Sometimes, I swear I'm a mind reader! I just know that some of you dear readers out there want to explore the music of Jimi Hendrix, but you don't know where to start, what with all the studio albums, 8-tracks, live albums, cereal boxes, box sets, etc.
Well . . .
According to the cover of this album, it's Jimi at his best, and they couldn't call it that if it wasn't true. Right? Right???
No doubt, you've heard of the Jimi Hendrix Experience, featuring Jimi on guitar and vocals (yep, just like today's song) along with bassist Noel Redding and drummer Mitch Mitchell (did he have unimaginitive parents, or what?). I'm not sure who is drumming on this session, but Mitch absolutely pales in comparison! There's no bass, so I can't really comment on the lack of Noel Redding. However, there seems to be a cat walking on an Ace Tone organ in a few spots, and that's far more exciting than just a buncha old notes that have probably already been used elsewhere.
I'm going to stop here and let the man responsible for getting this excellent release (plus two more volumes!) out into the world. Take it away, Mike!
It was Autumn 1964. A cruel wind, freezing and sullen, ripped the profuse scum and garbage off Bleeker Street and sent it flying out of sight above the houses. Sharp pieces of grit lodged in my legs and spattered my eyes. Even soda cans went crashing down the street. Behind me a howl went up. My friend and I turned round fast. Behind us, someone had been hit in the face by a flying soda can.
"Hey Jimi, are you alright?" said my friend Jake (former lead guitar with the Jugs). He knew everyone in the village. "Sure you're okay?"
"Yeh, Yeh" said Jimi. "Long as my guitar's cool, I'm cool." "In New York City, it's law of the jungle, fittest survive, you dig."
We laughed. All the while I was staring hard at this strange figure. It was the first time I had seen him. In those days, extreme poverty kept him on the streets, sometimes even sleeping there a few hours in the early morning in someone's back doorway. He would carry his guitar on his shoulders always. His jacket was black and frayed. His bowler hat was perched on his huge mass of hair.
I was to see Jimi several times more that winter. Usually he rushed past me on his way, unseeing. In those days, he was totally unknown in New York. Only he and a handful of others were aware of his incredible musical power. Back and forth among that handful Jimi would come and go, all day and night, seeking, learning to refine and re-define, grasp his powers and master them, develop and explore his talents upon the highest apex he could achieve.
And among the several places where he jammed running from one jam to the next, he met those musicians who could contribute to his search. One night coming out of Stanley's Bar on Avenue B, I bumped into Jimi.
"Come over to my pad and play some music," I said. He fell in with me silently. He was always quiet, almost shy, so different from the Jimi on stage.
I am a piano player unknown except among musicians, mostly those of the New York avant-garde music scene, though I had always felt there could be a meeting between this form and rock.
That night we played far into the dawn and it was the most astonishing experience of my life. Eagerly I awaited more. Jimi came round many more times that winter, playing sounds that shattered all conventions and traditions exploring areas with feedback and electronic effects that had never before been touched. This was the pure Jimi, the pristine musician, resplendent in his crystalline form, unsullied by fame and unstained by fortune.
Sometimes I would turn on the borrowed Sony to get an idea of where the music was leading to. Everytime we played back we would laugh and shake our heads in amazement and exhilaration. Occasionally, too, a Conga drummer would sit in with us, not always able to follow the intricacies of the rhythms I patterned out with my chords and la la la's. And so these recordings came about.
Jimi, just before his death, talked to me about them. He felt there was a spontaniety there he had been unable to achieve with his trio; something he had sought ever since but never again experienced. He would like to see them turned into records. He told me this two weeks before his death. We were both in New York. We spent a long time talking old times. He remembered our free form experiments done in my East 11th St. pad when we had both been kids with musical stars in our eyes.
"They'd make better records," he said. "Than some of the shit that's making me so much bread."
"I still have the tapes Jimi", I said. "Okay, why don't you come to London," he pleaded quietly. "That was real music." I asked him if this meant he was no longer playing real music. He did not answer. I asked him if he remembered how he had played to my chords and the two of us had achieved a spontaneous rapport so quickly and smoothly under my youthful direction. He laughed. He remembered only too well.
"Your structures, Mike," he said, "were your own. You were great. But you didn't make it. I did. Strange, Mike, you never made it. And strange I feel jealous of you."
Two weeks later, in London, he was dead.