Published on September 7th, 2023 | by AlexandreG.0
Jimi Hendrix at Club-a-Go-Go: The Concert that Changed Sting Forever
Many might speculate about the impressions Seattle-born Jimi Hendrix had of Newcastle when he graced the city’s stage for the initial time, transitioning from winter to spring in 1967. No doubt, the iconic guitarist left an indelible mark on a young spectator at the Club a’GoGo during his performance
The first time Sting saw Jimi Hendrix live
Jimi Hendrix first steps in London
Hendrix’s unparalleled skills were first noticed in New York’s Greenwich Village in 1966 by Chas Chandler, the Newcastle-born bassist for The Animals. Upon Chandler’s invitation to England (they initially lodged at Chandler’s maternal home in Heaton), Hendrix’s prowess as a guitarist swiftly became the talk of the town. Guitar legends such as Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, and Pete Townshend, in subsequent times, all voiced their astonishment at encountering this celestial guitar sensation.
When Hendrix performed at Club-a-Go-Go, he was already riding high with his top 10 UK hit “Hey Joe” and had made an appearance on “Top Of The Pops“. Concurrently, “Purple Haze” was ascending the charts, soon to secure its spot at number three. The Jimi Hendrix Experience, a collaboration with Noel Redding on bass and Mitch Mitchell on drums, embarked on numerous tours across the UK in their foundational days.
The impact of Jimi Hendrix on a teenage Sting
Hendrix, at the age of 24, showcased his talent in two separate concerts at the now-lost venue on Percy Street. At that time, Gordon Sumner, then a 14-year-old student at St Cuthbert’s Grammar School. This young spectator would later gain fame as Sting.
He has spoken about the first time he saw Jimi Hendrix live. It was a transformative experience for him. He witnessed Hendrix perform at the Club a’GoGo in Newcastle, England, when Sting was still a teenager. In interviews, Sting has recounted the profound impact that Hendrix’s performance had on him. It wasn’t just the music, but the entire persona and stage presence of Hendrix that left a lasting impression:
“I must’ve been 14 and Jimi Hendrix played at the Club A-Go-Go in Newcastle. I’d never seen a black man before, let alone a black man who was 6 feet tall with an Afro haircut and a sort of 17th century military costume. I’d never seen anyone play left-handed guitar or destroy his amplifier and his guitar during a song. I’d never seen anybody play like that. It was terrifying, traumatic, an epiphany! I said, ‘This is what I want to aspire to. I’ll never be Jimi Hendrix, but I can do something.“
Sting performing a cover of Jimi Hendrix’s Little Wing in 1987.
Sting’s cover of “Little Wing” was prominently featured on his second solo album, “…Nothing Like the Sun,” released in 1987. This album was a significant release for Sting, showcasing his evolving sound after his time with The Police. It was both a commercial and critical success, and the inclusion of “Little Wing” among its tracks was a nod to the rich tapestry of musical influences that Sting drew upon.
Sting has always been a versatile musician with varied influences. His decision to cover “Little Wing” was likely a combination of his admiration for Hendrix’s genius and a desire to interpret a classic in a manner fitting his own style. Moreover, by covering such an iconic track, Sting was making a statement about bridging the worlds of rock, pop, and jazz, all genres that have influenced him throughout his career.
Beyond studio recordings, Sting has occasionally added “Little Wing” to setlists during live performances, bringing the track to fans worldwide. These performances often feature extended instrumentals, allowing band members to showcase their skills, and emphasizing the jazzy elements present in Sting’s version.
Who plays the guitar solo in Sting Little Wing?
In Sting’s rendition of “Little Wing,” the guitar solo is masterfully played by Hiram Bullock. Bullock, an accomplished musician, brought his own unique flavor to this iconic song originally by Jimi Hendrix. Hiram’s style offered a fresh perspective, while still paying respect to Hendrix’s legacy.
According to an interview with “Guitar World” magazine, Bullock spoke about his admiration for Jimi Hendrix and the challenge of doing justice to such a legendary track. He acknowledged the significance of the song in the rock genre and mentioned how its roots are deeply intertwined with Hendrix’s unparalleled guitar skills.
Many fans and critics alike have praised Bullock’s rendition in “Little Wing.” His solo seamlessly complements Sting’s vocals, making the track resonate deeply with those familiar with Jimi Hendrix’s original, as well as introducing it to a new audience. The collaboration between Sting and Bullock truly highlighted the lasting influence of Jimi Hendrix in the world of rock and beyond.
Listen to the two versions of ‘Little Wing’ below
Which other Jimi Hendrix song has Sting covered?
Sting, ventured even more into the domain of Jimi Hendrix, with his live cover of “Purple Haze.” This bold endeavor is encapsulated in the 1992 live album aptly titled “Purple Haze!,” providing fans a front-row seat to Sting’s interpretation of a rock anthem.
“Purple Haze” is an emblematic track that defined the psychedelic rock era of the ’60s, echoing Hendrix’s avant-garde artistry. Sting, known for his knack for fusion and genre-blending, approached this iconic track with both reverence and innovation. While the characteristic guitar riffs and the song’s raw vigor remain untouched, Sting’s unique vocals lend a fresh resonance, making it both familiar and novel.
Recorded live at Hollywood Bowl, Los Angeles, CA, US, on October 2nd, 1991, each guitar strum, drumbeat, and vocal chord struck is a testament to the timelessness of Hendrix’s creation and Sting’s prowess as a live performer.