Performer: Jimi Hendrix
Songwriter: Jimi Hendrix
Original Release: Woodstock: Music from the Original Soundtrack and More
Definitive Version: Live at Woodstock, 1999
This song’s original name was Instrumental Solo. At least that’s the name that was given on the Woodstock soundtrack before a Hendrix release put a public name to the song that closed his legendary set and the movie performances.
It also is the finale of what in my inexpert opinion is the greatest 25 minutes in recorded rock history. That’s greatest, as in best ever, not as in favorite. Care to argue with me? Fine. Top this: An amazing Voodoo Child (Slight Return) seguing into Stepping Stone, the epic Star Spangled Banner, a rousing Purple Haze, a blistering solo and this ethereal tune—25 minutes nonstop with the exception of a slight pause in the Banner just before the “O’er the land of the free” phrase.
About the time I first saw Woodstock and thus heard this song was when I was going for my drivers license in 1980. Because of my June birthday, I was one of the youngest kids in my class, so I didn’t even have my learner’s permit until my sophomore year ended. Mike had been driving since March, for example.
I could take my in-class drivers’ ed—where we watched all the gross movies that showed you what most assuredly will happen if you ever drive drunk—in school before I turned 16, but I couldn’t take my in-car drivers’ ed till summer vacation. When you’re on summer vacation, the last thing you typically want to do is get up at 8 in the morning to go to school. I felt like I was in remedial class with the burnouts, but, hey, whatever it took to get my drivers license.
I don’t remember the instructor’s name, but I definitely remember the songs that were on the radio all the time—particularly Coming Up by Paul McCartney and Wings and Magic by Olivia Newton-John. And all I wanted to do was get home so I could throw on my Hendrix. As far as the class itself went, the best memory I have is the day we drove to Marysville—to get some highway practice—and stopped at the Dairy Queen for a shake.
Now Upper Arlington being UPPER Arlington, most kids got new cars when they turned 16. It wasn’t when I turned 16 and it wasn’t new, but I did get a car in fall 1980. Mom decided she wanted to get a new car and give me her old one—a 1971 VW squareback. We called it The Fart, because, well, that’s what it was. It was a real piece of crap.
Actually, it was kind of cool if you were a car guy, which I’m not. The engine was in back, beneath the station wagon back that included a handy fold-down seat for piling up stuff for college. The trunk was up front.
It might have been The Fart, but it was mine. It afforded me far more freedom than my bike gave me. Now I could go see Mike when I wanted. I could drive to school and not have to worry about Mom not getting me and my friends because she was “sick.” I could drive to lunch. I could drive to Timeout on OSU’s campus to play this new game called Pac-Man. I could drive to Clippers games. All I had to do was pay for my gas, and back then, it was at a shockingly high buck a gallon. At least The Fart got decent mileage.
It got me to and from high school, then later work, then later Wabash. It got me through four good years, and it led to some adventures that I'll recount at a later time. When it was time, I passed it along to my sister the summer after her 16th birthday. She had it another four years before it unceremoniously died along the highway in Michigan. And so it goes …