Part of what made Jimi Hendrix such a popular performer was his theatrics on stage. The theatrics would stun the audience. When combined with his revolutionary guitar playing, it made for a sight to see. Some of these theatrics included playing guitar behind his head, playing with his teeth, gyrations against the amp, and setting fire to his guitar. So, why did Jimi Hendrix burn his guitar?
Jimi Hendrix burned his guitar because it was difficult to distinguish yourself in the music scene at the time. Chas Chandler and Jimi believed burning a guitar on stage was a good way to gain attention from the public and media. He first burned his guitar in March of 1967 during a European tour. Jimi Hendrix played his song “Fire” and then burned his guitar.
Continue reading to find out why Jimi Hendrix burned his guitar and when Jimi Hendrix burned his guitar.
Why Did Jimi Hendrix Burn His Guitar?
Jimi Hendrix burned his guitar because it was a way to get noticed and generate buzz around his name outside his playing. At Monterey where he burned his guitar infamously , many music critics were there. His performance coupled with burning his guitar proved to all the music critics that he was something special.
At the time, Jimi had to separate himself and gain buzz in the industry for his performances.
And this worked. Concert promoters loved his music but also loved the theatrics he did, like burning his guitar at the end of the show. As a result, the Jimi Hendrix Experience got dates.
At Monterey, many concertgoers were not enthused, particularly those without an inclination towards the wild nature of the performance. Although they were not appalled by the music, they were appalled by what Jimi did to his instrument.
“It was what he did to his instrument that appalled me. Here he was throwing lighter fluid on his guitar and setting it on fire. I had never seen anything like this in my life.”Michelle Phillips, Monterey Pop Festival Concert Goer
Today, people may not be surprised if they see a guitarist do similar theatrics like setting their guitar on fire. Although, before Jimi’s performance at Monterey, no one had ever seen someone light their guitar on fire on stage.
Jimi also viewed burning the guitar as a means of sacrifice. He was a very spiritual man and he understand that people burned things they loved as a means of sacrifice. Jimi loved his guitar, so he burned it.
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Jimi mentioned how “those times I burned my guitar it was like a sacrifice. We all burn things we love. I love my guitar.”
Although, after success came, Jimi got tired and frustrated with smashing and setting his guitar on fire. Jimi mentioned how all he has to do is smash or burn his guitar and the crowds are fine with that. But he wanted to play his guitar. Despite Jimi’s reluctance, there were marketing concerns, where they wanted more Jimi Hendrix.
As a result, Jimi was getting disgusted with the whole carnival of gimmicks that accompanied his performances.
In the beginning, he was happy to set his guitar on fire as part of his stagecraft. But he was now feeling creatively boxed in by that.
Jimi got older, the old stage show that helped him get noticed and booked faster was no longer an interest to him and he saw it as a creative burden so he started doing it less.
When Did Jimi Hendrix Burn His Guitar?
Jimi Hendrix’s first notable time burning the guitar was at Monterey Pop Festival in 1967. Jimi Hendrix burned many guitars during his career but this was the most famous one. A few months prior, in March of 1967, Jimi did it for the first time while touring in Europe with the Walker Brothers.
At the Monterey Pop Festival, Jimi and Pete Townsend were arguing back and forth over who would go first. Jimi lost the coin toss and had to go second. The Who and Pete Townsend went, and Pete infamously smashed his guitar on stage as he would normally do.
So Jimi had to top that, which he did by burning his guitar. Before performing, Jimi cracked his guitar and decided then he would burn it on stage as he had done a few months prior. Knowing the impact it would have on the audience and music critics alike.
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The burning of the guitar at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967 is the most famous time as this was his first time doing it on the world stage, and for all in the audience, the first time they have seen anyone burn a guitar.
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