Posts Tagged ‘The Band Of Gypsys’

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The four shows that Band Of Gypsys played at Fillmore East to bring in the New Year have rightly gone down as some of the best shows of all time, especially those on New Year’s Day itself. There were moments on New Year’s Eve where the band seemed to be lacking energy for whatever reason but on the whole every show was fantastic, as stated by the lucky devils I interviewed who were there to witness the shows for themselves. The music was funkier than that of the Hendrix Experience and while the drums may seem simple at times especially compared to Mitch Mitchell, the drums are a pivotal piece to the music that Hendrix was playing at this particular time. The Band Of Gypsys wouldn’t last for much longer with their final show coming less then a month later at Madison Square Garden in New York (Hendrix would leave the stage after just two songs and Miles would be fired backstage) but the music the band played at these four shows was and continues to be nothing short of exceptional.

There are certain artists who played certain shows with certain performances that will always be remembered, and that is certainly the case with the Band Of Gypsys at Fillmore East.

BAND OF GYPSYS AT FILLMORE EAST: NEW YEAR’S 1970
SECOND SHOW Setlist:

Auld Lang Syne
Who Knows
Stepping Stone
Burning Desire
Fire
Ezy Rider
Machine Gun
Power Of Soul
Stone Free/Sunshine Of Your Love
Them Changes
Message To Love
Stop
Foxy Lady
Voodoo Child (Slight Return)
Purple Haze


The second show was considerably longer in length than the first, as was standard at Fillmore East during this time. Before the band start playing, concert music is played through the speakers to bring in the New Year before the band run through Auld Lang Syne. The ending of this song is simply sublime as Hendrix creates a musical landscape consisting of nothing but feedback before launching into the next track, Who Knows. This is without a doubt one of the best performances from all four shows as the fuzz feedback from Auld Lang Syne goes straight into Who Knows. The riff from this song is exceptional. Funky, bluesy, perfect. Essentially a jam song based around the initial riff that opened the song, it’s one of the most enjoyable moments from the second set. Stepping Stone follows in what would be the first of only two live performances, the second being during the early show the following day. It’s a great song but after an electric performance of Who Knows it sounds a little sounded, almost as if the band members are holding back a little. This could have been because it hadn’t been played live before but Machine Gun hadn’t either until the previous show and that sounded fantastic. Buddy Miles on drums wears a little thin at times with the exact same beat with no changes going on for the entirety of the song. Mercifully, the Band Of Gypsys move on to Burning Desire. The opening jazz like rhythm hypnotises you a little before the main riff explodes in your face, however, at two and a half minutes long this version dwarfs in comparison to the near ten minute version which ended the previous set. “Ok, we’re going to play something else,” says Hendrix as the band bring the song to a halt.

Fire comes next and you can instantly hear how drastically different the energy level is on this song compared to the previous two, especially when Hendrix plays the famous Sunshine Of Your Love riff midway through the song. Even though Cream had broken up over a year earlier (26th November 1968), their influence on him remained. Ezy Rider follows before the band launch into Machine Gun once again which ignites the venue. The band play this for nearly fourteen minutes and you can only imagine what those seated right in front of the stage are going through in their paralysed states. It’s more of a laid back version compared to the early show but that doesn’t mean any of the explosiveness if taken away, it’s just being projected in a different way. Hendrix’s wah-wah blows the cobwebs away and before you know it, it’s all over. Power Of Soul opened the early show but finds itself deep in the mix here with that funky riff sounding oh so good. Out of all the songs the band played at Fillmore East during these two days, the funky songs definitely sounded the best due to Buddy Miles and his funk abilities.

