Inkwell: Authors and Artists
Ed Ward (captward) Sat 17 Nov 07 08:51
Sorry, I have to side with <rik> here. Both the guitar sound that Hendrix got with the Experience and the other two guys in the band were clearly influenced by the British scene at the time. Now yeah, this was the result of Brits trying to imitate American blues musicians, but it was also the sound of them failing and creating something new out of it (cf. the Rolling Stones). So the idea -- whoever's it was -- of "hey, what would it sound like if we had an open-minded black American guitarist?" was the key to his success. I always "heard" the Experience as a British band. Also gotta take issue with: >>Those guys still plugging away on the "Chitlin' Circuit" never expanded their sound into such cross-over appeal. Maybe not in the same way that Hendrix did, but a lot of them were older. B.B. King, Bobby "Blue" Bland, Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Buddy Guy, Junior Wells, Magic Sam, Bobby Rush, and a lot of other blues musicians who'd been more or less retired by that circuit by the aging of their fans and the changing tastes of young blacks were definitely rescued by the white rock audience, and black artists who were willing to bend with the times -- you mention Sly, but also George Clinton and Stevie Wonder -- crossed over quite nicely, usually without sacrificing their core audience.
Steven Roby (jimijames) Sat 17 Nov 07 09:53
>>How do you address the element of Jimi's and the era's drug use when teaching college kids? Occasionally questions come up like,"Was he a drug addict from day one?" or myths like, "I heard he used to put acid in his headband at the beginning of a concert." I then try to explain how the times were less sober than today, and how so many rumors aren't true.
Steven Roby (jimijames) Sat 17 Nov 07 10:24
>>Those guys still plugging away on the "Chitlin' Circuit" never expanded their sound into such cross-over appeal. I agree with <captward> here. Some of them never wanted to expand their sound, and were quite happy and talented with what the played. >>Both the guitar sound that Hendrix got with the Experience and the other two guys in the band were clearly influenced by the British scene at the time. Here are a few comments that British reporter Chris Welch made about the scene at that time: "Obviously people like Clapton and Jimi Hendrix were very special talents because they were brilliant musicians. They werent just pop stars, although being in the 60s everybody was presented as a chart starter, shock people on TV, glamorous costumes and crazy stage act, but at the root, he was a combination of things. He was a flirt as well as being a great blues guitar player, and a very good singer. In fact he had a very magical musical voice, It wasnt a great range but he had this tremendous feeling for blues, and I thought he was an excellent singer. Jimi was very modest, he was quite shy about trumpeting his own talents. And that was something that caused him quite a few problems, and cause he went along with that plan to project him as a kind of wild man at heart, which was Chas Chandlers master plan to get publicity. He enjoyed that first, but it became a bit of a burden later, like a mill stone around the neck. Every time you go on stage youve got to be Jimi Hendrix, the publics vision of Hendrix. And , he just couldnt live with that. It would be rather like David Bowie being Ziggy Stardust today. You just cant do it in the thirty odd years or whatever. And Jimi didnt want to be the wild man part for more than six months. After that the novelty had worn off I think. And that caused him many problems because he had to find a new way. I think his problem was that if hed survived another few years he would have been performing during he era when rock music took off as kind of spectacle, and technically it was improved as well. If you can imagine Hendrix playing today with the kind of lighting and stage effects that every band takes for granted now, and not to mention the technical advances in recording, and the use of sound, Midi, digital recording, computerization. All of this would have helped Jimi Hendrix enormously to expand as a great musician, and not to be a kind of passing pop freak show."
"The Best for Your Health!" (rik) Sat 17 Nov 07 10:50
"He enjoyed that first, but it became a bit of a burden later, like a mill stone around the neck. Every time you go on stage youï¿½ve got to be Jimi Hendrix, the publicï¿½s vision of Hendrix." According to Nick Gravenites, Mike Bloomfield went through the same hell. Every time he signed a contract to play, it was like saying, "I, Michael Bloomfield, agree to be inspired, at 9PM on Friday....." An interesting chitlin circuit blowback was when Ernie Isley would up doing his best to imitate Hendrix late in the Isley Brothers career. White Strat, headband, overdrive... "Who's That Lady", indeed. And a good example of west coast fusion would be the very integrated Oakland soul band, with a kick-ass rhythm section that was like Memphis on rocket fuel, and a very overdriven British sounding lead guitar. But way more disciplined than Jimi. Think of "What is Hip".
