Songs of Experience - February 09

As Rock itself gets older, the obituary column gains more entries than we'd all like. I know I recently mentioned John Martyn and our brief encounter at the Townhouse, but how to pay homage to all the fallen, let alone do them justice?

When Rick Wright died you felt like another piece of your childhood just flew out of the window, never to return... In the early 70s 'Dark Side of the Moon' was the soundtrack at London's Speakeasy club, where I generally tried to drink myself famous (thank God I didnít drive in those days) and saw more musos staggering through the haze than any other watering hole. I befriended Pete Banks, John Wetton, Robert Fripp and almost met the brilliant Peter Green who was leaving just as I walked in one dark night...

Hendrix had already passed as if he'd arrived born aloft on his own personal hurricane. We all adored him of course. I saw the Experience live at 'Christmas on Earth' in London's Olympia where I first thrilled to Steve Howe performing with 'Tomorrow'. I forget the year, but a certain Mr. Gabriel was also in the audience, though we didn't yet know each other. Jimi didn't come on until at least 3am. Did anyone ever sleep in those days? The air was heavy with the smell of joss sticks and wacky-backy. My pal Gordon Greenaway and I saw Hendrix one more time at the Isle of Wight Festival in 1970. It must have been four in the morning. Fork lightning and thunder had already graced Ritchie Havens' stunning performance. The storm was raging... The elements were joining in... Those Gods on stage had extra help from Natureís own percussion effects. Mighty forces were fused with mighty forces!

Eighteen days later the world was short of one more guitar hero and the world felt like a smaller place. But as time danced on during rehearsals for Nursery Cryme (my first Genesis album) in the summer of '71 I met Eric Barrett, road manager for Hendrix, at Tony Stratton-Smith's country cottage at Luxford, Kent. Eric called me to one side, opened up a couple of guitar cases and there lying dormant as mummified Egyptian kings lay two Flying Vs, which Eric referred to as his pension, after all the hard times he endured on the road trying to stop Jimi from destroying his stage amps... The charging Rhino effect... machine head meets Marshall Cabinet as battering ram.

Jimi's glory has been well documented of course, but let's move the spotlight a little to one side for the moment. Mitch Mitchell who passed recently, was one of Rock's finest drummers. The outstanding performance on 'Hey Joe' for me is the drumming. It never sits still, is furiously fast on a slow song that could have been a dirge, but personifies the building tension of the lyric. If the song describes a murder, the true killer performance is all Mitch's. I wish I'd worked with him. Check him out on the full Hendrix set at Woodstock...

Drummer Drummer Burning Bright,

In the Middle of the Night...

Love to all,

Related websites:
Jimi Hendrix
Rick Wright