Vic Briggs

 

THE VIC BRIGGS INTERVIEW

Another Jimi Hendrix Record Guide Exclusive!

January 2013 updates in blue.

Following my interview with Brian Auger, I tried to contact Vic Briggs in order to get his side of the story about those early days that Jimi spent in London. I heard nothing for almost a year then in January 2011 Vic contacted me, with the intention of setting the record straight. He has no animosity towards Brian, who he still greatly admires, he simply wanted to put over his version of events and share some of his memories with us.
The good news is that Vic is in the process of writing his autobiography! This will be fascinating as, back in the 60s, he rubbed shoulders with all the greats. He met the early Beatles (before Ringo joined - see link at bottom), he backed Dusty Springfield, then teamed up with Brian Auger & The Trinity  to back Steampacket (Long John Baldry, Julie Driscoll and Rod Stewart). He then joined Eric Burdon & The Animals, touring the world and of course playing at the legendary Monterey Pop Festival in the summer of 1967.
In the 70s, Vic's life changed when he embraced the Sikh religion and became Vikram Singh Khalsa. He went on to record spiritual indian and new age music moving on to traditional hawaiian music under the name of Antion.

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The paths of Jimi Hendrix and Vic Briggs crossed many times, starting with the first few days of Jimi's arrival in London in September 1966, to l'Olympia, Paris, on two occasions, Monterey Pop Festival and beyond. A friendship grew between the two guitarists and also a mutual respect as musicians. On two occasions, when Jimi was asked who his favorite guitarists were, he listed Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck... and Vic Briggs.





Stempacket

Steampacket - Rod Stewart, Julie Driscoll and Long John Baldry (not pictured)



I first asked Vic about the early days of his association with Brian Auger.

Vic: There was, of course, the Brian Auger Trinity before Steam Packet.  Brian on Hammond, Rick Brown on bass and Micky Waller on drums.  I would occasionally do gigs with them on time off from Dusty Springfield’s band.  When I formally joined Brian at the start of the Steam Packet it became Brian Auger AND The Trinity.

In July of 1966 we were booked to play the Papagayo Club in San Tropez for the whole month.  Long John Baldry and Julie Driscoll were the singers.  It was decided that this would be the end of the Steam Packet.  Henceforth it was to be "Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger and The Trinity".
On August 1st we drove to the Côte Atlantique resort of Les Sables d’Olone and performed for a few days. Long John Baldry did not come. On Saturday 6th we drove to Belgium and performed at the Comblain La Tour Jazz Festival on the 7th. This was our last gig with Baldry. When we returned to London Rick Brown and Mickey Waller were replaced respectively with Roger Sutton and Clive Thacker.

Apart from L’Olympia gig in October these were the only gigs that we did in France when I was with Brian, although it’s possible that he returned to France after I left in November and December.  Certainly I didn’t play Frejus.


Vic went on to tell me about a key player in this story: Giorgio Gomelsky, the infamous music producer, manager, filmmaker who managed Brian Auger & The Trinity,  the early Rolling Stones and The Yardbirds among others.

Vic: Here’s how Giorgio Gomelsky fits into our story:  Giorgio was, and probably still is, an amazing man.  He seemed to have endless energy and enthusiasm. Giorgio was the manager of Brian and Julie Driscoll. Also their record producer. Initially the Steam Packet had three managers: Giorgio for Brian and Julie, John something for Rod Stewart and another for Long John Baldry.  It was all a bit cumbersome and Rod was let go in the spring of 1966.

At some point, probably early in 1966, Giorgio became record producer for Johnny Hallyday and became very close with him.  He went on to produce a number of other top French artists but I don’t remember their names except for Serge Gainsbourg with whom I recorded, with Giorgio producing, in 1967. Giorgio recorded the Johnny Hallyday album “La Generation Perdue” in the summer of 1966 at Philips’ Studios near Marble Arch.  I knew it well as I had recorded there a lot with Dusty.
We recorded the hit single : "Noir c’est Noir” ("Black is Black") at that time.  Thereafter, I would often see Johnny with Giorgio in the London clubs, mostly the Scotch.  All this was before Jimi’s arrival.

- On a personal note: I was in Tahiti (a French speaking country) in 2000 on a cultural exchange with an Hawaiian Hula group.  In talking with the locals they were mildly impressed when I told them that I had played with “Les Animals”.  But when I told them that I was le guitariste on Johnny’s “Noir c’est Noir” I could see that I had gone up quite a few notches in their esteem.


Jim: Brian said that prior to the London meeting with Jimi, The Trinity had already toured in France playing "stadiums" with Hallyday.

Vic: Brian had a great deal of success in France for which I am very happy but I believe it happened after I left.  Specifically after November 1966.


Jim: So, after Steampacket, how the did the new trimmed down group go down. Were you packing the clubs?

Vic: Perhaps the impact was initially down; people had been used to seeing us with Long John Baldry.  But our music was really hot and we did well.  Julie was an excellent singer and Brian was and still is a fantastic musician.  Roger Sutton and Clive Thacker were not necessarily better musicians than Rick Brown and Mickey Waller - although certainly not worse - but they were much easier to live with.

Giorgio was such an enthusiast that he would promote people if he thought they were good, whether or not he had any financial interest.  He also was always ready to spot the “next big thing”; which leads me to Jimi Hendrix. 


