon­kees fans—mostly young kids drag­ging along parental chaperons—had no idea what to make of Hen­drix. “Jimi would amble out onto the stage, fire up the amps and break into ‘Pur­ple Haze,’ ” wrote Dolenz in his auto­bi­og­ra­phy, “and the kids in the audi­ence would instant­ly drown him out with, ‘We Want Davy!!’ God, it was embar­rass­ing.” Although Peter Tork espe­cial­ly among The Mon­kees’ mem­bers was over­joyed to have Hen­drix on the tour, he lat­er recalled the pair­ing as a sin­gu­lar­ly bad idea: “This is scream­ing, scar­ing-your-dad­dy music com­pared with The Mon­kees. It did­n’t cross any­body’s mind that it was­n’t gonna fly. And there’s poor Jimi, and the kids go, ‘We want The Mon­kees, we want The Mon­kees.’ ”

You can see Tork describe the ill-fat­ed match-up in a hilar­i­ous­ly dat­ed MTV clip above. Despite his reser­va­tions, Hen­drix got on very well with The Mon­kees. Not so much with their obnox­ious fans. “The Jimi Hen­drix Expe­ri­ence played just eight of the 29 sched­uled tour dates,” writes Men­tal Floss, “and then on July 16, 1967, Jimi flipped the For­est Hills, Queens, New York, audi­ence off, threw down his gui­tar and walked away from Mon­kee­ma­nia.” (History.com gives the date as July 17.) No great loss for either band. A cou­ple months lat­er, Melody Mak­er pre­sent­ed Hen­drix with a“World’s Top Musi­cian” award, and his music hit the U.S. main­stream as well. And The Mon­kees fin­ished the tour and went on to make Head, the film and album, which, depend­ing on whom you ask, either ruined their rock cred or defined it for­ev­er.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

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

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

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

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

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