“Are You Experienced? wouldn’t come out for two weeks. Nobody knew what to anticipate...”: Hear a pre-fame Jimi Hendrix perform to an unsuspecting audience of Mamas and Papas fans

Jimi Hendrix onstage performing live at Monterey Pop in 1967
(Image credit: Michael Ochs Archives / Stringer / Getty Images)

A new Jimi Hendrix live album documenting the guitar icon’s 1967 set at The Hollywood Bowl is set to hit shelves and streaming services on November 10 – and you can hear the first clip, a previously unreleased, scything rendition of Howlin’ Wolf’s Killing Floor, below.

The catchily titled Jimi Hendrix Experience: Hollywood Bowl August 18, 1967 recording is significant in that it captures a pivotal moment in the electric guitar god’s journey –marking one of the final shows he would play ahead of the release of Are You Experienced?

While the Jimi Hendrix Experience had already enjoyed singles chart success back in the UK and had set tongues wagging after a quite literally incendiary appearance – in which Hendrix set his Fender Stratocaster alight – at Monterey Pop, the guitarist had yet to truly crack the American market.

Are you Experienced? the album wouldn’t come out for another two weeks," explains Bob Merlis, of Warner Bros. publicity department, in the promo clip below.

“It wasn’t being played on radio stations. Nobody knew what to anticipate. That’s why it was so mind-blowing to the audience... It was unknown territory, uncharted waters.”

As of August 18, 1967 that was all about to change, though he didn’t know it at the time – and nor, clearly, did most of the audience, who were there to see the hit-making headliners The Mamas and the Papas.

Indeed, one of the best things about the Killing Floor clip is the guitarist’s fleeting response to the shocked silence and smattering of applause that greets his efforts. “Thanks anyway,” he quips.

Alongside the release, the label has also put together a new mini documentary about the show, which interviews key players and attendees, including The Mamas and The Papas’ Michelle Phillips and Paul McCartney guitarist Brian Ray.

“I had no idea who Jimi Hendrix was and what the Jimi Hendrix Experience was,” recalls concert attendee Forrest Andrews, in the documentary. 

“When the lights went up, mouths were agape – and I mean that quite literally… I had grown up watching people perform in a very static way. Many times they’d had the guitar strapped up very high and they wouldn’t move off center of the mic. This was a guy who took command of the stage… 

“I’d just never heard anything like that before, ever. The guitar was part of his body and the sounds that were coming from that stage were just tremendous.”

Ray, meanwhile, recalls pitching up to the show to see the headliners with his sister and being completely floored by the performance.

“The audience was there to see The Mamas and the Papas,” adds Ray. “They haven't heard of Jimi Hendrix. I'd never heard of Jimi Hendrix – and he couldn't be more opposite… as an act, culturally, physically, in every possible way, he was the opposite. 

“Here comes this guy and there's only three of them on stage and they have these afros and these wild, ornate, very theatrical clothes. Jimi proceeds to shred, and it's loud but it's musical, and then it becomes so physical. 

Jimi Hendrix onstage for his soundcheck at the Hollywood Bowl in 1967

Jimi Hendrix onstage for his soundcheck at the Hollywood Bowl in 1967 (Image credit: Michael Ochs Archives / Stringer / Getty Images)

“He starts playing the guitar under his leg, and now it's behind his back, and now he's playing it with his mouth, and now he's on the ground on his knees and he's like humping it, and it, to me, was mind-blowing. 

“It was sort of every human characteristic; it was beauty, grace, it was sexual, violent, gentle, it was just everything all at once in one band coming out of this one guy. I wouldn't say that the audience response was quite the same as the response I was having. My sister and I were going bananas, and the audience was like [soft clapping] and they were trying to figure it out.”

The decision to lead with a preview clip of Killing Floor feels poetic, too. It was the track that Eric Clapton first heard Hendrix perform in 1966, signaling a changing of the guitar hero guard, and the song that served as the thundering opener for the Hendrix’s Monterey Pop set – another line in the sand for ’60s pop culture.

We’ll have to wait until November 10 to hear the rest, but that date is going on the calendar, for sure.

Jimi Hendrix Experience: Hollywood Bowl August 18, 1967 track list

  1. Introduction
  2. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
  3. Killing Floor
  4. The Wind Cries Mary
  5. Foxey Lady
  6. Catfish Blues
  7. Fire
  8. Like a Rolling Stone
  9. Purple Haze
  10. Wild Thing

Of course, Killing Floor was by no means Hendrix’s only skilful reinvention of a blues standard. For more on that, check out 5 times Jimi Hendrix proved he was a master of the blues.

For more information on the new album, alongside physical release options and pre-saving links, head to the Jimi Hendrix Hollywood Bowl 1967 preorder site.

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Matt Parker

Matt is a staff writer for GuitarWorld.com. Before that he spent 10 years as a freelance music journalist, interviewing artists for the likes of Total Guitar, Guitarist, Guitar World, MusicRadar, NME.com, DJ Mag and Electronic Sound. In 2020, he launched CreativeMoney.co.uk, which aims to share the ideas that make creative lifestyles more sustainable. He plays guitar, but should not be allowed near your delay pedals.