Saturday, 23 December 2006

Recording of Welsh National Anthem may be lost Jimi Hendrix masterpiece


When record producer Dave Chapman acquired the old Crouch Hill recording studios in London’s Stroud Green in 1994, he came across an old tea chest full of eight-track analogue tapes dating from the 1960s and 70s.

For want of a machine old enough to play the tapes, the tea chest sat in Chapman’s attic until 1998 when he bought an old Ampex tape recorder at an auction of professional recording equipment. He began listening to the tapes whenever he had time and, over several years, he catalogued the contents. As you might expect, all of the recordings turned out to be unremarkable demo tapes by largely unknown bands.

Then, one evening in May 2004, finally nearing the bottom of the chest, Chapman was listening to a track by a band called the New Flames. The only clues to the identity of the work were the name of the band and the date of the recording, 10th September 1970, which were scrawled on the tin.

Having heard enough, Chapman was going to turn the recorder off but left the tape running while he went to the toilet. Since he was the only one in the building at the time, he left the control room door open. As the New Flames tune ended, he discovered that a wild and emotional arrangement of Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau, the Welsh National anthem, played on a guitar, had been tacked onto the end of the tape. Although Chapman was from Essex, the playing caused the hairs on the back of his neck to stand up, because it sounded like Jimi Hendrix.

In the Stapleton Hall Tavern, the pub next door to the studio, Chapman got talking to a local, Phil Goddard, a regular at the Stapleton since the 1960s. Goddard told him that the New Flames bass player, Vivian (Viv) Williams, originally from Crickhowell in south Wales, had lived for a while in a flat around the corner.

Chapman told Goddard about the tape and Goddard reckoned it was entirely possible that the recording was of Hendrix, since Williams had known Hendrix well. Williams had apparently auditioned for The Band of Gypsies, but didn’t get the gig.

Goddard went on to tell Chapman that one night shortly before Hendrix died, Williams had brought the American guitarist into the pub. The landlord provided a lock-in for his celebrity visitor and they drank into the early hours with a man fitting the description of Chas Chandler, Hendrix’s manager.

Hendrix played at a festival in Germany on 6th September and returned to London immediately afterwards. He jammed with Eric Burdon and War at Ronnie Scott’s on 16th September and was almost certainly in London when the New Flames recorded their track on 10th September. He died in his sleep at the Samarqand Hotel in London on 18th September 1970. He was 27 years old.

Dave Chapman died of a heart attack, aged 43, while skiing in Switzerland in February 2005, before he was able to find out more about the recording. He had, however, preserved it digitally and had made a copy for a Welsh friend he knew from the music industry, me.

Dave’s widow, Louise, very kindly gave me the track on the basis that, of his closest friends, I was the one who really appreciated it. I’ve embedded it in The Red Dragonhood website because the recording very much supports the free spirit of Wales and Welshness our brand embodies. Jimi was an American, of course, but this recording of Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau is loaded with an emotion that only Welsh people will fully understand. He must have been able to appreciate the passion and beauty inherent in the tune.

If Hendrix really did make the recording, it would be a like finding a Turner sketch of Cardiff in the attic. The date would establish it as Jimi’s last ever recording. On the other hand, it might have been played by one of the New Flames to parody Hendrix. It certainly sounds like Hendrix.

I’ve been unable to discover anything more because every trail has gone cold. Jimi is dead, obviously. Chas Chandler died in 1996. Mike Ward, the owner of Crouch Hill Studios at the time the recording was made, died in 1998. Phil Goddard and Dave Chapman both died last year. My only chance is to find Viv Williams and I’m hoping someone in Wales might know his whereabouts. If you know where we can get in touch with him please let us know.

Click here to hear the ‘Lost Hendrix’ Welsh National Anthem Turn your speakers up LOUD!

9 comments:

elis blues said...