Scott MacFarlane (s-macfarlane) Sat 17 Nov 07 10:54
When Jimi went to London, he took that "British Invasion" sound and elevated it to a new level. The Jimi Hendrix Experience didn't sound like Cream; Hendrix didn't sound like the original Fleetwood Mac; he didn't sound like Savoy Brown, Procol Harem, Jethro Tull, Pink Floyd, Traffic, Humble Pie, or the Moody Blues who were all hitting when Jimi broke through from 1967 to 1970. Jimi had more soul and R&B influence to his Bluesy base, and with all the innovative distortions and backfeeding, he sounded like, well, like Jimi Hendrix. When I hear Noel Redding's song on Axis: Bold As Love, "She's so fine, so very very fine" I cringe. Frankly, Jimi was 90% plus of the Experience sound and he could have been backed up by any number of bassists and drummers. Jimi never had a black fan base, as shown in Steve's telling anecdote about him returning to Garfield H.S. in Seattle where most of the black kids there had never heard of him. War, Tower of Power, Carlos Santana, Sly & the Family Stone, and Love, were different in one key way from those Motown successes such as Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Smokie, the Supremes, or the roots Blues artists mentioned. These West Coast acts weren't built off of, or expanded from a base of African-American listeners(or in the case of Santana, a Hispanic base). These groups were mainstream rock successes from the get-go. The multi-culturally influenced sound of psychedelic rock, including the British Invasion, set the stage for a broader appreciation of those roots artists, and to a lesser extent the crossover acceptance of the Motown musicians. I first saw Stevie Wonder in 1972 as an opening act for the Rolling Stones. His biggest crossover successes came in the mid-70s with "Talking Book" and "InnerVisions". Indeed, he never lost his core base of listeners when his music crossed over, but his path to success was quite different than Jimi's and those other West Coast groups. I know there is a book by Charles Cross that closely examines Jimi's early life in Seattle. If the question is that London was more important to Jimi's success than Seattle, then there is no argument. As for the most prominent musical imprint on his sound, I argue that those years from 1962 to 1966 in the United States (away from Seattle) touring and experimenting on his own were what established the major base of his sound. As I said, London gave him a last layering. And, when he went to London at first, he traveled light. So, of course, he plugged into the amps the Brits were using. However, if it's a question of which place was more influential on Jimi's "individuality" and his striving to be unique as an artist, I still look at Seattle as being very influential. Even if Seattle had a population of about 500,000 in the 1950's and there was a population of 6% blacks, Jimi was part of a minority base of 30,000 people who were tied to broader African-American cultural influence. He was also forced in Seattle to be more multi-cultural and adaptable than he would have been elsewhere. It's irrelevant whether he liked the city or wanted to go back, Jimi was always a black American from the Pacific Northwest. The English always painted him as an outside anomaly, which, of course, he was for them. I think Jimi's Seattle-derived sense of individuality helped sustain him there and helped him find a way to carve his own niche as a star.
Ed Ward (captward) Sat 17 Nov 07 11:02
>>Frankly, Jimi was 90% plus of the Experience sound and he could have been backed up by any number of bassists and drummers. I can't speak to bassists, but Mitch Mitchell was a dynamo, and was compared to Elvin Jones even back then. He never came close when he wasn't working with Hendrix, either. And although I don't know if you're making the usual mistake of "Motown = Soul Music," Motown is a very bad example of music for a purely black audience or a chitlin' circuit tour, because they crossed over from practically day one, every one of them. What Stevie Wonder did, by defying the Motown machine, was figure out a way to get not only on the AM Top 40 pop stations, but the "underground" FM stations, too.
Scott MacFarlane (s-macfarlane) Sat 17 Nov 07 11:03
<<not to be a kind of passing pop freak show. Steve, among Jimi's peers especially, and among those fans who were more immersive, don't you think that his stature was always more substantive than this?
"The Best for Your Health!" (rik) Sat 17 Nov 07 11:44
" As for the most prominent musical imprint on his sound, I argue that those years from 1962 to 1966 in the United States (away from Seattle) touring and experimenting on his own were what established the major base of his sound." Well, yeah. That's when he learned is trade. But the music he was playing was essentially the same as what other black guitarists were playing. You can easily hear the Curtis Mayfield stuff in his later work when he does his "Little Wing" ballad style. But I don't know where, in the chittlin cirsuit playing, you'd hear any of the overdriven, guitar-as-a-horn-section, playing that became one of the hallmarks of his style. "As I said, London gave him a last layering. And, when he went to London at first, he traveled light. So, of course, he plugged into the amps the Brits were using." It wasn't just the amps. It's the way the brits were using them. Listen to The Who's "I Can See For Miles", or even cruder, Dave Davies' riff on "You Really Got Me". This is where the empire struck back, taking American music and moving it to another place. Hendrix picked it up instantly and raised them in shomanship. He took the British overdriven style and showed them a thing or two about how to do it with the guitar behind his back. THAT was chittlin circuit.
