Friday, June 7, 2013

No. 363 – Angel

Performer: Jimi Hendrix
Songwriter: Jimi Hendrix
Original Release: Cry of Love
Year: 1971
Definitive Version: None

The first version I heard of this song was Stanley Jordan’s off his debut album, Magic Touch. If you aren’t familiar with it, you should check it out. More than anything else, this song makes me think of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Debbie and I were charter members, as I mentioned, but after going twice the first two years it was open, I’ve been only once since then—in 2003, when I lived in Cleveland. The occasion was Executive Game 3 weekend.

What’s the Executive Game, you ask? I’ll discuss this further later, but for the purposes of this particular entry, all you need to know is that it was an annual gathering of everyone who contributed to to watch a ballgame together. In 2003, the site was Detroit and the (relatively) new Tiger Stadium.

It wasn’t set what we were going to do Saturday—usually it was a minor-league game—but Jim asked if he could come over early Friday to catch an additional Indians game. (Everyone else was due early the next day.) I hadn’t seen a game all year, so, why not?

The park was mostly empty, and through a happy coincidence in the schedule, the Indians’ opponent was the White Sox—Jim’s favorite team and my second-favorite. We talked baseball the whole game and had a great time. The Sox won easily, and I saw my man, Frank Thomas, hit a homer—the fifth time I saw him hit one, which was the most of any player in my life until Adam Dunn passed him a couple years ago.

Dave and Scott showed up more or less on time, and I had to cram everyone onto the floor of my rinky-dink apartment. Friday had been overcast, and it poured Saturday morning. This was a problem, because my apartment leaked like a sieve, and sure enough, a nice cascade ran down the (nonworking) chimney, spilled onto my mantle and ruined a clock my aunt Sally had bought me for Christmas many years before.

After we mopped up, it was time to decide what we would do with the day. The rain, wind and cold took care of any talk about the Indians on Saturday. So the choice then became obvious—the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame—followed by a drive to Toledo for a stay in a hotel to make the Sunday drive less of a hardship.

I enjoyed it probably more than any previous trip. The company was great—not that it had been bad before—and the new layout seemed to open things up so there was more room for stuff. I noted with irony how Neil Peart’s full drum kit from the recent Vapor Trails Tour was on display. The drumkit was good enough for the Hall, but apparently the guy who played the damned thing wasn’t. (That error, of course, was corrected this year.)

On top of the Hall, where the shrine used to be, was a display devoted to U2. By far the most fascinating thing were letters from Island records and one other record company I can’t recall. I want to say Elektra/Asylum. Anyway, they were pre-Boy rejection letters. I called Scott over. “Look. Letters from people no longer connected to the business.”

I could just imagine the conversation in the mid-Eighties. Wait, instead of trying to find the next U2, you mean we could have had the ACTUAL U2? Whose genius idea was it to not hire them? Yes, that would be the guy who after the conversation was walking out of the building with his desk in a box.

Despite all the guitars and signs and costumes and whatnot, my favorite things in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame are little private things, like Jim Morrison’s cub scout uniform. (He was a Cub Scout?) My absolute favorite single item was a seemingly nondescript sheet of note paper that had the Beverly Hills Hotel imprint on the top. Below were the lyrics to this song.

The story was that Hendrix dreamed about his long-dead mother, and when he woke up, he wrote this song. Here was the actual sheet of paper that he wrote the first draft of the lyrics on, confirming the anecdote. To me, that was cooler than seeing the guitar that he played at Woodstock or whatever. It was like looking at the Declaration of Independence.

By the way, the Executive Game itself was crazy. Roger Clemens was going for his 300th career victory—this was back when I still was a fan of his before he lied to Congress about doing PEDs and threw his wife under the bus to try and save his reputation—which would be by far the biggest milestone I ever saw at a ballgame.

Clemens was staked to a 6-1 lead but blew it in the sixth inning helped by back-to-back errors on routine plays by his infield. The game went 17 innings and remains, until further notice, the longest game I ever saw. The Yankees finally won, 10-9, bringing the festivities to a close.

Rock and Roll and baseball. That makes for a pretty great weekend in my book.

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