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One of the most legendary events, ever occurred on a backstage of a festival, where a discussion between two music giants – Jimi Hendrix and Pete Townshend, the guitarist of The Who. The topic of contention: who would perform first!

Townshend and Hendrix Argued About Who Would Take The Stage first

The clash was not just about ego; it was about the importance of their respective performances and the desire to make a lasting impact. As the festival’s buzz grew, the anticipation among the crowd reached a fever pitch. The audience’s sheer volume and enthusiasm were a testament to the festival’s significance.

The behind-the-scenes showdown between Hendrix and Townshend is a legendary tale in itself. Recalling the moment, Townshend recounted their heated debate. Neither wanted to follow the other – a sentiment that revealed the intense creative rivalry between them. Hendrix’s audacious guitar skills further fueled the tension, and John Phillips (one of the chief organizers of the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival) eventually suggested settling the matter with a coin toss, which Townshend won.

The coin toss victory meant that The Who would take the stage of Monterey Pop Festival first. Their performance was nothing short of explosive, exemplifying their visceral playing style. Closing with their anthem, “My Generation,” and their signature instrument-smashing, The Who left a mark on the festival audience. Yet, Townshend was still apprehensive about following Hendrix’s act. The guitarist’s masterful technique and revolutionary approach made him a hard act to follow.

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Jimi Hendrix’s Triumph Over The Who at Monterey, Nonetheless

Mama Cass, who watched alongside Townshend, noted that Hendrix was “doing [his] act.” This differentiation was key – for Townshend, it was a performance, while for Hendrix, it was an extension of himself. Hendrix’s performance was a seismic moment in rock history, a demonstration of unparalleled skill, passion, and showmanship. Both Hendrix and The Who’s performances have become iconic touchstones, representing the raw energy and innovation that defined the ’60s music scene.

But despite The Who’s powerfull gig, it was Hendrix who left Monterey Pop Festival as the ultimate winner. Hendrix’s guitar show was a jaw-dropping spectacle, as he transitioned from playing with his teeth to play his stratocaster between his legs and even strumming behind his back. Yet, it was the climactic performance of ‘Wild Thing’ that put his name into the annals of rock history. With a burst of electrifying energy, Hendrix not only smashed his guitar in a Townsend-esque fashion, but he put the guitar on fire!

This legendary moment encapsulated the spirit of the ’60s rock era and cemented Hendrix’s status as a musical icon. As Jimi Hendrix later stated “I decided to destroy my guitar at the end of a song as a sacrifice. You sacrifice things you love. I love my guitar.

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Why Did Jimi Hendrix Burn His Guitar At Monterey?

Jimi Hendrix’s iconic act of burning his guitar at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967 was a pivotal moment in rock music history. It wasn’t planned or premeditated act, but rather a spontaneous expression of his artistic energy and a desire to create a memorable performance.

Hendrix was known for his innovative guitar playing and stage presence, and he was looking for a way to make a lasting impression on the American audience at the Monterey Pop Festival. He had seen The Who’s Pete Townshend smash his guitar on stage before, and he wanted to do something equally impactful.

I think it was Keith Altham’s idea to set fire to the guitar,Chandler recalled. “We sent the roadie out for lighter fluid,” .

During his performance, Hendrix played a particularly energetic and intense rendition of “Wild Thing.” As the climax of the performance approached, he decided to take his showmanship to the next level. He knelt down in front of his amplifier, poured lighter fluid on his guitar, and set it on fire. The flames engulfed the instrument, creating a spectacle that stunned the audience and left an indelible mark on the festival’s history.

While Hendrix had previously engaged in similar acts of light the guitar on fire, often in smaller gigs, this would be the first time he would do so in front of such a large and influential audience.

Jimi Hendrix setting his Stratocaster guitar on fire at Monterey Pop Festival,1967
Credit: Reddit
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