Scott MacFarlane (s-macfarlane) Sat 17 Nov 07 11:52
<<Motown is a very bad example of music for a purely black audience>> Yes, and Motown is also a shining example of a changing America in the '60s where more cultural diversity was being embraced. The Motown success also underscores just how fluid the music scene in the late Sixties had become. The Motown scene, unlike those California fusion groups I mentioned, did also have a strong black American core of fans and, from the early '60s branched out from this base. And, of course, plenty of roots musicians and "Chitlin' Circuit" headliners were comfortable in continuing to play what they were successful with. Jimi, however, was always looking to push the envelope. I think Steve makes a great point that, even after Jimi's phenomenal success via London, he was still looking to push new frontiers of musical expression for himself. IMHO, this is part of that spirit of rugged individualism--a trait of the West--that Jimi clearly possessed. Whether as a back-up to the R&B stars in the South or feeling straight-jacketed by his Experience managers, Jimi wanted more. Heck, maybe it wasn't Seattle/West Coast,the "Chitlin' Circuit", NYC or London that most influenced Jimi. Maybe it was the Army and the drive to: "Be All That You Can Be." [apologies]
Scott MacFarlane (s-macfarlane) Sat 17 Nov 07 11:58
Good clarification, Rik. Maybe if Jimi hadn't died, instead of the Jazz fusion angle, he would have gone back to Sweden to raise his kid. Do you think he might have revolutionized the nyckelharpa? :=)
John Ross (johnross) Sat 17 Nov 07 14:18
Scott, are you familiar with Paul de Barros' history of the Black jazz scene in Seattle, "Jackson Street After Hours?" de Barros documents the very active jazz and R&B scene that evolved in Seattle through the 1940s and 50s. He argues that "What Hendrix did derive from his local background was simple blues discipline and form, for which there were lots of able role models on Jackson Street...Ulitmately, that simple foundation was as important for Hendrix's development as the experiemental sounds he later heard in New York and London." And he quotes local jazz icon Floyd Standifer: "Seattle serves a unqie purpose. It's one of the lovliest incubators you'll ever run into. Seattle was always a place to get it together, or come off the road and reassess yourself. But you can't stay here, if you're going to make it big. You don't have the numbers, first of all. You don't have the market value."
Scott MacFarlane (s-macfarlane) Sat 17 Nov 07 15:13
Good stuff, John. Quincy Jones was a Seattle product and Ray Charles cut his teeth on the Jackson Street scene. Steve, you like to imagine what might have become of Jimi had he lived longer. There is no question that a greater exploration of jazz was in the works, specifically with Gil Evans and Miles Davis. At the time Jimi left Seattle he was not yet 18, so I expect his guitar playing abilities were fairly rudimentary at the time. My point has more to do with his personality, his resolve to conquer new terrain and an adaptable spirit. If we are going to extrapolate on what might have been for Jimi, why not imagine what might have happened had Hendrix come of age musically not in 1965, but in 1990 in Seattle. Had he gone to Garfield High School in the post-school desegregation era, then he would have been exposed to the best music program in the city as part of the magnet (bussing) program. Also, with Jimi's strong inclination to find and follow vibrant musical scenes, I could imagine him being a force in the blues-rock based Grunge scene. The Grunge scene shared much of the vibrancy of the psychedelic rock scene so it is easy to imagine Jimi there. The speculation gets ridiculous however considering that no greater single influence on the grunge guitarists than Jimi himself.
Scott MacFarlane (s-macfarlane) Sat 17 Nov 07 15:16
that [there was] no greater single influence on the grunge guitarists than Jimi himself.
