Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Chicago Blues News: JImi Hendrix

I was looking through youtube just the other day when I came across Voodoo Chile by Jimi Hendrix. It was a version that he performed in Atlanta in 1969 or 1970. I watched it and had to remind myself to breathe.  The video is almost 40 years old and that song has stood the test of time. Hendrix is the original songwriter and the best performer of it.   There are a couple of other very great versions such as Stevie Ray Vaughn, Kenny Wayne Sheppard and, John Mayer.


 Joe Satriani, Steve Vai and, Yngwie Malmsteen covered it together and wow that version is a killer.

The problem with modern versions is that they are technological superior to what Hendrix did. Hendrix used a very primitive set-up compared to today. He utilized two 100 watt Marshall Amplifiers, four, four 12” cabinets and an array of five pedals. His actual rig can be found here.

Jimi played in a pre-computer age. They did have computers, but they were too large to lug from gig to gig. In 1969 we sent a man to the moon with less computing power than a hand held calculator. Today there are home computer set-up’s that can record multiple tracks of music. I recorded bass lines in Chicago, emailed them to Indianapolis and the engineer inserted them into the song he was working on. Very cool way to record. Click and paste is wonderful. I recorded a 45 back in 1964 and it was recorded direct to disc. You made a mistake; you threw the disc out and started again. You had to rehearse to get it down.

Jimi’s sound on Voodoo Child is raw and that rawness is what makes his version the best. The intensity he played with was a direct reflection of the turbulent times. Those that lived through the sixties and still remember it know what I’m talking about. In 1968 the Democratic Convention took place in Chicago. Mayor Daley (the father not the current mayor who is the son) was determined not to have anti Vietnam protesters during that convention. The police beat a lot of heads as well as the protestors.

The next year saw the continuance of the Vietnam War.  Every night Walter Cronkite would report the body count on the nightly news for the previous day. It was very depressing.

I believe that those turbulent times lead Jimi to play one of the best tunes ever. Jimi was the first one to utilize the technique of feedback from a guitar and in order to do this he had to set the amps on 11. If you watch the reaction on people’s faces in Hendrix’s old videos you will see the astonishment.  They had never heard anything like it before he came along. Take a look at these videos and then judge them for yourself.