And the man with the guitar..........Jimi Hendrix
My all time favourite musician...and this is why
In 1966 aged 12, incaserated in the hell of an early 60’s Quaker Boarding School, I first heard Jimi ‘behind his back, with his teeth, upside down guitar, hands like shovels and tentacles for finger’s’ Hendrix play, on a school friend’s crappy old radio...
A Quaker Boarding school, where real hunger and unbridled fear of some of teacher’s blind faith and unbending, unloving, rigid and ordered control of me, was the second worst institution that I have had the misfortune to have to attend; the worst, was my children’s home, a dark cold place with almost unbridled, satanic misery and loneliness.
Then one day a sound appeared, a sound like no other, a sound that instantly changed my grey face down or goofing during the monotony of the drowning, repetitive voice and lessons given sermon like, by people who should never be anywhere near vulnerable and frightened children.
The sound just lifted my spirits, brought colour, a gentle sierra breeze wafted through my mind and made me smile, just for those few minutes of unbridled joy, I was happy.
Music was, is and will always be the only true friend that I have ever had, and in Jimi Hendrix I had found everything that was so lacking in the cold, dank dungeon of one shy and lonely kid’s questioning existence.
I had found God and no, not the bow down ask for mercy while being caned, slippered head cut open by a thrown blackboard rubber. No I had found God though this man’s ability to remove me from the hell of a twelve year, whose life up to then, had been beyond brutal.
My life in an instant changed and it changed forever and all thanks to a black man with frizzy hair who nobody saw coming but heard him, no doubt about that
I could write reams about who found him and when and where he was found...but I won’t...you don’t find Jimi Hendrix...he finds you, in his music...
‘Hey Joe’ (written by Billy Roberts)...his first single...
Just four months later and my life already changed forever, when in March 67 I first heard ‘Purple Haze.’
‘What the fxxk was that?’ The world was not used to this, perhaps not ready, this was an alien landing, and this was music so far removed from the likes of the simple, sleep induced tunes of Herman’s Hermits, Tiny Tim, Peter Paul and Mary, a cacophony of dull lulled my over sensitive life into a coma of uninventfullness.
Then three records in quick succession. The Wind Cries Mary, All Along the Watchtower and Burning of the Midnight Lamp, even the songs names made me smile, one of them being one of my all time favourites but written by Bob Dylan and three albums all apparently written within 1967 and 1968,an unbelievable feat when you think of the quality and originality of these albums.
Are You Experienced, Axis Bold as Love and then, Electric Ladyland with its wonderful double album cover of different sized and shaped breasts, every pubescent boy’s wet dreams? You can also throw in Smash Hits to this incredible collection.
Not only did he take Bob Dylan’s song and improve it, he had the nerve to play The Beatles Sergeant Pepper (https://youtu.be/STvsuIrLXz0) just a few days after it was first released. He also played The Creams ‘Sunshine of Your Love, the aforementioned Hey Joe and one of my faves for the sheer energy Chuck Berry’s Jonny B Goode. Play this loud
Two of my favourite tracks from this debut album are...Red House which was released on the Are You Experienced album.
And...Have you Ever Been Experienced (well I have)
By now my life had changed...not just because I had my own hero but he was also a hero to my older brother, suddenly I wasn’t so alone, suddenly I found the art of conversation as I banged n relentlessly about Jimi but still unable to say why or how..it just felt good when I heard him play which wasn’t daily as we only had an old mono record player which if turned up too loud would be confiscated by the grinning house master but there was still hope in the shape of the twice monthly school disco where boys danced over here and girls danced over there only ever meeting or touching when the ever present teachers would decide, ‘enough of Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple racket, what this school needs is the fucking Gay Gordens,’ it was however a good way to meet and hold the girls that you had fancied from afar for the entire school year, but under no circumstances could you stand too close or have your hands placed anywhere apart from the ‘controlled zone’ of the waist..
I had also honed to perfection my invisible guitar stance much to the dismay of all the straight faced teachers and even some of my friends who just thought, ‘Wheeler is a spaz,’ and you know what, for those brief interludes in the grey, where colour and light entered my sad little world, I felt fucking happy and I didn’t give a flying fuck what anybody else thought..
I was full of pent up, fucked off, overly controlled aggression, and then... I heard Axis Bold as Love which for me was like going from smoking a dog end to LSD in one afternoon, I mean that track though the entire record is blinding, but the track Axis Bold as Love transcended my life to a place I never wanted to leave and still, when I hear the phasing drums and the unbelievable guitar solo which apparently Jimi said and I quote ‘I wanted to make the sound of heaven,’ and for me and probably countless millions, he did.
