Alan Douglas (by John Masouri)

Dear Friends,

as part of our irregular article series by prestigious external collaborators collaborators/contributors, we present you today with an article by the great John Masouri, who wanted to share some thoughts with us about the great Alan Douglas

Alan Douglas (by John Masouri) 1

Alan Douglas (by John Masouri)

Alan Douglas is one of our last, great musical visionaries. He’s a record producer who learnt his craft from the ground up, and then helped to change the face of popular culture by having the courage of his convictions – something he continues to do well into his seventies.

His track record over the past fifty years is extraordinary, having encompassed jazz, rock, hip-hop, soul and symphonic music, as well as comic book art, film and revolutionary literature. To say he possesses an enquiring mind is an understatement. That astute cultural radar aside, his extensive knowledge of history and the arts has informed everything he does, whether it’s persuading the likes of Duke Ellington and Errol Dolphy to reinvent themselves, or recognising the relevance of a group of imflammatory street poets from the Harlem ghetto who’d invent hip-hop. His unfailing tastes and instincts made an indelible mark on the sixties’ counter-culture – a modern-day renaissance born out of holy madness and that continues to inspire ensuing generations of young creatives.

Such achievements should not easily be forgotten, and yet mention the name Alan Douglas to some, and they’ll immediately think of him as the man who’s attracted widespread criticism for tampering with the Jimi Hendrix legacy. His “sin,” should you want to call it that was to erase some sloppy playing by the guitar legend’s original band members, and replace it with the work of session musicians. Purists were outraged and it’s only now, some thirty-five years after the event, that his reputation is finally undergoing a much-needed re-evaluation.

These days Alan Douglas lives in Paris, where he oversees an eclectic catalogue of film, music and book projects that encompasses jazz, funk, avant-garde, blues, Latin and rock. It’s a world where Dizzy Gillespie and the Modern Jazz Quartet– both recorded live at Montreux Jazz Festival in 1963 – nestle side-by-side with B. B. King, Parliament, Little Richard, Celia Cruz, John Lennon & The Plastic Ono Band, Jerry Garcia and James Brown, as well as digital books by the likes of Timothy Leary and Lenny Bruce. Douglas has also co-produced albums with Bill Laswell, with whom he shares much in common. Both have “messed” with the work of cultural icons and antagonised fanatics guilty of imposing their own limitations upon the stars they idolise, yet there’s no doubting the integrity of their approach or the fact they’ve increased our knowledge and appreciation of these artists. For instance, it was Alan who shed invaluable light upon Jimi Hendrix’s jazz leanings, as heard on Nine To The Universe. His role wasn’t of deliberate agent provocateur, but of someone who was sensitive to an artist’s inner promptings and their desire to break free of whatever was holding back their development. Such qualities weren’t born out of any delight in defying convention, but his early grounding in jazz and having been around legends such as Duke Ellington and Charles Mingus, who no one could accuse of sticking rigidly to the same methods their whole working lives (and which is what many of Hendrix’s fans would have had him do.)

Alan hails from Boston, where he met the famous jazz DJ Symphony Sid, who was taking a sabbatical from the Big Apple at the time. Sid’s connections would prove very helpful to Douglas after he moved to New York in the late fifties and got his start by producing a record for Morris Levy’s Roulette Records with a young girl singer named Valerie Carr. Few acts wrote their own material during those days, and music publishers were always looking to place songs with record companies in the hope they’d be covered by the label’s top artists. This created the need for good demo recordings, and also streetwise producers who could hustle studio time and get results. Alan got to know a lot of people in the industry making those kinds of records including Phil Ramone, who offered him some free, late night sessions at A & R Studios. Sugar Ray Robinson’s manager then introduced him to Nicole Barclay, whose husband Eddie was head of Barclay Records in France. Alan duly took over as Quincy Jones’ successor in A & R; relocated to Paris and recorded American style music with the Eddie Barclay Orchestra for a while. During this period he narrowly missed out on working with Edith Piaf and Billie Holiday, who died within weeks of each other. Alan had planned to record an album of original material with Holiday, and wean her off the standards that other producers usually gave her. This would be the first indication of his creative empathy with gifted, musical giants. Unfortunately Billie died before the project got underway although he later licensed an unreleased live recording from her estate, which Blue Note released as Billie’s Blues.

By this time Alan had returned to New York and taken charge of United Artists’ jazz division, after Nicole Barclay – who he says believed in him more than he even believed in himself – had introduced him to UA label head Art Talmadge.

