Post 88: Appearing at the Royal Albert Hall
Christian Lloyd whose first post explored Hendrix’s link with Canada talks about a recent visit to the Royal Albert Hall:
“I have been thinking recently about Hendrix as a still-vital figure in the London imaginary. In particular, I have been increasingly aware of the way it’s possible to suddenly spot Hendrix’s face on a poster, or graffito, or on a T-Shirt in the London crowd, and to stare at the image in a slight return to the way the sight of Jimi and Kathy would have turned heads as they walked down Portobello Road in the sixties. A more formal example of Hendrix’s ongoing presence in the city is his appearance in Peter Blake’s 2014 mural ‘Appearing at the Royal Albert Hall’, which I went along to see at the RAH last week.
The Jimi Hendrix Experience appeared at the RAH three times. Hendrix’s last two scheduled appearances on the British mainland took place there in February, 1969, and are well remembered. Less known now is the Experience’s gig there on 14 November, 1967, with The Move and The Pink Floyd among others. A programme for the latter occasion is on display near the box office.
Blake’s collage has an underlying Hendrix connection beyond the inclusion of his face. In one sense, the mural is a reprise of the cover of ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ (that Blake created with Jan Haworth), implying a parallel to the way that the Experience famously reprised The Beatles’ title track to this album at the Saville Theatre in 1967. The mural is set up so that people who performed at the RAH since its opening are arrayed as though they were the audience, rather than onstage as the performers. The image includes a wild, ahistorical gathering of those who have given shows at the venue, from the wrestler Big Daddy to the Dalai Lama to Bruce Forsyth to Elgar.
Hendrix himself is located at the right, one row from the bottom, conveniently positioned to flirt with the Spice Girls above him and to consult with Jay-Z and Beyoncé to his left. This schema is, in John Lennon’s phrase about the cover of ‘Sgt. Pepper’, a ‘magic crowd’: an impossible assembly that literalises the roots and routes of musical connections. Given his broad interests in music, it is pleasing that Jimi appears with prestigious artists of many genres and periods, such as Dame Nellie Melba, Dame Shirley Bassey, Sir Andrew Davis, and Dame Evelyn Glennie. The danger is, of course, that of bathos as Jimi stands with Gary Barlow immediately to his right! Peter Blake’s chosen image of Hendrix is an unsmiling headshot in black and white, a strange pick for one of the most colourful performers ever at the venue. Yet it is clearly effective, since, in the time I was looking at the mural, I saw a young Swedish woman kiss her hand and put it to Jimi’s face.
The mural is located by the Verdi Cafe Bar near the box office, and is viewable by the public whenever the RAH is open. There is a touchscreen key to each face in the mural nearby.”