Jim: Did you know Chas Chandler before September 1966?
   
Vic: I used to run into Chas at the clubs in London and knew him on a first name basis but not a real close acquaintance.


Jim: How did you feel about Chas's urging that Jimi should play with you?

Vic: I didn’t know; Brian had not told me. It came as a total surprise and didn’t bother me. In fact, it wasn’t until years later when the books started being written that I even found out that he had called Brian to arrange it.  I always thought that they just showed up and Brian was being magnanimous.


Jim: Now, was the first gig with Jimi at the Cromwellian as Brian insists?

Vic: No, it was at The Scotch of St. James.  In all I am 100% certain this encounter happened at The Scotch.  It remains emblazoned on my memory although I had no idea just how much my life would change and indeed the whole music scene because of Jimi.

The memory of that night at the Scotch was so firmly fixed in my mind that when I read in some Hendrix book – just four or five years ago - that Chas had said it was at Blaises I was shocked; even more so when Brian was reported as saying it was the Cromwellian. I don’t need any confirmation that it was the Scotch; it is so clear in my memory. But, if I did, Brian has provided it for me, even if he thinks it was The Cromwellian.  Here’s how I know:
From your interview with Brian: “I have a mental picture of Jimi being introduced to me and looking out across the stage at the staircase that goes up from upstairs to the first level of The Cromwellian.” Brian is absolutely correct.  I too have a similar picture in my mind. There is only one thing: the staircase at the Cromwellian was not visible from the stage, whereas the staircase at The Scotch was, as Brian says, right across the way and easily visible from the stage.

Kathy Etchingham (January 2013):
"You can see the top of stairs from the stage but then the people coming down the stairs from the ground floor (first floor american) are temporarily hidden by the DJ booth and a wall before they come round the end into the main part of the disco. He would have been able to see them.
The Scotch has nothing to do with it. That was earlier."

Vic Briggs
(January 2013): "I would agree (with Kathy about the stairs), however you will remember Brian’s comment. He talks about seeing the stairs “ACROSS FROM THE STAGE.”  The Cromwellian stairs were at the other end of the room. As it happens I was close to the stairs when they came in so I greeted Chas even before he went over to talk to Brian.

One other thing: Brian talks about it being a Friday gig.  I do not recall playing the Scotch on Fridays.  Brian could make more money out in the London or Northern clubs on the weekends thus the Scotch (and Cromwellian) gigs tended to be midweek fillers. I am certain that it was midweek - Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday, - and not a Friday. My best guess - Wed 28th. The Brian Auger Trinity without Julie Driscoll.

Here is another thing that makes me sure it was the Scotch. It is generally agreed that Jimi was at the Scotch on the night of the 27th of September sitting in with The VIPs.

The next night when I arrived at the Scotch to set up. I arrived about 8:30 pm and we were due to start playing at 10:00 pm. The club really didn’t start happening until around 11 and would often go on until dawn even though it officially closed at 3:00am (might have been 4). It was a Wednesday. The reason why I say that is because I can often tell you the days of the week when significant events happened in my life. Ask my wife about this, it never fails to amaze her.
I had no sooner arrived in the club and descended to the basement where the band was due to play when I was accosted by a waiter.  I don’t remember his name.
We didn’t even make small talk but he immediately started talking about the previous night.  The conversation went something like this:
"You should have seen the crazy guy who played here last night.  He looked like the Wild Man of Borneo."
"Who was that?" I asked.
"Some black guitar player that Chas Chandler found in New York. He's amazing." 
Thus it is unlikely that a waiter at the Cromwellian would have said something about Jimi playing at the Scotch, especially since he said “played here last night”.

Very shortly after I talked to the waiter, Chas Chandler came strolling in. This was most unusual as we were still setting up and Chas was not the type of guy to show up at one of the after hours clubs so early.  This was perhaps 9pm, early for the Scotch which didn’t usually warm up until about ten or so. Let me stress here: it was just Chas with Jimi.  Kathy Etchingham was not with them.  
He had in tow a rather unkempt and skinny looking black guy, with the wildest hair I had ever seen, in tow.  At that time no one on London had frizzed out hair. "Vic" said Chas, "This is Jimmy from New York. I asked Brian, he said it's OK if Jimmy sits in with you guys, but he needs to borrow your amp".  I turned and shook hands with Jimmy who, of course turned out to be Jimi Hendrix. I offered him the use of my amp and asked him if he wanted to use my guitar. "No thanks man", he said, "I'm left handed." 

At that time I was playing an unusual Marshall stack that the Marshall people had developed. It had twelve six inch speakers with a hundred watt amplifier. Jimi plugged in his Strat (which was right handed but strung left handed) and turned every control on the amp up to eleven! I was horrified. For one thing I was sure this would blow out the speakers, I had never turned the volume up past five. And for another, The Scotch of St. James was about twice the size of the average living room. What was this guy trying to do? Jimi must have seen the look of horror on my face because he immediately said to me "Don't worry man, I turn it down on the guitar". This was probably Jimi’s first encounter with a Marshall amp.
For almost forty years I thought that Chas had just shown up on the off chance that Brian would let Jimi sit in. I literally had no idea that Chas had called Brian and arranged the jam, for the simple reason that Brian never said anything to me about it before or after. Brian and I were friends but he didn’t tell me everything.  Nor was he under any obligation to do so; it was his band and I was an employee.

