Life has gotten less hectic for Hendrix during the winter. He'd moved away from the house with all those musicians. "I was trying to save more time for myself," he explained. "Where I could do more writing."
What kind of writing?
"Mostly it's cartoon-type material. I make up this one cat who's funny. He goes through these strange scenes, you know. You put it in music, I guess. Just like you put blues in music."
Was this something like writing long compositions?
"Pieces. I guess that's what you call it. Yeah, like pieces behind each other. Like movements, whatever you call it. I been writing some of those."
It would be simpler for Jimi if he knew how to write music, instead of having to remember it as it comes to him. He's been meaning to learn how to read music for a long time now. He needs it to express the larger concepts he's carrying in his head.
"Yeah. I was into writing cartoons, basically. You listen to it and you get such funny flashbacks." This dialogue comes through a lot better in Jimi's own gauzed and sinewy voice, with all the hesitation and musical jangles that come through in his speech, just like when he sings. "The music goes along with the story. Just like 'Foxy Lady.' I mean, something like that. The music and the words go together."
How does he write his music? What methods does he follow?
"Most of the time I can't get it on the guitar, you know? Most of the time I'm just laying around day-dreaming and hearing all this music. And you can't, if you go to the guitar and try to play it, it spoils the whole thing, you know? – I just can't play guitar that well, to get all this music together."
He repeated his desire to learn to write music for all the different instruments. He's thinking about getting down something big, that's for sure. Some day.
One result of his informal education in music is that most of the Experience's songs have taken shape inside the recording studio. "Foxy Lady" did. Hendrix came in with the lyrics, and among the three of them, they developed the musical line and the bottom and drum parts and the whole structure of it. This partly explained why Hendrix was back with the Experience – because they could really work together that way – despite the rumors of bad, bad feelings within the group. (Noel Redding had said, some while back, that he would never be part of a Hendrix group again. Now that was forgotten. He and Mitchell said there had only been two major fights in the three years of the Experience, and all they came to was a lot of shouting.)
Redding: "Actually, the reason we work everything out in the studio is so everything will get as live and as actual as possible."
Hendrix: "It's like 'Voodoo Child.' Somebody was filming us as we were doing that. It was basically for the filming, we thought. We weren't thinking about what we were playing. We did it like three times."
Mitchell: "There's like a riff and we were just doing that . . . "
Hendrix: "Yeah, right, as they were filming us . . . "
Mitchell: "We were just doing it for the camera."
Hendrix: "It was like. 'Okay, boys, look like you're recording.' It was in the studio and they were recording it, you know, really. So it was one-two-three and then we went into 'Voodoo Child.' "
Hendrix invented the words as he went along, and the whole thing was improvised on the spot. It stuck. That's one of the versions on the album.
If there are any definite plans concerning the release of the next Hendrix LP, nobody was prepared to describe them. Hundreds of hours of studio time have yielded hundreds of hours of music which could possibly be included. On top of that, there are dozens of tapes of live performances by the Experience, by the Band of Gypsies, and by the Experience augmented with Juma and his avant garde ensemble (the latter taken at Woodstock). Hendrix is inclined to think that he would not include stuff by both the Gypsies and the Experience on the same LP. His immediate thought seems focused on two different singles. One would be by the Gypsies, entitled "Sky Blues Today."
The LP, however, will not consist of individual tracks like singles, but will be one continuous, sustained work. All three, Redding, Mitchell and Hendrix, absolutely do not want singles released "out of context" from the LP, the way "Crosstown Traffic" was pulled out of Electric Ladyland for release. They all feel this was a mistake on Reprise's part. A musical mistake; its sales are beside the point.
For the new album, they're planning on releasing a sort of "introductory" single, which might have one of the album's songs for its basic line, plus references to a lot of other things on the larger work. They're working, as usual, with engineer Eddie Kramer and longtime Hendrix associate Chas. Chandler as producer.
On Electric Ladyland, Hendrix was listed as producer. What did that mean, exactly? What had his role been?
"I don't know, really," Hendrix said, quite directly. "I haven't found out yet. 'Cause I heard it, and I think it's cloudy. The sound is very, you know, dusty."
Then that hazy, cloudy sound was unintentional?
"It got lost," he explained briefly, "in the cutting. Because we went on tour right before it was finished."
It was reported that Hendrix had been rehearsing the Band of Gypsies up to 18 hours a day. He laughed when asked about this. They did play 12 and 14 hours some days, he admitted, but it wasn't rehearsal, it was jamming for fun. They were grooving behind it. He still digs playing with Cox and Miles, and they're still friends. Hendrix repeated this a number of times.
What had happened to the Gypsies was that Hendrix had walked offstage, right at the start of a major appearance, and hadn't appeared with them since. This was at the January Moratorium benefit at Madison Square Garden. They had barely begun when he stopped, dropped his axe, said into the microphone, "We're not quite getting it together," and walked off. This was precisely one month after Bill Graham had given them his ultimate accolade. I asked Jimi what had happened to blow the Gypsies apart.
"Maybe," he began, "I just started noticing the guitar for a change. It's like the end of a beginning maybe or something. I figure that Madison Square Garden is like the end of a big long fairy tale. Which is great. I think it's like the best ending I could possibly have come up with.
"The Band of Gypsies was outasite as far as I'm concerned. It was just . . . going through head changes is what it was, I really couldn't tell – I don't know: I was very tired. You know, sometimes there's a lot of things that add up in your head about this and that and they might hit you at a very peculiar time, which happened to be at the peace rally, you know? And here I'd been fighting the biggest war I ever fought. In my life. Inside, you know? And like that wasn't the place to do it."
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