ArrivalOn the afternoon of 30 May 1968, at Zurich Kloten airport a peculiar looking assortment of passengers disembarked the chartered plane from London. Some forty young men in outstandingly colourful garb, sporting floppy hats, odd hairdos, jewellery and scarves descended down the steps. They were met immediately by sceptical-looking customs officials and taken to an improvised customs area - a bus located at the end of the tarmac, some two kilometres away from the official desks. The gaudy lot kept giggling and joking. And with good reason. They were part of the then celebrated British music scene and had come to Zurich to play two concerts at the Hallenstadion. Being shaken down at international airports was part of the road routine.
A convoy of limousines rented from Welti-Furrer AG was parked beside the mobile customs to take the merry minstrels through a back exit out of the airport and via a detour to the Hotel Stoller in the centre of Zurich. A contingent of policemen and a water-cannon were placed on stand-by, just in case. Three-hundred beat fans had turned up to welcome their idols but unfortunately didn't get to see them. The headlining star of the concerts, the American guitarist Jimi Hendrix, had already arrived that morning from New York City and had retired to his hotel. As many as three weeks prior to the event the local newspaper Neue Presse was given the telling information by police constable Guido Buchli of the Stadtpolizei Zurich that they did not yet know the exact number of officers to be put on duty, but "in war, you don't give away the strength of the forces you are about to deploy."
The PromoterHans-Ruedi Jaggi 1941-2000
The man who necessitated such strategic efforts and overtime from the custodians of law was Hans-Ruedi Jaggi. The previous year he had brought the Rolling Stones to the Hallenstadion, much to the disapproval of the Zurich officials. The Stones were notorious for having left a trail of broken concert hall furniture on their tours. In Zurich, too, they had lived up to their bad-boys reputation. Jaggi, the 27-year-old son of a butcher from Zurich-Oberengstringen, seemed predestined to organize concerts of the loud and large variety. On the continent only few professional concert agencies had ventured into music for the long-haired. This was a market with huge potential.
Having escaped from an apprenticeship as a lampshade sales-assistant, Jaggi found himself touring the Swiss provinces as the self-claimed manager of the Sauterelles, the Barracudas and various die-hard, second-rate British rock groups. Like no other he was experienced in handling cranky rock musicians, was young enough to know what music young people were into, knew how to deal with conservative venue owners in rural areas, and he dished out the tasty stuff to journalists. His job as a waiter at the legendary Schwarzer Ring, a pub at the Kruggasse in the Niederdorf quarter of Zurich, had taught him the art of brazenness and quick-witted hustling, which earned the 160-centimetres-tall pipsqueak the respect of the punters: steel fixers, pimps and whores. When he became the owner of the private night club Am Pfauen, Jaggi, sociable, sly old fox he was, made useful contacts with people from all walks of life and professions.
If Jaggi wasn't known before the Stones gig he certainly was afterwards, with the press dubbing him the Pope of Beat. He posed for photographs in front of his Bentley, with long hair, polo-neck sweater, velvet jacket, pointed boots, and surrounded by very blond and very young girls. "We were young and cheeky little devils," rejoiced Jaggi many years later. It was probably not without pleasurable anticipation of the provocations to come when Jaggi, over a few drinks with managers and musicians at the London Speakeasy club bought the top-class rock multi-pack consisting of John Mayall, Traffic, The Move, Eric Burdon and Jimi Hendrix, the superstar, for the ridiculously low amount of 15,000 pounds (on 22 December 1967). Cash he had none, which meant he had to find sponsors back in Zurich. He would not get any government subsidies.
The "Neue Presse" became his main sponsor and created the concert poster. The tabloid "Blick" came on board, and, of course, young publisher Jürg Marquard's "Pop", and "Bravo", the teen mag. Bernie Lehrer of Bernie's Junior Shop, one of the very few boutiques for trendy fashion, was also won over. Until recently it had been normal that a boy seamlessly switched from the shorts he has just outgrown to a grey suit. Bluejeans, the precursor to young fashion, was deemed objectionable garb, and was for beatniks only.
The fine gentlemen of the local constabulary had no choice but to get together with Jaggi, the young upstart, to discuss security arrangements. Werner Wollenberger, the chief-editor of the "Zürcher Woche", had demanded a ban on such events after the fans at a Stones gig had transformed some thousand folding chairs into firewood. Many citizens shared his opinion. Jaggi, with a fine sense for scandal, defiantly called his event "Monsterkonzert."