I went back on stage and we finished our set. Jimi came up and said how much he dug my playing. I asked him why he played a right handed Strat when I knew there were left handed ones available. “Those left handed Strats are shit, man,” was his reply. I had no idea how much our paths would cross in the next couple of years.


Jim: Did you jam a little before the club appearance?


Vic: No, it was exactly as described. Jimi had a little run through – not really a rehearsal - with Brian and the guys before people started showing up.


Jim: What was your personal reaction on hearing Jimi play (his technique, abilities,...)?
   
Well I’m probably going to make myself sound like an egomaniac but I was not that impressed with his playing. I was not impressed with playing the guitar behind his head (I had used that one myself) nor playing with his teeth. The tricks were one thing but his guitar playing I found to be very good but not scary. You see I was into jazz and I had already developed a prodigious technique for the time. I felt that, if I wanted to I could do whatever Jimi did.  It’s just that it was not my bag so I didn’t think of him as competition and didn’t get all freaked out.
Even though I was not terribly impressed with Jimi it was as if there was a part of me that knew a major change was coming in my life and that Jimi’s destiny would be somewhat intertwined with mine for the next year or so.
When I saw him play his guitar behind his head, I remembered that there was a country singer in the UK in the 50’s named Johnny Duncan who had done the same thing with a mandolin.  I had even done it myself on the odd occasion so it didn’t impress me too much.  Frankly, it’s not that hard to do.

When he appeared to play the guitar with his teeth, it looked to me like he was doing “pull-offs” with his left hand but making it look like he was actually plucking the guitar with his teeth.  I don’t know what the truth was but that’s what it looked like to me.


Jim: Any memories of the music that Jimi played with Brian?

He played maybe three or four songs and pulled out all the stops.  I can confirm that he played "Hey Joe" because I remember him telling Brian that it was the same four chords over and over.  The other songs were probably blues. By the way, this wasn't a jam.  A jam, by definition is all the musicians having a chance to show what they can do.  This was a showcase for Jimi, accompanied by Brian and the guys.
After he played we made some small talk.  I don’t remember what was said.  He came across as a likeable individual and I had a generally favorable impression of him.

Believe it or not I didn’t actually get to jam with Jimi until May of 1968 in Zurich. (Vic let Jimi take his place on guitar for this historic jam at The Scotch - Jim).


Jim: Do you remember seeing Johnny Hallyday at The Scotch that night?

I cannot say for sure if Johnny was in the Scotch on that fateful night when Jimi sat in with Brian. But if he was you can be sure that Giorgio would have been with him, smoking Gauloise, consuming copious amounts of liquor and endlessly talking, no, heatedly discussing, music.  I saw Giorgio down at the Scotch with Johnny so many times that it’s very possible that they were there that night and that Giorgio suggested that Johnny have Jimi on the Olympia show.
Don't misunderstand what I am saying, I am not saying that I didn't see Johnny there at The Scotch that night.  What I am saying is that I saw Johnny down there with Giorgio a lot.  And he certainly could have been there that night. I just cannot be 100% certain. I would put the chances of his being there at 85%, maybe higher.


Jim: Were you aware that the Paris Olympia was ahead at that time?

Not as I recall.  I must make clear that I know nothing about any business discussed between Chas, JImi, Giorgio and Johnny Halliday, nor where it might have been discussed. You might say this would have been above my pay grade.


Jim: Was there more than one gig with Jimi? Do you remember doing Blaises with Jimi guesting?

There were no other Jimi gigs, jams or sit-ins with Brian until after I left Brian in the 1st week in November. Jimi may have sat in with Brian on other occasions but to the best of my knowledge not while I was with Brian which, as you will see, was only another month or so. I am 100% sure that Jimi never played with Brian again while I was in the band.  After all that was only another two or three weeks. I did not see Jimi again until we arrived in Paris.
Once I was with The Animals we did many notable gigs together.

Jim: You don't remember seeing Hallyday at the Scotch so do you think it was possible that Brian jammed at Blaises with Jimi (before l'Olympia 66) but without you being there that night?

Brian wasn't doing any gigs without me at that time, I was a permanent member of the Trinity.  Plus he and I mostly went out clubbing together. Also he probably would have said something to me if that had been the case I don't remember that he did. For reasons that I still don't understand, that night at the Scotch when I fist met Jimi is emblazoned on my mind in great detail. I only remember playing Blaises' with Brian once and it must have been a very unmemorable gig because I don't remember anything about it except: a) we were there; b) I didn't think it held a candle to The Scotch or Cromwellian. I'm pretty sure that was the only time I even set foot in the place.
The Blaise's gig had NOTHING to do with Hendrix.  It could have been before the famous Scotch gig or it could have been before L'Olympia.  It could even have been after L'Olympia gig when I was already getting ready to leave Brian.


