The History of the Jimi Hendrix Experience’s BBC Ban
Jimi Hendrix wasn’t one to play by the rules, and on Jan. 4, 1969, during a guest appearance on the Lulu television show, the guitar legend was up to the task. While Lulu was a great pop singer, she and Hendrix were pretty much worlds apart in the public eye,. Still, the producers of her BBC TV show booked the Jimi Hendrix Experience and approached Hendrix about singing a duet with Lulu on her big hit, “To Sir With Love,” which was not first and foremost on Hendrix’ mind, to say the least.
The band were scheduled to perform two songs, one from their latest LP, Electric Ladyland, and later in the show, they were to do their first U.K. hit, “Hey Joe.” According to Noel Redding in his autobiography, Are You Experienced?, Lulu would join the band to finish up “Hey Joe” before a segue into her signature song. To deal with the stress of the situation, Redding said the band were “so straight it was only natural that we would try to combat that atmosphere by having a smoke in our dressing room. In our haste, the lump of hash got away and slipped down the sink drainpipe,” he continued. “I found a maintenance man and begged tools from him with the story of a lost ring. He was too helpful, offering to dismantle the drain for us. It took ages to dissuade him, but we succeeded in our task and had a great smoke.”
The band went on and performed “Voodoo Child” as scheduled, but once Lulu introduced the band for their classic take on “Hey Joe,” the Experience veered loudly off script. A raucous free-form, feedback-drenched jam eventually gave way to “Hey Joe,” but midway through, Hendrix stopped and announced “We’d like to stop playing this rubbish and dedicate a song to the Cream, regardless of what kind of group they may be in. We dedicate this to Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce.”
At that moment, the band plowed through an instrumental version of the Cream classic “Sunshine of Your Love.” Cream had just announced their breakup, hence the tribute. “We played past the point where Lulu might have joined us,” said Redding. “Played through the time for talking at the end, played through [producer] Stanley [Dorfman] tearing his hair, pointing to his watch and silently screaming at us.”
This stunt, which led to a ban on Hendrix and friends by the BBC, would be imitated eight years later by Elvis Costello during an appearance on Saturday Night Live. Costello and the Attractions started off playing “Less Than Zero,” before he stopped the song and the band kicked into “Radio Radio.” NBC banned Costello for 12 years. He later admitted that it was indeed an homage to Hendrix on the Lulu show.
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