The ThreatThe arrival of the rock idols coincided with a time of turbulence. Titled by the media the Restlessness of Youth, a phenomenon was spreading like an epidemic across Europe and overseas, and it was somehow connected with beat music. Students occupied universities and prevented professors from holding lectures; bold young theoreticians sermonised to an even younger audience that there was, in fact, a causal connection between the imperialistic bombing of the Vietnamese people and the sexual repression of young people. A generalized anti-authoritarian point of view threatened to become the program of a whole generation.
In Rome, Berlin, Paris and elsewhere, barricades were erected, street fights with the police took place, cars were overturned and set on fire. There were increasing signs that this brutalisation would eventually reach the Swiss Confederation. One leg of the Tour de Suisse bicycle race, which led over a small part of French territory in the Alsace, was diverted, the original route being considered as too dangerous in view of the events in Paris.
Albert Mossdorf, a liberal member of the cantonal parliament, defined his position at a Zurich shooting club press meeting. Worried by the "cultural revolutionary youth movement, whose followers wear strange clothes, sit on the tramways rails and utter Chinese names" and confused by certain students who "lay the emphasis on sexual education," wherein the politician recognised without doubt the attempt to "impose a foreign ideology," he voted bravely for taking countermeasures. "Nothing better to oppose all this than a spiritually and physically healthy youth," was his razor-sharp logic. Therefore it was high time that gymnastics for apprentices became compulsory, and the rifle shooting training for youngsters of sixteen would have to be intensified! The warning from Bülach came too late.
The perfect personification of the nightmare of all upright citizens was said Jimi Hendrix. This man played outrageously loud (always in English setting, as the experts call it when the amps are cranked up to full blast), and frequently aggressively, wild, treated his guitar with tongue and teeth, set it on fire every once in a while or smashed it to smithereens. He underlined his performance with provocative gestures full of open sexual symbolism. On top of all of this, he was black.
Taking all this into consideration, it is understandable that the police imposed very strict security conditions on the promoter. The stage in the Hallenstadion had to be converted into an impregnable fortress, built from sturdy wood, four meters high, with a prominent edge looming over the audience. The racing track, where usually stayers and sprinters did their rounds, were to be prepared with lubricating oil in order to prevent attacks from the sides. One hundred policemen were to be hidden behind the stage wall. Some sixty more policemen in plain clothes were to mingle amongst the crowd which would be greeted at the entrance by a row of police dogs. The Zurich authorities were determined to prevent the upheaval from spreading into Zurich.
The Lucky WinnersFor each evening ten thousand people were expected. As he had done the previous year, Jaggi insured the folding chairs at Lloyd's. "Blick" and "Neue Presse" each ran a competition. "Blick" offered 1,000 free tickets, while the "Neue Presse" tempted their readers with an "exclusive autograph session with Eric Burdon" and two flights back to London in the company of Jimi Hendrix. "Why two flights?," "Neue Presse" asked, only to follow immediately with with the answer: "The prizes go to boys and girls in equal parts."
The lucky winners were one respectable-looking, 28-year-old tailor from the canton Solothurn who would not attend the concert because he was "no beat fan" as "the Kennedys and Duttweiler are my idols," and a 14-year old schoolgirl from Zurich-Höngg, posing for the newspaper with her guinea-pig. Today Mrs. Esposito is living the life of a married woman in the canton Ticino. Once in a while she looks at her photograph album of that time with her two children. She remembers her classmates being jealous of her. Since the flight was to be on a Saturday morning her mother had to submit an application to the local school authorities. The teachers did not like the idea and never inquired about the girl's experience after her return. Those were rigid times, indeed. Girls were not allowed to wear trousers at school, and certainly not mini-skirts, as Yvonne did on her flight to London. Her older sister had sewn her a one for the occasion. Yes, she did feel excited and remembers Jimi Hendrix as "awfully skinny with loads of hair." Jimi was napping for the duration of the flight, but afterwards a souvenir shot was taken. She never took to Jimi's music, finding it too nervous, and with too much guitar. She remembers feeling pretty uncomfortable when she later heard on the TV that Hendrix had died.
Long Live Rock 'n' RollThursday, 30 May 1968
JOHN MAYALL'S BLUESBRAKERS
ERIC BURDON & THE NEW ANIMALS
JIMI HENDRIX EXPERIENCE
Only about half of the expected 10,000 people showed up. Following a fashion show with colourful products from Bernie's, Walty Anselmo, announced as "the Swiss Jimi Hendrix," opened the evening with his band. It was the only Swiss band to be included on the illustrious bill.