Georgio Gomelsky's comments about the Hendrix/Auger/Hallyday meeting were published in the Hendrix fanzine Jimpress and the article stated that Hallyday''s 1966 London sessions were recorded at Olympic Studios. I sent these comments to Vic and here is what he had to say:


Vic: Let’s take a look and see how good Giorgio’s memory is. First of all, the article says that Johnny’s album was recorded at Olympic Studios.  Every session I did was at Philips’ Studio near Marble Arch. I’m not sure Olympic was even open then as I didn’t find out about it until December of that same year when The Animals recorded "When I was young" there.
Georgio says that “Every Thursday Brian Auger and Julie Driscoll were playing.” First of all, Julie was not there that night.  Second, I think we have agreed that it was a Wednesday.  Thirdly, it was not a regular gig.
He also says “Their performance always ended with a sort of jam session with many of the relevant musicians I London at the time; people like Jeff Beck, Stevie Winwood, Eric Clapton and many others participated regularly.”

It is hard to write this without sounding like an ego maniac but truth is truth.  Although it was generally acceptable for people to get up and sing with us (Brian and the Trinity) NONE of the people he mentioned ever PLAYED with The Trinity at the Scotch, Cromwellian or Blaises while I was with the band.  I believe Stevie Winwood sang, as did many others.  The stage was always open for people to join us but there was NEVER a regular jam session and Jimi’s jam was arranged ahead of time by Chas. Jimi Hendrix was the ONLY guitar player who EVER jammed with The Trinity while I was with them and I don’t remember Brian ever relinquishing his seat at the Hammond to anyone with the possible exception of Zoot Money. Why was this?  Because with our blend of jazz and rock we were playing at a level that was far above the abilities of the best rock musicians in London at that time.
There was once a jam during a gig in East London with Steam Packet and John Mayall (with Clapton) when both bands got on stage at the same time.  Some days after the gig (at the Cromwellian) Clapton came up to me and told me that I had blown him off the stage.  Not kidding!  This was the only time when I was with the band that Clapton was on stage with us; Jeff Beck never was.
Geogio states that “The club was in the basement”. True, the music room of the Scotch was in the basement.  You could eat down there but there was another room with bar at ground level where you could eat without too much noise.  I do not remember that the Cromwellian had a separate restaurant.

So I don’t know if this clears anything up.  Also there is still the matter of the waiter who said to me that there had been a wild man there the previous night.  More than anything else that confirms it for me that it was the Scotch.


I recently (January 2013) showed Vic the Melody Maker press cutting which proves that Brian Auger and The Trinity were annouced for Blaises on the Thursday 29th September. Here is what Vic had to say about it:

All I can say here is that from the press clipping we played Blaise’s on the 29th. If Jimi had shown up, I would have remembered. As I remember, the gig was a bit of a let down, especially after all the excitement of the previous night. I am pretty sure that was only time I ever set foot in that place. I didn't like it and I didn't like the crowd. I am certain I never went in there for other than to play.



So things are rather muddled concerning these first encounters. See my Brian Auger interview page for the latest updates and the solution to the mystery!






Olympia

Jimi on-stage at the Paris Olympia, October 18,1966.


L'Olympia, Paris



Then Vic went back in detail to the Paris Olympia concert

Vic: We left for the gig late on Sunday night, October 16th, 1966; it felt like a very strange time to be leaving for a gig.
I had no special feelings about the gig other than the fact that I loved going to Paris to eat and to drink. I was vaguely aware that Jimi was on the bill but it had no special meaning for me. Obviously I had no idea that my destiny was about to change. During those years, 66-67, I used to think that Paris was the greatest place on Earth. When I returned in 1971 after becoming a vegetarian and giving up drinking I found it not so exciting.

I was driving Brian’s car, a white VW hatchback. I think Brian traveled in the equipment van with Eric Brooks our road manager to deal with French customs; they had been known to hassle musicians arriving in France with van loads of gear and we didn’t want to take any chances with such an important gig. We drove to a channel port, probably Dover, and the immigration guy that checked us onto the boat called out to his colleagues in amazement when I recited my passport number to him from memory. He had never seen anyone do that before. I and whoever was in the car with me drove by ourselves down the motorway to Paris; I’m not sure what happened to Brian but they eventually got there without incident.

It was a miserable morning, blustery, rainy and cold with high winds. We stopped at a motorway service area to get gas (petrol). As I was paying the attendant I said “C’est froid” (it’s cold). He gave me a withering glance as only the French can and said nothing. As I drove away I remembered that I should have said “Il fait froid” as this is the French colloquial expression. It was not the first time I have been dissed for mangling the French language.
Arriving on the outskirts of Paris we realized that we had no map and had no real idea where L’Olympia was other than it was on Rue Caumartin, somewhere in the center of the city. We eventually found it, just off Boulevard de la Madeleine. It was perhaps 9:30 on a cold Monday morning. We managed to find out where our hotel was – just across the street – checked in and went to bed.

We had only been asleep for a couple of hours when Giorgio came to get us out of bed. We had to rehearse – for what I don’t remember as it was only a music concert. Grumbling and unhappy we got up and crossed the street back to the theatre.
I can’t put all the events of the next day and a half into chronological order so I’ll just jot down random musings.

I met Mitch Mitchell whom I had already known for about four years. Mitch and I had played together in a band called Peter Nelson and The Travelers in 1962. Although he had only come into the band as a substitute when the regular drummer broke his (arm/wrist?) he had appeared in the band’s photo sessions. There is a picture of the band at the very front of Mitch’s book, "With The Experience" (originally published as "The Hendrix Experience"- Jim). Mitch introduced me to Noel. I wasn’t very taken with Noel at first although I got friendlier with him later. The fact that I had gone into one of L’Olympia’s toilets and seen “Noel was here” written on the wall in pencil did not exactly impress me. I saw Jimi, of course, and we chatted. Chas showed up with Michael Jeffrey, the manager of both Jimi (with Chas) and The Animals. Brian is quite right. He was a terrible crook, as would I eventually find out much to my own detriment.

