The curious story of how Jimi Hendrix opened for The Monkees on his first American tour
Fans screamed "We want Davy!" during "Foxy Lady."
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The story of how Jimi Hendrix booked his first American tour opening for the Monkees is almost as random as an episode of The Monkees. In Mike Nesmith's autobiography Infinite Tuesday, he explained how this curious bill came to be.
For Nesmith, it all began on a fateful day in 1967 when a dinner with friends somehow ended with the group all listening to a cassette club recording of Jimi Hendrix's song "Hey Joe." Nesmith wrote, "Everyone at the table was silent, and it dawned on me that we were all speechless. We all stared at the recorder as if it were some type of alien egg, something from far outside the limits of our normal waking state." Nesmith continued "When the song was over, someone said, 'How could anybody be that good?'"
Nesmith didn't know the answer, but as the genius behind many Monkees hits ("Mary, Mary," "The Girl I Knew Somewhere," "Sunny Girlfriend"), he was impressed by this newcomer. Heading home, his head still blaring Jimi's sound, Nesmith encountered the next strange event on this curiously serendipitous night:
"When I got back to the hotel after that dinner, I ran into Micky Dolenz. He told me he had seen Hendrix and asked him if he would be the opening act for the next leg of the Monkees tour, and Jimi had agreed." Nesmith was all of us when he captured his clashing immediate feelings, "I was thrilled and confused."
Although Nesmith thought the combination of the Monkees and the Experience was "staggeringly weird," he couldn't help but let the thrill of seeing this electric new musician in person every night stop him from sensibly challenging the logic of joining up these two different acts. So the tour happened, and unfortunately for Jimi, he and his band only survived a mere 10 days of Monkeemania.
The tour started for Jimi Hendrix in Jacksonville, Florida, in July 1967. Nesmith recalled the moment they met that day, "He had hair out to here and was wearing exotically lavish psychedelic clothing."
The like-minded musicians struck up the beginning of a friendship that Nesmith said thankfully outlived the tour, mostly because the Monkee was awestruck by the Hendrix's singular sound, writing, "When Jimi started playing, I stopped breathing for a second and found myself standing about three feet farther back from the stage than I had been, but with no idea how I got there. It was the first time I ever saw a Marshall stack, a five-foot-tall amplifier with enormous power."
According to Nesmith, no track Jimi ever laid down on record could approach what he heard at that soundcheck that night. He wrote, "No kind of recording could contain it." Unfortunately, Nesmith was likely Jimi's biggest fan in attendance, because ultimately, the Hendrix Experience proved unpopular with the Monkees fans, who roared in protest every night, clamoring for Davy Jones to sing "Daydream Believer" in the precise year that song first got played across many episodes of The Monkees hit show.
Even during one of what would become Jimi Hendrix's best-known songs, "Foxy Lady," the fans weren't willing to give the opening act a chance, Nesmith recalled. He wrote that this was Hendrix's final straw that caused him to leave the tour: "He moved out of the miasma of the Monkees tour into his own hundred-thousand-seat stadiums and played for reverential crowds that did not shout, 'We want Davy!' while he played and sang 'Foxy Lady.'"
Still, Nesmith admitted that despite the disastrous end of this ill-fated bill, the Monkees serving as hosts to the Jimi Hendrix Experience wasn't a total loss, writing, "That being an opening act on a Monkees tour would bring Hendrix into a world of popular awareness was curious and oddly poetic."
You know what else is "curious and oddly poetic?" This line from the Monkees' "Daydream Believer," which oddly sums up their whirlwind tour with Jimi Hendrix: "Oh, our good time starts and ends / Without all I want to spend / But how much, baby, do we really need?"