The swinging ’60s scene in London was home to all different types of musicians and artists. Although psychedelia was ever-present, the styles and eventual signature sounds of the band’s who made up the scene were diverse. Blues bands like Fleetwood Mac could rub elbows with soul singers like Dusty Springfield and folkies like Donovan. There was room for ex-pats, northerners, and posh Londoners alike, with the proliferation of genres like hard rock and progressive rock beginning to take shape.
One band that was making a fair amount of noise was Pink Floyd. Led by eccentric singer-songwriter Syd Barrett, the Floyd utilised long instrumental passages and psychedelic light shows to pioneer a style that was being pegged as “space rock” by fans and critics alike. The band members themselves often socialised with their contemporaries and attended gigs, which is how Roger Waters wound up witnessing a young American guitarist living in London by the name of Jimi Hendrix.
Last year, Waters posted a video to his social media accounts recalling his first time seeing Hendrix. He had gone to see the psychedelic blues rock supergroup Cream, during which time they welcomed a guest on to the stage.
“Halfway through the show, they said: ‘we would like to introduce a friend of ours’ and this bloke came out and started to play the guitar with his teeth behind his head,” Rogers recalled. “I had thought for some time – I misheard what his name was. I thought he was called ‘Junior Hendrix’ but it wasn’t ‘Junior’ Hendrix it was Jimi Hendrix and that was the first time that he had ever played in England, at that Cream gig. I supposed it would have been about 1965.”
With a little bit of background vetting, it appears that Rogers was off by about a year. Hendrix was still playing in Little Richard’s band in 1965, and wouldn’t make it to England until May of 1966. Similarly, Eric Clapton had begun his tenure with John Mayall and the Blues Breakers in 1965 and wouldn’t form Cream until July of 1966.
By Jack Bruce’s recollection, the only time that Hendrix ever sat in with Cream was at Regents Polytechnic at the University of Westminster, which took place on October 1, 1966. At this point the Floyd were an ongoing concern, having streamlined their name from The Pink Floyd Blues Band and picking up more of Barrett’s original songs.
Still, if Rogers needed inspiration to fully adopt the nascent psychedelia of the time, Hendrix’s appearance with Cream certainly would have done the trick.