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THE JIMI HENDRIX EXPERIENCE
HE SHALL GROW NOT OLD, AS SOME WHO ARE LEFT GROW OLD.
Posterity has taken care of Jimi Hendrix and it is the real man who lives on, and not just the legend, though God knows that is a flaming beacon and a pounding sound and light show of many colours and unmistakable rhythms
Shakespeare and his interpreter Lord Buckley were wrong: now and again, the good jazz that a cat blows wails on long after he’s cut out and it’s the bad that is stashed with his bones. So it has been with Jimi.
As with all great stars, the imagery is immediate, evocative, headily omnipresent and there is always a need to know more. To want to have another look, another listen, is a clarification of stardom. Is it defined too by the power to survive one’s era?
Jimi Hendrix lives on for today’s young on record and in books, posters, memorabilia, film and videotape. Those of us who were there have instant recall of that unmistakable smiling self-invention of the later sixties, somewhat Cherokee, mostly Afro-American, entirely musical, driven by his imagination, a soul-rooted, rock solid, Dylanesque fire-and-feathers, bluesy all-in-all unique guitar pirate who paid his dues in America and got his first rewards in “swinging” London, into which confident colourful city he was flown by the blunt amusing Geordie visionary Chas Chandler, lately of the Animals, by now peripatetic starmaker.
Long distance, Jimi Hendrix told his beloved father, Al of Seattle, who had gardened fit to bust to feed his motherless family: “It’s me, Jimmy. I’m in England, Dad. I met some people and they’re going to make me a big star. I’ve changed my name to J-I-M-I.” Within a few months, with his own divine drive flair and ambition, finding real nutrients in London’s rich “underground” he enabled “them” to “make” him into a star. A star’s star indeed, wearing the best threads that supra-national psychedelic counterculture could conjure from British imperialism, native America and countries far beyond.
He was much painted, postered, photographed, decorated and dressed. He became the embodiment of artistic compulsions; his own and those of contemporaries. He set himself free.
My own powerful memory and outline is of the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival when he was hatless and very intense; full of fire and purpose with much at stake. This could be – was to be – his homeland breakthrough. For others, it will be a more relaxed smiling Jimi, daring to cheek and curse an audience delighted to hear it. There is the vision with the hat with the metal rings on it. The many-scarved, through-a-hedge backwards, electrified Dylan-haired Jimi with eyes almost closed either in concentration or on something else or both.
People who go a long way back will remember a short haired boy-man out of the Army, on the road as a sideman with Little Richard, Sam Cooke, King Curtis and the Isley Brothers. There are lucky people who were around Chas Chandler when he found Jimi at the Café Wha? in Greenwich Village where he then lived. Growing his hair and blowing his mind as the constraints of being a sideman had not allowed him.
You have to be lucky, but you have to be good coin to be “found,” picked up, pocketed and polished. You have to be luckier still, no matter how good, not to be misspent or misused. I always felt – am I even more naïve than I know? – that until the last terrible time of confusion and death, Jimi had a good fulfilling life. Absorbing far more as a world figure than any poor boy – but not dirt poor – from Seattle had a reason to expect.
There was an absolute rightness in his timing. Maybe above all in his positioning in the “pop scene,” just as there is with all the mightiest of modern music, be it Armstrong, Ellington, Crosby, or Frank Sinatra. Or the blues men of the ‘20s to ‘50s or Elvis and Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Buddy Holly or the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, the Byrds and all the flash San Franciscans. The thing with Jimi – as with all of the foregoing – was that he was absolutely his own man. He had such intelligence and sensitivity that he knew what to do and when and where. During the years as obedient back-up guitarist he knew he had more to offer than most. All stars are aware of this specialness – usually as children they know it – and when the right moment beckons, they jump.
He trusted people to help him realize his potential. He picked up on blues and soul and – according to his friend Miles Davis – on hillbilly, yet! And now, as someone in his early twenties when black-based music in England didn’t mind getting whiter, thrown around the mind by hallucinogens and psychotropic drugs. He saw real potential in becoming a brand new one-and-only Jimi Hendrix with both first name and last ambiguous in their spelling and wonderfully commercial in their aural and visual impact.
But above all this imagery, this cat could play. And that, as Mitch Mitchell (a drumming soul mate with an intelligent part in the evolution of the Jimi Hendrix Experience) would say, was what it was all about. That is what it came down to: the music. Many remembered quotations from Jimi bear witness to his intense, mature desire to make music, voice and instruments – take him and his audiences to new places.
(He could have done it in a brown mohair suit but it wouldn’t have been quite as much fun.)
I have written elsewhere – not too often I hope – of having woken one morning in L.A. to find myself a founder of the Monterey Pop Festival, and that Paul McCartney – both fan and a mentor of Jimi – said that he should be booked for the Festival. I remember an American star and friend being very rude to me about Jimi whom he thought had little to offer.
Both attitudes somehow explained how in the zeitgeist Jimi came to leave America at 23 and offer his genius to the British who had always been very appreciative of the best American talent, particularly those from left field.
It was in Britain in 1966-67 that Jimi Hendrix became a “pop star,” irresistible to women – the feeling was mutual – and a hero to men. It was after Monterey that he got to the cutting edge and for some in the late ‘60s he was the cutting edge. Without the musical vision he would now have been a few nice pictures, a bonfire or two and footnotes playing guitar with his teeth, playing it backwards, taking acid and leaving a retrospective CD.