I met Mick Jones and Tommy Brown the guitarist and drummer with Les Blackburds, Johnny Hallyday’s band. They had been producers on the “La Generation Perdue” recording with Giorgio as executive producer. I think that was the pecking order but I do not have my album handy to check the credits. Mick went on to lead Foreigner; I don’t know what happened to Tommy. Tommy had played with legendary early 60s Brit rock band Nero and The Gladiators and had been quite a respected drummer. I said hi to Johnny. I met the rest of Les Blackburds and Long Chris.

Giorgio had told me about a funny poem that Long Chris loved to recite. It was a French version of “’Twas a dark and stormy night”. I asked Long Chris to teach it to me just for fun and he did. It went like this, please excuse my rotten French:

C’etait dans la Foret de Brabon une bande des brigandes,
Dont le chef s’appelle Pipot.
Ses hommes disent toujours “Pipot, Pipot, nous racontes une histoire
Et Pipot, il commenca: C’etait dans La Foret be Brabon etc.

Translation:
In the Forest of Brabon there was a band of brigands whose chief was called Pipot.
Pipot’s men were always saying “Pipot, Pipot, tell us a story”,
So Pipot began: In the Forest of Brabon etc.

At one point Johnny was rehearsing and he sang a song he had recorded with us a few months previously. I do not know the title but one line was: “On s’aimait, mais tu vois on s’est trompé” (please excuse my French again). Eric, our road manager rushed up to me and said “Listen, he’s singing about St. Tropez” (where we had recently spent a whole month). I had to tell Eric that that wasn’t exactly what Johnny was singing.

Finally all the rehearsals and sound checks were over. It was maybe 5 or 6 pm on the 18th and we were free until showtime (7:30?, 8?) I can’t remember exactly when it was. I was surprised when Michael Jeffrey walked up to me and said “Want to go get a cup of coffee?” Michael was not the type of guy who started unnecessary conversations. I agreed and we walked along Rue Caumartin to one of the many cafes. After we had ordered Michael wasted no time but came right to the point: “How would you like to join the Animals?”

I paused for maybe half a second. Being with Brian had been great and I owed him a lot. He had been a mentor and a good friend. Musically I had grown by leaps and bounds because of the challenges of playing with such a demanding musician. I had also been a good friend to Brian. I stuck with him facing the intense negativity of Rick Brown and especially Mick Waller. Also the challenges of being in the Steampacket and dealing with Long John Baldry. On the other hand I felt like I was on a plateau, not musically but in terms of achievement. I was making a good living with Brian but as far as I could see I would be touring Brit R&B clubs for the foreseeable future. I made my decision quickly: “Yes”, I said. We chatted on but the conversation was over. My life was going to be very different.

As I walked back to L’Olympia I was in a daze. The idea of joining one of the most popular bands in the world was very exciting. Best of all I knew that The Animals toured the US regularly and that was where I wanted to be. My American blood was calling me back home. I was still in a daze when the concert started. First up were Les Blackburds. When Long Chris walked on with his guitar in the middle of an instrumental I could see his lips moving rapidly but it was impossible to hear what he was saying. I knew, however, that he was reciting that poem that I had learned from him earlier that day.

That audience was overwhelmingly male; it was the opposite of pop concerts in the UK where it was mostly girls who came out. They were there for Johnny and they were there for rock and roll. They had no idea, of course, who Jimi Hendrix was but Jimi did not disappoint. Jimi was perhaps a little less flamboyant than he would be when his star really took off but he was all over the music. I was shocked when he played “Wild Thing” but the crowd loved it. Much later I realized that my prejudice towards that song was because of the overwhelming lameness of The Troggs, the group that made it a hit in the UK. It is of course, a great rock and roll song.


Jim: I read your comments about the Olympia gig in Sean Egan's book ("Not Necessarily Stoned But Beautiful - The Making Of Are You Experienced") and you remembered that Jimi played "Like A Rolling Stone". Do you maintain this?

Vic: I think I was wrong about "Like a Rolling Stone".  Now I believe that I saw him play this at The Ricky Tick Club, Hounslow when we (Animals) did a gig there with Jimi in December of 1966.  Don't remember why but I was really surprised to hear him doing that.  Maybe because nobody covered Dylan in those days, at least not rock bands.


Jim: There are reports of Jimi performing "Land Of A Thousand Dances", "Respect" and "In The Midnight Hour". Any confirmations?

Yes. I can confirm that this is bullshit.  I remember Jimi doing "Wild Thing", again a surprise for me but only because I was prejudiced against The Troggs.


