Why Jimi Hendrix Was Booed at His Final Concert
On Sept. 6, 1970, Jimi Hendrix delivered what would be his final concert, a 13-song set at the Open Air Love and Peace Festival in Fehmarn, Germany. The moment he hit the stage, he was greeted with a chorus of boos.
Things at the festival had not gone as planned. Despite having “Love and Peace” in its name, the event was anything but harmonious. Envisioned as Germany’s answer to Woodstock - and held on the scenic Baltic island of Fehmarn - the event had already seen the withdrawal of several major acts, including Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Joan Baez and John Mayall.
The festival’s first day had been plagued by violence, largely attributed to the Hells Angels motorcycle gang and like-minded thugs who attended with the goal of instigating chaos. David Butcher, a stagehand working at the festival, recalled his experience during conversation with Classic Rock magazine. “The Hells Angels were causing so much trouble – they were ransacking the office and giving free tickets to everybody," Butcher recalled. "They kind of took over, and there was a lot of trouble, including gunfire. Machine-gun fire.”
Making matters worse: the weather. The Jimi Hendrix Experience had originally been given the headlining slot, 8PM on Saturday, Sept. 5, but Mother Nature had other plans.
“We got there mid-afternoon and were supposedly on at eight,” recalled Experience drummer Mitch Mitchell in the book The Final Days of Jimi Hendrix. “By about six, we heard this wind and then it turned into a gale. We knew by then there were other problems as well. The usual equipment problems plus Hells Angels with guns.”
Faced with high winds and a torrential downpour, Hendrix’s tour manager Gerry Stickells made the call. “He’s not playing tonight,” Stickells declared. “Hendrix is not on tonight, not under these conditions.”
Promoters pleaded with the manager to have Hendrix go on, despite the foreboding weather. Stickells refused to budge. Instead, Hendrix and his band would play a rescheduled on Sept. 6 at 1PM. While the storm had subsided, a rain of boos greeted the musicians as they walked onstage.
“Peace anyway, peace,” Hendrix said to the crowd, attempting to keep things civil. When the boos got louder, the rock icon briefly let his emotions get the best of him. “I don’t give a fuck if you boo, long as you boo in key, you mothers,” he angrily commented into the mic.
As the band prepared to play, Hendrix again tried to quell the audience. “We’d like to play some music for you and we hope you can dig it,” he said. “We’re sorry we couldn’t come on last night, but it’s just unbearable, man. We couldn’t make it together like that.”
Though chants of “go home” continued, Hendrix launched into his set. It took only one song, a blistering rendition of Howlin’ Wolf’s "Killing Floor," to win over the audience.
“Spanish Castle Magic” would be next, with “All Along The Watchtower” following close behind. Even as most of the audience fell under the guitar wizard’s spell, fights began breaking out in the crowd. Hendrix and the band continued to play, getting some relief when winds and rain kicked up once again, subduing the audience as fans searched for cover. The weather didn’t slow down Hendrix at all, despite its inherent dangers.
“The rain was coming in and he was standing there, risking being electrocuted but just carrying on,” recalled Butcher, who was on the side of the stage for the entire set. “He didn’t move back from the front of the stage, he just carried on. It was quite amazing, really.”
“Purple Haze” would be the performance’s penultimate song, while "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)" served as the closer. The rocker’s final words onstage were: “If I don’t see you no more in this world / Well I’ll meet you in the next one / And don’t be late, don’t be late / 'Cause I’m a Voodoo Child / Lord knows I’m a Voodoo Child.”
Following the final note, Hendrix and the band quickly exited the stage and rushed to a nearby helicopter that took them back to the mainland. Their hasty departure was wise: The Hells Angels later rampaged the stage and burned it down. Hendrix did take the stage once more following the festival date, though it was not a concert of his own. He made a surprise appearance at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in London on Sept. 16, performing two songs alongside Eric Burdon and War.
On Sept. 18, Hendrix died, just two months shy of his 28th birthday.
Jimi Hendrix, Fehmarn, Germany, Sept. 6, 1970, Set List
"Spanish Castle Magic"
"All Along the Watchtower"
"Hey Baby (New Rising Sun)"
"Message to Love"
"Room Full of Mirrors"
"Voodoo Child (Slight Return)"