Jimi Hendrix Experience: Music, Money, Madness in Maui
Jimi Hendrix Experience: Music, Money, Madness in Maui (BBC2, 9pm)
Saturday night is once again music night on BBC2 – and tonight it’s dedicated to one of rock’s most iconic figures, Jimi Hendrix.
Before his death in 1970 at the age of just 27, he’d proved that in addition to being an incredible and massively influential guitarist, he was also a hugely charismatic presence.
So, in theory adding him to a film about the counterculture, especially one that was being made in the wake of Easy Rider, should have been a recipe for success – or at the very least, cult status. However, that’s not quite what happened with the ill-fated movie Rainbow Bridge.
The documentary Jimi Hendrix Experience: Music, Money, Madness in Maui, which kicks off a trio of programmes, looks at the story behind the film.
Rainbow Bridge was produced by Hendrix’s manager Michael Jeffery, who raised the money for the film on the promise that the guitarist would provide the soundtrack.
Understandably, the filmmakers were also keen for him to appear on camera. The plot, if you can call it that, concerns a New York model who experiences the hippy lifestyle on the island of Maui, Hawaii, where a free Hendrix concert is taking place.
Although Rainbow Bridge would be panned by critics, the consensus is that Hendrix, who really did play a concert in Maui for the cameras, was on great form on stage.
Unfortunately, it turned out to be a windy day, which played havoc with the sound recording. In fact, despite Hendrix and the Experience playing two full 50-minute sets, only 17 minutes of film footage were deemed useable for the movie’s release. Any hopes that the guitarist could add a score later were dashed by Hendrix’s death shortly afterwards.
Despite all that, Rainbow Bridge was released in 1971 to scathing reviews, and remains mainly of interest to Hendrix completists. But the making of it is much more interesting than what ended up on screen as this eye-opening documentary makes clear.
It combines footage of performances by the band with interviews with key players such as Billy Cox, Eddie Kramer, Warner Brothers executives and several Rainbow Bridge cast members, as well as director Chuck Wein.
If that whets your appetite for more Hendrix, it’s followed by Voodoo Child, which takes a look back over his life and career, from his childhood in Seattle, through his spell in the army, to his early music career, when he backed acts including the Isley Brothers and Little Richard.
It wasn’t long before he was the main attraction, and the documentary takes in his iconic appearances at Monterery and Woodstock, before his tragic death in Notting Hill in 1970.
His death is also in the spotlight in The Misinvestigations of Romesh Ranganathan. Although Hendrix officially died of died of asphyxia while intoxicated with barbiturates, rumours of foul play have continued to circulate – the theories have involved everything from a mysterious German figure skater to the CIA.
Despite his self-confessed lack of detective experience, Ranganathan hopes he can finally get to the bottom of what really happened.