One of the mileposts of getting older is living through the death of a family member, a friend or a public figure. I was very sad this morning to hear that Mitch Mitchell had died. All day, I have been thinking about the way he figured into some of my early musical experiences.
Seeing The Jimi Hendrix Experience was my first real concert. Before that, the only live music I had ever heard was "Guitar" Johnny Nicholas or Duke Robillard playing at the Watch Hill Yacht Club. Seeing Jimi live was a big step forward in my musical education.
March 31, 1968 was only a few days after my 16th birthday. I was on spring break from the Pottstown Penitentiary when I went with a couple of friends to see The Jimi Hendrix Experience at the Arena Theatre in Philadelphia. We took the P&W to 69th street (no one in the group had a license) which was a scary thing to do at the time. That was indian country for little kids from the suburbs.
Before Jimi and the band took the stage, I can remember the eclectic look of the crowd, the smell of marijuana in the theatre, and the light show of The Soft Machine, the opening act.
When The Experience began to play, I will never forget the wild look of the band and Jimi's flamboyant guitar playing. He was jumping around that stage humping his guitar and suddenly I knew there was a big world out there that Mom and Dad hadn't told me about.
The next time I saw The Experience was April 12, 1969. Neil Ayer, Dick Hammond, Harry Commons and I escaped Pottstown and went to the Spectrum in Philadelphia. Somehow seeing Hendrix in a hockey arena was not as exotic as the first time. Nevertheless, it was a good show, even though the band was on a revolving stage in the middle of the arena. I did manage to take some great photographs that night. Above, you can see one of those photos which shows the band with Mitch at his kit.
Mitch Mitchell was a big part of the sound of The Experience. It's sad to think that the whole band is now gone. Listen to The Jimi Hendrix Experience tonight and play it loud.