Friday, October 10, 2014

Musical Chameleons: Hendrix

Jimi Hendrix

purchase [Purple Haze]
purchase [Drifting]

I guess in all my days of listening to rock/pop, nothing has affected me quite the way that “Are You Experienced” did. I had been listening to Smokey Robinson, the Box Tops ..whatever came over the AM band airwaves back in the late 60s - from BBC's Top of the Pops or Radio Luxembourg. And then one day, a friend of my younger brother’s showed up with a copy of “Experienced”.
Similar to how a chameleon plays a trick by changing colours to fool his predator, Hendrix messed with my senses. Like nothing ever before. The sounds coming from the speakers were so jarring to my ears and brain that I might as well have changed colours. Now, for today's generation, this may be hard to fathom: we are so used to all sorts of musical styles, variations, genres and such, that I may not be able to get you to understand how transformational and out-of-this-world was the sound of Hendrix’s music.

"Are You Experienced" was cutting/crude and rough. Go back and listen to the guitar strokes of Purple Haze. Then compare them with the harmonies of anything else on the late 60s radio airwaves. This sound/noise re-defined music: cacophony that was harmony. This was melodic aural abuse.

Even the cover artwork of "Axis" continued the chameleon effect: this was cover artwork unlike anything that came before. The recordings included sounds that no one else was capable of making: stereo crossover, feedback that sounded good, wah-wah no one else could produce. This was truly music from another planet. It certainly blew my mind. Imagine: on one hand you’ve got the Beach Boys' good vibrations … on the other, there’s Jimi.

I’ll claim that – chameleon theme – Hendrix's progression was relatively smooth. I guess the chameleon doesn’t change his colours in a flash – there must be a progression of sorts – and so it appears with Jimi. A rather raw “Experienced” progresses/morphs into the sounds of “Axis”, then matures to the sounds of “Electric Ladyland” and then to “Cry of Love”.

See if you agree with my definition of chameleon:

Early Hendrix (Purple Haze):


Late Hendrix (Drifting):


Of course, any musician worth his “salt” is going to evolve: just look at (among so many others) the Beatles (masters of chameleon-ship)

blog comments powered by Disqus