October 26, 2014

TRYIN' THAT STUFF (profanity alert):

When Jimi Hendrix came to London, he changed the sound of music for ever : Ed Vulliamy, who was born on the street where Jimi Hendrix died, reports on the rock legend's time in the capital in the 60s - the focus of a new biopic - and talks to some of those who knew him well (Ed Vulliamy, 25 October 2014, The Observer)

Reared on Muddy Waters and Albert King, music was Hendrix's love and after teaming up with army colleague Billy Cox on bass, he played for Little Richard and the Isley Brothers before venturing out on his own.

Hendrix collected a small coterie of dazzled admirers in New York, among them John Cale of the Velvet Underground who, after playing a concert with Patti Smith in Paris last week, recalled going down into a dive bar in Sullivan Street to see Hendrix play during the mid-60s. "There was this fella heckling him all the way through, giving him gyp until Hendrix said, 'I see we've got Polly Parrot in the house tonight'. He got no trouble after that."

Hendrix also amazed Chandler at the Cafe Wha? in Greenwich Village one night, enough to fly him to London where the hunger for blues was inexplicably greater than in America. "Black American music got nowhere near white AM radio," says the man who met Hendrix at Heathrow, Tony Garland, who would manage Hendrix's British company, Anim. "And Jimi was too white for black radio. Here, there were a lot of white guys listening to blues from America and wanting to sound like their heroes."

One of them was Eric Clapton of Cream, who invited Hendrix to sit in on a performance of Howlin' Wolf's Killing Floor at Regent Street Polytechnic, but who afterwards told Chandler irritably: "You never told me he was that f[***]ing good."

In London, Hendrix with his band Experience forged a new soundscape, stretching the blues to some outer limit of expression, ethereal but fearsome, lyrical but dangerous, sublime but ruthless. And yet, he wrote: "I don't want anyone to stick a psychedelic label round my neck. Sooner Bach or Beethoven."

This was not serendipitous, nor was it as effortlessly "natural", as Hendrix himself often suggested, or even pure genius: Hendrix had found an alchemist with sound in the unlikely form of a sonic wave engineer in the service of the Ministry of Defence, Roger Mayer.

Mayer was an inventor of electronic musical devices, including the Octavia guitar effect which created a "doubling" echo. "I'd shown it to Jimmy Page," Mayer recalls at his home in Surrey, "but he said it was too far out. Jimi said, the moment we met: 'Yeah, I'd like to try that stuff'."

Posted by at October 26, 2014 6:32 AM
  

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