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?"

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Jimi Hendrix performs on stage at Woburn Pop Festival on August 1968 in Woburn Abbey, UK.
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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."

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"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."

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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."

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

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"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."

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"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."

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"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."

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"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."

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"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."

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"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."

"In England, in the studios they don't have anything to work with compared to what America has. Then they come out with the best sounding records and the most young ideas, the most new sounds in records. The words themselves. For instance, the arrangements they've got are their own particular little scene. The engineers and the things they have in the studios... they're doing some fantastic things just like the way they fought World War II. They hardly had anything but the things they had they used. They could almost work with anything, like if they're forced to."

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"We were supposed to be on the Magical Mystery Tour a long, long time ago when we first got to England. The Beatles used to come to see us sometimes like at certain concerts like the Savoy theatre and Paul McCartney told me about this little scene he had. They were planning to do a film and he wanted us to be in this film. We weren't known then when McCartney asked us and he was trying to help us but we got a nice break before they got the movie together."

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"Last night was the first time we played in so long. We've been doing new tracks that are really fantastic and we've just been getting into them and set our mind. We just got snatched while we were there. You just can't do it if you really enjoy your music. It was like a scene: we were in the studio and we were really into some groovy things. Some really funky little things. And we were snatched out of the studio within a day of knowing nothing. There we were, thrown into the Paris scene, the Olympia Theatre, and we found ourselves waiting for two hours in the London Airport. Then we found ourselves in New York, lost in the street. All these within hours of each other. Then they had a press conference and here you are thinking about these songs. You have these songs in your mind. You want to hurry up and get back to the things you were doing in the studio, because that's the way you gear your mind. And then we were thrown into the Fillmore; we wanted to play there, quite naturally, but you're thinking about all these tracks, which is completely different from what you're doing now. It's not exactly completely different, but it is more polished, more together, more, you know, more us. Plus you play through strange amps . . . if people only knew what state of mind we're in, like we're half there or not; like I don't even remember the Fillmore last night. I felt completely out of my mind."

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"After I'd been in the army 14 months I traveled all the states and played in different groups: Top 40 R&B band, Jackie Wilson, Wilson Pickett, Isley Brothers gigs. I got tired of feeding back in the "Midnight Hour." I was a backing musician playing guitar. Curtis Knight album was from bits of tape they used from a jam session, bits of tape, tiny little confetti bits of tapes . . . it was done. Capitol never told us that they were going to release that crap. That's the real drag about it. It shows exactly how some people in America are still not where it's at, regardless. You don't have no friend scenes, sometimes makes you wonder. That cat and I used to really be friends. Plus I was just at a jam session and here they just try to connive and cheat and use. It was really a bad scene. I knew Curtis Knight was recording, but listen, that was at a jam session. We want to do some sessions with the Jefferson Airplane or Mike Bloomfield or somebody, but that's just musicians jamming. What's wrong with jamming?"

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"To people who are not listening very much, our last LP will put them to sleep right away. When I first saw that design I thought 'It's great,' but maybe we should have an American Indian. The three of us have nothing to do with what's on that Axis cover. The LP came out unplanned. All the songs on it are exactly the way we felt right then. It was recorded eight months ago and two of the songs on it are a year old; "If Six Was Nine" and "She's So Fine." We recorded this album right after the first one. It was the next session after the first. It represents us then, but we've got prettier songs."

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"I just thought about the title. There might be a meaning behind the whole thing: The Axis of the earth turns around and changes the face of the world and completely different civilizations come about or another age comes about. In other words, it changes the face of the earth and it only takes about 1/4 of a day. Well, the same with love; if a cat falls in love or a girl falls in love, it might change his whole complete scene: Axis, Bold as Love . . . 1-2-3 rock around the clock."

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"The changes in music between the two records are for you to decide. We're just playing the way we feel and if you want to sit up here all day and play both our records and listen to the changes and say 'oh yeah, here's a change, remember when we did that!' then we sit around and pat ourselves on the back or either kick each other in the ass. That's what we do. We make records for the public to hear. We cut the record in just 16 days. It was mixed beautifully, but we lost the original mix so we had to re-mix it. Chas and I and the engineer, Eddie Kramer, all of us had to re-mix it the next morning within 11 hours and it's very hard to do that. We're going to take more time. We're in the process of recording now. We're going to do another 'period' album. We've got maybe 5 tracks and when we get about 15 or 18, we'll release it."

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"You prepare the material you use before you take it into the studio in your own mind. Sometimes we write it out, and sometimes we all have something and we pass it along to each other. What we do sometimes is lay down what I might have written by day in my mind all the changes and all that. So we go out there and do a take of it, regardless of how sloppy, then we go back and listen and take the best cuts and talk about what you want to do with it. But this is only when you don't have a solid scene."

This story is from the March 9th, 1968 issue of Rolling Stone.

From The Archives Issue 7: March 9, 1968
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