Hendrix at the Isle of Wight
The Isle of Wight festival (1970) was a fiasco from many angles as 600,000 fans (twice the number at Woodstock) refused to pay, surged across the fences and camped out (while mouthing half-baked slogans about liberation). Unruly elements disrespected many of the artists on the multi-day bill, booing and hurling things. But when Jimi Hendrix took the stage, they settled down and listened.
The documentary Blue Wild Angel: Jimi Hendrix Live at the Isle of Wight (out now on Blu-ray) is a record of the guitarist’s performance (including footage previously unseen). He performed against the loose, slippery, bluesy-funky grooves of bassist Billy Cox and drummer Mitch Mitchell; clad in a colorful tunic, Hendrix was deep inside the music, exploring the ins-and-outs of electrical feedback and sustain along with the peculiar properties of sheer volume on “All Along the Watchtower,” “Foxy Lady” and other familiar numbers.
Prefacing the concert are fascinating bits, including snippets of a playful Hendrix on Dick Cavett and other Hendrix concerts from 1970. Among the participants interviewed for the film are Cox, Mitchell and the documentary’s director, Murray Lerner. Road manager Gerry Stickell complains of the event’s hypocrisy. “I don’t think he was that keen to do it. It was very disorganized,” he said of Hendrix, who apparently smelled trouble. The promise of money won out, but as backstage footage shows, Hendrix’s people had to practically strong-arm the promoters to get paid.