“If you can really remember anything about the Sixties, you weren’t really there.” — Paul Kantner
Among the fortunate few who saw director Bill Fishman’s My Dinner With Jimi on the big screen, at a film festival or in its limited theatrical release, this DVD has been eagerly anticipated. For the rest of us, who had only read praise for the film, the wait for this award-winning, low-budget quickie (shot in 12 days) has been agonizing. Now the DVD is here, and guess what? Entirely worth the agony.
My Dinner With Jimi is a factual account of a brief period in 1967 when the Turtles made the transition from opening act to stardom, however short-lived, with the number one hit, “Happy Together.” The first half of the film depicts the band’s struggle to achieve greater success than their modest hits to date, and to avoid the military draft. Their place in the L.A. rock and roll pantheon of the day is pointedly made when they are worthy of a 16 Magazine photo shoot, but get bumped from the cover in favor of the Monkees. The film’s second half plays out the Turtles’ first night in England, culminating in the title event, Kaylan’s early morning dining, drinking, and rap session with guitarist Jimi Hendrix, who was a personality on the hip London scene, but yet (prior to his first album’s release) unknown to America.
Unlike most Sixties rock and roll films, this one has the advantage of being told by the story’s central figure, Turtles’ singer Howard Kaylan, who wrote the screenplay and fully acknowledges the possibility of memory lapses, and the likely causes. The casual attitude about drug and alcohol abuse adds to the film’s feel of authenticity, and it’s to Kaylan’s credit that he didn’t attempt to downplay it. In fact, extreme drug and alcohol intake figure prominently into his and Mark Vollman’s draft aversion tactics, which also felt quite authentic, although that lengthy sequence bogs down an otherwise snappy 90 minutes.