Lex on The Jimi Hendrix Experience

It was my adopted Uncle Anthony that turned me on to the Jimi Hendrix Experience.

It was the early part of 1980.  My uncle Anthony used to swing by the family compound in his cherry red ’69 Chevy Chevelle looking for my genetic uncle, Will.  They were in the last phase of high school and the best of buddies.  I always new when Anthony was in the area because his car was like a great sound system on wheels.

One day, I heard him outside blasting a tune called over his system called “Crosstown Traffic.”  I hurried outside to greet him.  I still remember sticking my head through the passenger side car window, letting the music fill both ears.  He sat in the driver’s seat, singing and dancing and “bumpin’ those sounds.”  When the song was over, I asked, “Who’s that?”

“Jimi Hendrix,” said Uncle Anthony in his husky, molasses, southern drawl.  “Boy, you haven’t heard of Jimi Hendrix?”  I told him I had seen him in the Woodstock movie, but he seemed to me to be “a bunch of guitar noise.”  Anthony gave me the look that said, “Boy, this kid needs to be ‘schooled’ in something other than Top 40.”  He motioned for me to hop into the passenger seat.  I climbed into his classic ride and got a lesson I will not forget.

He ejects the cassette from his deck, and slides in a copy of an album called Are You Experienced? He takes a few seconds to rewind the newly inserted tape, and tells me to listen.  “Now, tell me if this here is ‘noise.'”

This was the first time I ever heard a song called, “The Wind Cries Mary.”  Right off of the bat, the song his a airy level of “heaviness.”  I was automatically captured by the fluid, bluesiness of the guitar’s sound and 3 note opening line.  The vocals sound like a man who has just lost something very valuable to him.

After all the jacks are in their boxes,
And the clowns have all gone to bed
You can hear happiness staggerin’ on down the street
Footprints dressed in red

And the wind, it whispers Mary

The broom is eerily sweeping
Up the pieces of yesterday’s life
Somewhere a queen is weeping
Somewhere a king has no wife

And the wind calls Mary

There was something so pure in the solo that followed those words.  It was melodic, rhythmic and hypnotic..  It was rock filtered through a scope of blues.  It sounded human.  It’s still my favorite part of the song.

When the song came to an end with the sound of drums, I sat there.  I had never heard anything like that on the radio.  It was an older sound, but still very hip and fresh sounding.  Anthony said, “That is Jimi Hendrix.  Now isn’t that a great song?”  Before I could answer, another sound hit my ear.  It was a pulsating riff that came out of left field.  It was playful rock, funk, blues-based, and called “Fire.”  It was a one-two combination of those songs that tore my head right off, and made me think “I should have these records to listen to.”

Just before the solo on “Fire,” my uncle Will comes out of the family compound and opens the passenger door.  “Okay, get out.  We gotta get to Pep Boys so we can get my car started.”  I hop out of the car with the tune still blasting away at my ears.  Will slams the door.  Anthony waves and the two are headed out into the warm Los Angeles night in search of car parts.

Anthony would later introduce me to other Jimi Hendrix Experience albums, including the beautiful Axis: Bold As Love, and the monumental Electric Ladyland.”  The music would go in both straight-forward and experimental directions in Hendrix’s short career,  and as a budding guitarist I would make it my business to investigate further and not to see Jimi Hendrix as some “noisy cat with a guitar.”  He would become not only one of my favorite guitarists but also songwriters, arrangers, and entertainers.

Thanks, Uncle Anthony!

November 27 marks the birthday of Jimi Hendrix.  Much as been written about his life and his legacy.  He was a man of music, and that has also been written about extensively.  With the passing of his drummer-in-crime Mitch Mitchell, the only thing that remains of the original Jimi Hendrix Experience is the music.  Believe me, it’s an experience that is worth seeking out.  Happy birthday, Jimi!

(Lex Neon is also known as Alex Oliver, the quirky and often eccentric musical genius of “sunshine pop / rock” band Poppermost.  Check out their music and Lex’s rock rantings at
http://www.poppermost.com ).

Please note: the original release date for this magnificent album was May 12, 1967.

Currently listening :
Are You Experienced
By The Jimi Hendrix Experience

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~ by Poppermost on November 28, 2008.

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