Back in the Summer of 1967, I was sixteen when I took my younger sister to a Monkees concert at the Jacksonville Coliseum.
Now the Monkees were conceived as a fictional band for a hit sitcom that premiered on television in September of 1966 with their hit song “I’m a Believer” written by Neil Diamond. Their music was on television and radio everywhere, so they had to tour. It seemed overnight they’d gone from lip syncing boy band comedians to pop stars.
The Monkees were searching for an opening act when the Jimi Hendrix Experience blew everyone away at the Monterey Pop Festival in June of 67.
The Monkees were the whiter than white clean-cut kids who represented the innocent side of music and Hendrix represented the grittier more debauched side of the business.
Of course the Monkees wanted credibility and Hendrix needed a U.S. audience, but organizing two stars of different worlds to hit the road together despite their contrasting sounds and image was a recipe for disaster.
At dusk my parents dropped us off in the massive parking lot of the Coliseum which held 15,000 people. As we moved through the tunnel with the teeny bopper bubble gum crowd, the youngest were holding hands with their parents and chaperones, moving towards their seats. You could feel their excitement for what was probably they’re first concert.
Somehow my Dad had managed to get us tickets by ourselves in the balcony overlooking stage left, I would not need my binoculars.
Three stick figures with huge hair backlit and illuminated like they were on fire approached the stage.
Jimi fired up his Marshall amplifiers with huge stacks and broke into “Purple Haze”.
You should have seen their faces..
I had never heard anything like this in my life but it brought me to my feet.
This was screaming scaring your daddy music compared to the Monkees.
A black guy playing music from hell!!!
All those people started screaming “We Want the Monkees” while Jimi wailed into “Hey Joe, where you going with that gun in your hand. Going down to shoot my old lady…” I looked up and the entire Coliseum got up and scrambled to the concession stands.
This was no doubt the oddest pairing in Music tour history likened to”putting Dracula with Snow White”.
Jimi was getting very theatrical now playing the guitar behind his head, with his teeth and tongue, when a large group of girls came near the stage yelling “We Want Davey! (the Monkees’ lead singer) he slammed into “Foxy Lady”.
The girls started to pick up on the lyrics and sang “FoxeyDavey”.
Then Jimi smacked his Fender Stratocaster into the stage, pieces went everywhere, as he grabbed a can of lighter fluid and threw a match to the crumpled mess as flames shot four feet high.
He had played almost the whole concert underneath my balcony. Heck I was the only one there. Looking up he gave me the peace sign and left the stage.
Did I realize I was in the presence of greatness? My ears were still ringing when the Monkees played. “I’m Not Your Stepping Stone” and “Last Train to Clarksville”.
As we left the building I heard the parents complain about Jimi but the kids happily raved about the Monkees.
I couldn’t imagine what it must have been like for Jimi to last for six more shows. A week later he would give the crowd at Forest Hills Stadium New York the finger as he walked off the stage.
By the end of 1967 The Monkees albums were out selling the Beatles and The Rolling Stones.
And 56 years after that psychedelic mind trip I wish I had picked up the pieces of his guitar.
David Garland FL Jacksonville Apr 28, 2023 Back in Time Music