Next were The Koobas, a professional British band that for some reason had stranded in Zurich. They went down better, playing faster and harder, and they had a hit with a cover of "The First Cut Is the Deepest." And then the first of the giants, John Mayall, with his notorious fringed leather jerkin, ammunition belt packed with harmonicas, the Leatherstocking of the Blues, melancholically driven to celebrate and promote this music, this undeserved gift of Africa to the whites. No surprises here: simple harmonies, catchy riffs, driving beat, no experiments. The rising mood was rudely interrupted in the middle of a song when a man dashed over to Mayall's piano, snatched his cigarette lighter and escaped to the stands. The Cusader of the Blues stopped playing at once and stated that he would not continue unless he was given back his property. The relics hunter was apprehended, the purloined object returned, and the show went on. Traffic were next, featuring rock's beautiful, pale child prodigy, Steve Winwood, who already as a boy of 17 had amazed the critics and sent the girls into rapture. Traffic were followed by the scandalous band, The Move, who had given prior written guarantees that they would refrain from their violent stage act of smashing flickering TVs and attacking bulky refuse with axes. Next in line was Eric Burdon. Together with his New Animals the diminutive former coal miner from the slums of Newcastle with the black voice, big heart and his huge thirst played a set of tight, rough rhythm & blues. The performance was enhanced by a lightshow, then a most uncommon optical spectacle. The crowd responded enthusiastically.
Then, the long-awaited act of the master, the living legend, the black god who had fallen to Earth from Saturn. Journalists, technicians, promoter, guests, musicians - they all were gathering at the back of the stage to watch and listen to Hendrix. He played in his customary trio formation, backed by agile and jazzy drummer Mitch Mitchell and bassist Noel Redding, who looked like a starving philosophy student but played like the devil. In front of a tower of speakers and amps, left-handed Hendrix played his famous white Fender Stratocaster, a re-strung right-handed model, wearing his broad-brimmed hat with the band of silver buckles, a flowered, wide-cut shirt and tight, velvet trousers. The ugly stage, covered with advertising posters, was transformed into a magical starship. The group played very loud from the beginning. The amps screeched and roared and the speakers threatened to burst at any time. However, the electrical noises fell wondrously in line with the howling guitar, the bubbling bass and the pounding drums. Like no other, Hendrix had mastered the art of incorporating the electro-acoustic effects into his guitar playing, generating sounds never heard before, exciting and irritating at the same time.
Hendrix's guitar was able to talk, tell stories, paint pictures, fire like a machine gun, tremble like a woman, glow like phosphor bombs and weep like a child. His "Sprechgesang" supported the guitar, wooing its riffs, spurring it on, only to draw back for the solo but joining it again for a duet in a soft appeasing way, melancholically contrasting with his restless, irreconcilable playing which took up where other guitarists left, and which stirred your soul and addled your brain. Hendrix had peculiar way of non-singing only matched by Dylan. It had to be the warm, earthy voice with its roughened bronze-tinted timbre, and a sound reminiscent of permanently slightly swollen tonsils, which made his mumbling, this humming soliloquizing so sexy. Plus, he moved with lascivious elegance, relaxed and provocative at the same time, to tense one moment and jump up the next, seemingly weightless, as if his body were part of the music.
At the back of the stage the fellow musicians listened reverently, perhaps feeling a trifle jealous, and the few Hendrix afficionados like Walty Anselmo were getting goosebumbs.
An early fan of beat music, Anselmo had taught himself to play guitar by listening to records from England and the USA. He let his hair grow long, formed a band and, while still an apprentice, had his first real gig at the café Longstreet in the Zurich red-light district, where the whores in the audience were haggling about who was to seduce him first. The encounter with Hendrix's music changed his whole life, he remembers. In Hendrix he found a kindred spirit, allowing him to tap into a power he had not known before. Together with Jaggi's wife at that time, Anselmo went to pick up Hendrix at Kloten airport. Something must have clicked immediately between the modest, polite star and Anselmo, the unknown Swiss musician. From that very first moment on they were talking together like old friends. When the musician Tony Ashton later brought him the news of Jimi's death, Anselmo could not believe it and was unable to listen to Hendrix's music for years to come.
