Sources: Print, Audio, Video and Jimi’s Own Hand — The Obsessive Task
In the internet age the most famous circulated quotes of Jimi are those he never said! A bundle was made by some bumper sticker maker who plagiarized William Gladstone and spread all over the web that Hendrix said ‘When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.’ It was such a fabricated hit that another ruse followed, this time having Jimi plagiarize Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. by saying ‘Knowledge speaks but wisdom listens.’ When I saw these circulate online in 2004 I wrote an article about it, having gathered Jimi's known quotes, I knew it wasn't him. I corrected hundreds of webpages that fell for the scam. Then, incredibly, the Hendrix Network turned on me as the ‘bad guy’ who wouldn't believe Jimi said these things!
Today's ‘Hendrix Network,’ connected through websites, videos, and publications, was fragmented and scattered during the 1970s and ’80s when I was gathering Jimi’s quotes. That decades-long task required monklike sacrifice. Far from any support, mostly open hostility met the notion of devoting years of research to such a controversial figure as Jimi. But I sought to see the big picture significance behind the music and collect shreds of evidence from hundreds of publications, writings, recordings and videos. In 1990-91 three watershed auctions at Sothebys surfaced a slew of Jimi's never-before-seen writings, pages that capture a side of him no ‘friends’ nor family had seen. During the week leading up to each auction in New York the public had access to examine Jimi's pages and write our own transcriptions by hand, or dictate the verse into a recorder. There were over a hundred pages of his handwritten poems, lyrics, notes, and stream-of-conscious explorations, it took a long time to copy it all. Most noteworthy of the lot are his film script, titled Moondust, and 9-pages of spaced-out visions he labeled Terra Revolution and Venus, Terra Revolution referring to asteroid impact on land, revolutionized terrain.
In addition to Jimi-in-his-own-hand sources, I collected interviews with him from a bit more than 200 magazines and newspapers. Jimi's bass player, Noel Redding, kept a diary of the band's concert dates and I was given a list of this sometime in the '70s. For years I had a habit of ordering newspaper and magazine microfilms from the cities listed on Noel's tour itinerary. I used an ‘inter-library loan’ office to have my local library request the microfilms be shipped there for a week or two, and spent many hours, thousands of hours, scanning through these old newspapers and magazines in search of articles and reports about Jimi. Finding one with quotes from Hendrix was always a thrill.
Eventually I amassed hundreds of articles and started to correspond with a few collectors in Europe who were doing the same thing as me. We swapped articles together by mail for many years. The foreign language articles I took to local university language departments and had them translated into English. Why would anyone except an ‘obsessed fan’ do this? Because the perceptive forefront among us sensed and recognized a monumental critical mystery hidden within Jimi's insights. Scholars who studied him in the first decades after his death confronted an avalanche of data. Deciphering it was a time-sensitive task and amazing connections waited to be observed by anyone looking close. A race was on. The one who would get there first would win a glimpse of the unseen, but would lose all forms of support for communicating it. Because it leads to Rock Prophecy, the House of Heretics shouted down and drowned out by Armies of Guitarists. An Armageddon-size effort to dilute and detract from formulas in a story conforming to religious incident, one that dare not speak its name.
In almost all cases the print-source quotes used in this book were published during Jimi's lifetime. The exceptions are a spat of interviews he gave in Europe during the three weeks leading to his demise on September 18, 1970. Some of those quotes were published posthumously in the days and weeks that followed, but all of them came out by the end of that year. In other words, there are cases where, years later, some associate of Jimi's would publish a book and seek to reconstruct from memory conversations they had with him. Such is the case for Curtis Knight and Sharon Lawrence. Those quotes are not used. The reasoning being that, for the quotes published prior to Jimi's death, he would have been able to protest a falsification when it appeared in print. Whether he actually would bother to or not is beside the point. What matters is that the writers knew he was able to object if they tried to put words in his mouth, so the odds of anyone doing that prior to his death are low. After he died, people like Curtis Knight could put whatever words they like into Jimi’s mouth and no one can know how authentic those quotes are (although anyone familiar with Jimi's verbal habits and syntax likely cringes when they read the verbose ramblings Knight has Jimi saying). However, when Robert Fripp recounts how, on their only meeting, Jimi said to him ‘Shake my left hand, man, it's closest to my heart,’ I tend to think Fripp would not forget such a unique quote from one of the most significant moments in his life. Still, that remark is not used in this book. Another impression I get is that Hendrix seemed to reveal more of his private thoughts during interviews with women journalists, like Nancy Carter, Sue Clark, Jane de Mendelssohn, Jacoba Atlas, and Sharon Lawrence (to the extent we can trust her recollections of their conversations published several decades after the fact).
Besides establishment rags like the New York Times and city newspapers or expected sources like Melody Maker,Rolling Stone and Crawdaddy, several university student newspapers published interviews with Jimi. And the ‘underground’ press, unique to the Hendrix concert years, like Rat,Unit,The Rag,International Times and Bold As Love, are a treat to read. Today Jimi is thought of mainly as a guitar innovator, but we forget he was during his life much more of a pop star, and even sex symbol (the first black crossover to a mass white audience), so it's not really bizarre that we find interviews with him in girly date magazines like Teen Set and Go Girl.
Still, it’s the audio and video interviews where his personality is on display. There are around forty of these tapes, ranging in length from a couple minutes for a radio promo spot, to a couple interviews that stretch on around the half hour mark. The longest single rap session with Hendrix on tape is with a journalist named John Burks, but Jimi speaks only a fraction of the time, being in an apartment with his band members and manager, fielding questions for which the others often answer.
Most unique among the recordings of Jimi speaking is one that he made by himself, alone somewhere. Because at the end of it he seems to have dozed off to sleep, leaving the recorder on to capture sounds of him breathing, some collectors have dubbed this tape the Bedroom Soliloquy. Others call it the Room Full of Mirrors Rap because Jimi explicitly describes that phrase, where his strange stream-of-consciousness lands on a memorable image about ‘a million lions trapped in the Grand Canyon,’ as he rails at whatever is possessing him, ‘God, tell this idiot to get the hell out of me!’
Around 150 live performance tapes are also sources for quotes, from full concert sets to single-song TV appearances. Jimi usually speaks quite a bit on these recordings, often unique streams of thought or comments pertaining to events of the day (my favorites are his quip about the Jackson State student shootings following the Kent State massacre: ‘Drag that America’s guns have made the CRACK in the Liberty Bell their symbol,’ he said in Philadelphia, home of the Liberty Bell. And his introducing the National Anthem as ‘an Animal Song’). In many cases such recordings were made by fans in the audience and are of poor audio quality. Deciphering exactly what Jimi says on these tapes is often a challenge. In many cases it took years of listening to these recordings repeatedly before it suddenly registers through the sound distortion just what he says. The Philly ‘Liberty Bell’ quote is one of those.
It would take a good size booklet on its own to list the details of all the Hendrix quotes' sources, not to mention breaking down the sources for each quote on each page of this book. A single paragraph might be composed from a half dozen different sources. A traditional ‘footnotes’ listing would look extreme in length, and even compete with the book text itself.
‘You used to be able to give them just one page of a book, now you can give them two or three pages - but never the whole book.‘ – Jimi
Like the gnostics of yore, suppressed for decades, finally, here’s the whole book…
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