Article 23

Rock On

Jimi Hendrix Experience

(Published in Times of India, Pune on 24th November, 2001)

F or me, the 27th of November is a day to celebrate, as it happens to be my birthday. But what excites me even more is that I have been fortunate to share this birthday with a few of my favorite people. The foremost among them is probably the greatest guitar player the world ever saw and one of first true Rock artistes I ever heard, Jimi Hendrix. I was a young lad, in my teens, when Fran, the American exchange student who lived with us, gifted a music album to me that was to change my life forever. It was "Are you Experienced?" the debut album of this wild 'black' American of African, European, Cherokee Indian and Mexican descent playing with an English band and doing songs like "Purple Haze", "Hey Joe", "The Wind cries Mary", "Foxy Lady", "Fire" etc. This was music I had never heard before or even thought could exist! The musicians seem to constantly stretch the boundaries of imagination and the music moved from being heavily structured to free flowing all at the same time. Truly a surreal experience for this young kid who would never be the same again.

James Marshall Hendrix started his music career on the R&B one-nighters live circuit backing Soul artists like Ike and Tina Turner, Wilson Pickett, the Isley Brothers, Little Richard, Jackie Wilson, Sam Cooke and The Impressions. But it was not long before he got tired of it all and moved to the excitement of New York. It was there that he formed his first band "Jimmy James and the Blue Flames" and started doing the Greenwich Village clubs circuit. Word about this young virtuoso spread like wildfire and ex-Animals bassist Chas Chandler was so impressed after hearing him play that he offered to become his manager and persuaded Jimi to accompany him back to England. It was in 1966 that Hendrix arrived in London, a city at it's swinging best, and formed the Jimi Hendrix Experience with drummer Mitch Mitchell and bassist Noel Redding. All of London's Rock aristocracy like the Beatles, Stones, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Who etc. showed up at early Experience gigs and paid court to this exotic and astounding American musician who'd arrived in their midst. There was no looking back now for this young musician as they broke attendance records at one club after another, and later signed a recording contract. Jimi was on his way to super stardom and was soon to become one of the most influential guitar players of the Sixties.

Jimi's spectacular performance at the Monterey Pop Festival reintroduced him to a wildly receptive American audience, and instantly made him an American celebrity. His outrageous performance has fortunately been captured on film and his guitar burning ceremony at the end of the concert is a vision I will never forget in a hurry! His albums started selling in millions on both sides of the Atlantic and his tours were sellouts. "Are You Experienced?" and "Axis: Bold As Love" were the first two albums that came out in quick succession and were clearly years ahead of their time. Even today, they sound contemporary and truly set new standards, both on the musical and technical spectrums of music production. The double album "Electric Ladyland" followed and, although not well received, contained brilliant guitar work and Jimi's startling colorful lyrics full of mystical imagery.

The Experience split soon after and Jimi did the Woodstock gig with his old high school friend Billy Cox. I did not know till recently that Jimi performed just two songs at this famous Rock festival before storming out as he felt that "it was just not coming together!" I used to wonder about his troubled expression during his historic performance of "Star Spangled banner" in the film and thought it was just his temporary inability to handle the feedback from his guitar! Unfortunately these were indeed troubled times for this musical genius as Jimi was living a wild, drug induced, chaotic existence that was destined to head for disaster.

Jimi last legitimate album was 'Band Of Gypsies' which he recorded live with Buddy Miles and Billy Cox at the Fillmore East on New Year's Day, 1970. It is considered by many to be the ultimate rock concert album. Hendrix was also one of the first rock artists to build his own recording studio "Electric Lady" in New York City and was at work on a new album when he died on September 18, 1970, in London. He was just 27 years old. Jimi's last days were indeed a record of wild excessive living that has only been documented by his countless girlfriends. His manic moods and violent temperament saw him lose all his friends and it was a lonely Jimi who was finally found dead one day, after having choked on his own vomit.

Jimi had left his business affairs in a total mess and his death saw the release of over 300 bootleg recordings. It's only recently that his father and sister have been able to regain legal rights to Jimi's artistic legacy and we see digitally re-mastered re-releases of all his works in the music markets of the world. Truly a fabulous gift for any young kid wanting to be the future guitar king of the world!

Rock on!

Nandu Bhende











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