In black entertainment show tricks play a popular part: stunning routines with instrument and body, often with a sexual undertone. Humour and sex were inseparable parts of music entertainment. Some of these little numbers Hendrix adapted for his own show: rubbing the guitar between his legs, playing it behind his back or with his teeth, etc. The latter became his trademark not to be missed at any concert, including Zurich. With great anticipation the crowd awaited the moment he was to raise the instrument to his mouth. With the exception of "Hey Joe," his music did not go down too well with the masses. Beer-mats were thrown on the stage, mainly during the softer, more melodic pieces. Obviously, he was not the coarse King Kong of Rock as promoted by the media. Disappointment was felt.
When the concert ended shortly after midnight, the majority of the 5,000 mostly young people were quite happy. For eleven Swiss Franks they had got a glimpse of the big, wide world, a world entirely to their liking. The bands were celebrating a lifestyle which was so alien to theirs but embodied all their longings. The musicians were the rulers of fantasy, of eternal adolescence, the rock and roll stage a ritualized place where the myth of brazen freedom was celebrated professionally. The musicians returned to the hotel.
The morning press were amazed. Everything had run smoothly, no brouhaha, no riots. The Tagesanzeiger reported a "boring and harmless racket," derided the "children" who tried to "drive themselves into a frenzy with their wobbly mock-dance movements" and sneered at the musicians, "pitiful figures in gaudy clothes," who were in vain fighting the "lousy acoustics," their music drowning in the "roaring of the amplifiers." Rock music was non-culture.
Rebellion Is JustifiedNot for all. "When word spread that Hendrix would come there was no question that we would show up," Roland Gretler remembers. "We" was the the Partei der Arbeit (Workers Party), a group of freelance professionals whose relationship with the traditional Stalinist party was strained. "To show up" also meant the event was being considered for it's political potential. A handbill entitled 1. Flugblatt der antiautoritären Menschen (the 1st Anti-Authoritarian People's Handbill) sought to seize the historic chance to unite beat fans and the left protest movement. Jimi Hendrix was featured on the front with Mao's cultural revolutionary motto "Rebellion is justified" photographically mounted onto the medallion on his breast. The text contained the gospel of the revolutionaries of '68. "Satisfaction" could be attained, but only if different social conditions were created first. Sexually repressed bourgeois begrudged the kids their lust and joy and wanted to have beat music banned by the police.
Two weeks prior to the concert a meeting took place between Jaggi, Gretler and the journalist Walter Bretscher in a small Zurich bar. Bretscher (in 1978 he would write an informed series of articles on the '68 unrests in Die Tat) was the one who had enabled the contact between commercial pop and revolution. The promoter did not oppose the leftists' idea to distribute some 20,000 copies of their political pamphlet. In return, the anti-authoritarians were to provide 31-year-old Giorgio Frapolli as MC. An Italian raised in Zurich, Frapolli's handsome appearance and confident manner was likely to make for smooth and trouble-free order of events.
CarambaFriday, 31 May 1968
JOHN MAYALL'S BLUESBRAKERS
ERIC BURDON & THE NEW ANIMALS
JIMI HENDRIX EXPERIENCE
On the second night 10,000 people showed up. The atmosphere was fantastic, the bands did good work. The only difference between this night and the previous one was that The Move and Eric Burdon were to change places since the night before Burdon's set had gone down better with the audience. Backstage the atmosphere was not half as good. Some uniformed officials made derisory remarks about the audience and called the artists bastards and queers.
Shortly after midnight the final chord was struck and the artists took their bows. The masses were heading for the exits when ten, maybe twelve kids started smashing folding-chairs. Nobody else joined in, the vast majority kept making for the exits and the stadium was emptying quickly. It was then that backstage the codeword for the police was said: upon hearing "Caramba" the police swung into action.
Dr. Hans Schlegel remembers the night of 31 of May 1968. The day after the Monsterkonzert, on 1 June, he was promoted to chief of the security forces of the Zurich police department. "No," Dr. Schlegel says, "no, those were not good times." It was of no interest to him anymore. They had had to be on duty every weekend. Those rioters had made their life miserable. After the Hendrix concert had come the Globus business, and after that the Opera House Riots. At that time he had already made chief of staff.
"What? They made a small fire after the concert? A huge bonfire it was, close to a gas station, too. And after that came the march from Oerlikon to the main station." The police officer can still see those red and white construction site barriers scattered all over the main station square. What lead up to it? They were all hooligans, plus, there was this handbill from the Worker's Party. "They enjoyed the fact that they were getting some action." The promoter sure knew how to stir things up. What was this Jaggi guy doing today, by the way? So, he's supposed to have grown older, but certainly not wiser. The police had been totally unprepared, their equipment included. Rubber truncheons only, and who could blame them for using them? "But for me it's all over. Thank God, one tends to forgets certain things."
