Paul McCartney and Jimi Hendrix were two rock legends born in different parts of the world. The two had tremendous respect for one another, and McCartney recalls witnessing a Hendrix moment that he declared one of the “great honors” of his career.
Jimi Hendrix covered The Beatles’ ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’
In 1967, The Beatles released the album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The album was tremendously successful, reaching No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard Charts and the official charts in the U.K. Apparently, the album immediately impacted Hendrix as he decided to cover the album’s title track.
The concert took place at the Savile Theatre, and Paul McCartney and George Harrison were in attendance to witness this new guitar god. Hendrix wasn’t aware they were in attendance, but he opened the concert with a performance of the title track just three days after Sgt. Pepper’s release.
Paul McCartney called Jimi Hendrix’s cover one of the ‘great honors’ of his career
In an interview with Stephen Colbert (shared by Far Out), McCartney reflected on the first time he witnessed the guitar wizardry of Hendrix. The former Beatle said he wasn’t expecting the guitarist to open with Sgt. Pepper’s since it had just been released. However, it was the “ultimate compliment” that it had already had an impact.
“Brian Epstein used to rent it when it was usually dark on the Sunday. Jimi opened, the curtains flew back and he came walking forward, playing ‘Sgt. Pepper’, and it had only been released on the Thursday so that was like the ultimate compliment. It’s still obviously a shining memory for me because I admired him so much anyway, he was so accomplished. To think that that album had meant so much to him as to actually do it by the Sunday night, three days after the release.
“He must have been so into it because normally it might take a day for rehearsal and then you might wonder whether you’d put it in, but he just opened with it. It’s a pretty major compliment in anyone’s book. I put that down as one of the great honours of my career. I mean, I’m sure he wouldn’t have thought of it as an honour, I’m sure he thought it was the other way round, but to me, that was like a great boost.”
Hendrix’s guitar was out of tune during the performance
While Paul McCartney was impressed by Jimi Hendrix, he told Colbert that he accidentally made his guitar out of tune. Since it was the first song, he knew he needed to fix it. So, Hendrix called out in the crowd, asking for another legendary guitarist for help.
“He played a great version of [‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’].” McCartney said. “But he had this vibrator on the guitar…the whammy bar, call it what you will. And he’s going (whooing noise), and we’re going, ‘Whoa. Great. Great.’ But we knew now he’s out of tune. You stretch the strings and in those days that would send you out of tune. So it’s his first number. So, we’re looking, ‘What’s he gonna do?’ So, he starts looking for Eric Clapton in the audience, and he says ‘Is Eric out there, man?’…Eric is there, but he’s hiding.”