Then it was our turn. Brian, being a great clown, decided to run out on stage wearing a cardboard Napoleon hat. He did and the crowd roared with laughter. But when he sat down at his Hammond things turned ugly. Julie and Brian were singing a song called “Freedom Highway” or perhaps “Marching the Freedom Highway”. As I already said the crowd was there for rock and roll. Our music was just jazzy enough that the crowd felt it was out of place. Poor Julie; just as she had been booed for singing a jazz song by a Belgian crowd at Comblain La Tour just two months previously where they felt she was not jazzy enough, now she was being booed for singing an R&B song by a French crowd who felt she was too jazzy.
The booing continued as we went into our second song; I can’t remember what it was. They were still booing when we started our third song, Koko Taylor’s "Whang Dang Doodle". This was the finale of the first half and we were joined on-stage by Les Blackburds, Long Chris, Jimi with his guitar and a bunch of gogo dancers. This is what is being shown in the pictures that you have posted. I can see enough of The Trinity to know that it was us.


OL

The support act's finale at the first half of the Olympia concert with Brian Auger (left), Jimi and Julie Driscoll (with Mickey Jones behind her).

The Trinity are
at the rear of the stage and you can just see Vic on the right.



Jim: I notice from the Olympia photos on that page that Mickey Jones is wearing a striped top just like Brian and The Trinity. Was this a uniform stipulated for all the musicians? Blackburds plus BA & Trinity?

Vic: No, it was just coincidence.  If you look carefully, Mick was wearing a jacket.  We were wearing long sleeved shirts which WERE our uniforms.  Also the b & w photo disguises the fact that his jacket was very likely of a different color from our shirts.

We did not go back on stage for the second half which was totally devoted to Johnny and Les Blackburds. No booing there; they loved Johnny. On another day I might have been upset by all this booing. But I wasn’t; I was still in my daze and felt quite detached from what was going on. It was as if my body was playing but my mind was planning for a new, exciting and different future.
1966 was actually a pretty tough year for Brian in France, what with Brigitte Bardot’s dissing of the band in St Tropez and the disaster at L’Olympia.
I was very happy to hear about his later achievements there; it was a difficult country to crack and Brian and Julie deserved their success.










Burdon

Eric Burdon & The Animals (blonde-haired Vic Briggs sitting, third from left)


Eric Burdon & The Animals

Vic: About three weeks after the Paris concert I began rehearsing with the Animals. Since I was now under the same management office as Jimi I would see Jimi, Mitch and Noel from time to time, sometimes at our management office, sometimes in the clubs. There is a story on the internet, apparently put there by some well respected researcher, where Eric Burdon says that the first time he saw Jimi, Jimi walked into an Animals rehearsal, picked up my guitar and started jamming with the band. Well, it's possible it may have happened but it certainly was not with my guitar.  I did not start rehearsing with the Animals until about a month after Jimi came to London.

On November  26th 1966, I played the Ricky Tick Club in Hounslow. It was only my second gig with Eric, the first having been the previous evening at Birmingham University.  When I walked in the club, Jimi was on-stage playing "Like a Rolling Stone". I was surprised as rock bands in those days didn’t usually do Dylan covers.  Nevertheless he was singing the crap out of it and it sounded good. The other thing was the woman I brought to the gig. She said to me “Who is that sexy guy singing?”. Being determinedly heterosexual myself I was not in the habit of evaluating other men’s sexual energy. But she pointed out to me how he would every once in a while flick his tongue out as he was singing and how he moved his hips. I began to see her point.

When I joined The Animals I was playing a very nice sunburst Fender Strat.  Right around Christmas 1966 it was stolen from the Animals gig wagon. The guitar was insured so I got the insurance money and bought another Strat (powder blue) from Marshall’s music shop in Hanwellwhere I was a regular. This guitar was not so good.
It was now January and we were due to leave for our first US tour at the beginning of Febraury. I was up at the management office one day when I ran into Jerry Stickells, Jimi’s road manager. “Do you have any Strats that you want to sell?” he asked me,  “Jimi wants to keep several guitars around”. “Oh yes,” I said, “I have one I’d like to sell”.  And so Jimi bought my guitar. I actually traveled to New York with no guitar and bought a Strat at Manny’s Music Store the very first day we arrived in Manhattan with the money I had got from Jerry. I thought I got the better of the deal but I can’t even imagine what the guitar I sold to Jimi for maybe 90 pounds Stirling would be worth now.

So we were off to the U.S. and then Australia and New Zealand.  We didn’t get back until almost the beginning of May. We had been turned on to Wah Wah pedals in March during a visit to the Vox Factory in LA so I was surprised when we got back to London that everyone had them including Jimi.

I don’t remember any unusual incidents involving Jimi or Mitch and Noel during that time although we would have seen each other at the usual places.







Vic on stage at Monterey

Monterey

Vic: On June, 15th 1967, we flew from LA to Monterey. Monterey was a very good choice for the festival. There was a tradition of tolerance for musicians there, the Jazz festival having been an important local event since 1958 and still going strong today. The Monterey peninsula has always been a refuge for artists of all kinds and there is a strong liberal tradition there. Even so there was a lot of apprehension amongst the city fathers (and, I suppose, the city mothers too) about all these thousands of hippy types descending on the city and its surroundings. In fact it went very smoothly without any serious trouble. Since we were known to be friends, they asked Mitch and I to share a room at the motel in which we stayed.  That was quite a pleasant experience

We were due to perform on the first night, Friday June 16th, 1967. I know that I might be biased but we can say that  we stole the show on Friday night and I have the clippings to prove it.

From Derek Taylor in Disc, London :
"Musically the festival was absolutely triumphant. Britain's contribution, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Burdon and the Animals and the Who - was spectacularly brilliant. Eric is a new man and even in the old days he was always good. His command was breathtaking."

