Jimi Hendrix: Ten Best IPod Tunes
Remember the Wild Man from Borneo?
Actually, Jimi Hendrix sometimes joked that he was from another planet. His playing was certainly out-of-this-world!
Well, Jimi’s been gone for awhile now – decades - but I haven’t forgotten his music or his spirit. By 1969 Jimi Hendrix was the most famous rocker in the world, and his band, the Jimi Hendrix Experience, was making more money than any other rock band on the planet, other than perhaps the Rolling Stones. Nice company, there.
Of course, it hardly matters how much money Jimi was making. For one thing, he didn’t give a hoot about profits; he just wanted to write songs and jam.
For those people who don't know a lot about Jimi Hendrix, he learned his guitar craft by playing blues and R&B on the so-called Chitlin Circuit in the American South of the early 1960s. That’s when Jimi started playing the guitar with his teeth, behind his head, while bent over backwards, between his legs or whatever. These histrionics were de rigueur for such players of the period.
Then, late in 1966, Jimi formed the Experience – along with Cream, one of the first power trios, and then blew everybody away at the Monterey Pop Festival the following June. Along the way, Jimi started calling his concerts the Electric Church, because he found playing music a mystical, transcendent experience, something that could actually change people’s minds for the better or perhaps heal their sicknesses.
Ironically, Jimi himself got sick, you might say, toward the middle of 1970. He started doing lots of drugs, though he never injected any. Overall, he didn’t take good care of himself. To make matters worse, butt-kissers, sycophants, groupies and reporters wouldn’t leave him alone, let him relax or sleep. Because of this, many of his last concerts weren’t very good, particularly the one at Isle of Wight, Aug. 30, 1970. On Sept. 6, 1970, in an interview, Jimi said, “I’m not sure I will live to be twenty-eight years old.”
Yeah, we know what happened.
Nevertheless, toward the end he seemed optimistic and even talked of getting married. Incidentally, Jimi seemed to relate to women better than he did with men. He had many girlfriends, girls who were friends, or acquaintances. Just as long as they didn’t get too possessive with him, everything was groovy.
Basically, Jimi died of “too much too fast,” like many others – Joplin, Morrison, Cobain, et al. Was Jimi lucky dying young? Some people think he was. How about you? As for me, I would like to have seen Jimi rocking out in his sixties and beyond!
* * *
I compiled this list not so I can highlight the tunes that helped make Jimi one of the greatest guitarists in the world – all Hendrixphiles know about “Hey, Joe,” “Foxy Lady,” “Purple Haze” and “All Along the Watch Tower.” It’s the ones you may not have heard that I want to tell you about. So please check out Jimi Hendrix: Ten Best IPod Tunes:
1. Jimi played Killing Floor, a song by one of his favorite musicians, Howlin’ Wolf, at the introduction to his set at the Monterey International Pop Festival, which, incidentally can be seen on YouTube. You can also find a different version of the tune on the CD, Live at Winterland, (the Winterland in San Francisco is where Jimi performed many notable concerts.) Jimi’s rendition of “Killing Floor” highlights his prowess as a bluesman, about which he apparently wanted everyone to know from the get-go at Monterey, his “coming out” performance in the U.S., if you will.
2. Still Raining, Still Dreaming, featured on the double-album set, Electric Ladyland, shows Jimi’s wah-wah pedal prowess; essentially, he makes his guitar “talk.” The aural mastery in this song is unbelievable, particularly toward the end where Jimi revs up the strings to an apocalyptic crescendo. This song is linked on the album to a much slower, bluesy version titled, “Rainy Day, Dream Away,” highlighted by the contributions of numerous musicians, including Freddie Smith on sax and Buddy Miles on drums.