Bernie Lehrer, the boutique owner, says the gruff police operation had upset him. Inside the stadium the police had started to drive the crowd in front of them. The following day, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ) wrote that "some policemen unnecessarily made use of their truncheons." Outside, several hundred young people were still standing around. The last trams and buses had left long ago. Since the night was chilly, a few kids lit a "harmless small fire" (NZZ) to keep warm. The police showed up on the scene and a young female bystander was "slapped by a policeman" (NZZ). Hundreds were watching. Now the first boos resounded and soon the first insults, a few beer bottles and stones were thrown at the police. On a whistle from the officer-in-charge, a group of hundred policemen, truncheons drawn, advanced. More bottles and stones were thrown and, according to a police spokesman, even a few cast-iron sewer lids. The police pursued the fugitives. The faster ones were lucky enough to escape, the slower ones were beaten and the dogs took the hindmost. The police had unleashed their Alsatians. Some custodians of law and order lashed out at anything they could reach. Among the victims were several journalists and photographers.
Shortly before 3 a.m. the scene was repeated. Some 200 people were lounging under the arcades on the river side of the main station. They were waiting for the station restaurant to open and the first train to leave. Again some small fires were lit. This time the fire brigade arrived before the police. Water and truncheons from one side, stones and planks from the other. Again, the police hit the wrong guys: battered journalists, broken cameras, confiscated films were the result.
The Farewell PartyMeanwhile, the musicians were having a good time at the Crazy Girl discotheque in Zurich 4, where Jaggi would later open his club, Revolution. It was a farewell party and a late licence had been granted. At 2.30 sharp a police car packed with officers commando-like stopped in front of the discotheque. Some officers took position at the front door, others secured the back entrance. The party-goers, taking the action for a raid, rushed outside. However, the police only wanted to make sure closing-time was being respected. This was the treatment beatniks usually got, so it was deemed adequate for pop stars.
The ResultsThey had almost succeeded in fending off the visitation. However, the police found themselves criticized by nearly the entire press for their use of excessive force. Said the illustrated Sie und Er: "The concert was no monster but the police were." This was a new tune. So far only homosexuals, the demimonde, hooligans or notorious drunkards had been the victims of occasional police harassment. No danger of being criticised for that.
The clubbing the youth received woke many a rebellious spirit. Two weeks after the Hendrix concert young leftists performed a street theatre in front of the Zurich Urania police headquarters. Many onlookers witnessed how the police thugs were condemned by a public tribunal.
Two weeks later the now well-organised protest movement clamoured for the empty building of the Globus emporium at the Bahnhofsbrücke to be used as an autonomous youth centre. Thousands had come to the rally, from the Thurgau too, even from the Valais. Jaggi had got his hands on the addresses of the Blick contest participants. Two clothes baskets full of postcards, some 6'000 names in all. These he passed on to Gretler, now one of 16 members of the autonomous Globus Committee. The long night of 29/30 June, 1968 went down as the Globus Riots, the city had caught up with the rest of Europe, the Monsterkonzert having been the overture.
Jaggi was reported to the police for incitement for breach of the public peace (StGB Art. 260). At daybreak armed police forces surrounded his house in Rudolfstetten. Because of the business with the addresses from the Blick contest. With the squad leader in the passenger seat Jaggi drove his Ferrari to Zurich. Eventually the charges were dropped. However, the police presented a detailed bill for extra services: compensation for overtime, compensation for night duty and 272 dinners for four Swiss Franks each. A total of 35,000 Swiss Franks. Jaggi refused to pay for the unsolicited extra services outside the premises, took the matter to court and won his case eight years later. He had made 100,000 Swiss Franks from the Monsterkonzert. Jaggi had time to work on his next coup: On Boxing, 1971 he had Muhammad Ali fight at the Hallenstadion. By that time Jimi Hendrix was dead, tough. The gifted guitarist died on 18 September 1970.
This article was originally published in the May 29 1993 issue of:
Das Magazin/Tages Anzeiger and Berner Zeitung BZ (Switzerland).
The english translation was published in the May, 1994 issue (#14) of UniVibes (with thanks to Peter Herzig)
It appears here by kind permission of the author.
Corrections by Marcel Aeby 2006 + 2020