Remember The Days: Walker Brothers Tour 1967
Looking back at 50 wonderful years of Cat’s career I couldn’t resist asking Yusuf about the time that he toured with Jimi Hendrix right at the start of both of their illustrious careers. It was on an April 1967 package tour which saw Cat Stevens, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Engelbert Humperdinck, and others support The Walker Brothers, who’d come over from the United States to what had proven to be a successful market for them in the UK. Looking back, this seems like quite a strange line-up but it was early in the careers of both Cat and Hendrix and I imagine that their management companies were pretty happy to have them on the bill with a more established American band who’d had two UK number 1 hits; “Make It Easy on Yourself” in 1965, and “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore” in 1966. Engelbert Humperdinck was a late inclusion to the line-up because his version of “Release Me” had recently become a huge smash hit. In fact, it was still number 1 at the start of the tour. Cat had already enjoyed success with his first two singles, “I Love My Dog” and “Matthew & Son”, the latter reaching number 2 in the charts. He was promoting his new single “I’m Gonna Get Me a Gun”. Hendrix, however, was an unknown quantity having only been in the country for a few months. He’d released “Hey Joe” which peaked at number 6 and was just about to release “Purple Haze” which would go on to be his most successful ever single reaching number 3, probably largely due to the exposure he got on The Walker Brothers Tour.
Yusuf was very generous with me and, though he was recalling events from some five decades ago, painted vivid mental pictures as he recounted a few gems. He and The Jimi Hendrix Experience were a little younger than the other bands and spent quite a bit of time together during the tour. He spoke particularly fondly of his friendship with Noel Redding, Jimi’s bassist. During shows, Noel would try to distract Cat as he performed “I’m Gonna Get Me A Gun” by squirting him with a water pistol from the side of the stage. Once the curtain had gone down and the concerts were over, Noel then introduced Cat to the elite and somewhat mysterious underworld of scene parties where becoming ‘experienced’ was de rigueur.
At the time Jimi had seemed fairly aloof. However, Yusuf did recount a story about the opening night of the tour where he set fire to one of his guitars for the first time ever. I’d always been led to believe that Hendrix first did this at the Monterey Pop Festival but that was only a couple of months later, in June of the same year, so it makes total sense. Yusuf told me how he’d been in his dressing room when one of the crew burst in and frantically told him that they had to go to the stage because “Jimi’s setting fire to stuff!!” There in the wings, Cat watched as Jimi first tried out the kind of pyrotechnics that would go on to become legendary. “I should’ve had that water pistol then” Yusuf joked.
– Hallam Kite