On Sunday night I was deeply affected by The Who's performance; but not in a positive way. Well, their performance was fine. When they started to smash up their instruments though, I was disgusted. It seemed wanton, senseless and childish. The crowd seemed to like it though. They were followed by The Grateful Dead who did not have one of their best nights.

Right after the Dead, of course, came Jimi. During that era I saw Jimi a couple of times under the influence of LSD and it was always a bit unsettling. There was just so much raw energy there, most of it sexual. I stood there and watched as The Experience went through their set. It was strong stuff and the crowd loved them. When Jimi burnt his guitar
I imagined mankind rising from their so-called "primitive" origins (symbolized by his Native American style headband), evolving, and finally achieving the ability to destroy itself in the fire of nuclear holocaust (symbolized by the burning guitar). That may not have been what Jimi intended but that is what I saw in my psychedelic state and it left a lasting impression on me.  It was an immensely powerful experience.

The crowd of course went berserk.

A couple of months later I ran into Jimi somewhere and I asked him if he'd burnt up the guitar that I sold him. He looked at me, gave a funny little smile and said "Hey man, don't believe everything you read in the papers".


After Monterey


I don’t remember seeing much of Jimi and the others for the rest of 1967. Our next gig with Jimi was at the Olympia, London on Dec. 22nd. I cannot tell you anything about Jimi’s performance at that gig.

On Jan 29th 1968 we were again at L’Olympia in Paris with Jimi. Brain mentioned doing L’Olympia with Jimi in Jan of 68 but I can safely state that he was not there that night. One thing that sticks in my mind that there were two gigs at that time, the other being at the Anaheim Convention Center on Feb 9th where we followed Jimi on stage. I have to confess to being a little apprehensive because by then he was so huge. However at both gigs we did fine. I would say that honors were equally shared and there was no sense of anti-climax in the audience reaction to The Animals. (By the way, I also played L’Olympia with The Animals, probably in December 1966, not very long after the concert with Johnny).

The very next day, Jan 30th, we all flew to New York. Mike Jeffrey and Chas Chandler had two other bands – Soft Machine and Eire Apparent – that they wanted to break in the US. So they tagged them along with us; Eire Apparent with The Animals and Soft Machine with Jimi. They were also on the flight to NY. They were to be on the show for most of our ensuing tour. I remember sitting with Mitch on the flight. He had with him a pharmacopoeia of prescription drugs that he had got from a sympathetic Harley Street doctor. I was a bit shocked, even though I was always ready to smoke dope at that time. He had uppers, downers and sleeping pills. I remember getting a couple of sleepers from him on the flight but not being able to sleep.

We were supposed to be helicoptered from Kennedy airport to a press conference at the top of the Pan Am building where there was a heliport. But the weather was socked in so we went by limo instead. However, at the press conference, there was little doubt as to whom the press was interested in. I would not say The Animals were ignored but Jimi was clearly the center of attention. The next day we went off in different directions.

For reasons that I do not understand my normally accurate perception of time and dates became distorted in 1968, perhaps because it was such a miserable year as opposed to 1967 which was a fantastic year. In any event I claimed in the book “Animal Tracks” that we had played the Anaheim Convention Center gig in April of 1968 but apparently it was in February. If you have the book you can read about what happened that night which had nothing to do with Jimi but was the beginning of the end for The Animals. If you don’t have the book, here’s the extract:

Tensions amongst The Animals boiled over that April when the band played two shows on the same day at the Anahein Convention Center in Southern California with Jimi Hendrix. The Animals opened on one of the shows, Hendrix the other. In the evening, before the show in which The Animals were due to be the main act, Hendrix, Burdon, McCulloch and Briggs were sitting in a limo outside the venue getting stoned. Burdon suddenly told Hendrix that he was embarrassed that The Animals were closing the show because he was so much better than them. "Danny and I went BALLISTIC", says Briggs. "'Fuck, man! What the fuck's the matter with you? You fucking idiot!' We had a knock down, drag out. Nobody actually hit anybody but.. 'For fuck's sake man, you're a star! Act like a fucking star. Stop kissing ass to Jimi'."

I did not see Jimi and the guys until May when we flew to the Monsterkonzert in Zurich.





Zurich

Jimi and Vic during the impromptu jam at Zurich, May 1968

Zurich, 1968

May 1968 and Eric Burdon & The New Animals were billed alongside, Traffic, John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, The Move and The Jimi Hendrix Experience at the "Monster Concert" two day festival in Zurich, Switzerland. In between concerts, Jimi, Vic, Stevie Winwood and other musicians participated in an impromptu jam, of which there is unfortunately no recorded trace.