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Stone Free is a classic example of Buddy Miles just not sounding as good as Mitch Mitchell. If you listen to any version of Stone Free with Mitch Mitchell on drums he sounds effortless, but Buddy Miles sounds too plodding here, too heavy footed. This is evident at the seven minute mark where Miles embarks on a drum solo you wish would end sooner rather than later but four minutes later it finally does with Hendrix and Cox returning for a full Sunshine Of Your Love segment which sounds fantastic. But one of the finest moments of the New Year residency is Them Changes, a Buddy Miles song which continues one of the funkiest riffs you’ll ever hear. Miles sounds great on lead vocals which lets Hendrix sit back and do his thing with the wah-wah which only adds to the funk magic being produced. Message To Love continues the funk theme with Buddy Miles and Billy Cox on backing vocals being a particularly enjoyable highlight. Stop follows

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Bob Feldman (Fillmore East Usher)

“I was working as an usher in the first balcony, a great vantage point for sight and sound. We had special t-shirts that said something like Happy Fillmore New Year. This was the first and only time I had heard Hendrix. I remember his version of “Auld Lang Syne” which was given the “Star Spangled Banner” treatment ala Woodstock. I also remember Buddy Miles bombastic (not in a good way) drumming which was very loud and busy. I remember the Cold Duck that was on the stage after the show. It was not for the ushers but we were able to score a few bottles. Most of what happened after the Cold Duck was a blur.”

Roy Forest (Audience Member)

“At that time I was 22. Jimi was a god and I had Row M center! I remember the six Marshall amps he played through and the unbelievable power they produced. He had me pinned against the back of my seat for the entire show. In regards to that show, Jimi was Jimi: a genius at work! I left in silence due to the raw power that that show produced and I didn’t want to speak.”

Jerry Wilder (Audience Member)

“The shows were all sold out. An artist relative of mine forged me a ticket to a nonexistent seat number, so I had no seat. I stayed in the balcony and managed to not get thrown out!”

One of Hendrix’s finest ever moment on guitar was when he played Foxy Lady at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967, and he dusts it off here for by far the best performance of the second set. The song is one of three classic Hendrix Experience songs that they would play to end the show and as soon as that riff takes off after the fretboard feedback Hendrix creates, mayhem ensues. It’s nothing but classic Hendrix without any restrictions and this one performances makes everything that came before it seem irrelevant in terms of any lack of energy the band may have been feeling. When the song ends the band leaves the stage before shouts of “more” can be heard from the extremely excited audience. When the Gypsys return, a second Hendrix Experience song awaits the eager crowd in the form of Voodoo Child (Slight Return). To my ear it sounds like Hendrix is using a lot more fuzz on the Hendrix Experience songs than he had been doing in every other song during this late show. It couldn’t be anyone else but Hendrix playing the guitar at this very moment. Even when you listen to a recording of this performance you can feel the power coming at you through the speakers. If that wasn’t enough, the band go straight into Purple Haze which is the final song of this set. None of the energy of Voodoo Child (Slight Return) is lost and if anything they pick up more energy along the way. An exceptional end to the show.

Yes, there were moments during this show (from the recording at least) where the band seemed to be lacking in energy and the Buddy Miles solo during Stone Free wasn’t his finest moment, but the set ends with members of the crowd shouting “oh my God” and “he left us totally destroyed.

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The four shows that Band Of Gypsys played at Fillmore East to bring in the New Year have rightly gone down as some of the best shows of all time, especially those on New Year’s Day itself. There were moments on New Year’s Eve where the band seemed to be lacking energy for whatever reason but on the whole every show was fantastic, as stated by the lucky devils I interviewed who were there to witness the shows for themselves. The music was funkier than that of the Hendrix Experience and while the drums may seem simple at times especially compared to Mitch Mitchell, the drums are a pivotal piece to the music that Hendrix was playing at this particular time. The Band Of Gypsys wouldn’t last for much longer with their final show coming less then a month later at Madison Square Garden in New York (Hendrix would leave the stage after just two songs and Miles would be fired backstage) but the music the band played at these four shows was and continues to be nothing short of exceptional.

There are certain artists who played certain shows with certain performances that will always be remembered, and that is certainly the case with the Band Of Gypsys at Fillmore East.