Steven Roby (jimijames) Sat 17 Nov 07 20:14
>> Jimi had more soul and R&B influence to his Bluesy base, and with all the innovative distortions and backfeeding, he sounded like, well, like Jimi Hendrix. Has anyone seen the bonus footage on the new "Jimi Hendrix Experience at Monterey" DVD? I'm talking about the February 1967 show at the Corn Exchange - only two songs; "Like a Rolling Stone" and "Stone Free." If not, go rent/buy it now. This is the earliest concert footage of the Experience, and is simply amazing. The Experience had only formed five months prior. The footage is B&W, the sound is fair, but it gives us a glimpse at what Jimi James and the Blue Flames may have sounded like in 1966; raw, funky, somewhat unpolished, but Jimi's the main attraction. He has that wonderful military jacket on, and there's a brief intro that explains the history behind it - I won't spoil it. Take a look at the crowd as the camera pans; young white kids, some even with ties, having a grand time. If you watch closely you'll see Kathy Etchingham, Jimi's English girlfriend, sitting on top of someone's shoulders, and waving her arms. Jimi's taking his R&B/Blues roots, choppin' it up American style (much like he did on the 1965 "Night Train" video), and the kids were lovin' it. Funny, four months later at Monterey, the group got even better. Compare this club version of "Rolling Stone to the one at Monterey, and the band explodes. What a buzz kill, a few weeks later he's opening for the Monkees. I've come across a great shot of Jimi playing at an outdoor Monkees show. The Monkees bass drum head is elevated behind the group ready for the turn around. Of the top five shows I'd love to find on tape - in no order: Any Experience show opening for The Monkees A Jimi James and the Blue Flames show at Cafe Wha? The New Jersey 1968 concert, after MLK's death. Jimi supposedly played just one song and left the crowd in tears. The Harlem concert in 1969. I do have a tape of this, but the sound is terrible. Jimi's award winning ($25) performance at The Apollo. What's your opinion?
Darrell Jonsson (jonsson) Sun 18 Nov 07 04:56
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Darrell Jonsson (jonsson) Sun 18 Nov 07 05:24
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Darrell Jonsson (jonsson) Sun 18 Nov 07 05:30
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Darrell Jonsson (jonsson) Sun 18 Nov 07 06:11
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Short Version (jonsson) Sun 18 Nov 07 06:27
>That [there was] no greater single influence on the grunge guitarists >than Jimi himself. Jimmy Page comes in as a formidable contender to that claim. >The Jimi Hendrix Experience didn't sound...like Cream...Fleetwood Mac...Savoy Brown...Procol Harem...Jethro Tull...Pink Floyd...Traffic, Humble Pie... Checkout: Graham Bond, James Marshall, Soft Machine, Yardbirds 65-66, Robert Wyatt... and Yardbirds/Page/Beck's 'Happenings 10 years time ago' from 1966. Also Beatles >Maybe if Jimi hadn't died, instead of the Jazz fusion angle, he would >have gone back to Sweden to raise his kid? Hendrix as well would of been very comfortable with the shamanic scandinavian Jazz orientations of the likes of Jan Gabarek and Marie Boine, perhaps far more comfortable than sitting in with Pearl Jam. >Do you think he might have revolutionized the nyckelharpa? :=) Guitar has been mentioned. >Jackson Street = London in Jimi's sound.. One thing to ask about the above Jackson Street quote, is that if the music skills Jimi learned in Seattle could of easily been learned in Chicago, Detroit or Memphis, or elsewhere? As to the post-punk era, Hendrix's spirit lives on more directly via BRC (NYC's Black Rock Coalition), than grunge IMHO. The late Paul Bowles said he felt Tangiers to be the center of the universe. If someone wants to feel that way about Seattle then why not? One thing is clear, to revise music history via a western-centric POV at this point in time will be swimming upstream.
Scott MacFarlane (s-macfarlane) Sun 18 Nov 07 08:49
<<As to the post-punk era, Hendrix's spirit lives on more directly via BRC (NYC's Black Rock Coalition), than grunge IMHO.>> This comment related to Grunge comes from the key guitarists in this Seattle scene who love to cite Jimi as a fundamental influence. If by BRC you mean a group like Living Color, then Jimi's influence was significant there, as well. <<The late Paul Bowles said he felt Tangiers to be the center of the universe. If someone wants to feel that way about Seattle then why not? One thing is clear, to revise music history via a western-centric POV at this point in time will be swimming upstream.>> I was watching the Univ of Washington VS Univ of Cal football game yesterday as I was typing one of these posts. The UW band started playing a Hendrix tune and the announcers were making one of those routine proclamations about Jimi growing up in Seattle. This is celebrity provincialism, and not what I'm talking about. I've been very surprised in this discussion how readily people want to all but discount the influence of Jimi's Seattle/West Coast upbringing on who he became. As a poor kid, Jimi didn't go anywhere outside of the Northwest until he joined the Army. He lived nearly 18 out of his almost 28 years in Seattle. Of course Seattle influenced him. He wasn't from Memphis, Chicago, or Detroit. When I watch him in interviews, he doesn't behave as though he came from those places. Jimi was so driven as a guitarist and so adaptable that he figured out a way to fit into very different scenes in the deep South, NYC and London. I think its irrefutible that Jimi Hendrix, beyond borrowing from many traditions, styles and cutting edge delivery systems, also synthesized a sound and style that was uniquely his own. That yearning to "start over" with his life [away from Seattle] hardly extols Seattle as some center of the universe. And maybe this "frontier" sensibility is not a uniquely a West Coast phenomenon, but it was what defined the western North American experience, historically. This is not revising "music" history, this is trying to create a context for better understanding and appreciating the musical and cultural phenomenon that was Jimi Hendrix. As for Paul Bowles, the fact that Truman Capote spent most of his adult life in NYC, didn't make him a New York writer. He was a Southern writer. James Joyce is never associated with Paris or Germany where he lived much of his adult life. He was the consummate Irishman. Kurt Cobain, Pearl Jam, SoundGarden, and Alice In Chains created what could be called a Seattle rock sound, not Jimi, although Jimi was hugely influential. I think we've outlined in this conference the strong influences of the "Chitlin' Circuit" and London in Jimi's development as a musician, but to obviate the first two-thirds of his life in Seattle as a fundamental influence that shaped him as a person is ridiculous.