People are so cruel. His early death would have been a quick mind-muddle... “Oh yeah… I remember. Died of drugs.” But as a guitarist he had such respect, freely offered then, since and right now, that he is a crowned jewel of a man, which is why we’re all here today, celebrating Electric Ladyland and much else. Maybe this is some consolation to Al Hendrix who lost such a good son so soon, so badly.
After Jimi’s British success, guitarists queued to praise him. Over the years the tributes mounted. Albert Collins: “He didn’t play nobody else’s stuff… Jimi was original.” Buddy Guy: “One of those guys that was so explosive… Jimi basically played the blues but added to it.” Eric Clapton: “He liked Freddie and B.B. King, Robert Johnson and Buddy Guy. We liked all the same people... it was such a thrill because it was all secondhand for me. It was something I learned from records. This guy had been among them and was one of them.”
After Woodstock, Neil Young said that Jimi was “absolutely the best guitar player that ever lived; there was no one even in the same building as that guy.” Miles Davis said: “He had a natural ear for hearing music… it was great. He influenced me and I influenced him and that’s the way great music is always made. Everybody’s showing somebody else something and then moving on from there… Jimi Hendrix came from the blues, like me. We understood each other right away… he was a great blues guitarist.” In the illuminating new film on the making of the groundbreaking Electric Ladyland, Steve Winwood, an artist much admired by Hendrix, makes the key point about Jimi the motivator – that he could establish a mood of camaraderie, in his quiet nice way, by jamming, by playing – the simplest way to do it.
Jimi Hendrix was a great bringer together of people. He made a fine happy unit of the Experience with charming adroit and funny Noel Redding – inspired casting – and brave, reliable Mitch Mitchell. Gered Mankowitz, who took splendid pictures of him, says today, “He was charming, unassuming and funny, and often laughing, his face lighting up: a happy person, pleasant and accommodating. Many will testify to his liking/love of people. He really dug hangers-on. (“his hangers on” says a friend in the film).
Rock music (as it was becoming, the best was “pop” no longer) was surpassingly segregated then sometimes by lax custom, sometimes because of outright prejudice and Jimi’s eclecticism did a lot to change that mode. When he went back a hero to the U.S., there were unprecedented white audiences. He would make New York his base until his death in 1970
I spent an evening with him there, in a club, not many people. I wish I could remember more. Only the vibes remain, man, only the vibes. But what vibes! And what a man.
– Derek Taylor
AND THE GODS MADE LOVE
HAVE YOU EVER BEEN (To Electric Ladyland)
LITTLE MISS STRANGE
LONG HOT SUMMER NIGHT
BURNING OF THE MIDNIGHT LAMP
RAINY DAY, DREAM AWAY
1983… (A MERMAN I SHOULD TURN TO BE)
MOON, TURN THE TIDES (Gently Gently Away)
STILL RAINING, STILL DREAMING
HOUSE BURNING DOWN
ALL ALONG THE WATCHTOWER
VOODOO CHILD (Slight Return)
HELP FROM OUR FRIENDS AND PASSENGERS INCLUDES:
on Rainy Day and Still Raining
Organ - Mike Finnigan
Horn - Freddie Smith
Congas - Larry Faucette
Drums - Buddy Miles
Flute - Chris Wood
on Voodoo Child
Organ - Stevie Winwood
Bass - Jack Cassidy
on Long Hot Summer Night
Piano - Al Kooper
We dedicate this album to acoustic and electric woman and man alike, and to the girl at or from or with the button store, and Arizona, and Bil of some English town in England, and well, EVERYBODY.
PRODUCED AND DIRECTED BY JIMI HENDRIX
All compositions written and arranged by Jimi Hendrix, with the exceptions of Little Miss Strange, by Noel Redding, All Along the Watchtower, by Bob Dylan (arranged by Jimi Hendrix), and Come On (Let the Good Times Roll), by Earl King
All compositions published by Experience Hendrix, L.L.C. (ASCAP) with the exceptions of Little Miss Strange, Joint Music, adm. by Chappell & Co. (ASCAP); All Along the Watchtower, Dwarf Music (ASCAP) and Come On (Let the Good Times Roll), EMI Unart Catalog Inc. (BMI)
Recorded at The Record Plant, New York
Engineers: Gary Kellgren and Eddie Kramer
Back cover photo: Karl Ferris
Black-and-white photos and CD booklet back cover photo: Linda McCartney - Robert Montgomery & Partners
Original packaging Art Direction: Ed Thrasher
Liner photography in part by David Sygall
Remastered by Eddie Kramer & George Marino – Sterling Sound, N.Y.
Remastering Supervision by Janie Hendrix & John McDermott for Experience Hendrix, L.L.C.
Reissue Art Direction: Vartan
Reissue Design: Michael Diehl
Essay: Derek Taylor
Hendrix Writings: Jeff Leve
For more information about Jimi Hendrix please write:
PO Box 4130
Seattle, Washington 98104.
Or visit us on the World Wide Web at: Experience Jimi Hendrix Interactive
If you would like to purchase authentic Jimi Hendrix merchandise, call 1-888-EXP-JIMI.
M C A.
© 1968, 1997 Experience Hendrix, L.L.C., under exclusive license to MCA Records, Inc.