Purple Haze

Jimi Hendrix really needs no commentary. Everyone knows this song, and everyone knows his story. To the point of over-familiarity, some would say. Hendrix continues to compel the imagination as much for being such a tantalizing ‘what-if’ as for his actual legacy. Obviously, we all know that it’s more fun to lionize the gifted and dead than the equally-gifted-but-still-plugging-along. We enjoy the narrative more than we enjoy the work. Would we listen to Purple Haze with the same delight if Jimi Hendrix was now an elderly man composing music for films, releasing the occasional space-jazz album, and making out-of-touch comments about today’s social issues? Probably not. We like it because it’s a preview of attractions that never came.

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Hey Joe

I bet if the Woodstock festival hadn’t been filmed, no one would even remember it. Or rather, those that were there would still be talking about it, but it probably wouldn’t be considered an historic event. Because not that many people were actually there and of those half were too fucked up to remember and the other half recollect the usual festival miseries of bad food, bad weather, and bad bathrooms. Everyone is so attached to Woodstock only because the movie was so good. I imagine the movie is probably better than the experience actually was. I’d say it did a lot to cement the legend of Jimi Hendrix as well. Hendrix had the good fortune to give classic performances at Woodstock and Monterey Pop, placing himself in not one but two of the most memorable and popular concert movies ever made. I’m not suggesting that Hendrix would be any less legendary a musician without appearing in those movies, but it is those performances for which we best remember him.

Foxy Lady

You’re pretty foxy yourself there, Jimi. Dude had style. He played like his guitar was on fire, which it sometimes was. I once had a boss who was an old flower child and one of his favorite stories was the time he saw Jimi play. The punchline of the story was “If I didn’t have the pictures I wouldn’t know I was there. I don’t remember a thing of it.” The moral of that is; don’t get all fucked up at shows, because you might think it’s just a show but it might be an historical event and someday when your grandkids envy your luck you should be able to recall it. I think I read somewhere that Hendrix himself was of the same opinion (I could be off, here). He thought that getting high and playing music was redundant and the enjoyment of music should be its own high. Sadly though, he was ok with getting blitzed out of his gourd at other times. Although dying in his prime did inadvertently boost his popularity – there’s nothing more iconic than a premature exit from this world, it seems.

Fire

Favorite Jimi Hendrix song here. Gotta admit that I’m not a huge Hendrix fan. I really love a few of his songs, mostly Are You Experienced,  but never quite got into the other albums. I found them maybe too jammy and experimental. Though I’m usually in favor of experimental, I guess the last two just kind of bored me. I suppose I need to bone up on the psychedelic guitar heroism. Anyhow. I’ve got two videos here, both very nice. I notice that in the black and white one Hendrix displays a marked lack of enthusiasm, so I’m guessing it’s from a little bit later in his career, when he’d had the chance to get thoroughly sick of playing the same hits over and over. Because even then all anyone wanted to hear was the same five songs.

All Along the Watchtower

It’s ok to overlook some bizarre deep album track or miss the boat on something new that flies by, but to forget a real classic like this is just humiliating. Oh well, it’s never too late.

I don’t know why I don’t have stronger feelings about Jimi Hendrix. I’m certainly a sucker for the whole brilliant dead guy thing. Hendrix is a massive icon, and a fascinating character, and he had amazing style. Why an obsession hasn’t developed, I don’t understand. What’s wrong with me?

More on point, though…All Along the Watchtower was fantastic when Dylan first recorded it on John Wesley Harding, but it was The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s version that became definitive. Hendrix molded it to his own style and his interpretation is…is…the word ‘collossal’ comes to mind. It’s a song that bears the imprint of two of the biggest godheads in the Valhalla of rock and roll. So why does everybody and their pet parakeet still want to get their paws on it? There has been a rash of cover versions, mostly not terribly good ones to say the least. Dave Matthews, U2, Metallica, Eddie Vedder, The Grateful Dead, John Mellencamp, The Allman Brothers, Phish, Lenny Kravitz – all have put their foot in to see if the shoe fits. Why oh why, if you are Lenny Kravitz, would you try to fill the shoes of Dylan and Hendrix? Don’t you know that you will only make yourself look pathetic? The only bright spot was when Bryan Ferry, working out his Dylan fetish once and for all, included it on his Dylanesque album. Unlike the grotesquely awful efforts of everyone else, Ferry’s version was merely unneccessary.