First - a minor error to point out - "the Band" with Rick Danko have nothing to do with Hendrix's "the Band of Gypsys".
Second, from listening to the track, what I hear is nothing like Jimi's playing - from the guitar which does not sound like a Strat, the pickups sound much newer, to the technique which includes tapping and bending that only became popular in the 1980's, to the recording studio sound which also sounds too modern to me.
I have heard many of Jimi's studio jams over the years, and most of them are boring and plain even when he was jamming with legends like John McLaughlin, which makes it even more unlikely to me that he would sit in with a complete stranger and unknown musician in the last few days of his life when he was mostly stoned, drunk, and depressed, and belt out an organized and cohesive piece like the one on this alleged lost recording.
I just don't buy it...

Brad said...

Yea this really doesn't sound like him. I'm an avid fan, and this definitly doesn't have Jimi's feel. I think its just an avid fan from the good ole land of Wales.

john said...

I think it's worth pursuing and asking Viv Williams if he is still alive and he can be found.
He seems to have dropped off the face of the earth or is no longer playing and probably has no idea anyone is looking for him. Let’s start www.whereisvivwilliams.com and get the word out, maybe the answer is out there waiting to find a home.

I wondered if the family that sold the Stapleton Hall Tavern to the Larrik might know any more, perhaps a story, "of the night when..." has been circulating for many years, the answer might lead to another avenue to the facts, who knows right......

I tend to agree that for this to surface now is a bit mysterious at best but one never knows, so one must not rush to judgment and make proclamations without doing their homework eliminating all possibilities, just the facts, as they say…..I’m not going to go on record making a statement that I know what Mr. Hendrix was doing at the time, who he choose to drink and keep company with cause I just don’t know and I don’t think there are many out there that actually do. But they are out there and it would certainly be fun and an exercise in good old investigative journalism to separate fact from fiction and get to the bottom of this.

I’ll say one thing though, it’s got a lot of Jimi’s old friends checking out this little ditty and wondering, hey, could it be?

Anyway that’s my thought on the matter.
3goldens
NYC
USA

P.S. anyone know anything more about the new flames? Maybe one of those guys if they are still around might have eyes on Mr. Williams…..

I was unable to find anything.........

john said...

I had one other thoguht.

I wondered if mr. Davies would consider going back to Dave’s widow, Louise and ask to hear the whole tape from start to finish. Is there any studio chatter between takes, anything before or after, it would seem unusual to me for there to be nothing, they don't ussually cut the tape off right like that especially with the old analog machines. Just another silly thought.

UKDave said...

My few thoughts .....

I echo what ElisBlues and Brad said earlier. Even a few notes into the track I didn't believe it was Jimi.

To those of us familiar with his released and unreleased material, including studio jams, this just doesn't have the right 'feel' to it.

Ok, it didn't have to sound like a Strat because as we all know, Jimi used Gibsons too. But I thought the pickups sounded too high output and modern, as did the distortion and studio sound in general. And the trem arm technique didn't have Jimi's feel, timing or phrasing, to my ears anyway. It seems quite unusual in a loose studio jam to have no 'studio chat' included either.

Thinking back to backstage on the Isle of Wight film where Jimi asks to be reminded how 'God Save the Queen' goes immediately before he took to the stage, I personally feel it pretty unlikely that he would have been familiar with, or rehearsed the Welsh National Anthem. Nice thread though.

Happy New Year!

Steve said...

Is there a mirror for this page or have you wildly gone over your monthly traffic due to all of the publicity?

Thanks.

Martin Davies said...

THE SERVER CRASHED!

We experienced a massive serge in demand from the USA on Saturday and, perhaps because of this, our server crashed early on Sunday morning. We didn't expect this level of demand so it wasn't mirrored. (We live and learn!) We're working to get the site back up and it should be there again by Monday mid-day GMT, Monday morning US Eastern.

SORRY IF THIS HAS CAUSED DISAPPOINTMENT OR IRRITATION

Martin Davies said...

NEW SERVER!

The site is back up! Based on the most recent rate of visits, about 2,000 people will have had problems finding the site and we're sorry for the inconvenience the problem has caused. The new server is not yet linked to our database so you won't be able to join the mailing list or respond to the survey for a few hours yet. Thanks for bearing with us.

Christian said...

What a lovely idea - that Jimi Hendrix not only drunkenly played the Welsh national anthem one night after a pub shut-in but bothered in his inebriated state to learnt it so very, very well. If only the recording sounded like Jimi (but thank god, Jimi didn't sound like the recording!)