After rocking out with Talking Heads and Bob Seeger at the Mouffe, I should note for the record that a guitar set ablaze by Jimi Hendrix sold this week at a London auction of rock memorabilia. The price was £280,000 (almost $500K). According to BBC News, “The instrument was only recovered from a garage last year and still bears the scorch marks of Hendrix’s performance.”
Torching the guitar wasn’t exactly a spontaneous or acid-induced Dionysian frenzy. A PR guy thought it up as a gimmick to get Hendrix some attention at a London concert where he was the warm-up act for Englebert Humperdinck. (I am not making this up. The BBC’s Martin Shankleman tells all about it on PRI’s The World.) It was the first but not the last of Jimi’s pyrotechnic displays. See the finale at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival. After that, Hendrix soared into rock legend, and smashing guitars became a cultural cliche.
No one remembers how the conflagration so inspired Englebert Humperdinck that he later set fire to his cumber bun, then his briefs, in Las Vegas.