For around 20 years Jas Obrecht was the editor of Guitar Player magazine and he acknowledges in the books introduction that Jimi was a boyhood hero, enjoying the rare privilege of having worked with Jimi’s dad co-authoring “My Son Jimi”.
Obrecht documents in detail Jimi’s arrival in the UK in 1966 and the nine months that followed concluding with his return to the US to headline at the Monterey International Pop Festival. The timeframe allows the book to focus on Jimi’s rapid ascent to rock stardom, and is done and dusted before the difficulties began.
Obrecht’s research is meticulous and it yields some interesting reminders, such as Keith Richard’s girlfriend Linda Keith being responsible for Chas Chandler coming to see Jim. It seems Jagger was indifferent and Richards jealous, attitudes that would be swiftly revised just a few months later. Obrecht also reveals that – for one rehearsal only – the Experience tried being a 4 piece with Redding switching to rhythm guitar and David Knights of Procol Harum playing bass.
From Hendrix’s touch down in London on September 24th 1966 to the Monterey Festival in mid June 1967 Obrecht gives a close to day by day account of what Hendrix did. Local paper reviews of early gigs are quoted extensively and sown together with interviews given over the years by Chandler, Noel Redding, Mitch Mitchell plus the initial reactions of Clapton and Townsend. Dick Rowe, the Decca rep that passed on the Beatles proved consistent in his tin eared evaluations by passing on Hendrix too.
Given the authors tenure at Guitar Magazine, he gets his nerd on numerous times in the book, but it’s not overwhelming. The narrative is a little dry given the focus on events and timeline, and whilst there are occasional references to frictions within the band and with management, it’s never developed into anything more than passing reference. Obrecht calls out the casual racism that was endemic at the time – some toe-curling local paper reviews riven with “wild man of Borneo” references and the band routinely refused entrance to hotels – and has few criticisms to offer of his hero. Hendrix’s relationship with Kathy Etchingham sticks to her warm and positive narrative. The book mostly eschews any reference to the darker side of his character other than a passing nod to Jimi’s jealous tendencies and Noel’s testimony of how Jimi punched a girl who spurned him in favour of the bass player’s charms.
The almost haphazard nature of Jimi’s rise is a refreshing read given today’s much more cynically monetised and social media driven music industry. Whilst it might seems something for Hendrix completists, there’s a story here – if a little brief – well told.
Length of Read:Short
Might appeal to people who enjoyed…
Definitely one for the Hendrix faithful.
One thing you’ve learned
Whilst out on a package tour with Cat Stevens and Engelbert Humperdink Noel Redding agreed to stand in for Humpy’s absent guitarist for a valuable £2 a night. He wasn’t allowed to appear on stage with the big man, so played from the wings. No-one in the audience seemed to wonder where the guitar came from.