In the office today, listening to this record, bringing back so many memories I thought I’d write some of them down. This was the second Jimi Hendrix record I bought. The first being the soundtrack to the Motion Picture Jimi Hendrix. I bought my first copy of this record on cassette at The Sound Shop in Columbia, TN. (I can still remember how they smelled when you tore the plastic wrap off and opened the box.How the cassette would rattle in it’s cradle. This one was clear! Cool!) My first Hendrix record is the one that drove me to play guitar, THIS one was my sonic bible. For a Hendrix neophyte, which I was, this was a great way to dive in; music from all over his career. Randomly sequenced, it had no real chronology to it, just Jimi firing it up for 45 minutes. Live stuff mixed with studio stuff. I hadn’t heard any of the original records or 1,000’s of bootlegs at this point so this was all fresh and new to me at this point. This record was released in 1984 (according to wikipedia) so I probably picked it up because it would’ve been the most recent release. This is the tape that I took to my guitar teacher, Doug Thurman, and asked him to teach me Voodoo Chile (Slight Return). Which forced me to learn my first chord and very nearly ended my guitar playing career before it started!
That E chord, yikes! “Just put this finger here…” I felt like my hand would cramp and fall off! I couldn’t make the chord, let alone play a song that required me to use this contortion in it! Something made me keep going though. I went home and locked myself in my room and practiced. A piece of paper with hand drawn dots showing where my fingers go. Sore fingers, blisters. Friday night; “you want to go out? Nah, I’m gonna stay home and practice.” One chord, over and over, sometimes 4 of the 6 strings would ring, sometimes only 2, days went by and by the weekend I was getting all 6 strings to ring a little. Finally, I thought, a little daylight! One chord = 1 week! That’s my formula! Now I know exactly how hard I’ll have to work to get this guitar under control!
Nah. That’s the beauty and magic of a guitar, it’s just like a woman; once you think you have them figured out, they change BUT you don’t mind the change cause their just that awesome and amazing!
My guitar would give me something and then seem to take it back and then some. She’d give a glimpse at what might be possible and then close the curtain as if to say “But not yet.” The more I dug the more I wanted. The more frustrated I got the harder I practiced. Great sounds would mesh with awful clams so that I was constantly feeling like I was stranded in the ocean just grabbing at anything floating by. Just trying to stay afloat.
I met with Doug once a week (Mondays I think), so I was always in a hurry to learn the next thing. I didn’t have time to learn the solo to Voodoo Chile because I wanted to learn Purple Haze! The next Monday was “show me Red House!”
This was late 1988/89. There’s no internet, no youtube to refer to. You can’t just pull up footage of Jimi playing the songs, or a million guitarists in their homes videoing themselves playing the songs. This is archeology. Sonic Archeology! You had to dig and scrap for any piece of information. By this point, I knew what Jimi looked like from the two cassette covers that I had. I’d bought a poster of Jimi from the Isle of Fehmarn (today I realized where the shot was taken!) Pink pants, multicolored jacket, leopard skin strap! White Stratocaster, man I gotta get one of those!
Doug rented the VHS tape of Jimi Hendrix the movie and invited me over to watch it. 2 hours later, I’m more jazzed than ever. A true disciple! Jimi at Monterey, burning his guitar, Woodstock playing the National Anthem, The Isle Of Wight casually throwing the guitar over his shoulder at the end of his set. I bought the VHS tape and wore it out, bought another one and wore it out, bought a third one, same thing, then they invented DVD’s! (I’m on my 3rd DVD copy as I write this). No MTV in our house yet but we had Night Trax on WTBS out of Atlanta. They showed a clip of Jimi playing the Star Spangled Banner in Berkeley. It came on on Saturday night around 1:00 am. I remember sitting there in the dark in my parents living room, mouth hanging open, in shock! Another piece of the puzzle! Books started flowing into my orbit. Jimi was 27 when he died. He died in London, he was in the 101st Airborne, he’d played in Nashville early in his career, played with Little Richard, King Curtis, Joey Dee…every little piece of information I could find was like a revelation.
So now it’s 2014, I’ve been chasing Jimi’s secrets since 1989 or so so that’s 25 years! Still ain’t playing them right. I’ve met him a couple of times in my dreams but I’m always too excited to remember to ask him anything!