Arthur Lee and Jimi Hendrix, 1969
Jimi Hendrix and Arthur Lee met in 1964 or 1965 at Gold Star Studios in Los Angeles, where singer Rosa Lee Brooks was recording Lee’s song “My Diary.” Lee claimed the session was Hendrix’s first time in a recording studio, though it seems likely Hendrix had already cut “Testify” with the Isley Brothers.
The two men remained friends, and on St. Patrick’s Day 1970, after Love finished a European tour, Hendrix joined the band in London’s Olympic Studios. There, Lee says Jimi and the band all ate mescaline (or “Huxley’s hooch,” as we used to call it in the San Fernando Valley). From Forever Changes: Arthur Lee and the Book Of Love—The Authorized Biography of Arthur Lee, here are Lee’s recollections of the Olympic session:
Boy, did we have fun at the Olympic recording studio. The band and Jimi all took mescaline. Although they didn’t know it, I was as straight as Cochise’s arrow. Somebody had to steer the ship. [...]
One of the ways I got Jimi to do the session in the first place—or how I got his attention, anyway—happened one night at the Speakeasy. He and I arrived together. The guy at the front door told me I could come in but Jimi couldn’t. When I asked him why, he said that Jimi had been fighting in the club on an earlier occasion and they didn’t want that happening again. So I told him that Jimi was cool, the entourage that was with us was cool, and I didn’t think any fighting would be going on that night. He finally agreed. I said to Jimi, “Look, man, neither one of us is going to be around much longer, anyway; so while we’re here, we might as well do something together.” When I said that, whatever we were talking about, or he was thinking about, just seemed to stop and I had his full attention. He really went into some deep thought as he looked at me from across the table. He was looking into my eyes and I knew he could only be thinking about our early deaths.
The session went completely differently from the way I was used to recording. I thought it was to be a private session. I don’t remember telling anyone to come, except the band; but, to my surprise, there were people all over the place. There were girls I’d never seen before and faces popping out from where you would least expect a person to be. I was in a state of shock, but Jimi said, “It’s OK, let them stay.” More than once, Jimi thought we were done and went to pack everything up. Then he would come back into the studio while we were playing and say, “What key?” Once, when we were learning a song I wrote, called “Ride That Vibration,” Jimi came walking back in during the middle of it. He asked me, “What did you just say in that song?” I said, “Ride the vibration down like a six foot grave / Don’t let it get you down.” Then he said, “I gotta go; it’s getting too heavy.” He called a cab, took [drummer George Suranovich’s] girlfriend, and was out the door. George just looked at me as if to say, “That’s Jimi.” After a while, Jimi came back and suggested that everyone jam, and were my band members ever happy!
On that session in London, we managed to lay down a few tracks, among them “E-Z Rider,” “The Everlasting First,” and a jam that I would later add lyrics to. Jimi sang on “E-Z Rider.” I gave the master reel to [Blue Thumb Records president] Bob Krasnow. He never gave it back. At the time, I wondered if someone was filming us, although I never saw a camera. I found out, in the early 90s, they had been.
Back in the studio, it was almost daylight, so I signaled to H to start wrapping it up. I don’t think Jimi was ready to quit, but it had been a long night for me. The tour we were doing was over with; I just wanted to get back to Studio City in California. As we were walking out of the building, Jimi asked, “Where are you going?” I said, “Man, I gotta get back to LA; to my woman, dogs, and pigeons.” Jimi said, “Come here, I want to show you something.” We walked back inside the studio. He pointed to his guitar case on the floor. Then he opened it up. I thought he had a stash in there, but as he stood up, he pointed to it again and said, “This is all I have.” I couldn’t figure it out at first, but then it hit me. He was telling me that the white Stratocaster guitar in the case were his only possessions. I felt kind of sad for him.
Of the three songs Hendrix cut with Love at Olympic, only “The Everlasting First”—the single from Love’s False Start album—was officially released. The other two songs, Hendrix’s “Ezy Rider” and the jam “Loon,” surfaced on an acetate that turned up on eBay in 2009. Without further ado…
“The Everlasting First”:
“Ezy Rider (takes 1 and 2)”:
In the clip below, from the fascinating documentary Love Story, Lee talks about his history with Hendrix and his influence on the guitarist’s dress style:
His brother told me that Jimi Hendrix took a look at my first album and said, “I think I’ll try it this way.” He stole my dress attire, mate, and I don’t appreciate that shit, but [laughs] I can’t play the guitar like him at all.