Had you been at Café Le Hibou in Ottawa on the night of 19th March 1968, you would likely have witnessed something special: performing on stage, days before the release of her debut album, was 24-year-old Joni Mitchell; in front of her, recording both of her sets on his reel-to-reel tape recorder, was an enthralled Jimi Hendrix. She later described the experience:
They came and told me, ‘Jimi Hendrix is here, and he’s at the front door.’ I went to meet him. He had a large box. He said to me, ‘My name is Jimi Hendrix. I’m on the same label as you. Reprise Records.’ We were both signed about the same time. He said, ‘I’d like to record your show. Do you mind?’ I said, ‘no, not at all.‘ … All during the show, he kept twisting knobs. He was engineering it, I don’t know what he was controlling, volume? He was watching the needles or something, messing with knobs. He beautifully recorded this tape. Of course I played part of the show to him. He was right below me.
That night, fresh from a gig of his own in a venue across town, Hendrix knelt in front of stage into the early hours and recorded 22 of Mitchell’s songs. This was his diary entry.
The Diary Entry
Arrived in Ottawa – Beautiful hotel — Strange people — Beautiful dinner. Talked with Joni Mitchell on the phone — I think I’ll record her tonight with my excellent tape recorder (knock on wood) Hmm — can’t find any wood — everything’s plastic. Beautiful view. Marvelous sound on first show – Good on 2nd. Good recording – went down to the little club to see Joni – Fantastic girl with heaven words – we all go to party – O.K. millions of girls – listen to tapes and smoked back at hotel.
Some of Hendrix’s papers, including his “Daily Diary” from 1968, are held at Seattle’s Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP), and you can see much of the collection on their website. His recording of Joni’s gig was lost for fifty years; in 2021, having recently been discovered in a private collection, they were included in Joni Mitchell Archives – Vol. 2: The Reprise Years (1968-1971). A single track from that evening can be heard below.
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