Yesterday in Rock – March 31st 1967
Although burnt, these are some of the most valuable guitars you can buy.
During a landmark set that included playing guitar behind his head, picking with his tongue and teeth and effortless showboating, Jimi Hendrix's Monterey set is best remembered because he famously doused his guitar in lighter fluid during Wild Thing and threw a match on it. The Monterey Pop Festival in June 1967 in California was the re-introduction of Hendrix to American audiences after having moved to London on the advice of manager Chas Chandler, where he formed the Experience.
The festival featured landmark performances by Janis Joplin and The Who. But by lighting his guitar on fire, Hendrix ensured he stole the show with his voodoo. This must have pleased Paul McCartney greatly. He had suggested Hendrix and The Who after the Beatles' had turned down an invitation to perform.
History tells us that Jimi first burned a guitar a few months prior, on March 31st 1967. It was opening night of a tour featuring the Walker Brothers, Cat Stevens and Engelbert Humperdink at the Astoria in London. The story goes that as The Experience finished their short set with their recent song Fire, Mitch Mitchell and Noel Redding kept jamming. Hendrix put down his guitar and distracted the crowd from the front of the stage. Meanwhile Chas Chandler doused Jimi's Stratocaster in fuel. Then Jimi knelt beside it and tossed a match. The flames apparently reached 4 feet high and Jimi burned his hands. He was later treated in hospital for minor burns, along with the MC, who had rushed to extinguish the fire.
Tour headliners the Walker Brothers were not impressed, having been upstaged in such flaming fashion. They reportedly treated Hendrix and his entourage poorly for the rest of the tour.
In 2008, after having spent years in storage, that particular 1965 Fender Stratocaster auctioned for $450 000 US dollars. The guitar that Jimi burned in Monterey also auctioned in 2012 for $380k.
Off Rock contributor Mike Lang is a longtime rock radio broadcaster who doesn't play with fire. Well, maybe a little. Follow Mike on Twitter @theemikelang