Getting back

'Tis the season … to go gaga for a guitar guy who's been dead for 43 years?

Well, hell, yeah, sure, why not? You know how it is when sometimes you just get goin' again on somebody that you used to be into, and then forgot about? Forgot about for years? That happened to me recently with one of my lifetime main men, Jimi Hendrix. So I've spent the last few weeks just getting totally retorched by the guy, and finding that this re-torching process is every bit as enjoyable as getting lit up the first time around. And the second. And the third. So it goes.

How the torch got re-lit is immaterial. It just did, resulting in a completely enjoyable immersion in albums, videos and biographies. The liner notes on the re-mixed CD of the first epic album, Are You Experienced, capture a perfect tone of both facetious hype and understated righteousness—“AYE is a key to the union of ancient and futuristic urges.” Totally, man! The same tongue-in-cheek “but seriously” type of hype is there on the notes for album two, Axis: Bold as Love. “Axis is the pivot which connects all music that ever was with all music that will ever be.” I'm down, dude! Preach on!

In the very decent Jimi bio called Roomful of Mirrors (by Charles Cross, who also wrote a bio of Kurt Cobain), there's a passage which will blow the minds of my fellow Baby Boomer electric music heads, meaning those of us who grew up in that grand Golden Age of Rock that occurred from about '64 to '76 (and then the punks showed up and peed in everybody's beer). Cross recounts a night in January '67, when the London grapevine was abuzz with gushing chatter about this new American who was simply extraordinary. So sitting there waiting to see the Jimi Hendrix Experience play in a little dive called the Bag O' Nails were none other than John, Paul, and Ringo from the Beatles, Mick and Brian from the Stones, Pete Townshend and John Entwistle from the Who, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, and Donovan, plus all of the Animals, all of the Small Faces, and assorted other lesser London lights. I mean, can you imagine, stumbling into that joint that night, looking around the room, and saying to yourself, “Uhhh—?” Had a bomb gone off that night in that joint, it's safe to say that Rock 'n' Roll as we know it would have been somewhat altered.

As it turned out, a bomb did go off in the Bag that evening. A bomb named Jimi. He came out, announced they were gonna begin with “Wild Thing,” a popular chunk of trash at the time that impressed absolutely no one in the room. Jimi and band then promptly proceeded to absolutely destroy the place—and every wide-eyed skull in it. At one point, guitarist Terry Reid went to the john and bumped into Brian Jones, who said to Reid, “It's all wet up front.” Reid, confused, asked what he meant. Maybe a lot of spilled drinks or something? Jones replied, “It's wet from all the guitar players crying.”