His first task was to trawl through the UA vaults and see if there was anything he could reissue. There wasn’t a great deal there apart from a live Mingus set (Mingus In Wonderland) and an album by Cecil Taylor, Hard Driving Jazz, featuring John Coltrane. The latter’s growing popularity inspired Alan to reverse the credits and issue it as Coltrane Time, thereby ensuring more sales. Job done, he turned his attention to initiating projects of his own. Back then, it was smaller labels like Blue Note and Prestige who released the majority of jazz recordings, and so artists were always bothering the owners for advances. Alan couldn’t sign these artists as they were taken already, but his one-off projects with them gave company bosses welcome relief from the persistent requests for money.

“My whole time with United Artists was like that,” he says. “I mean I could have stayed and made my whole career out of jazz as a producer at one of the record companies, then I would have been able to sign artists and embark on longer relationships with them, but that’s the reason I had to choose artists who were already well established. There was no time to really develop someone.”

One of his first projects was Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers’s Three Blind Mice, recorded live at the Renaissance Club in Hollywood. The Jazz Messengers had released an impressive sequence of albums leading up to that March 1962 engagement, including The Witch Doctor and Freedom Rider. Blakey’s playing is volcanic as ever and Three Blind Mice has the added attraction of a fresh Freddie Hubbard composition, Up Jumped Spring, that’s now revered as a jazz standard. Another former Jazz Messenger, trumpeter Kenny Dorham was coaxed in the studio for Matador, a soul-jazz classic shared with Jackie McLean and Bobby Timmons. Alan encouraged these musicians to express themselves, and experiment with different time signatures. He didn’t want them to be complacent or play anything formulaic but to push the boundaries, which is exactly what Duke Ellington did that September.

Daring as ever, Alan teamed Ellington with a rhythm section comprised of Max Roach (drums) and Charles Mingus (double bass) for Money Jungle, which George Wein has described as “one of the greatest piano trio recordings in jazz history.”

“I’d already worked with Duke Ellington in Paris, because soon after I’d arrived there, Nicole Barclay sent me to his hotel where he and Billie Strayhorn were working on the score for Paris Blues,” Douglas recalls. “Duke was playing the piano most of the time during the rehearsals and whilst they were writing, and I thought he was a great piano player. I asked Duke why he’d never made a record on his own playing the piano and he said, ‘Well, because no one ever asked me.’ Then when I went to United Artists I had a phone call from Duke, saying he wanted to come by and see me. I said, ‘Great,’ he came by and said, ‘Remember what you said to me in Paris?’ I said yes and he said, ‘Well, let’s do it.’ Mingus and Max Roach were much younger than him and I thought it would be interesting pairing him with musicians who weren’t from the Ellington school but Duke often spoke about how people had forgotten about his piano playing, and I think that’s one of the reasons he was happy to do it.”

Money Jungle contains the most livewire cut of Caravan you’ve ever heard, but then there’s nothing else like this album in the entire Ellington catalogue. The legendary bandleader, deprived of any comfort zone, was compelled to rethink his approach and judging by the results, clearly relished the opportunity. Alan would produce other memorable releases during his short tenure with United Artists – most notably with Oliver Nelson, Ken McIntyre, King Pleasure, Herbie Mann, Betty Carter and Bill Evans & Jim Hall, whose Undercurrent was the first (and best) of their celebrated collaborations. Highlights from these albums can be found on Douglas On Blue Note – a marvellous compilation that begs the question why the majority of these individual albums haven’t been made available – the Paris Blue Note label please take note!

A month after Duke Ellington’s tour-de-force, Alan produced a live big band recording by Charles Mingus that’s gone down in jazz history for all the wrong reasons, including fist fights between the musicians and overweening ambition on a grand scale.

“The Town Hall concert turned out to be a disaster,” he admits. “I had big budgets then, relatively speaking and so I decided to lay it on Mingus. That was a bold thing to do admittedly, but he was a very special human being and a very talented, creative musician. I told him he could just name his band and so we ended up bringing in musicians from everywhere but he was so confused by this sudden show of generosity that he never got ready for it. I mean he had the arrangers writing out parts on the stage, at the actual concert itself!