Vic: After that night in Anaheim I don’t recall seeing Jimi and the boys until Zurich in May of that year (68) On Thursday May 30th a bunch of musicians, including Traffic, The Move, John Mayall and The Animals - but no Jimi and company - flew to Zurich on a chatered Swissair plane. The flight over from Heathrow was pretty amazing but that's another story.
We played the first of our concerts (this was called the Monsterkonzert) that night and there were riots in the crowd mostly caused by the heavy handed crowd control of the Zurich police.
The next day, during the day, there was a powerful jam at the concert hall during the day. There was me, Jimi, Steve Winwood and others. That was the only time I remember ever jamming with Jimi. The jam itself was all very jazz oriented.  One thing that sticks in my mind was that at one point Jimi was playing bass. For some reason he loved a song on the Animals "Twain Shall Meet" album called "Orange and Red Beams", written (and sung) by Danny McCulloch.  In the middle of the song we were jamming, Jimi started playing the melody of "Orange and Red Beams" on the bass while looking at me.
That night the riots in the crowd were even worse.  Only recently I found out that this concert caused huge repercussions in Switzerland and had a profound effect on the country's youth.
Apart from that jam I didn’t see much of him in Zurich. Just a few weeks later I was out of The Animals.

Jim: There is a rumour going around that you owned one of Jimi's Flying V's. The one that he had painted I think. Do you still have it?

Vic: There are many stories going around. That one is not true. The only guitar interaction with Jimi is the one described here.



Last memories

Vic: I was asked to do some arranging for the Eire Apparent album that Jimi supposedly produced. I can remember the sweetening session (overdubbing strings and horns) in LA quite well but I don’t think Jimi was there.

The last time I remember seeing him was some time either late in 1968 or perhaps early 69. It may be mentioned in one of the Hendrix bios. Jimi was at the Whiskey in Hollywood but I don’t remember who the actual band was that was supposed to be playing that night. Anyway Jimi was jamming with Buddy Miles. The place was packed and it was really loud. I sought refuge in one of the dressing rooms with some members of Blues Image and one of the guys from Iron Butterfly. All of a sudden the door burst open and a black guy came in with a gun in his hand. He robbed us at gunpoint and pistol whipped the guy from Iron Butterfly. So that incident somewhat crowded out any other memories I may have had from that evening although I probably said Hi to Jimi. That would have been the last time I saw him.



Mike Jeffrey


When I heard the news of Jimi's death my life had changed so much that it was hard for me to even relate. I suppose you have heard the allegations from Tappy Wright that Michael Jeffrey as much as admitted to killing Jimi or at least arranging to have him killed. Do I believe that Jeffrey would have done that? Absolutely. He was a crook of the first order although I got on with him quite well on a personal level. The stupidest thing is that, had he treated his artists well, by now he would have been a multi, multi millionaire. Imagine if The Animals had not been forced out of the business by being worked to death and getting little or no money out of it. Imagine if Jimi had been allowed to develop as an artist and not worked to death. Even if Jimi HAD died and Jeffrey had retained his management rights, the Hendrix catalog, as we all know, is worth tens or perhaps hundreds millions. But Jeffrey wanted instant wealth. On one hand though, you can’t blame him for not imagining what an industry rock music would become. None of us could foresee how popular our music would become nor how much money would be made. Jeffrey would skim all the money as soon as he got it and stash it in Spain or wherever. Thus there was no artistic development or real support for his artists. The whole thing is a tragedy. It was a very bitter lesson for all of us.


Jim: Any opinion on the story that Jeffrey had some MI5 experience?

Vic: Eric may have discussed that fact. I don't remember Michael himself ever mentioning it.


Jim: I read or saw an interview with Noel Redding where he said that Chas was in fact working for Jeffrey. "It took me a while to figure that one out" he said. Any opinion on that?

Here's what is only an opinion: Chas knew he had something hot.  But he probably felt he didn't have the knowledge and the contacts - and we know that he certainly didn't have the money, Jeffrey has taken it all - so he asked the most likely person he knew - and to whom he was still under contract - to come in as a partner.  To his credit we know that Chas eventually became a successful player.  But I'm sure he was a victim of Jeffrey as much as we all were, probably more.



One last question

Jim: What did you feel about Jimi's successive albums ?

Vic: I would prefer not to make any comment about Jimi's recordings as they did not make much of an impression on me.  Not that I am saying they were not good.  I was just that my head was in a different space. He was a truly great artist and, perhaps more important, in spite of his faults a decent human being. I'm sorry that his life went the way that it did.

A final anecdote. In either late 1968 or early 1969 I found myself standing in the Whiskey a Gogo in Hollywood with Rod Stewart and Mickey Waller. We were there for a press reception that was being given for Brian, Julie and the Trinity to mark their first tour of the US. Brian, Julie and The Trinity were on-stage performing and Giorgio was holding court in a booth just as I had seen him doing so many times at The Scotch. Rod and Mickey were in the US on tour with Jeff Beck and I was now gone from the Animals and working as an independent producer and arranger in the Hollywood studios. We could not help but laugh about the fact that it had only been a very short time since we were traveling the motorways and playing the UK R&B clubs with Brian and Julie with no thought that we would ever be in Hollywood. Now here we all were in the legendary Whiskey a Gogo.

The 60s were an amazing time.


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A huge thank you to Vic Briggs for all these precious memories!


LINKS:

Antion
All about Antion Meredith/Vikram Singh Khalsa/Vic Briggs at his own site.

Zurich MonsterKonzert

Eric Burdon & The New Animals

My Brian Auger Interview



Antion

Antion (Vikram Singh Khalsa)





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Vic's wife Elandra Meredith remembers the horror of the Samarkand apartment.
Another Jimi Hendrix Record Guide Exclusive!

A new short inteview with the 60s model and actress who was called to the flat where Jimi died
to help calm the hysterical Monika Dannemann.

Interview
 

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