Hendrix, part the second (or third)

I guess, to put hi-falutin spin on the matter, that sonic dissonance has strong parallels with political or social dissonance. Ask any musical modernist of the Schoenbergian mould. And so all the countercultural kiddies of the 60 identified with their alternative freak-out father figure, the one with the suggestive tongue motions and 'affectionate' guitar style. But it's obviously more than that; it's not just contextual association with the kids and their parent's wars, there's almost something symbolic, something important in all that feedback, all that shuddering noise — and I'm not talking about any biographical acid-fuelled desire to crank it (though this may be the main reason, in the same way George Clinton prompted Funkadelic to let the hair down, get the big amps and play 'real loud, real emotional'). It's like Jimi just loved being in all that noise, surrounded by its aural solidity as it were — I mean his guitar technique is such that he could always control it from being just so much squealing noise — it's like he was at home in it, he wanted it. Because noise is quickly fatiguing. And of course it's a lot more fun painting sheets of noise when you're audience is chemically-keyed. All those trademark hammer-ons, says Eric Burdon, I think, synchronised with the phase-pitches of acid in your mind — hence Jimi's wild pointed yeah's to the audience when he spots the trippers synching to the sounds. (This is also so much background. I think our modern guitar pyrotechnicians are just as likely to kick out contempt for their audience as sympathetic experience, let alone guitar picks. How far we've travelled.) But then why the queasy impact of the Star Spangled Banner, the feeling that the partnered noise is all about destruction and things coming apart at the seams — and this purely sonically? Where else does this happen? Heavy metal is just rhythm. Neil Young's live outros are just rumbling drones of noise. Noise orchestras are just that. Any guitarist playing the Banner now seems like any another American. Or was Jimi way more keyed to the delicate hypocrisies and iniquities of America, its multi-racial dualities which could be played on with a dash and twist of noise? More probing, say, than a punk rocker cranked to 11 singing 'bout dole queues? Let's look at it this way. American artistic culture strongly driven by action (as you all know), by things that move (cf Hunter S.) or which ring up mobility. And in the broader sense then, the genius of action has raw physical talent which dominates his ability to explain it, he acts purely from ability and not from ideas or artistic conception, a sensibility of doing. Everything from jazz improvisers to Elvis, living in the act. With Jimi, I think, his talent was so vast, so controlled that he claimed the sonic world of noise with it — because he could. Noise was the complete antithesis of clean guitar chops and phrases, all Les Paul and Chet Atkins, and Jimi just commanded the whole expressive gamut, made it answer and act responsively. And in a clichéd nod to the loneliness of the genius, I'd say that the noise was a throwback to Jimi's massive talent hailing it's own massive equal. Finding himself in it. True, he never stayed in feedback for very long, but began using it (in solos) to abet his playing, using it as a groundswell for phrasings and segues between. That is, not just as someone who's mastered the electric guitar (and even that as though for the first time in history), but who was a complete guitarist — in the full technical sense, ability-instrument-pedals-effects-amplifier-studio — in addition to all that feedback and unpredictability. And to get really sentimental, I think the noise was actually comforting as an expressive aid in dealing reactively-musically with the idiocy and extremes of the 60s scene. It's not just the dark side of a massive talent, to get even more sentimental, but a comfort with opposites and negations, a wider ability to integrate and hence work out the hypocricies and iniquities behind the familiar melodies and niceties. Jimi's prime action was always musical first, and political secondarily. His own blues-based world, when he had to resort or escape to it, was laden with noise but then again so was the world he moved in.

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