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Authors: Jimi Hendrix

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BOOK: Starting At Zero


I just got tired, man. I just couldn’t stand it anymore. I can’t tell you the number of times it hurt me to play the same notes, the same beat. I was just a kind of shadowy figure up
there, out of sight of the real meaning. I wanted my own scene, making my own music. I always wanted a lot, you know? I really, really did. I was starting to see that you could create a whole new
world with an electric guitar, because there isn’t a sound like it in the whole world!

I had these ideas and sounds in my brain, but I needed people to do it with and they were hard to find. I had friends with me in Harlem, and I’d say, “C’mon down to the Village
so we can get something together.”

But they were lazy, they were scared, plus they didn’t think they were going to get paid. I said, “Quite naturally you won’t get paid on the audition, because it’s us
going down there and being aggressive, it’s us filtering down to them. So there’s a few things you have to give up in the beginning.” They didn’t want to do that, so I just
went down to the Village and started playing like I wanted.


N GREENWICH VILLAGE people were more friendly than in Harlem, where it’s all cold and mean. I couldn’t stand it there because they talk
about you worse than anyplace else! When I was staying in Harlem my hair was really long, and sometimes I might tie it up or do something with it. I’d be walking down the street, and all of a
sudden the cats, or girls, old ladies –
– would be just peekin’ out, sayin’,


“Ough, what’s this supposed to be?

Black Jesus?”


“What is this, the circus or something?”

God! Even in your own section.

Your own people hurt you more.


The Village was groovy. I’d just lay around and play for about two dollars a night and then try to find a place to stay. You had to chat someone up real quick before you had a place to
stay. I got a break playing guitar for John Hammond Jr. at the Cafe Au Go Go. That was great because the ceiling was really low and dusty. I’d stick the guitar right up into the ceiling. It
was like war. You didn’t even need a smoke bomb!


HEN I WAS DOWN IN THE VILLAGE Bob Dylan was also starving down there. I saw him one time, but both of us were stoned out of our minds thanks to
demon ale. It was at this place called the Kettle of Fish. I remember it vaguely. We were both stoned and just hung around laughing. Yeah, we just laughed.

When I first heard Dylan I thought, you must admire the guy for having that much nerve to sing so out of key. But then I started listening to the words. That sold me.

I used to get bored so quickly by anybody and everything. That’s why I went towards Dylan, because he offered me something completely new. He used to have a pad with him all the time to
put down what he saw around him. He doesn’t have to be stoned when he writes, although he probably is. A cat like that just doesn’t have to be. I could never write the kind of words he
does, but he’s helped me out in trying to write because I’ve got a thousand songs that will never be finished. I just lie around and write about two or three words, but now I have a
little more confidence in trying to finish one.


Dear Dad

Well ... I’m just dropping in a few words to let you know everything’s so-so in this big raggedy city of New York. Everything’s happening bad here.
I hope everyone at home is alright. Tell Leon I said hello. I’ll write you a letter real soon and will try to send you a decent picture. So until then I hope you’re doing
alright. Tell Ben and Ernie I play the blues like they NEVER heard

Love always, Jimmy


The first real group I got together on my own was with Randy California. That would be around the beginning of 1966, I guess. I changed my name to Jimmy James and called the group the Blue
Flames. Not exactly original, was it?

Almost immediately we got offers from Epic and CBS, but I didn’t feel we were completely ready then. Record companies had started to show a little interest in me when I was playing at the
Cafe Au Go Go, and a year before Mick Jagger had tried to get me on a tour. But my big slice of luck came when a little English friend persuaded Chas Chandler, the bass player of the Animals, to
come down where we were gigging and give an ear.

The Animals were doing their last gig as a group in Central Park, you know, “mouth the words.” Chas came down and heard me and asked would I like to come over to England and start a
group there. He seemed like a pretty sincere guy, and I’d never been to England before.

I said, “I might as well go,” because that’s the way I live my life. I’d never been to Memphis, so I’d starve my way down there. I didn’t have any roots in
the States that would hang me up, and it doesn’t matter which bit of the world I’m in as long as I’m living and putting things down. Plus, I thought I could play louder over
there, I could really get myself together over there. There wouldn’t be so many hang-ups as there were in America, you know, mental hang-ups and things like that. I was getting all uptight
with the American scene. The country wasn’t opening up the way England was.

I only hope that the guys I left behind are all right. We were making something near three dollars a night, and we were starving. The way I left was kinda wrong. They all thought they were
going, but it was easier for me to go alone. I felt kind of rotten about leaving just like that because we weren’t living too much, you dig?

