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Move Over Rover Let Jimi Take Over (Jimi Hendrix)

December 1966, I was just 14, you know what I mean. I’m not sure of the exact date, the TV music show “Ready Steady Go” had the tagline “the weekend starts here” but our regional company now aired it on a midweek evening at 6.30. R.S.G. had been cancelled, this was its penultimate episode & we often missed it because on the night of transmission 4 of us met up to play table tennis. It was a good night, a big room to ourselves, a few games, a lot of laughs & my Dad treated us all to pop & crisps. It was even more fun than that sounds.

 

Anyway, that night my friend & I held back until the last possible moment. It wasn’t because of Marc Bolan, not yet Tyrannosaurus Rex never mind T…. & his “Hippy Gumbo”, neither was it the Troggs, the Merseys or the Escorts who made us keep our friends waiting. It was the TV debut of the Jimi Hendrix Experience, a chance to see a new sensation who we had read about in the music weeklies, performing their debut single “Hey Joe” that delayed us. It was worth it &, for two music obsessed school boys, our world had shifted a little.

 

 

Image result for jimi hendrix engelbert humperdinckJimi Hendrix changed quite a few people’s lives, fans & musicians alike. “Hey Joe” was not the big hit I remember it being, “Purple Haze” & “The Wind Cries Mary” were. My friends & I didn’t have large record collections but the 2 LPs released in 1967, “Are You Experienced” & “Axis: Bold As Love”, were requested for birthdays or Xmas & if Santa didn’t come through then somebody’s big brother or sister was sure to have a copy. Transplanted from the US to Swinging London Jimi flourished in the creative freedom he was given. He could write Pop songs like “Fire” & “Wait Until Tomorrow”, he could journey to the higher realms of the astral plane with “Third Stone From the Sun” & the title tracks of both albums. He was an explorer of uncharted territory for his instrument & for the recording studio, claiming possession of both. I don’t know much about chordal arpeggios and contrapuntal motion, with tremolo-picked partial chords but I know what I like. There may have been other guitarists with skills but no-one combined technique, imagination & personality like Jimi.

 

Image result for jimi hendrix package tourBritish music may have been leading the world in 1967 but the business of show had not really caught up. In April the Experience undertook a 25 date tour with the Walker Brothers, Cat Stevens & “special guest star” Engelbert Humperdinck. The most expensive seats were less than $1 & I’m sure you were guaranteed an interesting night. We never bought that “Wild Man of Pop” tabloid tag, it seemed more than a little racist. Anyone who knew anything about the Blues knew that Jimi followed in a tradition of Black American players who combined ability & showmanship. Later, in 1969, when Jimi derailed the live Saturday evening TV show “Happening For Lulu” it wasn’t shocking it was hilarious. In November/December he headlined another UK tour with the Move, Pink Floyd, Amen Corner & the Nice. $1.10 for that one…bargain! By then Jimi, after an incendiary performance at the Monterey Pop Festival (aided by a can of lighter fuel in his jacket), was being reclaimed by the USA. I think that could have been the plan all along.

 

 

“Electric Ladyland”, a double album, was released in October 1968 & in the Summer of 1970 we were still listening closely & still hearing new things. We were a little older now, different herbs to Dandelion & Burdock, still needing crisps. “All Along the Watchtower” was & still is a magnificent thing. I love a lesser known, obscure Dylan cover but this collision of two great talents has to be near the top of the all-time great records. 15 minutes of “Voodoo Chile” could take you to some very interesting places while you had to hold tight for “1983…(A Merman I Shall Be). My friend Polly was on that cover of the album & very nice she looks too. She never liked to talk about it but me…I know someone on the cover of “Electric Ladyland” !

 

 

Related imageIn 1969 Hendrix was the highest paid musician in the world. He was the headline act at the Woodstock Festival but it overran so much that he appeared at 8 a,m, Monday morning before a tired, bedraggled & greatly reduced gathering. Just 2 years earlier his playing inspired positive thoughts about the possibilities of music & Life in the 1960’s. Here, having been awake himself for 3 days, he closed the greatest show on earth with an astonishing interpretation of “The Star Spangled Banner”, a sonic invocation of a nation fractured by war & violence. The film of “Woodstock” was seen by everyone, Hendrix fired a shot that was heard around the world. His performance has been called “probably the single greatest moment of the sixties”, I’m not sure about that but repetition & memory have neither blunted nor diminished the  power & (yeah) profundity of this startling piece of music.

 

Image result for jimi hendrixThere was constant touring, the chaos of superstar life at that time & LSD really was not a drug to be taken lightly or daily. Then, in September 1970 Jimi was gone, a great loss & a great shame. We were left with the “Cry of Love” LP, more evidence of his talent & range, the thoughtful, now poignant “Angel”, the furious “In From the Storm”. More perspicacious individuals than myself have had more things to say about Jimi Hendrix in books & movies. I do believe that had Jimi lived, extricated himself from management who insisted on a punishing schedule & allied himself with strong supporting players he would have continued to make music that pushed the boundaries of what the Rock guitar could achieve. There have been wonderful technical & individual guitarists since, all in some way influenced by Hendrix. When we lost Jimi he took his secrets with him & we lost something very special.

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About loosehandlebars

Experience has taught me wisdom, thank god I've got some life left I'm getting out of serfdom, my soul has stand the test. I need nothing to be a man because I was born a man and i deserve the right to live like any other man.

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