“It was a live recording in front of an audience and if it had come off, it would have been magnificent. The line-up was incredible, because it had everyone you could name in jazz standing on stage but it just wasn’t meant to be. I left when they said they were going to put the record out, because there was no music there. They hired George Wein to come in and save it and then put the record out, but it was a wasted exercise and trying to pretend only made it worse.”

There’s a delightful photo of Alan sat next to Charles Mingus on the sleeve of Douglas On Blue Note that offers ringing endorsement of their friendship but alas, no further joint ventures resulted from their alliance.

“Mingus was a very frustrated human being,” he explains. “I think I was one of the very few people who got along well with him. I could make him smile and we’d make jokes together but he had the frustration of most bass players because whilst he was a virtuoso, he could never be a star like horn players such as Miles or Trane because the bass is an instrument that can’t handle the melody line. He had a problem with that because it meant he never got the acknowledgement they had. I’m talking about the general public here, because of course he was highly rated by everybody in the business. I liked him a lot and tried to do other things with him but he was so frustrated, he would get too angry and turn people off.”
United Artists would release only a handful of jazz titles after the Town Hall episode. In 1963, soon after the birth of FM radio, Alan went to work for FM Records, owned by Monte Kay and Pete Kameron. He recorded a young Cass Elliot (later to join the Mamas & Papas) and two albums with Eric Dolphy for FM. Dolphy had been flown in from California to play at the Town Hall Concert, and was one of the most exciting talents in jazz at the time. Influenced by John Coltrane, he’d been studying Indian music before recording material that will later appear on the albums Iron Man and Conversations (also known as Jitterbug Waltz) during the summer of 1963. A multi-instrumentalist, he plays alto sax, bass clarinet and flute on both albums, and delivers a handful of stunning duets – including Ode To Charlie Parker – with bassist Richard Davis whilst not leading the band or soloing unaccompanied on alto sax. All were two-track recordings, and they were supposed to have been recorded under union rules except Douglas encouraged the musicians to jam and blow for hours.

The following year, Dolphy signed with Blue Note and recorded Out To Lunch with Freddie Hubbard and Tony Williams. That album’s rightfully regarded as a classic except there’s a delightful freshness and spontaneity to his Douglas recordings that shouldn’t be overlooked. Unfortunately, FM Records went bust in 1965. Alan then worked on soundtrack albums and also budget records designed for product and movie tie-ins for a couple of years before starting his own company, Douglas Communications Inc.

The counter-culture was now in full swing, and the times better suited to a creative maverick possessed of the vision and organisational skills required to explore fresh horizons. After making a few spoken word records, he spent $5,000 on buying Lenny Bruce’s writings from his widow and then persuaded Ballantine Books to compile The Essential Lenny Bruce, which became a bestseller.

“We did a whole series of books,” he confirms. “We did a beautiful book with the cartoonist Art Speigelman who got together all the underground cartoonists from that era, gave each one of them a piece of product and asked them to do a cartoon riff on it. That comic book, released by Douglas Comics, became a classic in itself. It was the first anthology of all the underground comics, which was pretty interesting. Art also illustrated a book for us called Whole Grains: A Book Of Quotations, which quotes figures like Leary, Ginsberg and others. We did books with the poet Ira Cohen and John Sinclair of the White Panthers, and we also did an anthology of underground press photography, which had all of the iconic photographs of the so-called revolution that was happening. We also did a book with Timothy Leary, who was in jail at the time. I used to go and visit him once a month and do four or five hour sessions with him, which is why the book was called Jail Notes.

“Timothy was a poet, and strangely enough out of all my stuff that’s available digitally, that’s one of the best sellers. That and Malcolm X are the two bestselling items I have in my catalogue and we did his record as well. Jimi played bass on one side, and he and John Sebastian played guitars. There were just two tracks on it. One was called What Do You Turn When You Turn On? Both are very interesting, well-produced pieces, and they took us a lot of time to do.”

Leary’s album, You Can Be Anything This Time Around, wasn’t released in the UK, although Rykodisc finally released it on CD in 1992. The sessions had taken place in September 1969. Alan produced John McLaughlin’s Devotion around this same time and with a group that was a precursor to Mahavishnu Orchestra, since the tracks were a blistering fusion of jazz, rock and funk. The Yorkshire-born guitarist had been invited to play on Miles Davis’ In a Silent Way within days of arriving in New York and will also jam with Hendrix in a summit meeting of guitar greats before the year’s out. Alan’s second album with him, My Goals Beyond, featured some superlative acoustic playing and a mix of jazz and Indian classical styles that was truly groundbreaking. He’ll pursue this same path with Shakti in years to come, but it was Alan Douglas who first granted him the opportunity to experiment in this way.

