Tag Archives: Jimi Hendrix

Blue (Independence Day) Monday

This version of “The Star-Spangled Banner” isn’t as widely known as the one from the Woodstock festival, but it’s every bit as awesome in its own right. Better still, the cameraman (and the director) had the sense to focus as often as possible on what Jimi Hendrix is doing to the guitar. One of my biggest beefs with the Woodstock film is that Michael Wadleigh kept the camera on the man’s face instead of his hands.

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Blue Monday

I’ve been going through a heavy Jimi Hendrix phase with the bookstore playlist, balanced off with additional Seventies-vintage Eno tracks as palette cleansers. For years I favored Are You Experienced over any other Hendrix album, but I’ve come to realize how badly I underrated Axis: Bold As Love. I’m particularly taken with “Little Wing,” and apparently I have plenty of company. Lots of musicians and groups have put their own spin on the Hendrix classic.

This one by the Corrs is the biggest surprise:

I guess it’s only to be expected that Steve Vai would have a version. While there’s no denying his musicianship, I find Vai’s music often comes up short in the soul department, particularly in this case:

Now this is more like it:

I have never liked Eric Clapton’s bombastic take on “Little Wing.” Part of the song’s charm is its offhanded feel. It sounds like something that popped into Hendrix’s head while he watched a woman walk past.  I invariably skip past the Claptonized version when I listen to the Layla album, but for some listeners it was their way into the Hendrix catalogue:

But why should they have all the fun? Here’s your chance to play it yourself:

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Blue Monday

Embarrassingly enough, my first actual Jimi Hendrix album purchase was not one of the certified classics — not Are You Experienced, Axis: Bold As Love, or Electric Ladyland — and not even the two posthumous albums compiled from the songs Hendrix had mostly completed just before his untimely death — The Cry of Love, Rainbow Bridge — but Crash Landing, the first of two 1975 albums cobbled together by producer Alan Douglas from the huge backlog of Hendrix work tapes. The releases scandalized Hendrix fans because Douglas had peeled off the backing instrumentation and re-recorded the tracks using anonymously competent studio pros. Douglas claimed the existing versions were unreleasable, but fans and critics noted that the move also allowed Douglas to grab co-songwriting credits on two very lucrative albums.  The result was that Crash Landing and Midnight Lightning were the only two Hendrix albums to appear in record-store cutout bins, which is where I found them. I’d been meaning to check out this Hendrix guy for a while, and to my teenaged brain this seemed like a low-cost way to do it.

So I listened, and heard some great guitar playing, but hardly the kind of thing to justify the John-the-Baptist imitations that happened whenever critics mentioned Hendrix. Forgive me, people, I was young and ignorant. The only Crash Landing track that offered a glimmer of understanding was “Peace in Mississippi,” a dose of feedback heaven that riveted my attention.

Compare the Crash Landing version with the untampered-with version at the top of this post, and you’ll hear the subtle differences. Eventually I found my way to the original Hendrix albums, and I understood what I’d been missing. And decades later, the Hendrix family managed to wrest their late son’s legacy from the hands of the vandals, and the Hendrix legacy was properly released.

Ironically, both Crash Landing and Midnight Lightning — long deleted and out of print — have become collector’s items. What I assume are bootleg CDs go for upwards of forty bucks. If you’re the sort of completist who must have everything the man played in every conceivable configuration, that price might seem worthwhile. But believe me, the two bucks I paid for them in the late Seventies was just the right price — even more so today.

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Blue Monday

Not many guitarists could say they schooled Jimi Hendrix — say it without being laughed out of the room, at any rate — but Johnny Jones was a member of that extremely small circle of musicians. Jones (who died last month at the age of 73) was a leading light of the Nashville blues scene, and he showed the young Hendrix a thing or two, as he recalls in the clip above. Jones’ first band, the Imperial Seven, had a bass player named Billy Cox, who had met Hendrix in the Army and invited his friend to sit in with the group. Cox later recorded with Hendrix on Band of Gypsys.    

Jones was far better known in Europe than in the U.S. Ironically, it was a soul-styled cover version of “Purple Haze”  that gave Jones his overseas calling card: 

Late in life, Jones played out a good deal with his friend Doc Blakey:

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Blue Monday

Nobody does Hendrix like Eric Gales, as this clip shows: “Resurrection” and “Paralyzed” might as well be outtakes from Electric Ladyland, instead of lead-off cuts on Gales’ first and second albums. That’s older brother Eugene Gales on bass and vocals, but Eric owns the stage during the instrumental breaks. A highlight of Gales’ shows has long been his apocalyptic cover version of the Beatles’ “I Want You (She’s So Heavy),” but I haven’t been able to find a clip.

In this 2007 clip, Gales drops the Stevie Ray Vaughan haberdashery for the Huxtable look. We’ll give him points for nostalgia:

Though Gales plays his Strat upside down, just like You Know Who, he is not left-handed. Eugene Gales, who is left handed, taught him how to play and Gales never modified the technique.

Here is a clip from the 2008 Experience Hendrix tribute tour, playing “Waterfall” with Eric Johnson:

Unfortunately, Gales is currently doing time on drug and weapons charges:

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