Turn this up to number 11...
Anger, he smiles,
Towering in shiny metallic purple armour
Queen Jealousy, envy waits behind him
Her fiery green gown sneers at the grassy ground
Blue are the life-giving waters taken for granted,
They quietly understand
Once happy turquoise armies lay opposite ready,
But wonder why the fight is on
But they're all bold as love, yeah, they're all bold as love
Yeah, they're all bold as love
Just ask the axis
My red is so confident that he flashes trophies of
And ribbons of euphoria
Orange is young, full of daring,
But very unsteady for the first go round
My yellow in this case is not so mellow
In fact I'm trying to say it's frightened like me
And all these emotions of mine keep holding me from, eh
Giving my life to a rainbow like you
But, I'm bold as love, yeah, I'm bold as love
Well I'm bold, bold as love (hear me talking, girl)
I'm bold as love
Just ask the axis (he knows everything)
Wow!! Just listening to that just does something to me emotionally and spiritually? It brings a thump to my chest...an ache to my heart and several tears well up in my eyes and to think this came out in 1968 is just unbelievable. Jimi wrote about emotions being colours and knowing that one can understand not just this song but many of them. This song is the one that I wanted to be played as I die...what a way to go...
We then got Smash Hits and to cap it all off, Electric Ladyland. I was too poor to own a record in those days but some of the better off kids would return from holidays or exceats with brand new goodies firmly tucked under their arms.
I began to feel like I belonged just though my love of this man. I had his poster up in my dorm and even if you looked at it I was become overtly defensive. There were other boyhood idles such as George Best and Rory Gallagher but they didn’t do what Jimi had done, never got close, this was an emotional freeing of hurt. I remember just sitting with my head in my hands staring at the floor as my soul smiled, I did then and some fifty odd years later, I still do...
Still Raining Still Dreaming... https://vimeo.com/246059221
House Burning Down... https://youtu.be/FnYWfVPT5aI
All Along the Watchtower... https://youtu.be/TLV4_xaYynY
Voodoo Chile... https://youtu.be/IZBlqcbpmxY
...are all on one side of this double record and I am unsure if there is another band who has four such incredible songs all on one side.
I had grown both physically and mentally, I was changing from an insecure, frightened, lonely little boy to a stronger, wiser, deeper and more intelligent grown up.
Then my world fell to bits as one morning 18th September 1970 I was told by a very tearful girl that my hero Jimi Hendrix was dead. I remember exactly where I was standing and the feeling of life actually draining from my body as my face paled and my knees weakened.
I couldn’t speak.
I just cried and felt empty, devoid of the full understanding that life teaches us as we grow older, as a fifteen year old I had no concept of understanding how I felt. I had nobody to speak with, my brother was a long way away and letters were our only source of communication. I didn’t smile for weeks.
I ran back to my dorm and played Hendrix until the housemaster took away the record player.
A part of me died that day but every time I have played Hendrix and I play him a lot, I smile and nearing fifty one years of first hearing him play, I am happy.
If I ever got to meet you I am unsure if I could even breathe let alone speak but two words come to mind to the man with the guitar....and they are simply...
Thank you, but repeated a million times...
Hurray I awake from yesterday
Alive but the war is here to stay
So my love Catherina and me
Decide to take our last walk thru the noise to the sea
Not to die but to be reborn
Away from the lands so battered and torn
Oh say can you see it's really such a mess
Every inch of earth is a fighting nest
Giant pencil and lipstick-tube shaped things Continue to rain and cause screamin' pain
And the arctic stains from silver blue to bloody red
As our feet find the sand
And the sea is straight ahead
Straight up ahead
Well it's too bad that our friends can't be with us today
Well it's too bad
The machine that we built
Would never save us that's what they say
That's why they aint comin' with us today
And they also said it's impossible
For a man to live and breathe underwater
Forever was a main complaint
Yeah and they also threw this in my face they said
Anyway you know good and well
It would be beyond the will of god
And the grace of the king
Grace of the king
So my darling and I make love in the sand
To salute the last moment ever on dry land
Our machine it has done its work played its part well
Without a scratch on our body when we bid it farewell
Starfish and giant foams greet us with a smile
Before our heads go under we take our last look at the killing noise
Of the out of style
The out of style out of style oh yeah
So down and down and down and down we go
Hurry my darlin' we mustn't be late
For the show
Neptune champion games to an aqua world is so my dear
Right this way smiles a mermaid
I can hear Atlantis full of cheer
Atlantis full of cheer
I can hear Atlantis full of cheer