Hendrix, who felt increasingly trapped by the commercial demands made upon him, met Alan shortly after his headlining performance at Woodstock. Whilst celebrated as a rock icon, Hendrix longed to explore new avenues of expression and had recently formed Band Of Gypsies, who played a heady mix of funk, rhythm and blues and rock, topped by the kind of soul-baring improvisation on guitar that was closer in spirit to jazz than anything else. Jimi’s untimely death in September 1970 robbed us of hearing what he may have sounded like collaborating with jazz masters such as Miles Davis, Gil Evans and Tony Williams. The nearest we can get is on the series of recordings he made with Alan Douglas during the last year or so of his life, examples of which surfaced on an album called Nine To The Universe featuring Larry Young on keyboards.

“I got a lot of heat for showing people this different side of Jimi but it didn’t matter,” opines Alan, thoughtfully. “It was what he wanted to do, so together we tried out all kinds of things but tragically, he died before we could do anything super special. There’s some beautiful music on Nine To The Universe. You can hear Jimi moving into a jazz place without really trying to be a jazz player. He’s just playing freely, but Larry Young was one of the only musicians I ever found who wasn’t intimidated by Jimi. I wasted a lot of tape trying to put some very visible musicians with him but he just intimidated everybody too much. Larry though, was a very open-minded musician. He and Jimi would just throw lines at each other and their exchanges were beautiful. I mean Jimi was being pigeonholed into the rock thing but in all seriousness, where was he going to go after those three albums? What could he have possibly done?”

Young had played on Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew and like John McLaughlin, also played with Tony Williams’ Lifetime. This was the kind of jazz-inflected music Hendrix was interesting exploring. Not the supper-club style jazz you’d hear in provincial small clubs but the more experimental variety as played by Coltrane, Dolphy, Ornette Coleman and Rashaan Roland Kirk, whom he’d also jammed with on occasion.

Alan had introduced him to Gil Evans after the guitarist heard his arrangements for Miles Davis’ Sketches Of Spain. He also encouraged Jimi to think about learning to read and write music, and there were plans for him to attend classes on his return from those final European dates. On his last US tour, Jimi had told a reporter he wanted to play Carnegie Hall with Miles Davis and Roland Kirk, and that he was keen to expand his musical horizons both in the studio and on stage. Aided by Douglas, he’d begun exploring new ideas, retaining the blues as a basis but stretching out under the influence of the new jazz. Their collaborations, whilst all too brief and inconclusive, remain among the most tantalising items in the Hendrix oeuvre.

The year before Jimi died, he’d guested on another of Alan Douglas’ projects – this time with Jalal from the Last Poets, whose incendiary brand of jazz, poetry and politics helped lay the foundations of hip-hop. With their Armageddon raps, the Last Poets were well named. On record and by virtue of their performances, they invoked potent memories of how “400 years of physical, mental and spiritual slavery” had affected fellow African-Americans as they made a final push towards parity with whites. Yet during their formative years, they also helped shape the cultural life of Harlem by organising political and creative writing workshops, as well as concerts featuring Archie Shepp, Sun Ra, Leon Thomas, Pharoah Sanders and Albert Ayler, among others. By virtue of words and deeds they inspired African-Americans to stand up and take pride in being black. It’s therefore little wonder their legacy would influence a long list of prominent singers and musicians, including Public Enemy, Kanye West, the Wu Tang Clan, James Brown, Peter Tosh and many others.

They’d first come together in 1968, just a few weeks after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King – an event that spelt the end of an important phase in the Civil Rights movement and ignited widespread rioting as African-Americans gave vent to centuries’ old feelings of anger and frustration. In fact the actual date they formed was May 19th, which would have been Malcolm X’s forty-third birthday since he too had been gunned down three years earlier. Advocates of black power such as Malcolm X, the Black Panthers and Nation of Islam had brought revolutionary fervour to the struggle for racial equality and as the thirst for change spilled over into the streets of America new voices began to be heard, replacing the more conciliatory tones of Southern Baptist tradition.

