Remembering Jimi Hendrix 50 years on: the guitar god and the Irish connection

Jimi Hendrix performs at the Royal Albert Hall in London in February 1969. Photograph: David Redfern/Redferns/Getty Images.

On the landing of Dave Tiger Taylor’s home in Crumlin, there is a European tour poster of a kind familiar to most rock fans. It’s a psychedelic representation of Jimi Hendrix with multicoloured streamers.

Its significance is in the small print at the bottom of the poster, Feat (featuring): Eire Apparent. Therein lies one of the most interesting stories in the annals of Irish rock and roll.

Eire (sic) Apparent were an Irish band that toured, jammed and recorded with Hendrix after he was catapulted from struggling session musician in 1966 to the biggest solo star in the world by the end of the 1960s. He died 50 years ago today.

The story began in 1967 when a Belfast supergroup with a revolving door of musicians were signed by ex-Animals bass player Chas Chandler, who discovered Hendrix, and by Hendrix’s manager Mike Jeffery.

It was Chandler’s wife who came up with the groan-inducing punning name surmising that there was some advantage in having a name associated with Ireland.

Tiger (76) was born in Belfast, but has lived in Dublin for the last 48 years. He acquired the nickname in school and it has stuck to this day. He joined the band as a lead guitarist in November 1968.

Dave Tiger Taylor, pictured with some of his Jimi Hendrix memorabilia in Dublin. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times.
Dave Tiger Taylor, pictured with some of his Jimi Hendrix memorabilia in Dublin. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times.

For the next year Eire Apparent toured with Hendrix through Europe. Hendrix also produced the band’s first and only album, Sunrise, a framed copy of which is on Tiger’s living room wall.

“It didn’t do too well. It is actually selling better now. It’s a big sell over the internet. It cost me £250 for an album that I played on,” he said smiling.

On the album is one of the songs Tiger co-wrote, Rock and Roll Band, with Hendrix on lead guitar which was recorded in London and added to the UK release of the record.

Tiger’s house is full of memorabilia from that time most notably two photographs taken in Hendrix’s Brook Street apartment in London in the spring of 1969.

It features the members of Eire Apparent, with Tiger to Hendrix’s extreme right, and in the middle the guitar god made flesh looking relaxed and carefree though, as we now know, he was neither.

“We were all from Belfast. I don’t know if it was a Belfast thing, but we all got on very well with him,” he said.

Tiger remembers Hendrix fondly. He was one of the nicest guys he met in an industry not noted for its niceness.

There is this thing about him partying and taking drugs every night. I never seen any of that stuff and we were with him a lot of the time.

He was alternately tough from playing as a session musician with Little Richard and others and a “softie,” as Tiger recalls being pushed around and ripped off by his egregious manager Jeffery.

Jeffery, who died in a plane crash in 1973, has been blamed by many of Hendrix’s biographers for making the last year of Hendrix’s short life a misery and for ripping him off.

“For all the money they were making, Jimi didn’t see much of it. I have seen the receipts for Jimi Hendrix’s pocket money, for 10 shillings from this girl Trixie Sullivan (Jeffery’s assistant). She looked after him. It wasn’t a lot of money today,” Tiger recalls.

“I heard Jeffery say, ‘Jimi, you know where the money is. It’s all back in London. We will show you when we get back’.

“They were kind of talking down to him I felt. He wanted to see the ticket stubs for how many people were at the concert. Jeffery told Jimi, ‘If it is a new stereo, if it is a new guitar, if it is drugs, we will get them for you. You don’t have to worry about it’.”

Tiger says Hendrix spent two weeks in the studio with them in 1969 re-recording the album which was first recorded in Los Angeles at a time when he was not in the band.

Hendrix was a perfectionist who turned up everything to the highest level only for the sound engineer to turn it down again.

“Jimi could record all day and play all night. He played a lot of guitar on the album for us. He played a lot of lead stuff on it,” he said.

“There is this thing about him partying and taking drugs every night. I never seen any of that stuff and we were with him a lot of the time. If he was so spaced out, I don’t think he could have played or done all the albums he has done.”

Hendrix had a Jekyll and Hyde personality, according to biographers. He was capable of great kindness, but also violent outbursts usually provoked by excessive drinking. Tiger says he never saw any of that, but heard from Hendrix’s most prominent girlfriend (he had a few of them) Kathy Etchingham that he was occasionally violent.

Jimi Hendrix with girlfriend Kathy Etchingham in his Mayfair flat in London, January 1969. Photograph: Eric Harlow/Mirrorpix/Getty Images.
Jimi Hendrix with girlfriend Kathy Etchingham in his Mayfair flat in London, January 1969. Photograph: Eric Harlow/Mirrorpix/Getty Images.

“Kathy said he was fond of whiskey and he could get very uptight and be a totally different person, but I never saw that side of him. A lot of people think that he was out of his brain on acid all the time. If a person like Hendrix was out of his brain on acid, I don’t think he could play the guitar and come with tunes and melodies that he came up with.”

The last time Tiger saw Hendrix was in March 1970 in The Speakeasy, a club in London. By that stage Tiger had left Eire Apparent to form a new band, Anno Domini.

“He was with Sly Stone, ” Tiger recalls trying hard not to name drop. “He was asking me what I was doing and he (Hendrix) told me that if I needed any help I should give him a shout. He was always willing to help. If he could help you, he would help you and without asking for money.”

Tiger was touring in Germany with Anno Domini on September 18th, 1970 when he saw a report on the German news about Hendrix. As it turned out Hendrix died in the apartment of his latest girlfriend, the German ice skater Monika Dannemann in London. Hendrix was just 27.

If you knew him, there was something about this guy that was totally different, he had this magic about him. You felt he wasn’t going to be here forever.

The coroner found he died from an accidental overdose of sleeping tablets. The circumstances of his death have provoked a cottage industry of conspiracy theories. Everybody from Jeffery to the mafia and the FBI have been implicated though the official explanation is still regarded as the most plausible one.

Tiger inquired off the hotel receptionist to be told Hendrix was dead. “I was a kind of put out about it at the time. I thought, ‘fuck him for dying. He was the best guitar player in the world’,” he remembers.

“If you knew him, there was something about this guy that was totally different, he had this magic about him. You felt he wasn’t going to be here forever. A lot of people had the same feeling. He was just visiting this planet.”

As for Hendrix’s place in the pantheon of great guitar players, Tiger has no doubt. “I watched him and watched him and watched him. I was invited back to jam with him in Brook Street.

“Jimi had a head like a tape recorder. I came up with a Robert Johnson riff which I changed to suit myself and I found he played it at the end of Purple Haze when he was doing Woodstock. He didn’t do it intentionally. He just absorbed everything.

“Hendrix was the best I ever seen and I have seen everybody, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Eric Clapton, never came near Hendrix.”