Sunday, May 20, 2007

The Seven Ages of Rock - Part One: The Birth of Rock

Rock began with The Who. There'd never been that kind of showmanship before, such wanton onstage destruction. Hendrix took Townshend's guitar bashing and made it his own. Ooh look, there's Jimi setting light to his guitar at Monterey!

Back in the USA, Hendrix loved those white guitar players from across the Atlantic. Beck and Clapton were taking the blues and making them accessible to a British audience. Their guitar heroics were wowing the kids.

Big Chas Chandler brought Hendrix to England. Hendrix blew away those white kids. He got up on stage with Cream and played so brilliantly, Clapton was left speechless and shaking in the dressing room.

Let's hear what Jeff Beck said about him in one of the programmes old pieces of footage:-

"The fact that he was doing things so upfront and so wild and unchained and sort of...that's what I wanted to do, but I'd been British and a victim of the class system and whatever, you know, the poxy old schools we used to go to. I couldn't do what he did. And I just went away from there thinking I'd better think of something else to do."

Sorry, Jeff. You can't blame your lack of genius on your upbringing. Maybe if you'd joined the Air Force like Jimi you would have turned out wild and untamed? No, I didn't think so! You're a decent guitarist. Let's leave it at that, shall we?

Hendrix was so enamoured by Dylan, he took Blowin' in the Wind to a Harlem discotheque. The dj put the record on and Jimi was chased out of the place.

He didn't really belong in discos. He belonged with the white kids who couldn't dance to save their lives. Actually, is there any evidence that Hendrix himself could dance? Although in his early career he played backing guitar for various blues, soul and R&B bands, there's no evidence that he knew how to strut his stuff. Maybe his two left feet led him to play with the English boys.

This programme, the first in a series of seven, is a pretty earnest opener. No wonder when it is overseen by and features many earnest quotes by Charles Shaar Murray. A very serious rock journalist, Mr Murray. No room for fripperies here.

Tragically, when the drugs and the darkness took over, Jimi couldn't hack it and choked on his own vomit.

I suppose they had to bring that up!


  1. I'd been looking forward to seeing my taped version blissfully unaware that Charles Complete Shaar Murray was in it.
    I wonder if the BBC will do a special Shaar Free edit which I could safely watch?

  2. At least Murray got to see Hendrix live on stage (or so he says). The thing about Murray is that he is a bit of a snob when it comes to guitars - he prefers the Fender brand and that's it. He thinks their basic construction means that they are 'workmanlike' and therefore gives off values of being a working class instrument. When Strats where first imported into the country they cost the ordinary man a small fortune should they want to purchase such an instrument.
    Working class my arse.

    Sorry, I seem to have gone off in a tangent.

  3. I'm just glad they didn't do the whole "Jimi at Woodstock doing the Star Spangled Banner was such a statement, man, against the war in Vietnam"

    Because it wasn't.

  4. Murph - It is narrated by the beautiful Julian Rhind Tutt, though. So they'll get all the Green Wing fans watching it (I don't think).

    Istvanski - I wanted a Strat as a 19 year old but could only afford a Mighty Mite one. I never got to hear it properly amplified so I might as well have stuck with my cheapo semi-acoustic. Like Hendrix, I did cover a couple of Dylan songs, though. Christ, I was shit.

    Billy - They said it was like napalm dropping. But they did show the crowd walking away in droves as he played it. A spokesman for a generation, eh?

  5. CSM: "The greatest American work of art to deal with the Vietnam War and the titanic struggles of the Civil Rights movement in any artform by any artist."

    So Jimi was taking the piss? He said it was "beautiful". Or was he taking the piss then, too?

    They didn't mention napalm. That was my red wine talking.

  6. The only thing I quite liked about that programme is that it highlighted how quick Hendrix was to do what he did before he died - 4yrs - all that! He packed a lot in. Plus I actually quite like the way Charles Shaar Murray writes and speaks - especially his use of analogy but - that ridiculous statement about 'the greatest American work of art to deal with the Vietnam War...' was a load of bollocks'. I'm glad I saw them all leaving in muddy droves and the fact that Hendrix himself completely discredited that point. Unless of course CSM meant that by Hendrix taking the piss that it was the 'greatest American work of art...' but I don't think so. Goodness - it's only 06:30 - I must go and get a cup of tea after such an early morning rant!

  7. I've said it many times, the U.S. Airforce should have napalmed Woodstock and dropped food parcels on the Viet Cong, not the other way round.

  8. All I had to go on was the singles - Hey Joe etc. which, played on juke boxes in greasy spoons and pubs made such a lasting lifelong impression that (like Rock mother) I was amazed at how short this period was.
    I don't want to analyse it.

  9. Romo - He did pack a lot in. From the great popular stuff all the way to the noodly bluesy shit and the jams that went nowhere. That's a 25 year career in 4.

    Anthony - "And it's five, six, seven, open up the pearly gates
    ain't no time to wonder why, whoopee we're all gonna die"...BOOOOOOM!!!

    Kaz - Yes, remember him by the singles. Not THE BLUES but a great POP artist.

  10. Interesting stuff. Every darn blues-rock act that plays at the New Crawdaddy Club near here does Voodoo Chile. It gets to the point where I rate the band's abilities based on its rendition compared to other bands. Gets tedius though.

  11. Someone lent me his first album once and I can't tell you how disappointed I was. Some good singles though, you're right, and I have to say that watching him play his guitar behind his back on Wild Thing was pretty special. It's great to watch someone do things that just seem impossible to a complete duffer like me.

    What I take issue with is the idea that somehow Hendrix was some kind of turning point. Actually, he was a one-off. Nobody could really follow his act, so they didn't.