Jimi Hendrix London
By William Saunders
Roaring Forties Press – $14.95
Jimi Hendrix London, is, as its title suggests, another throw of the dice by way of re-tracing the arrival of Jimi Hendrix in London; the city that was to propel him to gargantuous worldwide fame in a mere matter of months.
From his arrival in England’s capital in September 1966 – replete with forty dollars and a guitar supposedly stolen from The Rolling Stones – to the open verdict that was decided at the inquest into his death at 34 Westminster Coronor’s Court, 65 Horseferry Road (”a squat little building a few hundred yards from Westminster Abbey”), everything the singer/songwriter/guitarist extraordinaire did in London, is herein meticulously recorded.
As the synopsis on the back cover makes clear: ”Journalist and poet William Saunders retraces Jimi’s London odyssey, weaving the story of his public and private life around the studios and clubs, hotels and apartments, back streets and concert halls where he lived and played.”
Written in a manner that is both attractive and easy to read, most of the chapters consist of bite-size chunks of information, that traverse the dense and extremely productive period of one of the finest musicians ever to have graced the world – let alone London.
Is it any wonder that even The Beatles were mighty taken, as Suanders makes by clear with regards Hendrix’s rendition of ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,’ a mere three days after it’s release (in the chapter ‘rise and shine’): ”It was during a Sunday evening concert at the Saville Theatre that Jimi pulled off one of his great coups de theatre. On the first Sunday of June; the Experience were top of the bill, and the 1,200-seat threatre was full […]. Paul McCartney, who was in the audience, was deeply impressed […]. ‘To think that the album meant so much to him as to actually do it by the Sunday night, three days after the release. He must have been so into it, because normally it might take a day for rehearsal and then you might wonder whether you’d put it in, but he just opened with it. It’s a pretty major compliment in any one’s book. I put that down as one of the great honours of my career, I’m sure he wouldn’t have thought of it as an honour, I’m sure he thought it was the other way round, but to me that was like a great boost.”
As a major fan of Hendrix, I was surprised to learn of his penchant for mimicking a variety of English accents, which ‘why can’t the english teach their children how to speak’ interestingly touches on: ”Even the orthodox usage of the BBC could take Jimi by surprise and stimulate his imagination. ”I heard big impressive words spoken on telly,” he told his friend the American journalist Sharon Lawrence. ”I’ll never forget watching the news and a reporter speaking of ‘uncharted waters.’ Ever since I have wanted to use ‘uncharted waters’ in a song. That’s life in a nutshell. Hearing English spoken in England was like opening a door.”
All nineteen chapters of Jimi Hendrix London has something of idiosyncrantic interest to offer; to such a degree in fact, that it will invariably entice even the most devout of Hendrix fans – myself included.