The Last Poets weren’t just ushering in a new revolutionary order but drew from the ancient wellspring of African oral tradition. In summonsing this spirit, the Last Poets would help lay the foundations of modern-day hip-hop and yet they weren’t concerned with entertainment, but what KRS 1 would later term “edutainment.” This made them outcasts – ones who represented a movement and had direction, who spoke the truth as they saw it and used their music as a vehicle in keeping their revolutionary aims and methods alive. To describe them as uncompromising is an understatement, and nor were they averse to aiming barbs at their own people. Is there any song more scathing, and that strips the African-American psyche barer than Niggers Are Scared Of Revolution? By reclaiming the word “nigger,” turning it inside out and wearing it as a badge of pride, the Poets empowered themselves and by extension, an entire nation. In the words of Abiddun Oyewole, they set out “to de-niggerfy black people” and wage war against the fear and ignorance that still informed much of collective black consciousness.

Initially, they’d perform in parks and on the streets of Harlem. This is where Alan found them in November 1969, shortly before producing their debut album The Last Poets.

“That first record, it was just what they were doing on street corners and that’s where I heard them,” he explains. “I saw them on television at first, liked what they were doing and got in contact with them and they made me come up to 137th Street to this old, rundown basketball court on the corner of Lennox Avenue. I just stood there listening to it and then took them into the studio where we got it straight down on tape.

“If you look at their poetry you’ll find they incorporated certain of Malcolm X’s speeches into their pieces, or if not necessarily the words themselves, then the ideas. The thing is, nobody can teach you to be a poet. You’re either a poet or you’re not but these guys had all either spent some time in jail or had close associates with other people who had so they knew about that experience and then it developed into what we call jail toasts. Whilst they were in prison, they heard fellow inmates talking about their lives outside of jail and stories about pimps, junkies, whores and what have you, so they took that form and turned it into protest based on the words of Malcolm X. In that sense, what the Last Poets did was original, and helped to open up American blacks to different influences.”

How did they respond to your direction and being produced? Did they view your suggestions as being constructive or interfering?

“Well, they were very confrontational, constantly,” he replied. “That was part of the game and that was okay because I was used to that. Did you ever hear a record called Hustlers Convention?”
Of course, by Lightnin’ Rod…

“Well that record was done with Jalal from the Last Poets but we called him Lightnin’ Rod because he was a Muslim and we didn’t want to upset anyone from that religion unnecessarily. We did the Hustlers Convention and then another track called Doriella Du Fontaine. Jalal had come to see me and I told him to go out in the studio and see Buddy Miles, who was sat there on drums. They started into Doriella Du Fontaine but then Jimi Hendrix walked in and made everyone stop so he could go in and play on it, so that all happened by accident. The thing is, that song is part of a series. We were doing an album called Jail Toasts which never got finished and that included two unreleased tracks I think you’ll find really interesting. One of them’s called Honky Tonk Bird…”

Only two of the Last Poets appear on their second album, This Is Madness.

“Yes, because one of them went to jail,” he responds. “I wanted to wait for him before making it but he got too long a sentence and CBS were on our case, wanting us to make another record so we did it knowing they might never get back together again anyway. They did of course, and yet I still believe they said everything that needed to be said in that format. That’s why I kind of lost interest in trying to make it work again.”

That first album sold a reputed half a million copies despite receiving little or no media coverage. Extracts from it were included on the soundtrack to Nicholas Roeg’s film Performance, starring Mick Jagger, and this helped gain the Poets valuable exposure. As for Doriella Du Fontaine, it’s a wonderful amalgamation of jive storytelling and funky guitar. Jalal’s description of a high-class prostitute is so vivid, it’s like cinema for the ears and mind – just like Hustlers’ Convention in fact. Within a year or so, elements of African-American street life will be reflected in black exploitation films such as Shaft and Cotton Comes To Harlem. Not for the first time, Alan Douglas’ reading of the zeitgeist proved to be infallible, but then came his stewardship of the Hendrix estate and a cloud of vilification that’ll take more than three decades to finally dissipate.

