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.

Note: An ear­li­er ver­sion of this post appeared on our site in 2012.

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Relat­ed con­tent:

The Stunt That Got Elvis Costel­lo Banned From Sat­ur­day Night Live (1977)

The Night John Belushi Booked the Punk Band Fear on Sat­ur­day Night Live, And They Got Banned from the Show

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

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Comments (4)
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  • Ric says:

    Every­thing I’ve always despised about the cur­rent state of the music indus­try is epit­o­mised in the way she says “sing” Hey Joe instead of “play”. Three peo­ple in the band — four if you count Jimi twice — singing is a very small part of the art on dis­play here

  • jeff monk says:

    Love the clip but please, nev­er men­tion Jimi and Elvis Costel­lo in the same arti­cle again…Costello can­not hold a can­dle, etc.

  • Ross Hamilton says:

    Costello’s obvi­ous­ly pre­con­ceived SNL stunt was designed to look like a real fuck­up, and I think most peo­ple believe that. I’m sure it was inspired by Mr. Hendrix’s Lulu set.

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