Jimi Hendrix On Early Influences, 'Axis' and More

"I heard one of Muddy Waters' old records when I was a little boy and it scared me to death, because I heard all of those sounds. Wow, what is that all about?"

Jimi Hendrix, archive, Jimi Hendrix Experience, guitar, voodoo child, Rolling Stone
Jimi Hendrix on the cover of Rolling Stone.
Baron Wolman

I started playing the guitar about 6 or 7, maybe 7 or 8 years ago. I was influenced by everything at the same time, that's why I can't get it together now. Like I used to like Buddy Holly and Eddie Cochran and Muddy Waters and Elvin James. See a mixture of those things and hearing those things at the same time, which way do you go . . . B. B. King and so forth.

"The first guitarist I was aware of was Muddy Waters. I heard one of his old records when I was a little boy and it scared me to death, because I heard all of those sounds. Wow, what is that all about? It was great. And I like Albert King. He plays completely and strictly in one way, just straight funk blues. New blues guitar, very young, funky sound which is great. One of the funkiest I've heard. He plays it strictly that way so that's his scene."


"Down south at some funky club, one cat up there starving to death and he might be the best guitar player you ever heard and you might not know his name."


What are the different trips you get into behind recording?
"Oh, man, the sounds. If you write an abstract song for instance, you know, with slightly abstract words that doesn't go exactly like 'I love you, will you screw me tonight?' It doesn't go exactly like that. It might go 'I felt the ceiling fall under me' and all this mess, you know. You can make the sound happen. In studios now you can actually emphasize certain words that you want to get across. Instead of saying like, 'Will you make love to me tonight?' all of a sudden there's this big crash. So therefore, quite naturally, the sounds come very heavily. There's not gimmicks or nothing like that because we show our side as a recording group. Then when we play in person, you've already heard the record, and you want us to play the song like the record. We could either bring the whole box of tapes on stage or you could go back home and take pictures of us and set them up on the wall and listen to the record. It works both ways in person, like we do the record quite naturally as close as possible and we do it our own way on stage and you hear different sides of the mood to this particular song."

The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time: Jimi Hendrix


"Sousaphone and harmonica is a great sound together, playing completely in unison."


"Steve Cropper turned me on millions of years ago and I turned him on millions of years ago too, but because of different songs. Like we went into the studio and we started teaching each other. I found him at the soul restaurant eating all this stuff right across from the studio in Memphis. I was playing on this Top 40 R&B Soul Hit Parade package with the patent leather shoes and hairdo combined. So anyway I got into the studio and said, 'Hey man, dig, I heard you're all right; that anyone can come down here if they've got a song' so we went into the studio and did a song and after that it was just with guitar and he was messing around with the enginering and it's just a demo acetate. I don't know where it's at now. After we did that we messed around the studio for 4 or 5 hours doing different little things, it was very strange. He turned me on to a lot of things. He showed me how he played certain songs and I showed him how I played 'Mercy, Mercy' or something like that, then I showed him. It was about 3 or 4 years ago."


"At the Monterey Festival, I decided to destroy my guitar at the end of the song. It was a painted guitar. I'd just finished painting it that day and was really into it. I had my little bag on stage. I had my rawhide bag on stage, carried everything in it including kerosene for my lighter which was given to me by Chas at Christmas. In Washington, D.C. I destroyed my guitar again. It was accidental."


"I think of people who say that setting your guitar on fire has nothing to do with the music as cellophane, bags and bags of cellophane. Of cellophane but in big bags of cellophane. Have you ever thought of lighting cellophane on fire? There's no need to."


"The wah-wah pedal is great because it doesn't have any notes. Nothing but hitting it straight up using the vibrato and then the drums come through and that there feels like that, not depression, but that loneliness and that frustration and the yearning for something. Like something is reaching out."


"We play certain places in the States. In England, we played almost everywhere you can name. Both of the audiences listen, like in the States if they like you, they do; if they don't, they don't and they'll show it. In the States they know who you are on stage, you play one single note, they say, 'Oooh, aaahhh.' In England, they appreciate it just as much as anywhere else. Sweden is the one that shows appreciation more than anybody. They show it by being completely silent while you're playing, completely. I mean like there are a few rockers back there, running around falling out of balconies. The average person you know, they're completely quiet, and they wait until every last thing is over and then they clap. Sounds like the walls caving in. It's great when they go 'oohh, aahh,' but not when you know you're not playing nothing. Really, you know, it's hard to say which ones are better, or which ones more appreciative 'cause they show it in all different ways. There are different ways of showing it. Like if you don't know the ways in France, you'd think you wouldn't know where in the hell you're at. In France, like the first time you'd go over there you might not know where you're at, 'cause it's a different reaction, different ways they show. You say, 'Oh, man, does that mean good or bad?' They got so many different ways all over the world of showing appreciation. So therefore, as long as they listen, that's what counts, really, from the beginning. That is the whole scene from the beginning. All the other good or bad or indifferent comes after that. Just as long as they listen."


"Chas asked me to come to England and get a group going together. Chas knows a lot of telephone numbers. Like Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames and all these other people. We had a jam and Noel came around. Noel plays guitar really. He came for the auditioning of the new Animals and we happened to be in the same building. Chas asked him to play bass and it worked out. Then we start playing almost every day for so long, rehearsed for three days then played the biggest theater in Europe, the Paris Olympia, with Johnny Halliday. Paris Olympia is worse than playing the Apollo. Four days after we got together we were playing the Olympia. It is the biggest thing in Europe. The reception was great and we played four songs. We were trying to get together. We did everything. We never played these songs except once in Germany. We got together with "Midnight Hour," "Land of 1000 Dances," "Everyone Needs Someone to Love," and "Respect."

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Song Stories

“Bird on a Wire”

Leonard Cohen | 1969

While living on the Greek island of Hydra, Cohen was battling a lingering depression when his girlfriend handed him a guitar and suggested he play something. After spotting a bird on a telephone wire, Cohen wrote this prayer-like song of guilt. First recorded by Judy Collins, it would be performed numerous times by artists incuding Johnny Cash, Joe Cocker and Rita Coolidge. "I'm always knocked out when I hear my songs covered or used in some situation," Cohen told Rolling Stone. "I've never gotten over the fact that people out there like my music."

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