The trippy story of how Jimi Hendrix ended up playing a concert in front of a few hundred spectators at a windy cow farm next to a Hawaiian volcano features a cast of characters that could come from a Thomas Pynchon novel. There’s Chuck Wein, aka The Wizard, a Leary-lite Harvard graduate who dated Edie Sedgwick and made films with Andy Warhol before dropping into the hippie world. There’s Michael Jeffery, Hendrix’s manager, a shady operator with a line in tall stories about his career in the British Army. And there’s Hendrix, who found himself committed to making a soundtrack for Wein and Jeffery’s Hawaii-set psychedelic sci-fi movie, “Rainbow Bridge”, and somehow ended up playing one of the last shows – performing with the Cox-Mitchell axis – on the tiny island of Maui.

Rainbow Bridge started as a celebration of Hawaii’s surfing subculture, but soon mutated into an experimental, unscripted Warhol-esque film inspired by hippie life, Wein’s impenetrable personal philosophy and Jack Nicholson’s stoned campfire monologue from Easy Rider. It’s the success of the latter that seemed to appeal to Jeffery, who thought a Hendrix score would turn a counterculture flick into a serious commercial offering. The promise of that soundtrack persuaded Warners to fund the film, and Hendrix was on board as he needed the money to complete Electric Lady Studio.

Hendrix made a cameo in the film as an assassin but his biggest contribution was to perform an outdoor concert that was filmed. The gig was as unconventional as the film. “It was a colour/vibratory sound experience,” says Rainbow Bridge art director Melinda Merryweather. “The electricity went off, people swear they saw a spaceship go by, somebody fell of a tower.” The audience were asked to sit in astrological order and delivered a mass Buddhist chant as Hendrix took the stage. A gale was blowing and the small audience sat on the floor as if they were at a village fête. It must have been one of the most unusual set-ups Hendrix had ever faced but he seemed to thrive in the atmosphere – Cox described it as one of the best the trio did.

The set included new songs like “Dolly Dagger”, “Hey Baby (New Rising Sun)”, “Ezy Rider” and “Freedom” alongside established classics. Seventeen minutes of scratchy footage – with drums overdubbed by Mitchell – appeared on the posthumous Rainbow Bridge film, eventually released along with a Hendrix LP of the same name that had nothing recorded in Maui. Much more restored footage features in this fun documentary, while the forthcoming “Live In Maui” triple contains all that was salvageable from the two 50-minute sets.

Directed by John McDermott, Music, Money, Madness – Jimi Hendrix Experience Live In Maui attempts to unpick this wild tale with the help of a tremendous batch of interviewees. Billy Cox and Eddie Kramer are on hand from camp Hendrix, there’s cast and crew from Rainbow Bridge, a few still bewildered Warner Bros execs plus archive interviews with Mitch Mitchell and Chuck Wein.

Experience Hendrix and Legacy Recordings have a brand-new collection that celebrates The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s near-mythic performances on Maui, Hawaii in 1970. “Live In Maui” brings together audio and video with a new feature-length documentary called Music, Money, Madness: Jimi Hendrix In Maui. The collection will be available in 2-CD/Blu-ray and 3-LP/Blu-ray configurations, all due on November 20th.   Director John McDermott’s new documentary film chronicles the Jimi Hendrix Experience’s visit to Maui and the story of the Rainbow Bridge film by incorporating period footage with new interviews with Chuck Wein, Billy Cox, Eddie Kramer, and others key figures.  It’s presented in both editions of Experience Hendrix/Legacy’s release on Blu-ray, and the discs will also feature all of the existing 16mm colour footage from the two afternoon sets captured on July 30th, 1970 mixed in stereo and 5.1 surround.  The accompanying 2-CD set features Hendrix, Billy Cox, and Mitch Mitchell’s restored Maui sets, newly mixed by Eddie Kramer and mastered by Bernie Grundman.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.