JANUARY 1ST 1970: SECOND NIGHT (THURSDAY)

FIRST SHOW: Setlist:

Who Knows
Machine Gun
Them Changes
Power Of Soul
Stepping Stone
Foxy Lady
Stop
Earth Blues
Burning Desire
The two shows from New Year’s Day 1970 are considered to be the finest shows the Band Of Gypsys ever played together. The band open the early show with the funky Who Knows which was debuted the night before at the late show. This version would end up on the self titled live album released later in 1970 with a call and response from Hendrix and Miles. The riff from Who Knows is definitely one of the most infectious Hendrix riffs of all time and it’s one hell of a way to open a show. Not a bad introduction. Machine Gun follows and this exact performance is what people today consider one of the finest moments in rock history and you can’t help but share that view when you listen for yourself. What Hendrix managed to do with the guitar in his lifetime was exceptional and in a live setting he was even more on his game than he was in the studio, and that’s saying something. But this performance of Machine Gun is musical perfection in every sense of the term. You can only imagine how incredible it was to witness this performance in person and thankfully we have a recording to re-live it as best as we can over and over again. Buddy Miles returns on lead vocals for Them Changes with Hendrix playing that funky riff whilst being able to take a back seat and focus on his playing. The solo that he plays is gorgeous with splashes of wah-wah once again to create that Band Of Gypsys tone that so many guitarists long for even today. Halfway through the song things slow down as Miles takes over on lead vocals. Hendrix and Cox remain composed in the background waiting for the moment where the song will take off once again. Before that happens, Miles begins to quick things on drums before everyone else comes in on that funky riff once again.

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Power Of Soul makes it’s third appeared in three shows and any of the energy present the previous evening hasn’t diminished one bit. Hendrix is in fine form and brings in the wah-wah once again for a second solo near the end of the song, having playing a solo without it to begin with. It’s a great mixture of tone to say the least. Stepping Stone during this early show is the complete opposite to how it was played the day before where it appeared to lack energy, at least if the recording has anything to go by. But this performance is fantastic with Buddy Miles driving the song forward and coming across as far more laid back and relaxed than he had the previous night. Hendrix on vocals comes across as confident and in control and the guitar playing is as you’d expect it would be. Incredible. It’s followed by Foxy Lady which, once more, would prove to be one of the finest moments from not only this particular show but the entire Fillmore East run.

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Mark Waldrop (Fillmore East Usher – Present At All Four Shows)

“The thing I remember most was that he didn’t look stoned like he often did and he was clearly enjoying himself more than I’d ever seen. His hair was shorter and it seemed like a different Jimi in a good way. I do recall that the 1st show was unspectacular, but that’s well documented. The other three shows were outstanding.”

Tony Fradkin (Audience Member)

“I’m pretty sure I wasn’t there on the 31st. I do recall that we were really disappointed that he was just standing there and not moving much, but when the LP came out later, we realized that he was playing his ass off. I think he did do Foxy Lady and moved around a bit on that one. I’m always amazed at folks that remember all of these details, I certainly don’t!”

Stop is a song which, as you can hear from the New Year’s Day early show, sounded so much better than it did the previous night. The band appear to be on top of things and Miles really impresses on lead vocal duties with Hendrix supplying some tasteful backing vocals when needed. Hendrix goes on to take a short solo before Miles takes control of the song once more with another vocal verse. It’s quickly followed by Earth Blues although sadly the start of this song is cut from the recording, but what you’re able to hear is Hendrix (yet again) at the top of his game. Something he’s always been known and admired for was his ability to have the music flow from his fingertips and this performance is a really good example of that. Paired with the incredible tone he produces, you feel like you’ve been hit by a freight train once the song ends. Burning Desire then returns to close the set just like it did at the early show the previous evening.

When you listen to a recording of this show from start to finish you’ll realise at the end how fast it went by. There were only nine songs played but with the first two clocking in at twenty two minutes combined, it was anything but short. The fact that it goes by so fast is a testament to how great these three guys played, after all, time flies when you’re enjoying yourself.

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thanks to Tom Caswell for this article