It seems there’s a natural 60s convergence going on lately, with the recent death of Velvet Underground street poet Lou Reed, the upcoming American Experience four-hour documentary of JFK in remembrance of the 50-year anniversary of the death of the president, and tomorrow’s (Nov. 5) premiere of a two-hour PBS documentary (“Jimi Hendrix: Hear My Train A Comin'”) about guitar legend Jimi Hendrix. Everyone’s familiar (I’d hope) with the Hendrix classics, “Hey Joe”, “Purple Haze”, “Little Wing”, “Castle Made of Sand”, “Bold As Love”, “Crosstown Traffic”, Voodoo Child”, “Fire” and many others. I figured I’d talk about three of the “lesser” gems in the Hendrix catalog that I love, for a variety of reasons:
ONE RAINY WISH: Almost everyone remembers Hendrix for his searing guitar solos, but the guy was a good lyric writer too, especially when it came to the softer of life’s elements, like love. One of my favorite gems is a song called “One Rainy Wish”, from off Jimi Hendrix and The Experience’s 1967 sophomore record, “Axis: Bold As Love”. The song begins with this beautiful sentiment, “Golden rose, the color of the dream I had / Not too long ago / Misty blue and lilac too / A never to grow old”, before lighting the flame to the song with the lines, “I have never laid eyes on you / Not before this timeless day / But you walked and ya once smiled my name / And you stole my heart away.” Not only are the lyrics first class, but that latter chorus is sung in tandem with a vocally-toned guitar that seems to snake in between the lyrical breaks, congealing the entire phrasing into a power pack of passion and energy. I could put that chorus on repeat for hours.
THIRD STONE FROM THE SUN: Let’s face it, “Third Stone From the Sun” is a stoner’s paradise. A seven minute, mainly-instrumental mix of playfully melodic guitar, steady bass strumming, and weird Eastern-guitar accents that lead into the song’s odd build-ups and Hendrix’s spoken-word poetics, along with those of band manager Chas Chandler. Hendrix was a master of the lilting daydream, and the sonic psychedelic journey. I always felt this song was conceived on another planet. It’s bizarre in the best sense. If you listen to the lyrics closely, Hendrix takes the point of view of an entity/alien arriving outside the earth’s atmosphere in a spaceship, who radios back to base about this “stone” he’s found. The song is a glorification of the visual majesty and beauty of the earth, but served up with delicious caveat: The people on the planet are less than stellar, and the alien decides to end them all — “the end” is a sort of dual metaphor for destruction and a soaring solo (that’s all wah-wah’ed out like some futuristic air-raid siren) that finishes off everything, including the track itself. It’s majestic.
HEY GYPSY BOY: Lastly, I’d suggest listening to the elegant blues of “Hey Gypsy Boy”, which was released just last year. Yes, there have been a number of complaints over the years, from hardcore fans, about the posthumous release of doctored or shoddy material from the Hendrix camp in charge of releasing his tunes. Alan Douglas’ “Midnight Lightning” comes to mind. But last year’s “People, Hell & Angels” didn’t touch the originals, but to clean up the sound. It’s all original post-Experience material. And my favorite from that release is 1969’s “Hey Gypsy Boy”, the precursor to 1971’s “Hey Baby (New Rising Sun)”, in all its short but uncorrupted glory. — Words and artwork by David D. Robbins Jr.