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Nikos Deja Vu - Band of Gypsys (Jimi Hendrix, Billy Cox, Buddy Miles)

Band of Gypsys

After Hendrix disbanded the Jimi Hendrix Experience in early-1969, he formed Gypsy Sun and Rainbows to fulfill the contract for the Experience to play Woodstock. Bassist Billy Cox (who had played with Hendrix while they were in the army) had been rehearsing and playing with Hendrix since April, but the band was short-lived.

With Cox and his drummer friend Buddy Miles, Hendrix next formed the Band of Gypsys, this time to fulfill his obligation to produce an LP of new material for Ed Chalpin, to be released on the Capitol label. Hendrix, in interviews as early as March 1969, had already mentioned a “jam” album to be titled Band of Gypsys. Hendrix also mentioned in his introduction at Woodstock that “Band of Gypsys” was an alternative name for the group performing there.

They recorded a single “Stepping Stone” (b/w “Izabella”) for Reprise, which was quickly withdrawn after its release. They also recorded some studio material, and several finished tracks, some of which have been released on First Rays of the New Rising Sun and elsewhere. They made their live debut at the Fillmore East on New Year’s Eve, 1969, for a series of four shows spread over two nights.

The Fillmore East concerts featured mostly new songs, as the songs for the Band of Gypsys LP would have to be original due to a recent judgment against him in a contractual suit. This performance was captured using the then new portable Sony Portapak B&W video camera and open-reel 1/2” videotape recorder, from two different angles.

In some markets, including the UK, the album was released with a cover photograph that featured dolls of Hendrix, Brian Jones, Bob Dylan and British DJ John Peel, an early supporter of Hendrix.

Due to the demands of four sets over two days, the band needed a lot of material and played the Experience-era favorites “Wild Thing,” “Hey Joe,” “Purple Haze, “Voodoo Child (Slight Return),” “Foxy Lady,” “Fire,” and “Stone Free” to fill out the sets. Nearing the end of the fourth set, Hendrix said, “We’re just trying to figure out something to play, but we only know about six songs right now…seven…nine.” He then launched into a version of “Voodoo Child (Slight Return).” “Foxy Lady” was included on the later Japanese/German re-release (details below). Furthermore, “Wild Thing,” “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” and “Stone Free” can be heard on Live at the Fillmore East.

After a disastrous show at Madison Square Garden on January 28, 1970, where Hendrix insulted a woman in the audience, played just two songs and then left the stage, Band of Gypsys was disbanded.

A documentary entitled Band of Gypsys: Live at the Fillmore East was released on DVD in 1999. It focused on the album and Hendrix’s performances at the Fillmore during New Year’s Eve 1969, and New Year’s Day 1970. It contains the original half-inch open-reel black and white video footage shot by a fan at the concerts, and interviews with people that were involved in Hendrix at the time.

In 1967, a contractual dispute arose in relation to an agreement Hendrix had entered into with producer Ed Chalpin in 1965. The resolution for the dispute included Hendrix having to record an LP of new material for Chalpin company, which would not feature the Experience band, and would not be associated with the Experience band name. In addition, Chalpin was granted 2% of profits from Hendrix’s back catalog sold in US. For the agreed upon album, Hendrix chose to record Band of Gypsys, a live album.

Along with Billy Cox and drummer Buddy Miles (formerly with Wilson Pickett and The Electric Flag) with whom he had been jamming together since September, Hendrix wrote and rehearsed material which they then performed at a series of four concerts over two nights, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day at Fillmore East. The second night produced the material for the Band Of Gypsys LP, which was produced by Hendrix (under the name “Heaven Research”).

The Band of Gypsys LP was the only official completely live LP released in Hendrix’s lifetime. The band also released a single “Stepping Stone” which failed to sell, and recorded several studio songs slated for Hendrix’s future LP. In 1999, the tapes from the four Fillmore concerts were remastered and additional tracks and edits were released as Live at the Fillmore East. Litigation with Chalpin ended in 2007 after the “singularly uncredible witness” was fined nearly $900,000 for failure to abide by contractual limitations and failure to pay Experience Hendrix L.L.C. its court ordered royalties.

On January 26 and 27, 1970, Mitch Mitchell and Noel Redding flew into New York and signed contracts with Jeffery for the upcoming Jimi Hendrix Experience tour. The next day, a second and final Band of Gypsys appearance occurred at a twelve-act show in Madison Square Garden which was a benefit for the massively popular anti-Vietnam War Moratorium Committee, titled the “Winter Festival for Peace”. Similar to Woodstock, set delays forced Hendrix to take the stage at an inopportune 3 a.m., only this time he was obviously in no shape to play. He played “Who Knows” before snapping a vulgar response at a woman who shouted a request for “Foxy Lady”. He played a second song, “Earth Blues”, he then told the audience: “That’s what happens when earth fucks with space—never forget that”. He then sat down on the drum riser for a minute and then walked off stage. Various unverifiable assertions have been proffered to explain this bizarre scene. Buddy Miles claimed that manager Michael Jeffery dosed Hendrix with LSD in an effort to sabotage the current band and bring about the return of the Experience lineup.
But none of Hendrix’s other close associates verifies his statement…

The video documentary: Band of Gypsys

The Fillmore performances heard on the album were videotaped using a B&W half-inch open reel recorder, the then new Sony Portapak, from two different angles and forms the basis of this 1999 film, Hendrix: Band of Gypsys.


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