Michael Nesmith Loved Watching Jimi Hendrix on Monkees Tour
Late Monkees star Michael Nesmith was a big fan of Jimi Hendrix from the moment he heard his music — even if fans of his own band didn't share his enthusiasm.
The Jimi Hendrix Experience joined the pop-rock sensations for seven shows in the summer of 1967, marking one of the most bizarre double bills in rock history.
The Monkees' teenybopper fans weren't quite ready for Hendrix's bombastic, psychedelic hard-rock tumult. But Nesmith, who died yesterday at the age of 78, relished watching the trio in action.
The musician reflected on the ill-fated tour in a recently recirculated 1986 interview with MTV's Martha Quinn, which took place around the time of the Monkees' 20th-anniversary reunion.
"One time it was me, [Eric] Clapton, [Paul] McCartney and [George] Harrison sitting in a restaurant in England," Nesmith recalled. "This was in the '60s and everybody was psychedelic, we had funny glasses and strange shirts. And John [Lennon] came in, and he had a tape recorder. He says, 'You’ve got to hear this.'
"He played me 'Hey Joe' by Jimi Hendrix, and everybody was just reverential," Nesmith continued. "I mean, the guy had done it."
Watch Michael Nesmith Discuss Jimi Hendrix in 1986 MTV Interview
That night, Nesmith went back to his hotel to tell bandmate Micky Dolenz about Hendrix, only to find out that Dolenz had seen Hendrix perform in a club that night and hired him on the spot to open for the Monkees on their U.S. tour. Suffice to say, the pairing didn't last long.
"Well, he made it to Forest Hills [Tennis Stadium in New York City]," Nesmith told Quinn. "And then there was a sea of waving pink arms saying, 'We want the Monkees.' And he finally flipped everybody the bird and muttered an expletive and walked off. Bless his heart."
The chilly reception from Monkees fans didn't stop Nesmith from admiring Hendrix. "I used to sneak down before the show and go and just [watch them]," he recalled. "[It was] the first time I ever saw a Marshall stack. First time I ever saw him was in North Carolina. It was the trio. These guys came out, their hair was like 9 feet across, and it was all backlit so it looked like they were on fire. And Jimi flips the guitar over and starts playing the opening lines to 'Foxey Lady.'
"I’d never heard anything like that in my life," Nesmith added. "It brought me to my knees, moved me back three feet. So every night I’d sneak down to the stage, and I'd sit hidden with all these people screaming, ‘We want the Monkees!’, listening to this exalted music that this guy was making. Hendrix was something, I’ll tell you."
Dolenz shared similar recollections of the admittedly "weird" match-up in his autobiography, I'm a Believer. “Jimi would amble out onto the stage, fire up the amps and break into ‘Purple Haze,’ and the kids in the audience would instantly drown him out with, ‘We want Daaavy [Jones],” he wrote. Nevertheless, Dolenz told UCR he and Nesmith "were absolutely entranced with [Hendrix] and his performance. He was a wonderful guy."