Monday Notes

Jimi Hendrix, Hey Joe. Rock star excesses and great music

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[Monday Notes no. 40] Jimi Hendrix’s appearance at the 1967 Monterey festival has become legendary. While playing Hey Joe, the guitarist has a physical, almost carnal relationship with his instrument, playing with the guitar behind his head and even with his teeth.

LThe performance ended in an even more surprising way: Jimi Hendrix destroyed his guitar after setting it on fire. All this may make us smile today, we are now used to a world of entertainment in which anything can happen. At the time, Jimi Hendrix’s provocation was certainly more original.

Jimi Hendrix was a guitar virtuoso and a stage animal who knew how to put on a show and delight his audience. Although in this performance the spectacular aspect absolutely takes centre stage, we can also appreciate the great qualities of the guitarist and his band.

In the first part of the song, the band has a powerful sound but retains enough margin to be able to grow even further. The song is based practically on a single musical phrase, and to make it a piece of over three minutes is not a small achievement.

The trio begins a crescendo around minute 0’50”, when drummer Mitch Mitchell’s fills become longer and thicker, gradually rising in intensity until the guitar solo (1’33”).

Even during the reprise of the vocals (2’17”) the drums continue to improvise, practically becoming the main solo instrument, at least until Jimi Hendrix decides to put his guitar behind the back of his head to give a little more show.

This performance is full of adrenalin; for Jimi Hendrix, music was also an opportunity to put on a show, especially in a live setting. In the few studio albums that he recorded, we can better appreciate his timbral range, the wide pauses, the constant dialogue between voice and guitar. For these reasons, his trio The Jimi Hendrix Experience has been an unmissable reference point for the entire history of rock.

Until next Monday!

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