Thursday, March 22, 2012

Cable to McCartney from Hendrix: ‘How about coming to play bass?'

By Emmanuel Legrand

It would have been the supergroup of all supergroups, the one that would have bridged jazz with rock and pop, and featured some of the greatest, if not the greatest musicians in their field, and it never happened. Alas!

Imagine jazz trumpet wizard Miles Davis, alongside the finest drummer of his generation, the master of swing Tony Williams, and the guitarist who is the template for all guitar players, the unique Jimi Hendrix, teaming up with the smoothest bass operator of all times, Paul McCartney.

The year is 1969. Davis is in studio with Williams and is planning to record with Hendrix. Alan Douglas is producing. They miss a bass player. Someone suggests McCartney.

And they sent on October 21 to Paul McCartney (via Apple Records, 3 Savile Row in England) a cable (for the non initiated, this was the quickest way to reach anyone in written form in the pre-fax and emails era...).

It reads: “WE ARE RECORDING AND (sic) LP TOGETHER THIS WEEKEND IN NEWYORK STOP HOW ABOUT COMING IN TO PLAY BASS STOP CALL ALWAN (sic) DOUGLAS 212 5812212 PEACE JIMI HENDRIX MILES DAVIS TONY WILLIAMS”

The two cables (photo: HRC Prague)
A cable came back on Oct 22, with the following words: “Ref. cable received from Hendrix Davies (sic) and Williams. Paul McCartney away from London on holiday not expected return for two weeks. PETER BROWN”

(Brown was the assistant to the Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein, and assumed day-to-day management duties at Apple after Epstein’s death in 1967 and went on to work for Robert Stigwood in the 1970s)

So because Macca was on holiday (actually he was most likely in his estate in Scotland) the world has missed on the opportunity to hear the music that these four amazing musicians would have produced together. 

Now the question is — why do we only hear about this today?

The answer comes from Paris with Yazid Manou, who is probably the most knowledgeable person I have ever met about Hendrix. Manou, who is an independent PR person, wants to know everything about Hendrix. And sometimes finds gems that are overlooked by others.
The cables as displayed in Prague
at the Hard Rock Cafe
(Photo: DR)

And that’s what happened with these cables. According to Manou, the Hard Rock Cafe bought the original document via Christie's en 1995 and he saw it first on the site of the Hard Rock CafĂ© in Key West (Florida) in 2005. The cables were later sent to HCR in Prague, as part of the thousands of rock memorabilia pieces that the chain owns and that rotate around the world.

When asked if he has any doubts about the authenticity of the documents, Manou is adamant: “Absolutely none”, he answers. And when asked why has it not surfaced before since these cables were visible by anyone who went to HRC in Prague. “Many visitors will not pay attention to these telegrams,” says Manou. “It only takes a crazy fan like me to see the value of these cables and see the exceptional importance of these few words.”

Manou adds that to his knowledge no one had ever mentioned these facts and they do not appear in any book about the Beatles or Hendrix (and on that one I have to trust him). 

Manou is now trying to get a reaction from McCartney.

He also fantasises at the music that would have come out from these sessions. And so do we!

4 comments:

  1. Thanks Emmanuel ! Even famous dailynewspaper Le Monde wrote a nice article last march 22nd :

    http://www.lemonde.fr/culture/article/2012/03/21/le-telegramme-de-jimi-hendrix-a-paul-mccartney_1673338_3246.html

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  2. I just came across your blog and piece about the McCartney cable. Wonderful and dismayed at what might have been.

    It was my unusual fortune to have worked for another Beatle, John Lennon. In reaction to the disparaging comments about Lennon since his death, I created a website with some personal stories that portray a compassionate loving man.

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  3. Thanks to Greg Katz from Associated Press, my Hendrix/McCartney telegram story is back again

    http://bigstory.ap.org/article/1969-hendrix-telegram-can-paul-come-play
    http://www.today.com/entertainment/jimi-hendrix-telegram-paul-mccartney-1969-join-my-super-group-1C9872994
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/music/the-beatles/10048426/Jimi-Hendrix-Miles-Davis-and-Paul-McCartney-supergroup-was-mooted.html#disqus_thread

    Stay tuned
    YM

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