I always had a feeling that, if my mind was right, I’d get a break someday. It took a long time, knocking around and playing a lot of dates that didn’t pay very well, but I figure it
was worth it. Oh, man! I don’t think I could have stood another year of playing behind people.


I’m glad Chas rescued me.

I’m in England, Dad.

I met some people, and they’re going to make me a big star.



We changed my name to …




That’s when I came to England. They kept me waiting at the airport for three or four hours because I didn’t have a work
permit. At one point there was talk of sending me back to New York until it was all sorted out. They carried on like I was going to make all the money in England and take it back to the States!

I moved into a flat with Chas Chandler. It used to belong to Ringo. In fact, they only took the drums away the other day. There’s stereo all over the place and a very kinky bathroom with
lots of mirrors. Immediately complaints started to pour in. We used to get complaints about loud, late parties when we were out of town! We’d come back next morning and hear all the
complaints. Chas got real mad about it, but I didn’t let it bug me.


HE FIRST TIME I PLAYED GUITAR in England I sat in with Cream. I like the way Eric Clapton plays. His solos sound just like Albert King. Eric is
just too much. And Ginger Baker, he’s like an octopus, man. He’s a real natural drummer. When you see him working all you can see are arms and legs.

I couldn’t work too much because I didn’t have a permit. If I was going to stay in England I had to get enough jobs to have a long permit. So what we had to do was line up a lot of
gigs. Chas knows lots of telephone numbers. He helped me find my bassist and drummer and form the Jimi Hendrix Experience. It was very hard to find the right sidemen, people who were feeling the
same as me.

After a lot of tryouts we had a jam, and Noel Redding came ’round. He’d come to audition for the New Animals, and we happened to be in the same building. Noel likes nice gutsy rock
and used to play lead guitar in a group named The Loving Kind. Chas asked him to try playing the bass, and I dug his hairstyle and it worked out perfect. Noel thinks lead when he plays bass. Almost
every great bass player does that. I picked him because he could play ANYTHING on the bass.

Mitch Mitchell was the best we heard out of about twenty drummers. He used to play with Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames, and he’d just quit the group about two days before. He’s
more of a classic drummer, more of a funky R&B type drummer. Mitch is a jazz addict, and he keeps on about this cat Elvin Jones all the time. He played me a record once by Elvin Jones, and I
said, “Damn, that’s you!”

I was thinking of the smallest piece [group] possible with the hardest impact. If it had taken two or twenty or ten – but it came out as a trio, which is great. I figure that if you have a
rhythm guitar player it’s going to slow down the whole thing, because you have to show him exactly what you want. If you want to do something, it’s best to do it yourself, right?

We did try the organ for about fifteen minutes, and it didn’t work out. It made us sound like just anybody. With this trio lineup we are very flexible. We can still improvise quite a bit,
which is lacking from too many other groups. If I’d had two blues men with me we would have gone straight into one bag, the blues, and that’s not for me. I mean, I love the blues, but I
wouldn’t want to play it all night. There are some blues that just make me sick. I feel nothing from it. And we’re not going in for any of this
Midnight Hour

“Gotta, gotta, gotta,”

because we don’t
“have ta, have ta, have ta!”

We don’t want to be classed in any category. My music isn’t pop. It’s ME. My guitar is my notes, our notes, regardless of where they came from.

We’re trying to create our own personal sound, our own music and our own personal being. We are into our own personal history, what we are, until we have settled down inside of us.

It’s a real foundation thing, like where you can imagine from.

It’s very primitive thought, you know.

That’s why I like us being called the

It’s right.


Four days after we got together we were playing at the Paris Olympia with Johnny Hallyday, who is like the French Elvis. We got together with
Midnight Hour, Land Of A Thousand Dances,
Everyone Needs Someone To Love
. I adore the audience at Olympia, it’s incredible. Paris Olympia is the biggest thing in Europe, and the kids there are like the kids at
the Apollo in Harlem. I mean they really know what’s going on. You know if you’re no good you might die that night. That first time we played there they sat open-mouthed and
didn’t know how to accept us. But they still listened. That’s one thing I really dug. It was beautiful.

When we get on stage we click, and I guess that’s what really counts. Mitch and Noel are both excellent musicians in their own right, and they complement everything I do with taste and
imagination. When we’re jamming out there we try to listen to each other. We don’t compromise with each other very much. Like one guy thinks one thing, and he’s going to stick
with that one thing. Sure, we don’t always totally agree on what our music will do, but somehow we combine what we know best, somehow we make a song.

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