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Q & A with Gary J. Jucha

Gary JuchaGary J. Jucha is the author of Jimi Hendrix FAQ. Here is a snippet of an interview he did with Music Tomes. Visit their site to read the whole interview!

In the introduction to the book you give a great account of how you first began to pursue the music of Hendrix. What inspired you to write the book?

Frankly I was asked by Robert Rodriguez the FAQ Series Editor if I was interested in possibly writing a book for Backbeat. He had seen a piece I wrote about The Clash at my old website and contacted me. At the time, I didn’t know he meant a book for his FAQ series and so – 9 being my favorite number – I sent him a list of 9 music related titles on subjects that I thought would make good books and that I could write better than anybody.

I can’t remember all of them but I do remember suggesting The Clash in America, which would solely focus on The Clash’s concerts and recording sessions in America as well as their cultural impact on the country they had been bored with, and Jimi Hendrix: The Posthumous Years. I believe that as timeless as the three Jimi Hendrix Experience studio albums are, that it his posthumous recordings that have really contributed to his enduring fame. We had some back and forth discussions and that resulted in me writing Jimi Hendrix FAQ: All There’s Left to Know about the Voodoo Child.

Was there anything that surprised you in your research?

I was dismayed by his neglected childhood, by how many of his tales were really tall, and how isolated he was at the time of his death. But wanting to stress the positive let me say that what was really a discovery was how truly talented the Band of Gypsys was. That’s Jimi’s all black trio that included Buddy Miles on drums and vocals and Jimi’s army buddy Billy Cox on bass and vocals. Their legacy rests almost entirely on four concerts played on two consecutive nights after a few weeks rehearsal. Now they had been playing together at recording sessions since May 21, 1969 – a few of which are on the new People, Hell and Angels collection – but their performances at Bill Graham’s Fillmore East still stand out.

For example, “Machine Gun” is one of Jimi’s Top Ten iconic songs and that comes from these concerts. And the contributions of Jimi’s fellow gypsys to that song are profound. Billy’s ominous bass line and Buddy’s rat-a-tat-tat drumming really contribute to the song’s mood. And the notable thing that most people don’t realize is they played “Machine Gun” at all four concerts and all four are worth hearing. The one that’s readily available on Band of Gypsys is even arguably not the best version. Others include snatches of “Star Spangled Banner” during Jimi’s solos and I think Jimi didn’t want to release those versions because then it would make “Machine Gun” an anti-Vietnam War song and not the anti-war song that he wanted it to be. (All four versions are available on 2 Nights at the Fillmore, a 6-CD collection.)

Keep reading this interview on Music Tomes!

A modest man but highly competitive musician, Hendrix set the stage for many of the most significant musical movements to emerge between 1970 and 1999, including heavy metal, fusion, glam rock, and rap. Voodoo bluesman, sonic producer, the lyricist that out-Dylaned Dylan: these are what snatch our attention 40 years after his death, as do his “aw, shucks” smile in photos and the raw sexuality of his concert performances. It’s hard to find the man under all the falsehoods told by friends, business associates, and even Jimi himself. Jimi Hendrix FAQ attempts to present the facts in a fast-moving, fan-friendly read.

People, Hell and Angels

Gary JuchaGuest Blogger: Gary Jucha is the author of Jimi Hendrix FAQ.

I knew when writing Jimi Hendrix FAQ for Backbeat that the risk of the book being out-of-date on its release date was to be expected. Experience Hendrix L.L.C., Jimi’s estate, has been especially active since signing a distribution deal with Sony in August 2009, having issued a standalone CD and two box sets of new material as well as numerous reissues of CDs and DVDs. And so it has come to pass. My book will hit the streets on March 19th, and the newest collection of Jimi’s work, People, Hell and Angels, was released a fortnight before. Since I couldn’t comment on People, Hell and Angels in Jimi Hendrix FAQ, I thought my publisher’s invitation to contribute to their blog a perfect opportunity for me to weigh in.

First a little background. People, Hell and Angels was the title Jimi Hendrix used in describing a triple album he was planning when feeling reinvigorated by the August 1970 mixing and overdubbing sessions in Electric Lady Studios according to Kathy Eberth, an assistant to Jimi’s manager Michael Jeffery;  Keith Shadwick in Musician also claimed that Jimi used the album title in 1969 interviews. It is well known  Jeffery was advocating a single album so when Eberth told author John McDermott that “… later First Rays of the New Rising Sun…” – another oft-quoted titled for the next album – made a comeback of sorts,” it was likely that that title for Jimi’s double album was a compromise on Jimi’s part.

The source material for People, Hell and Angels spans 29 months and features 24 musicians (although not Experience bassist Noel Redding, which means there’s lots of gritty New York City in this collection but no hits of Swinging London psychedelia). There’s two R&B work outs where Jimi’s contribution is limited to guitar and production, two Rainbow Sun and Gypsys tracks (that’s the line-up that played Woodstock), three instrumentals,  four blues numbers, and five Band of Gypsy tracks (even if the majority were recorded before the trio was officially a band). All are held together by Eddie Kramer’s production. Kramer was Jimi’s favored engineer and he has masterfully mixed these recording sketches recorded at five different studios and made them sound like one session.

So People, Hell and Angels is highly recommended so long as you approach this as a book of mostly sketches and have no problem with the wholly three new tracks being without Hendrix vocals. My only minor objection is with the sequencing. I recommend this line-up instead: Hey Gypsy Boy Villanova Junction Blues/Hear My Train A Comin’/ Bleeding Heart/Mojo Man/Let Me Move You/Izabella/Easy Blues/Crash Landing/Earth Blues/Somewhere/Inside Out

Check out my blog at http://juchaartandmusic.wordpress.com/ for a longer mix of this review and my reasoning behind the alternate track sequencing.

Jimi Hendrix FAQ

Jimi Hendrix left the world too soon at the age of twenty-seven, but, despite the brevity of his career, his body of work is as vital to 20th-century music as that of Louis Armstrong, the Beatles, and Miles Davis. Hundreds of hours of unreleased studio sessions and concert performances were his salvation.

A modest man but highly competitive musician, Hendrix set the stage for many of the most significant musical movements to emerge between 1970 and 1999, including heavy metal, fusion, glam rock, and rap. Voodoo bluesman, sonic producer, the lyricist that out-Dylaned Dylan: these are what snatch our attention 40 years after his death, as do his “aw, shucks” smile in photos and the raw sexuality of his concert performances. It’s hard to find the man under all the falsehoods told by friends, business associates, and even Jimi himself. Jimi Hendrix FAQ attempts to present the facts in a fast-moving, fan-friendly read.