"The Best for Your Health!" (rik) Sun 18 Nov 07 09:05
I think Darrell is pointing to something very important here. Personally, I don't hear Seattle in the music of Jimi Hendrix. In the few pre-experience clips I've seen of him, in his role as a support player for other singers, he seems to be a fairly standard R&B musician. He genius seems to me to have been his expropriation of techniques developed by white players - particularly British players - and, by way of his massive talent, raising the bar. He was a musical prodigy, but he didn't come from nowhere. Like Ed, I alway saw him as a British act, coming from the same family as the Who, the Yardbirds, and Cream. Musical genius that he was, his musicianship was only part of what made him. His raw musical talent (I think of him as the Michael Jordan of 60s guitar) was simply a platform for what really put him over top. He was an entertainer. He had the Elvis X factor. He was paradoxically shy and blatantly sexual. He was attractive, and dangerous, but not too dangerous. And while many of his English contemporaries were still dressing like R&B stars, in suits, he had gone completely Haight-Ashbury, in full beads and leathers. The most illuminating evidence in this discussion, alas, does not exist. That would be tapes of the conversations he must have had with Chas. Chandler. I think the invention of Jimi Hendrix was a collaboration, and I'd love to know the details of the contributions of his manager. You can't talk intelligently about the rise of Elvis Presley without talking about Col. Tom Parker, but Chandler always seems to go missing in discussing Jimi. I suspect that he contributed more than we know.
Ed Ward (captward) Sun 18 Nov 07 09:10
The only time I ever saw him was when Jimmy James and the Blue Flames were backing John Hammond, Jr., of all people, at the Gaslight Cafe on McDougal St. in New York. I was too young to have any experience with electric guitar music, although I'd already seen Dylan electric, but I do remember the band wearing suits and the guitarist being pretty good. Talk about a tape *I'd* like to have... Then the Butterfield Band came to the Gaslight, and I interviewed Michael Bloomfield many years later about how he'd sneak across the street during their breaks to see Hendrix perform. From what he said, it would seem that a lot of the technique was already down, but not many people were going to see him. Re-importing him made him exotic.
"The Best for Your Health!" (rik) Sun 18 Nov 07 09:13
(Aside to Scott, who is aware of my obsession with the Swedish band, Vasen, and who actually got to see them play a home game in Stockholm. The player who makes Vasen unique, and who lifts them from a superb folk-based act into high art, is their stunningly original guitarist, Roger Tallroth)
Scott MacFarlane (s-macfarlane) Sun 18 Nov 07 09:49
<< he had gone completely Haight-Ashbury, in full beads and leathers. So could we consider Jimi, in addition to his eclectic musical presence, a well-traveled West Coast black American who became a true hippie? Isn't this hippie personna where he and Sly and Arthur Lee can be differentiated from other black music acts of their time?
"The Best for Your Health!" (rik) Sun 18 Nov 07 10:36
"a well-traveled West Coast black American who became a true hippie?" I don't think he was a hippie. He changed his mode of dress, and he did psychedelics, but his lifestyle excesses weren't all that different than Elvis's or James Brown's, though he does appear to have been a nicer guy than either of them. He had the wherewithall to live the libertine life, and he did so. By the time he hit, the true hippies had left the Haight for Bolinas, "the Farm', and points more rural.^ My point was that you have to see him as an entertainer as much as a musician, and it would be as instructive to investigate the traditions of entertainers as those of musicians. When Jimi set his guitar on fire at Monterey, was it a spontaneous act of showmanship, or was it a reaction to having watched seen the reaction to the destruction that Townshend and Daltry wreaked in closing their set?
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