Jimi Hendrix Promoter Doubts Paul McCartney Was at First U.K. Show
The promoter of Jimi Hendrix’s first-ever concert after his arrival in London cast doubt on whether Paul McCartney was really in the audience, saying the Beatles icon had “dined out” on the claim for the past five decades.
The show took place at the Scotch of St. James club on Sept. 26, 1966, which was being operated by Rod Harrod at the time. It became a key moment in Hendrix’s rise to fame.
In a new book, Jimi Hendrix: The Day I Was There, Harrod recalled the guitarist had only a seven-day tourist visa for the U.K. because that was the best his manager Chas Chandler could obtain (via Classic Rock).
“It was a Monday night," he said. "There wasn’t a single record company person there. Chas invited them, but nobody came. Jimi went on and did four or five songs and when he came offstage, a couple of guys were jumping over the tables and chairs to try and get to him. … Jimi turned everything way beyond advisable levels. Feedback was coming from everywhere, and it was a club that only held 120 in the downstairs room maximum and another 50-odd upstairs, if you squashed them all in.”
He added that “it was unusual, even on a Monday night, to have virtually nobody there who was famous.” “Except for one person who claims he was and who has dined out on it for the past 50 years – Mr. Paul McCartney," he said. "He says it was one of the most important days of his life, but I can’t recall him being there.”
Harrod noted that the Who's managers, Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp, were definitely there, and their conversation with Chandler after the show led directly to Hendrix scoring a record deal, which secured his visa too.
“They were trying desperately to think of a way to get involved,” Harrod recalled. “‘We’d like to put him on our label.’ And [Chandler] said, ‘Now you’re talking. Let’s go upstairs.’ They went to the quieter part where the Chesterfield armchairs were and thrashed out the heads of an agreement of a record deal on one of our burgundy paper napkins. And I don’t know how you write on one of those.”
Later, Hendrix’s first album, Are You Experienced, was premiered in the Scotch of St. James “as a thank you to us for putting him on,” Harrod said. While McCartney’s presence at the September show might be in dispute, it’s not doubted he was at London’s Bag O’ Nails venue two months later, along with a number of big-name artists of the moment.