I'd like to do a little write-up in honor of the new album of mostly new and restored recordings of Jimi Hendrix. I have been a Hendrix fan for many years and have always felt like we were kindred spirits. I'd like to take a moment and talk about the Hendrix road less traveled The deep cuts. The amazing songs that no one knows about, presented in roughly chronological order. Of course this is not a real top 10, but I couldn't resist the urge to go for the cheap "listicle" format. People will read the top ten of anything.
Songs I will not be including: Foxy Lady, Manic Depression, Fire, Purple Haze, The Wind Cries Mary, Castles Made of Sand, Crosstown Traffic, or Voodoo Chile (Slight Return). Those songs are amazing, everyone's heard them.
Because of his hits, people consider Jimi some kind of superhuman voodoo sex machine (which he probably was), but these cuts point out the sweet, loving sci-fi nerd deep within Jimi. This is the Jimi I've always seen.
1. May This Be Love
This is Jimi's ode to daydreaming, and is basically a love song to an inner spiritual guide he calls "Waterfall". This originally only appeared on the US and not the UK versions of Are You Experienced, making it an ideal deep cut. Featuring some of the amazing, watery, mellow guitar Jimi excelled at. There's a plodding, thick drumbeat wherein he tells "Waterfall" why he thinks it is so damn groovy, and then an impassioned defense of daydreamers. Gorgeous and uplifting from the first moment to the last.
2. Wait Until Tomorrow
Jimi shows up atop a ladder to elope with his love, Dolly Mae, and she tells him that she thinks they should think about it one more day. With predictably fatal results.
3. Up From The Skies
This is Jimi's plea for aliens to contact him. Mitch Mitchell drops in a soft-brushed drumbeat while Jimi plays some of the grooviest and subtlest guitar while he tells the aliens that he wants to "hear and see everything". I said it was groovy and I meant it.
4. Little Miss Lover
Why this wasn't a single, I have no idea, since to me it stands right along other, more famous barn burners like Foxy Lady or Fire. This is, in my mind, the sexiest Hendrix song ever recorded.
5. Bold as Love
God knows how many drugs Jimi was on when he came up with the concept for the album Axis: Bold as Love. There's a line in Bold as Love (the song) where Jimi says, "I'm bold as love, just ask the axis," so presumably the title of the album (Axis: Bold As Love) is the response in screenplay format. Jimi goes through the colors a couple of times in the lyrics, and then finally, at the end, explodes into one of psychedelic rock's formative moments when he blows the whole world's mind by pioneering the "phase effect". I wish you could be high on LSD for just… just the four minutes and 12 seconds it takes to play this song so you could really, you know, get it man. And then get back to work cause it's not fucking 1967 anymore. Yeah.
6. Burning of the Midnight Lamp
Jimi Hendrix was so far out that he actually thought this paon to the depths of inner loneliness was going to be a hit song. It is a sincere and beautiful song with heartfelt lyrics describing his isolation at the time. It's a great song, I think, but the kids don't run out and buy albums written by Debbie Downer.
7. 1983 … (A Merman I Should Turn To Be) / Moon Turn The Tides … gently gently away
I'm pretty sure this song actually made a label suit actually cry at one point. It's a 14 minute multi-movement sci-fi epic about retreating to an undersea realm because of the horrors of war and includes a several minute long tone-poem depicting reality underwater. In the first movement (up to about the 3 minute mark) Jimi describes the sad state the world has got itself into and why the powers that be don't think going underwater is a viable idea. Then in the next movement, Jimi describes his lover and he making love in the sand as they prepare to say goodbye to the world they've known. Then, at about the four and a half mark, a soundscape begins as they go down into the sea with all kinds of eerie sounds. At the 6 minute mark, guitar and melody begin to come back including a drum solo (8 minute mark) and really gorgeous little bass solo played by Jimi himself (9:30). At about the 11 minute mark the next movement begins where Jimi and his love are now under water going deeper and deeper, chilling with Neptune and various mermaids and such. Hey this didn't turn out so bad after all. Finally in the last minute or so Jimi sends us out with one last shredding guitar solo which ends in oscillating bird sounding electronic noises which lead into (if you want extra credit) the next song, a one minute set of oscillating tones called Moon, Turn The Tides … gently gently away. Whew. And they pressed this to wax! In 1968!
8. Power of Love
By this point The Jimi Hendrix experience was over, and Jimi was jamming with blues great Buddy Miles. He owed the label one album and gave them Band of Gypsies, taken from two nights of recordings on New Years Eve '69/'70 at the Fillmore East here in New York City. I put this song on a mix-tape for a 4 year old once, and didn't have any idea what he was talking about when he referred to "the jellyfish song". Well, eventually I finally caught that part of the lyrics:
It's so groovy to float around sometimes
Even a jelly fish will tell you that
I said floatation is groovy, and easy
Even a jelly fish will agree to that
Yeah, but that old jelly fish
Been floatin' around so long
Lord he ain't got a bone in his jelly back
Floatin' every day and every night
Ridin' high is a risk
Sometimes the wind ain't right
Don't get put off by the pyrotechnics that start the song, it settles into a deep blues groove as he lays out the power of love. One of my all time favorite Jimi Hendrix songs.
9. My Friend
A world-weary Hendrix wrote one of the most hilarious of his songs, about being out on the road. The conversation in the beginning is simulated, and you can even hear Hendrix himself jabbering a little in the background pretending to be a regular joe at one of his shows. A the beginning of the song, a lady of the night (bourbon and coke possessed words) recognizes him and says "haven't I seen you somewhere in hell?" and "before [he] can ask, 'was it the east or west side?'" he's run over by her cart. In the third act he "just got out of a Scandinavian jail, and I'm on way back home to you". Then, he ruefully reminds us in the refrain that his only friend talks, sees, looks and feels like you, and you do just the same as him. What happened to "waterfall" right? I truly love this song, and if there was any justice in the world it would be in every karaoke book in the world.
I will end with a beautiful love song about an angel.