Three years after Jimi’s death, his manager Mike Jefferies died in an airplane crash. Control of Hendrix’s legacy passed to his estate’s attorney Leo Branton. Warner Brothers’ Don Schmitzerle then contacted Alan and hired him to evaluate tapes found in a New Jersey warehouse. There were almost a thousand hours’ worth of material, mostly of recordings from 1969/70. Alan’s mission was to extract the most marketable of these, and then prepare them for release. His first sortie resulted in the album Crash Landing, issued in March 1975 – a set that included studio cuts of tracks premiered on Band Of Gypsies, a fistful of previously unheard songs and the occasional heart-stopping instrumental such as Peace In Mississippi. Whereas Crash Landing sold over a million and a half records, next year’s follow-up Midnight Lightning fared less well, despite bringing to light alternative cuts of Hear My Train A Coming and Machine Gun. Word had got out that Douglas had replaced existing backing tracks, and fans and critics alike immediately denounced him. Mitch Mitchell will later confirm that some of the original playing had been sub-standard, and that Douglas had made the right decision in hiring session players to make corrections. Wisely, he’d also edited out passages where Jimi had toyed with a riff repeatedly, searching for just the right phrase. All things considered, it’s highly unlikely that Hendrix would have sanctioned the release of poorly executed material yet the die was cast, and the producer has been branded a controversial figure ever since.

Four years later he issued Nine To The Universe. This album was superseded in 2006 by Message From Nine To The Universe, which included longer versions of the same tracks. Then in 1993, the Hendrix catalogue moved from Reprise to MCA. With the benefit of hindsight, we can now see that Alan Douglas did wonders with Jimi’s leftover material. Yes, he made changes here and there, yet he still managed to deliver authentic, quality Hendrix product that sounds a good deal more convincing than anything heard on Valleys Of Neptune. He understood the value of good presentation, and also appealing to a younger generation of listeners that has provided the Hendrix catalogue with its biggest audience share in recent years. He achieved this by keeping abreast of re-mastering technology and ensuring a steady supply of unreleased photos and essays, as evidenced by early CD reissues of Hendrix’s three studio albums. His last contribution to the Hendrix legacy would be a terrific album of blues performances called simply Blues, which appeared in 1994.

Twelve months later, the Hendrix estate changed hands. As part of the settlement, Jimi’s father dropped his allegations of fraud against Leo Branton and regained the rights to his son’s legacy. He was also granted the power to approve or disapprove of any final projects – a decision that would lead to serious ramifications after Jimi’s stepsister Janie assumed control of the estate in the wake of Al Hendrix’s death. Experience Hendrix set about re-mastering and reissuing the Hendrix catalogue, starting with the US album releases. They then began diversifying and releasing compilations, relegating rarities to a separate label (Dagger) that’s only available through their website. More controversially, they’ve attempted to rewrite history by omitting key individuals and events from the Hendrix story because of personal differences or jealousy. Bearing in mind Hendrix’s cultural importance and his continuing influence upon younger generations of musicians, this is surely tantamount to criminal damage. Consequently, we hear little of collaborators such as Alan or electronics’ expert Roger Mayer. One of Experience Hendrix’s recent spoiling tactics was to try and ban Handel House in Brook Street, London – where Jimi lived with another all-but forgotten figure, Kathy Etchingham – from playing any of his music at their month-long celebrations. Such behaviour, allied to wilfully erroneous (and not to say derivative) presentations such as the Voodoo Chile documentary, is hurting the Hendrix legacy in ways that Alan Douglas could never have contemplated.

Sadly, two projects he’s been involved with still languish unseen as a result of that legal decision determining what Hendrix material he can release. The first is a book compiled from interviews and personal writings called Letter To A Roomful Of Mirrors that is the nearest we’ll ever get to a Hendrix autobiography. Reading it, it’s difficult to imagine that it wasn’t written by the man himself, it’s so compelling. The second is a documentary by UK filmmaker Peter Neal, who made the first-ever documentary on Hendrix back in 1967, whilst working for the BBC. The knowledge that Neal has subsequently completed a far more comprehensive documentary (called Roomful Of Mirrors) that cannot be shown or released will prove hard to bear for the legion of Hendrix fans worldwide who care nothing for personal insecurities, but just want to learn more about his life and work. The concept behind this documentary, which centres on a narrator taking the viewer through the various stages of Hendrix’s life in Jimi’s own words is the same one that’s been appropriated by Experience Hendrix for their Voodoo Chile film, thus giving rise to accusations of plagiarism. Such underhand behaviour may also constitute a breach in the legal restrictions that have prevented Roomful Of Mirrors from being seen all these years, since neither party were supposed to proceed without mutual consent.

Douglas, who is the executive producer of both the book and Roomful Of Mirrors film, may well be vindicated sooner rather than later. In the meantime his career path is a labyrinth of fascinating twists and turns and I’m delighted to report that his oft-challenging contributions to popular culture are far from over.


John Masouri