My anecdotal memory of Hendrix interviews is slight but forceful:
1. A B&W TV interview in which a remarkably juvenile-sounding Hendrix talks about his songs — actually, it may have been a press conference, which setting all the more seems a strange place to talk about songwriting abilities — and he talks about his unhappy songs, all his depressive or down songs (that's right, I think Manic Depression was the cue question) and his inability, inate-seeming, to write happy or positive numbers. Of the kind the McCartney 60s might identify with more readily. The speaking tone was on-tour fatigued & honest.
2. Again B&W, talking about the wah peddle and how it's kinda cool because it has no notes but pure sound. Burning of the Midnight Lamp was the cue — no, actually, this one was the juvenile-sounding one. I think he was being interviewed by a journo of the 'what's your fave colour' mould.
3. There's also a colour interview on the Dick Cavett Show (?) tacked with a performance of Isabella, with comments I can't quite recall at the mo but which were much more pointed and intelligent. Beyond the silken threads my memory fails. Always rely on your first impression, I say, because repetition brings everything back to the banal, especially with interviews.
Oh and there's the truckloads of interviews with Noel Redding sodding on about insecure Jimi and friends in the studio, Jimi losing masters, Jimi too spaced to play in Germany. Forget all that. Funnily enough, the only person I've heard interviewed about the interesting soul of Hendrix is Flea. Waxing like a fan in love of course, but brave enough to mention the spirit of the man and the soul of the music, its beauty.
Like Brian writing songs (see Friends liner notes), everything is keyed to the 'feel', everything comes from that. I say that Jimi wrote songs from the soul, from innate feel of ability. I must've mentioned this elsewhere. OK we can also talk of roustabout love on the road, yer foxy women and little lover misses. And your acid dreams and noisescapes. But notice, never songs of personae or ironic put-on: subjectively, Jimi is remarkably consistent. Music to caress and move into. Angels, emotional colours. Something like the feeling of pursuit mixed with constrained unhappiness, something to route all yer unfulfilled-biographic-romanticism into. Your 'what ifs' and 'could've beens' jazz. One of my electric dreams is Miles and Jimi up on stage together — that's cultural shift right before your eyes — jazz, the ultimate ability and form, and electricity, force, melodic weight in the Hendrix corner.
But back to initial impressions. There's plenty of titty later. To be honest, all I could think about when hearing Midnight Lamp for the first time on groove-worn vinyl (the track had been over-played) was the jarring difference of the song on a blues-based album. I suppose any harpsichord will do that. But at the same time it's a consummate 60s track. A song with intensities and emotive peaks and trippity sounds… and which yet is about solitude. Which, on pristine CD relistens grows beyond the initial 'drag' — the fatiguing familiarity of solitude, distance and repetitive tripping. It's not an argument or a wisened song of broken hearts and commitment spurned, no 50s schtick. But then again how many 60s songs deal so directly, in expressive terms, with solitude? Where is the hallmark unity and experience of the time? It's definitely one of the signature Hendrix tunes — with distinct and tensed forces — the extraordinarily tough drums and deeply melodic bass (I mean for a pop single, what drumming!). I've seen the doco with Chas (I believe) pushing the levels and isolating the track — but I've never heard anyone talk about the song openly, I mean, what can you say, Jimi was lonely? Solitude is very difficult to talk about, in musical terms especially — and instead of a gentle self-rocking lullaby he made this almost scathing, heavy track — the wah rhythm chops really are explosions; the wavering, spinning backing chorus; the burn. Jimi obviously dealt with the issue intensely, he makes his enemy powerful. Had solitude been expressed with anything as remotely tough; had music ever illuminated and yet fought against solitude so strongly? And all within such a simple, melodic framework.
Amidst the emphatic acid allusions & tropes & associations (ever-falling dust, someone who'll buy & sell for me), it's all still highly atypical, as though acid brings out the essential solitude, harbinger of future rooms of mirrors, and not all the love children chanting smile on yer brother. Which prompts me to say, necessarily, that at no point, no matter how intense the Yellow Sunshine or Ohms happen to be, is it ever purely acid doing the talking. Acid alone doesn't give you the nobility to deal with solitude eloquently. Like any diversion-distraction-bender, drugs are as much a conduit (and I say very bent conduit) for illuminating elements or combinations of self that previously wouldn't have raised a giggle. But it does make for peculiar word-association styles (Feel Flows eg), particular self-mirror externalisations, it does bring out flavours and intensities of loneliness otherwise dormant (Maggot Brain).
- Is a little more than enough
It really doesn't bother me too much at all
That same old fireplace
And I continue, alone
Lonely, lonely, my mind.