Words: Sam Probert
Quite categorically one of the most influential, instrumental, explosive, and ultimately talented musicians of the 20th century – oh, and perhaps needless to note, quite possibly the epitome of cool as well – Jimi Hendrix exploded the world’s ideas of what rock music could be. Hendrix was the rarest emerald among many shining diamonds in the 1960s, not only because he was playing the guitar backwards, but because he was so unbelievably complex as a character. Notably, he was extremely shy and introverted but he created this loud, electric sound; and his presence paired with his sound on stage masked a man who suffered immense neglect, plus alcohol and drug abuse, and who eventually succumbed to his demons. He had a real depth to him emotionally, and this made him mysterious and ultimately fascinating.
Seattle-born Hendrix appeared during a time when four men from Liverpool – you may have heard of them, a band named The Beatles – were so on top of the world, providing a sense of newness, revolutionising the pop and rock scene. It was difficult to envisage an innovation on the near horizon. That innovation was shaped by a gentleman who, prior to his music career, had been destined for war in Vietnam. Luckily, by 1962 he was a civilian, and a jobbing musician with acts such as Little Richard and The Isley Brothers. A few years later Hendrix was displaying an array of prowess that no one had really ever laid eyes upon before, specifically with his ever-present Fender Stratocaster. Hendrix’s guitar was such an extension of his body that by the time of his first single, ‘Hey Joe’ in 1966, the everyday Beatles hits sort of became… too familiar and, dare I say, repetitive. Now I know that statement may spark uproar, and you may be tempted to stop reading. But listening to Hendrix play guitar is the purest form of expression and emphatic emotion composed to its maximum potential. Hendrix was in thrall to The Beatles, certainly – he learned and played back ‘Sgt Pepper’ to them live onstage after just one day of release – they just didn’t have a guitarist as experimental and unorthodox as him.
“Hendrix exploded the world’s ideas of what rock music could be.”
Tracks such as ‘Little Wing’ and ‘Voodoo Child’ are gloriously executed in the most seemingly effortless, typical Hendrix fashion that’s so impressive and entertaining. A guitarist can attempt to play such songs their whole life and still not nail them down. At the time of writing, it’s been 51 years since Jimi’s death, and some may say his legacy is now becoming less potent. From an industry perspective, other guitarless genres, such as hip-hop, pop and EDM are thriving, and the data supports this. Hendrix’s art is amazingly innovative, but unfortunately for some, falls under the rock genre which is slowly being eclipsed. But I remain firm with the belief that Hendrix’s presence on stage would have truly been one of the greatest spectacles in music history – starting with his appearance which was clearly heavily inspired by psychedelics and his loyal, fruitful, creativity machine known as LSD. If you look at Hendrix without actually hearing any of his art or knowing anything about him, he is still a graceful sight to behold.
Think colours – and a lot of them – plus silk, silk, and more silk with a touch of velour and some unconventional pieces of jewellery, and let’s be inspired all over again – visually, sonically, emotionally.