Sunday, August 2, 2015

Book Review: Hendrix Setting the Records Straight



Setting the Record Straight

John McDermott with Eddie Kramer


 This incredible volume was released in 1992, yet resonates like yesterday, twenty three years later. McDermott goes back in time when Jimi was known as John Allen Hendrix.  He was fresh out of the military and freelancing as a working musician, taking gigs whenever he could. He learned his chops from watching others whether it was Curtis Knight or an Vaudeville trooper. His early influences were Buddy Holly, Eddie Cochran, Muddy Waters, and B.B. King. By chance Linda Keith was at the Cheetah Club in New York and she was mesmerized by the guitarist in Curtis Night’s band. They had a few drinks and became fast friends. Later on Chas Chandler of the Animals saw Hendrix at the Café Wha. It was a confluence of circumstances that these two musicians would meet. It started a long time friendship that would scaffold the initial stirrings of genius in Jimi Hendrix. Chandler embraced Jimi like a brother and took him back to England in 1966. It was a fortuitous union of souls.

Chandler was wise beyond his years and brought in two white English musicians to provide the rhythm section, it was an incredible insight to have one of the first interracial bands. Mitch Mitchell was a superb, jazzed inspired drummer and Noel Redding would double on bass guitar and vocals. The first album Are You Experienced was total Gold and the second release Axis: Bold as Love was inspired. Electric Ladyland and Smash Hits were pure gold. Hendrix could do no wrong. His performances at Monterey and Woodstock were historic and would forever freeze frame his identity as a superb one-of-kind guitar genius.

McDermott weaves a compelling narrative of exceptional talent, lucky breaks, swindlers, substance abuse, heroes and villains. It is real life story that will keep you reading way past midnight.

 Jimi Hendrix died on September 18th 1970. The authorities confirmed that Monika Dannemann found Hendrix at 11am. He had gotten sick in his sleep. He went without medical attention for at least twenty seven minutes. By the time the ambulance reached the hospital, Hendrix’s heart had swelled and the spinal column was congested. He simply could not recover. Jimi Hendrix died at the age of 27.

The life and times of Jimi Hendrix is colored in shadows, innuendo and half truths. After Hendrix died there was a flurry of law suits and counter law suits that left Hendrix’s legacy in the hands of the contracts and court judgments that did more damage to the Hendrix image than anyone at the time could realize. Alan Douglas come across as a charlatan and opportunist as he plundered the Hendrix musical archives. He ended up releasing several posthumous recordings with dubious value to the overall Hendrix canon. This includes Loose Ends, Crash Landing, Nine to the Universe, Kiss the Sky and Midnight Lightning. As an aside Flo & Eddie (Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman) mentioned Douglas owning the rights to Hendrix recordings on their incredible album Illegal Immoral & Fattening. It was a form of Kidding in the Square wherein the humor hides a darker meaning.

At the time this book was released the Hendrix legacy was in the process of renewal as another generation discovered the incredible genius of Jim Hendrix. It has not been diminished or grown out of date. Prince was inspired by Hendrix. He even cut his own rendition of Purple Haze. Graffiti Bridge’s Tick Tick Bang was inspired by Hendrix. His imprint runs the gamut of many well-known artists such as The Time, Cameo, Niles Rodgers, Living Colour and the Gap Band

McDermott’s volume clocks in at 324 pages. Appendix A is a diagram of Electric Lady Studios, the first submission by architect John Storyk. Appendix B included letters from the law firm of Steingarten, Wedeen & Weiss that included counseling about Hendrix’s financial problems. The volume includes ten pages of candid black & white photos taken by Linda Eastman (later married to Paul McCartney) and Eddie Kramer. However, the author’s narrative is fact filled and riveting at the same time. It is a light in the forest for the legion of Hendrix fans who may not know the whole story.


Check or for this or other books about Jimi Hendrix. The Hendrix LP and CD catalog is available locally at Electric Kitsch (Midland), Records & Tapes Galore (Saginaw),  Record Conventions (Bay City)and at Barnes & Noble.


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