If you are a gigantic music fan, you've probably already listened to and absorbed Jimi Hendrix' music to the point where you might think you never ever need to hear it again. I know the feeling-- when I was in high school Jimi was one of the primary artists I listened to, over and over and over again to the point of oblivion.
So to you, the jaded, I say, hold up! Just when you think you've seen and heard everything (and maybe you have, but this was new to me...), here comes the fairly recent reissue of the 1973 documentary Jimi Hendrix, which was directed by Joe Boyd, John Head III and Gary Weis. I read about it in Joe Boyd's White Bicycles, and finally got my hands on a copy of the movie.
Producer extraordinaire Boyd was heartbroken by the bumps that came along with putting together this film. One thing he was dead on about, and what really makes this film compelling above all others about Hendrix, is that the interviews were conducted only 3 years after Hendrix' death, and both his contradictory and brilliant presence and the awe he inspired in his fellow musicians is extremely palpable. Heck, you can see it written all over Eric Clapton and Pete Townshend's still-freaked-out faces!
And then there are the girlfriends, so many of them. The one that stands out is Fayne Pridgon, who he met in Harlem and dated throughout the sixties. She's quite the feisty gal, and her stories about Hendrix are hilarious-- her manner of speaking is unnervingly similar to Jimi's. Her mother had a heavy love/hate relationship with Hendrix, which Fayne details in alternatively sad and silly tales. She remembers wide-eyed Jimi bringing home a Dylan record and flipping out that she tried to leave the room to go to the bathroom during one of the songs, nearly missing the best part! She also tells a great story about being on the subway with Jimi and their cats, who got loose.
Roadies and managers are also interviewed, folks I had never seen in other documentaries. Their memories are fresh: a roadie recalls having to stand behind the amps and hold them up while Jimi humped and flailed away on the front of the Marshall stack; a manager remembers landing in London in 1970 to a pack of paparazzi and moving aside, only to have his arm firmly grabbed by still-shy Jimi, who didn't want to be left alone with the press.
Oh yeah, and there's Lou Reed, interviewed in his all-white leisure style suit with his tight 'fro. Yessiree, this film was made in the 70s.
And, there's also priceless and hyperactive Little Richard footage where he talks about how he never got to tell Hendrix he knew he'd make it. Check it out here, guaranteed to crack you up:
Anyway, this movie is fantastic because of all these visceral memories, stories that paint Jimi Hendrix as an actual person-- not just an axe-wielding, drug addicted God. Some of the musical footage in the film we've seen a zillion times now, but if you get your head back to 1973, when the movie was made, you realize footage was not as readily available as it is now. Movie crowds back then were eager to drink in Hendrix' spectacular guitar work at Monterey and Isle of Wight, which sadly for many of us has paled only because in our era of instant gratification we have been completely oversaturated with it. Watching this movie made me remember once again, and also brought new depth to the fact that Jimi's genius ran deep.
The DVD reissue comes with tons of fantastic extra footage from the interviews -- the bonus materials here are well worth watching.