Wednesday, April 18, 2012

No. 778 – Spanish Castle Magic

Performer: The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Songwriter: Jimi Hendrix
Original Release: Axis: Bold As Love
Year: 1967
Definitive Version: None, although the version from Woodstock is pretty sweet.

I didn’t finally add Axis to my voluminous collection until later on during an intense period of money-grubbing, er, re-releasing of material by MCA records. But by the end of the Nineties, I closed the book on further Hendrix purchases. The reason was simple, and it didn’t have anything to do with the philosophical question of how many versions of Purple Haze can one person have, because the answer, of course, is you CAN’T have too many. It’s a trick question.

From pretty much 1993 on through the end of the decade, I bought every live album, every reconstruction of Hendrix’s fabled fourth album, every version of Woodstock I could find. And then I stopped, because I no longer could take the greed of Hendrix’s estate, now represented by Experience Hendrix.

Not that Hendrix, of course, hadn’t been exploited financially for a long time before that. I read once that he told his girlfriend that people around him were so greedy that he figured that after he died, they’d still send him out on tour, with a guitar strapped to his skeleton. So when Experience Hendrix decided to do something not too far removed from that obscenity, I threw in the towel.

Maybe you remember this story that came over the wire sometime around the end of the Millenium. Experience Hendrix, a consortium set up by Jimi’s dad and daughter after they wrested control of the Hendrix collection away from MCA, got the keen idea that Jimi’s final resting place didn’t properly honor the man. So they hatched the idea to dig him up and move him in a gigantic monstrosity of a mausoleum that played his music and hung personal mementos and would allow people to visit—for a price, of course.

This was an outrage.

I had been to Hendrix’s gravesite (a story for another time), and the beauty of it was its humility. Maybe you saw it yourself—in person or online—but it was a plain, gray flat-to-the-ground headstone, with his name and a Stratocaster inscribed. Hendrix was buried next to his mom, and the pair were surrounded by a sea of similarly humble markers in the Greenwood Memorial Cemetery at the south end of Puget Sound.

It’s quiet and peaceful—and respectful. When Scott and I went, a few others had left small tributes—flowers, a letter or two and even a demo tape of someone’s band. There was no graffiti anywhere. It was perfectly reverential, and I’m pretty sure Hendrix himself would have approved.

Experience Hendrix didn’t. No one was making any money off it, er, it didn’t properly alert guests to the legend of Jimi Hendrix. To its infinite credit, the cemetery board turned the proposal down flat. It was too huge, too garish and would create too big of a traffic headache.

I lost track of the story, but during the course of doing research, I saw that apparently the two sides came to some sort of a compromise. Citing “concerns from the cemetery that other nearby gravesites were starting to be damaged,” Hendrix, his mother and now father, too, have been moved to a separate site that’s a bit more dignified—and free.

But it doesn’t make any difference: Experience Hendrix hasn't and will never get another dime off me. And I’m pretty sure Jimi would back me on that.

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