This day in rock history: Jimi Hendrix lights his guitar on fire for the first time

The image rock fans generally have of Jimi Hendrix lighting his guitar on fire is the footage from the Monterey Pop Festival in June of 1967. It’s always fun to watch that video, both for Hendrix going crazy on the guitar and the stunned reaction of the crowd.

That wasn’t the first time Jimi lit his guitar on fire, however. That moment came on March 31, 1967, during a show a The Astoria in London.

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The show was the first in a 24-date tour, with the other acts on the bill being Engelbert Humperdink, Cat Stevens, and The Walker Brothers — quite an interesting lineup to go with Jimi Hendrix. The idea came from journalist Keith Altham, who during a discussion between Hendrix and manager Chas Chandler about what could be done to increase Hendrix’s exposure supposedly said, “Well, it’s a pity you can’t set fire to your guitar.” Turns out he could.

The guitar Hendrix burned, a Fender Stratocaster, wound up selling for around $500,000 in an auction in 2008. Hendrix himself went to the hospital after the show with minor burns. Fortunately Hendrix decided it was a good enough idea to do it again, as once the world saw it, rock would never be the same.

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