23
Oct 06

THE JIMI HENDRIX EXPERIENCE – “Voodoo Chile”

FT + Popular105 comments • 9,364 views

#293, 21 November 1970

I was playing this song and my wife walked in.

“Who’s this?” she asked.
“The Jimi Hendrix Experience”
“Oh. Couldn’t he have got a better singer?”

I’ve never really bothered trying to get into Hendrix. Guitar heroics don’t generally interest me, and by the time I got into music the churning vitality of his stuff had got lost under layers of rock icon varnish. For instance: at school we had three options on a Sunday morning – a solemn early morning service for the actual believers, a later standard-issue service, and a secular ‘talk’ for the agnostics. At one of these talks, the trendiest of the three chaplains delivered a lecture – nay, a meditation – on Hendrix, culminating in playing “The Star Spangled Banner” over the school’s PA system. I was excruciatingly bored and embarassed by the whole thing.

At the same time, though, I was listening to music clearly inspired by “Voodoo Chile” – ‘baggy’ music had rediscovered the wah-wah, and Stone Roses guitarist John Squire’s own personal rerun of sixties pop was taking him deeper into Hendrix territory. So this single is oddly evocative of the turn of the 90s, stabs at flares and bowl cuts and trying to reconcile a love of the Happy Mondays with a puritan horror of drink and drugs. (The horror lost.) Which might go to show that music lives better when well meaning fans try to make it than when they try to teach you about it. Even so I never wanted to dig back into the sixties source material – partly because I was sixteen and affected not to care about old stuff, and partly because Hendrix’ gruff blues mumble is quite unattractive.

I’m glad this single reminds me of something, though – it grounds my response to it, stops it sounding quite so freakish in the context of this pop procession. Freakish in a good way – the strafing solos, the grinding pulse of the drums, the way the sound drops in and out like some alien radio broadcast, the aggression. And also in a less good way – after the dramatic band entrance and first verse its five minutes meander, and I can’t get much of an emotional toe-hold on it. Maybe that’s not surprising – this is a rock album track, plucked from its parent to serve as a rushed memorial. As a pop single – something it was hardly meant to be – it works best as yet another farewell to the sixties, and a slightly awkward intrusion of the musical stories unfolding outside the singles chart.

{democracy:11}

6

Comments

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  1. 91
    Pete on 11 May 2011 #

    Tom you are confusing Happy Busman with Fashion Crisis Hits New York. Well not so much confusing as hoping to conflate to reduce the amount of F&W material in your head. I don’t think Happy Busman ever says Happy Busman in it. But it does repeat most of its lyrics at least once too.

  2. 92
    Mark G on 11 May 2011 #

    Yeah, and Roxy Music’s “Pyjamarama”

  3. 93
    Snif on 12 May 2011 #

    Dylan’s “Changing Of The Guard”

  4. 94
    Mark M on 12 May 2011 #

    Squeeze’s Up The Junction – a classic story song – has lines that are variants (developments, in fact) on each other (three mentions of “the telly” but not that are exactly the same, I think.

  5. 95
    hardtogethits on 12 May 2011 #

    Time by Pink Floyd

  6. 96
    Gavin Wright on 13 May 2011 #

    I’m thinking there must be loads of examples in hip-hop songs without choruses, ‘Triumph’ by Wu-Tang Clan springs to mind. Trying to think of a more recent one – was going to say ‘Roman’s Revenge’ but “starting to feel like a dungeon dragon” appears twice in the first verse.

  7. 97
    Mark G on 13 May 2011 #

    “Paid in Full” Eric B/Rakim

  8. 98
    hilker on 13 May 2011 #

    “Children’s Story” by Slick Rick.

  9. 99
    ottersteve on 14 May 2011 #

    Re: all of you above.

    Thanks for all those tracks with unrepeated Lyrics Guys! I guessed that a few Dylan songs would qualify. There are a few of those songs mentioned that I should have known. But it does hold up my theory that songs with unrepeated lyrics as rare as hens teeth in the music world.

  10. 100
    Mark G on 16 May 2011 #

    I dunno, they just seem hard to recognise.

  11. 101
    Lena on 21 May 2012 #

    More than a slight return: http://musicsoundsbetterwithtwo.blogspot.co.uk/2012/05/real-rebels-don-fardon-indian.html Thanks for reading, everyone!

  12. 102
    hectorthebat on 15 Jun 2014 #

    Critic watch:

    1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die, and 10,001 You Must Download (2010)
    Blender (USA) – Standout Tracks from the 500 CDs You Must Own (2003)
    Blender (USA) – The 1001 Greatest Songs to Download Right Now! (2003)
    Bruce Pollock (USA) – The 7,500 Most Important Songs of 1944-2000 (2005)
    Dave Marsh (USA) – The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made (1989) 579
    Michaelangelo Matos (USA) – Top 100 Singles of the 1970s (2001) 30
    Pitchfork (USA) – Top 200 Songs of the 60s (2006) 136
    Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (USA) – 500 Songs That Shaped Rock (1994?)
    Rolling Stone (USA) – The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time (2004) 101
    Rolling Stone (USA) – The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time (Updated 2010) 102
    Mojo (UK) – The 100 Greatest Singles of All Time (1997) 101
    New Musical Express (UK) – The Top 100 Singles of All Time (2002) 80
    Q (UK) – The 1001 Best Songs Ever (2003) 688
    Q (UK) – The 1010 Songs You Must Own (2004)
    Sounds (UK) – The 100 Best Singles of All Time (1986) 16
    Gilles Verlant and Thomas Caussé (France) – 3000 Rock Classics (2009)
    Toby Creswell (Australia) – 1001 Songs (2005)
    Mauro Ronconi (Italy) – The Best Song from the 200 Best Albums (1998)
    Giannis Petridis (Greece) – 2004 of the Best Songs of the Century (2003)

  13. 103
    lonepilgrim on 16 Jul 2018 #

    10 year old me wasn’t aware of this at the time – Hendrix crept up on me as a cultural presence – more through images rather than sound. Even now I find his music so rich that I find it hard to consume in quantity. I like this when it pops up on shuffle but would rarely go out of my way to select it

  14. 104
    Lee Saunders on 2 Oct 2018 #

    Sorry but I can’t help but ask.

    At #27 Marcello suggests this was the first free jazz #1, and hinted there was “another coming up later.” Supposing Popular hasn’t reached that “another” yet, I must ask what it is because I’ve gone near-mad trying to think what it could be.

  15. 105
    flahr on 2 Oct 2018 #

    My money’s on “Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick”.

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