How David Gilmour Wound Up Mixing Jimi Hendrix’s Live Sound
Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour recalled how he’d gone to the 1970 Isle of Wight Festival as a member of the audience but wound up mixing the live sound for Jimi Hendrix’s performance.
The event later became known as “Britain’s Woodstock,” after fans without tickets tore down the fences to gain access and the total estimated attendance swelled to 600,000 – believed to be the largest of all the counterculture festivals of the era. The associated tension increasing the pressure backstage.
“I went down [to the festival] to go to it and I was camping in a tent, just being a punter,” Gilmour told Prog magazine in a new interview. “I went backstage where our main roadie guy, Peter Watts, was trying to deal with all the mayhem, with Charlie Watkins of [amplifier company] WEM. … They were very nervous, they were going to have to mix Hendrix’s sound. I did some mixing stuff in those days and they said, ‘Help! Help!’ So I did.”
Hendrix’s set, in the early hours of Aug. 31, was delivered through a series of technical issues, including the transmission of security radio conversations through his amplifier. His performance alongside Mitch Mitchell and Billy Cox was to be his last in the U.K. before his death on Sept. 18. Due to the drama surrounding the 1970 edition, it was the last Isle of Wight Festival until it was revived in 2002.
Despite the assistance he provided, Gilmour said he didn’t meet Hendrix that day. “I had met him previous to that, once,” he recalled. “I didn’t know him.”