Local axeman plays Jimi in Monkees movie
While actor Wood Harris is portraying the late, wildly gifted electric guitarist in the bio-pic Room Full Of Mirrors: The Jimi Hendrix Story, Toronto musician Tony Springer will be playing Hendrix in Daydream Believers: The Story Of The Monkees.
“As far as I know, I’m just going to be playing a couple of songs on stage and get pissed off at the audience and stick my finger out at them,” says Springer, 38, a highly-respected musician who has toured with Carole Pope’s Rough Trade, guested on David Bowie’s Black Tie, White Noise album and played with Bowie on Arsenio, Letterman and The Tonight Show.
His scene in the Monkees bio-pic, to be shot Wednesday at Hamilton’s Copps Coliseum, captures the end of the brief, incongruous 1967 concert tour pairing of Hendrix and the made-for-TV popsters. Promoter Dick Clark had asked Hendrix to open for the Monkees’ U.S. tour and Hendrix — who had three Top 10 hits in England at the time but hadn’t yet hit it big in the U.S. — agreed. Seven shows later, he was gone, sick of lovesick teen queens screaming, “Day-vee, Day-vee” over his playing.
“What happened was moms and dads and their daughters were going to see the Monkees, and then there’s this guy with a guitar doing vulgar things, sticking his tongue out and stuff like that,” Springer says.
Monkee Micky Dolenz later described it as,
“This black guy in a psychedelic Day-Glo blouse, playing music from hell, holding his guitar like he was f—— it, then lighting it on fire.”
Hendrix later called The Monkees’ music “dishwater” in Melody Maker magazine and said, “I really hate somebody like that to make it so big. You can’t knock anybody for making it, but people like the Monkees?”
Ironically, it was Hendrix’s music that held no appeal for Springer when he was growing up in Trinidad.
“People used to bring these Hendrix albums and say, ‘Check this guitar player.’ I could never get into it,” Springer says. “I never liked Jimi. I used to go, ‘This loud, out-of-tune stuff? I can’t stand it.’ ”
After Springer moved here as a teen, an agent told him he could make $5,000 a week with an afro and a Hendrix songlist.
“It didn’t take too long. I mean, within a month or two after playing the stuff and getting into it, I just really loved his stuff,” Springer says. “I started slapping myself and going, ‘How come you didn’t get this at the beginning, man?’ ”
For six years, Springer led a Hendrix clone band, Fire, earning the promised riches but at some cost.
“It started getting to me. Every time I put the scarves on and went out to play, I got weak because I was thinking, ‘I am not this guy, really. I have my own soul. I want to make a mark for myself.’ It got really hard to do and I quit it. I stopped in mid-air.”
Springer now performs under the name Wild T.
For the movie, he’ll cover his dreads with a wig. To his disappointment, he’ll be limited to tunes Hendrix covered, not his originals, because that’s prohibited by the Hendrix estate.
“That, to me, doesn’t make sense, because his songs are beautiful. It really would be good to have a new audience listen to them,” he says. “Jimi’s stuff, it’s going to live forever. Why stifle it and not let people hear it? It’s a shame.”