On December 31, 1969, Jimi Hendrix played his debut performance with his new band, Band of Gypsies, at the Fillmore East in New York. Music from that show has been available for years but, on September 30, the entire performance will be made available on Machine Gun: The Fillmore East First Show 12/31/69.
Released via Experience Hendrix LLC and Legacy Recordings, the new album was produced by Janie Hendrix, Eddie Kramer and John McDermott who have worked on all Hendrix reissues since 1995. The album was mastered by Grammy Award winner Bernie Grundman and will be simultaneously released, on CD, 2 LP 180 gram vinyl, high resolution SACD and digitally.
Machine Gun: The Fillmore East First Show 12/31/69 documents the first of the group’s four legendary Fillmore East concerts. This set presents an assortment of fresh, exciting new songs such as Earth Blues, Ezy Ryder, Stepping Stone, Burning Desire, and Machine Gun—none of which had ever before been issued on disc. Moreover, nearly all of the group’s material had never been performed before an audience. “We decided that we couldn’t do any songs that had already been released,” explains Billy Cox. “We wanted to give them something different. So we went at the project in a joyous, creative posture and ultimately developed the repertoire of the Band of Gypsys.”
While promoter Bill Graham had advertised the concerts as ‘Jimi Hendrix: A Band Of Gypsys’, few could have anticipated what Hendrix had in store. “We had two shows New Years Eve and two shows New Years Day,” remembered Cox. “We didn’t know what to expect from the audience and the audience didn’t know what to expect from us, but from the time we hit that first note, they were in awe. You had Jimi Hendrix, a drummer who had been with the Electric Flag and Wilson Pickett, and I was the new kid on the block.”
With the anticipation of the sold out Fillmore audience heightened to fever pitch, Hendrix led his trio through a scintillating, seventy-five minute opening performance. None of the eleven songs presented had yet to grace an Experience album. In the place of signature songs like Purple Haze and All Along The Watchtower were confident renditions of Power Of Soul and Hear My Train A Comin’.
Jimi generously extended center stage to Buddy Miles, providing a showcase for Changes and a charged rendition of the Howard Tate R&B hit Stop. “We had rehearsed Changes and a few others for Buddy,” explains Cox. “All of the songs we performed had been rehearsed. We didn’t look at it as Buddy’s part of the show. We were all there to give. We were all there to help and material went on whether it was written by Jimi or not.” Former Rolling Stone senior editor David Fricke, who authored this collection’s liner notes, describes “Stop” as being something akin to “a psychedelic power-trio Temptations.” Hendrix’s scalding version of Elmore James’ Bleeding Heart is the set’s only other cover, underscoring the new band’s emphasis on the blues.
As the Fillmore audience roared with approval, the Band Of Gypsys left the stage confident that they had validated Jimi’s new music before his loyal followers. “After the gigs were finished, Jimi was quite relieved,” remembers Cox. “We felt the concerts went well. I might add that in previous gigs with the Experience he had used a fuzz face [tone control pedal] and a Wah-Wah pedal, then at Woodstock he used a fuzz face, Wah-Wah pedal and Uni-Vibe, but at the Fillmore East he used a fuzz face, Wah-Wah pedal, Uni-Vibe and Octavia and it was incredible. In fact you could hear all of it kicking in on Machine Gun. It was incredible. There were people in the audience with their mouths open.”
The track list:
Power Of Soul
Hear My Train A Comin’