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22 August 2009 :: 23:08:52 pm 2346

All Along the Watchtower: Jimi Hendrix

A journeyman left-handed guitarist who learned his licks playing behind such artists as Sam Cooke, Ike & Tina Turner, Little Richard, Wilson Pickett, King Curtis and the Isley Brothers, James Marshall Hendrix, born in November 1942 in Seattle, was performing with his band as Jimmy James & The Blue Flames at New York‘s Cafe Wha? when he was spotted by Animals bass guitarist Chas Chandler in August 1966.
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In fact he was already a figure of some interest having been seen by record label moguls Andrew Loog Oldham and Seymour Stein (who both turned him down), while Mick Jagger and Keith Richards had also paid a visit. Keith Richards’ girlfriend Linda Keith had even lent Hendrix one of Keith’s guitars (!), a brand new Stratocaster, and it was she who recommended Hendrix to Chandler. Ms Keith would soon transfer her affections to Hendrix, though Richards didn’t seem to mind and later remarked, “I had a chick run off with Jimi Hendrix once. I think he’s a nice cat actually.” (Hendrix also allegedly slept with his guitar, calling it his ‘electric lady’, hence the title of his third album.)

The Animals were wrapping up a final US tour when Chandler went to see the man who would become his first client as a rock manager. Chandler was stunned – “I thought immediately he was the best guitarist I’d ever seen” – and even more so when he heard Hendrix performing ‘Hey Joe’. “I’d come across this record on the tour (by Tim Rose) and I was determined to get somebody to record it in England – and when I first saw Jimi he was actually playing it, so I thought, ‘Here’s the man to record ‘Hey Joe’.” Chandler persuaded Hendrix to go to England where auditions swiftly coupled him with drummer Mitch Mitchell and bass player Noel Redding. (Chandler had also suggested to Brian Auger that he and his Trinity back Hendrix, an offer Auger politely declined. See ‘This Wheel’s On Fire’.) The name change to Jimi Hendrix was agreed on the flight over the Atlantic and Hendrix’ explosive guitar playing style swiftly drew admiration from his contemporaries Eric Clapton, Pete Townshend, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page and the Emperors of Pop, The Beatles, together with across the board acclaim from the UK music press. Turned down at Decca by Dick Rowe (the man who infamously also gave the Beatles the thumbs down), Chandler got Hendrix a deal with Who managers Chris Stamp and Kit Lambert for their new Track label – allegedly signed on a beer-mat!

‘Hey Joe’, released on Polydor UK in December 1966, flew up the UK charts and was quickly followed by Track label releases of Hendrix originals, ‘Purple Haze’, ‘The Wind Cries Mary’ and ‘Burning Of The Midnight Lamp’ plus the first two albums, both Top 5 in the UK and USA, Are You Experienced and Axis: Bold As Love. In the much loved music biz phraseology, for once true, Hendrix had become an ‘overnight sensation’. However, by the time recording began in London for the album that would become Electric Ladyland, in January 1968, there was already a degree of disagreement as to the direction Hendrix was taking. Noel Redding in particular was not happy at the amount of time used in the studio where lengthy jamming was becoming the order of the day. “Nothing was happening” he recalls, “or if it was happening it took so long that you couldn’t tell it was happening.” Work on ‘All Along The Watchtower’ actually began at those initial sessions in London, and Hendrix demanded so many re-takes that Redding eventually departed in a huff. Mitch Mitchell says, “Noel had got pissed off and was across the road in the pub, but the track didn’t suffer.” Bass guitar at this first session was supplied by Dave Mason (see Traffic – ‘Hole In My Shoe’), though this was later replaced in New York by Hendrix himself.

‘Watchtower’ originally appeared on Bob Dylan’s album John Wesley Harding, which had barely been released when Hendrix began work on his version. He was a huge Dylan fan (‘Like A Rolling Stone’ was also part of his early stage repertoire) and had apparently obtained an acetate of the album via Dylan’s manager Albert Grossman. Early sessions at Olympic Studios in London were produced by Chas Chandler, and the original four-track takes of ‘Watchtower’ also featured a piano track by Rolling Stone Brian Jones, though this was soon abandoned and not used on the final mix. (Other musical guests on Electric Ladyland whose contributions were retained included Steve Winwood, Al Kooper and Buddy Miles.) While sessions for the album continued, the Experience were also touring and these commitments resulted in a switch to New York’s Record Plant. It was at this point that Chandler threw in his cards. The lengthy sessions and numerous studio hangers-on were making the recording process a nightmare as far as he was concerned. He believed in structured songs recorded with speed and efficiency, while the Electric Ladyland sessions had now descended into total chaos, while studio bills were also sky-rocketing. Chandler departed, leaving the production duties in Hendrix’ hands and sold his management contract to Mike Jeffery, previously manager of the Animals, for $300,000.

With the Record Plant’s 16-track facilities, ‘Watchtower’ was considerably re-worked with Hendrix continually adding overdubs so that existing tracks had to be erased. Engineer Eddie Kramer recalls that Hendrix was never satisfied with his guitar work or his vocals, continually trying new ones. Hendrix would ask if a take was okay and Kramer would reply, ‘Yeah Jimi, that’s great.” Then Hendrix would say, “Well, I’m gonna do another one.” Doing the final mix must have been a nightmare as Kramer recalls: “You’re sitting there with six or seven masterful guitar tracks, five or six great vocal tracks. I mean it’s very hard to pick for that guy.” The final result however was sensational, though even then Hendrix was reluctant to release it as a single, perhaps afraid of Dylan’s reaction. He needn’t have worried. Dylan, like everyone else who heard the track, loved Hendrix’ version of his song and has said, “Ever since he died I’ve been doing it the same way – when I sing it I always feel like it’s a tribute to him in some kind of way.” Considered his masterpiece, Electric Ladyland topped the US album charts while perhaps somewhat surprisingly, ‘All Along The Watchtower’ became Hendrix’ solitary American Top 40 hit. Jimi Hendrix died in London at age 27 on the 18th of September 1970.

All Along The Watchtower – Jimi Hendrix Experience
Track 604 025 (UK) / Reprise 0767 (USA)
Released September 1968
Writer Bob Dylan Producer Jimi Hendrix
UK #5 November 1968 * USA #20 October 1968
* This was later technically a UK #1 when it appeared together with ‘Hey Joe’ on the
3-track single ‘Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)’ Track 2095 001 #1 21/11/70 for 1 week

Reporter : PDN staff   Photo : Internet   Category : Lifestyle

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