3. The Stars that Play with Laughing Sam’s Dice may be the most unusual song title of Jimi’s oeuvre. Featured on the posthumous album, South Saturn Delta, one of the best of that bunch, this cut was also the B side of the single, “Burning the Midnight Lamp.” The song begins as a conventional rock tune, and then in the second half goes raucously, blistering mad, as only Hendrix can manage such an audio conflagration. Some have suggested this is Jimi’s approximation of an acid trip. If so, don’t ever do that stuff! Just let Jimi take you there . . . .
4. Auld Lang Syne is Jimi’s version of the traditional New Year’s Eve chestnut as played on the album, Live at the Fillmore East, the outtakes, if you will, for the Band of Gypsies LP produced around Jan. 1, 1970. The song starts in a predictable way, and then Jimi’s guitar inventiveness takes over, with plenty of pedal effects and whammy bar, until you feel like dancing with a huge grin on your face. As an aside, I don’t listen to lots of traditional music; however, at my place, all of Hendrix’s music is traditional!
5. Another track from Jimi’s performance at Monterey Pop, Rock Me Baby is a rousing rock ‘n’ roll version of blues plucker B.B. King’s hit, available on the double album set, Soundtrack Recordings from the film Jimi Hendrix. This full-tilt offering also makes you want to jump up and dance, and maybe run down the street as well, while shouting how much you love life. Jimi’s music tends to do that to a person.
6. Dolly Dagger was going to be Jimi’s latest single before he died. Found on the album, Rainbow Bridge, the song is about Devon Wilson, a foxy young black chick with whom Jimi hung out. Wilson was a vamp who thought she knew everything about seducing rock stars, spiking their drinks (or their girlfriend’s) when she needed to. In verse, Jimi likened this wily, dangerous woman to a witch with the soul of the devil’s wife. “Dolly Dagger," he sings, "she drinks her blood from a jagged edge . . . .”
7. In the song, House Burning Down, Jimi takes a political stance when referring to houses burning down during strife in urban ghettos, particularly after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in April 1968. But Jimi, rarely militant for any cause, advises to “learn instead of burn.” Offered on Electric Ladyland, this driving, explosive number may have the best intro to any rock tune ever. Jimi just winds it up with a burst of blistering guitar boldness and dash and then blasts off, trailing flames like a Saturn 5 rocket headed for the moon.
8. Written about Jimi’s idea of a mother-figure who would save him from isolation – his mother, Lucille, left Jimi when he was young - In from the Storm is a raw, primal, heavy metal jolt no one can forget. Another excellent track from the album, Sound Track Recordings from the Film Jim Hendrix, it’s also available on Cry of Love and Isle of Wight 1970. (Of course, there’s always YouTube.)
9. Look Over Yonder is another song expressing Jimi’s political and social awareness, this time regarding the police violence he had seen in Europe during the summer of 1967. Released on Rainbow Bridge, the soundtrack for the movie of the same name, Jimi plays a catchy beat with plenty of flashy guitar work. And at the end of the tune, Jimi adds an extended wail of distortion and feedback that raises the hair on the back of your neck. Don’t miss it!
10. Contrary to what many people may think, the song Redhouse is not about a cathouse or brothel. For this slow bluesy stroll, Jimi sings about one of his old girlfriends and her sister that live in a house painted red. For the version that Jimi played on the album, Hendrix in the West, he gets downright jazzy, presaging a planned move toward jazz, perhaps eventually cutting an album with Miles Davis. You can hear another impressive version of the song on Sound Track Recordings from the Film Jimi Hendrix, on which Jimi riffs for over 11 minutes without repeating a lick. How many blues players can do that?
Counting Electric Ladyland as two albums and Smash Hits, which had some previously unreleased material, Jimi only produced six albums during a four-year recording career - yet his list of posthumous albums seems endless (40 at last count). Every year or two new Hendrix recordings get produced. Why the delay? Stuff gets lost for awhile, you know, and legal entanglements keep some of it from the market for months or years, and then . . . So there are plenty of IPod picks from which to choose. And in a day or two, seemingly, somebody may offer even more!
Anyway, as Jimi liked to write at the end of his letters, STAY FREE (smile).
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