Friday, 22 November 2013

The 'Gods' of Rock 001 - Jimi Hendrix (Part 2)

So by 1966 Jimi had met Chas Chandler, the Animals former bass player, and as luck would have it he was looking for an upcoming star to manage. Chandler went to work convincing Hendrix to travel to England with him, once there he teamed him up with British musicians Noel Redding (bass) and Mitch Mitchell (drums) and formed The Jimi Hendrix Experience. The idea was originally that they were Hendrix’s backing band, but it became clear that they were more like a super group in the mould of bands like Cream, as they all brought unique and exciting offerings to the band. Together they release three excellent albums that features some of rock’s most influential guitar work. Are You Experienced?(1967), Axis: Bold as Love (1967) and Electric Ladyland (1968) all rank highly in Rolling Stone magazine’s top 500 albums of all time.
Jimi Hendrix ExpereinceThe Jimi Hendrix Experience quickly established themselves in England and other parts of Europe. The UK often ahead of the curve when it comes to new music fully embraced the band. Their fans in high places such as The Who’s Pete Townsend, Eric Clapton and The Beatles aided their rise to popularity. Paul McCartney himself recommended that the band were booked to play the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival in California. This performance proved a seminal moment for the band, coinciding with the “Summer of Love” it catapulted Hendrix to stardom in the United States. The explosive set ended with the legendary burning and smashing of Hendrix’s guitar during a cover of Wild Thing.
Jimi Hendrix’s astronomical rise was not without tensions. Redding left the group in ‘68 and Hendrix was caught up in a series of legal troubles that included drug arrests and contract disputes.
Another defining moment came on August 18th, 1969, at the Woodstock Music Festival as Hendrix performed with a group called “A Band of Gypsies”. During this infamous set, they performed the reinterpretation of The Star Spangled Banner which caused shock and awe across America. This was a defining musical moment of the 1960's hippie movement, it was this five minute psychedelic blues improvisation. Hendrix had always maintained an avid interest in the hippie movement and this moment for which he is often remembered become iconic.
Hendrix was lauded for not only his flamboyant shows and guitar stage tricks, but also his true-to-roots blues arrangements and his pioneering work with multi-tracking and use of effects. He toured and recorded constantly creating over three hundred unreleased recordings. Tragically, Jimi Hendrix was found dead on September 18, 1970 under circumstances that have never been fully explained. Drugs and alcohol are often blamed, but like most legends that die young the causes of their death are often shrouded in mystery.

Understandably, Jimi Hendrix’s image has taken on an iconic stature but nothing really overshadows his musical achievements.  Endless praise is often heaped on him for his innovations and contributions to popular music, but it should never be forgotten that he also created amazing and brilliant three minute songs like Purple Haze, Little Wing, The Wind Cries Mary, If 6 Was 9, Rainy Day Dream Away and Angel will always be as memorable as they are incomparable.

Friday, 15 November 2013

The 'Gods' of Rock 001 - Jimi Hendrix (Part 1)

People recognise his guitar playing straight away. An extravagant take on psychedelic rock which was not only recognisable but revolutionary take on the music. You can hear his spirit and swagger channelled by almost anyone who has ever played electric. Even though he died over forty years ago he is still an icon and one of the most important “guitar gods.”
Jimi Hendrix Guitar

The Hendrix legacy has endured and it could be said it almost eclipses pretty much every guitarist to have come along since. He experimented with feedback and effects which challenged conventional approaches to playing the guitar and his blues inspired riffs led the way for hard rock and heavy metal. Redefining what it is to play the electric guitar itself:

“Musically, Hendrix did much to further the development of the electric guitar’s repertoire, establishing it as a unique sonic source, rather than merely an amplified version of the acoustic guitar. Likewise, his feedback, wah-wah and fuzz-laden soloing moved guitar distortion well beyond mere novelty, incorporating other effects pedals and units specifically designed for him.” – Wikipedia

Often Hendrix’s flashy persona took the limelight, but it must never be forgotten how talented a musician, writer and producer he was:

“His frequent hurricane blasts of noise and dazzling showmanship — he could and would play behind his back and with his teeth and set his guitar on fire — has sometimes obscured his considerable gifts as a songwriter, singer, and master of a gamut of blues, R&B, and rock styles.” – All Music Guide

Born in Seattle in 1942, he had a difficult childhood, often living in the care of relatives and even sometimes acquaintances. His mother, Lucille, only 17-years-old when Hendrix was born had a stormy relationship with his father, Al. Eventually his mother left the family after having two more children with his father. Hendrix only saw his mother occasionally before her death in 1958.

It seems music acted as a sanctuary for Hendrix. He taught himself to play guitar inspired by the blues music of which he was an avid fan. When he was 14, Hendrix saw Elvis Presley perform. Inspired by this he got his first electric guitar the following year. In 1959, Hendrix dropped out of high school. He worked odd jobs while continuing to follow his musical aspirations. Unfortunately after this he came unstuck with the law and wound up doing a stint in the U.S. army to avoid jail. Finally freed from his military obligations after a year, he focused on music full time.

With a renewed focus he tried his luck around Tennessee, playing in the backing bands for many Blues, R & B and Soul stars including Jackie Wilson and Sam Cooke. Spending all this time in Nashville and in the other cities on the famous “Chitlin’ Circuit” established him and his talents. Then in January 1964 he made the move to New York City, winning a talent contest at the Apollo Theatre within a month. This appeared to be the beak he was looking for and it landed him a gig playing lead guitar for the Isley Brothers and led not only to touring, but work with Little Richard and King Curtis. Hendrix was later quoted as saying “I want to do with my guitar what Little Richard does with his voice.”

To be continued in Part 2....

Friday, 8 November 2013

Why not give your thumbs a rest...

We handed today's post over to Thumb Rest maestro Guy Lewis, he discusses all things thumb rests, how he makes them and how he got into making them...

Bass Guitar Thumbrest Ebony Standard 2-Hole image
I began making bass guitar thumb rests by accident really when I was given an old but excellent quality Fender Precision copy by a friend. It had two mysterious holes in the pickguard which after a little research I realised were for a thumb rest (or tug bar as they are sometimes called.)Wishing to restore the instrument to its former glory I bought a replacement hollow plastic thumb rest from Ebay, fitted it and found it suited my playing-style but I hated its cheap look and feel.

Being a furniture designer/maker with a lifetime’s experience in working wood, it made sense to me to make one for myself from a quality exotic timber. I had some black ebony off-cuts from the studio-desk boxes I was making at the time which I found was perfect.

In fact I made two thumb rests and listed the second one on Ebay where it sold very quickly. I made a further ten which again sold well and here I am, six years later still producing these quirky little replacement parts and selling them all over the World.

I still make them by hand in very small batches but my range has now expanded to include many different exotic woods and also decorative solid cast acrylic and polyester ones. A lot of hand work goes into making these simple parts but it is worth the effort as they look and feel sublime.

Recently I developed a low-profile thumb rest which doesn't protrude as much as a standard one and doesn't really change the appearance of the instrument. It is proving very popular.

Another aspect of my work is making custom one-off thumb rests for players with very specific demands. Sometimes the rests are extra-long and thin, other times they are absolutely tiny. Within reason, any designs can be made and won’t cost nearly as much as you might expect for a bespoke one-off part.

If you would take a look at the thumb rests you can find them here.