Today author Gary Jucha talks about his new Jimi Hendrix book, an entry in the FAQ Series titled Jimi Hendrix FAQ: All Thats Left to Know About the Voodoo Child. (Full disclosure, I am also working on an entry for the FAQ series).
Music Tomes: In the introduction to the book you give a great account of how you first began to pursue the music of Hendrix. What inspired you to write the book?
Gary Jucha: Frankly I was asked by Robert Rodriguez the FAQ Series Editor if I was interested in possibly writing a book for Backbeat. He had seen a piece I wrote about The Clash at my old website and contacted me. At the time, I didn’t know he meant a book for his FAQ series and so – 9 being my favorite number – I sent him a list of 9 music related titles on subjects that I thought would make good books and that I could write better than anybody.
I can’t remember all of them but I do remember suggesting The Clash in America, which would solely focus on The Clash’s concerts and recording sessions in America as well as their cultural impact on the country they had been bored with, and Jimi Hendrix: The Posthumous Years. I believe that as timeless as the three Jimi Hendrix Experience studio albums are, that it his posthumous recordings that have really contributed to his enduring fame. We had some back and forth discussions and that resulted in me writing Jimi Hendrix FAQ: All There’s Left to Know about the Voodoo Child.
MT: Was there anything that surprised you in your research?
GJ: I was dismayed by his neglected childhood, by how many of his tales were really tall, and how isolated he was at the time of his death. But wanting to stress the positive let me say that what was really a discovery was how truly talented the Band of Gypsys was. That’s Jimi’s all black trio that included Buddy Miles on drums and vocals and Jimi’s army buddy Billy Cox on bass and vocals. Their legacy rests almost entirely on four concerts played on two consecutive nights after a few weeks rehearsal. Now they had been playing together at recording sessions since May 21, 1969 – a few of which are on the new People, Hell and Angels collection – but their performances at Bill Graham’s Fillmore East still stand out.
For example, “Machine Gun” is one of Jimi’s Top Ten iconic songs and that comes from these concerts. And the contributions of Jimi’s fellow gypsys to that song are profound. Billy’s ominous bass line and Buddy’s rat-a-tat-tat drumming really contribute to the song’s mood. And the notable thing that most people don’t realize is they played “Machine Gun” at all four concerts and all four are worth hearing. The one that’s readily available on Band of Gypsys is even arguably not the best version. Others include snatches of “Star Spangled Banner” during Jimi’s solos and I think Jimi didn’t want to release those versions because then it would make “Machine Gun” an anti-Vietnam War song and not the anti-war song that he wanted it to be. (All four versions are available on 2 Nights at the Fillmore, a 6-CD collection.)
MT: What are your thoughts on the new Hendrix release?
GJ: I recommend it. Recorded over a 29 month period with 24 musicians at five studios, I think Jimi’s favorite recording engineer Eddie Kramer has really worked his magic here. The twelve songs sound as if they were recorded at one session.
Of course, it’s not the album Jimi had in mind when mentioning the title to interviewers. It was supposed to be a triple album with each album representing one of the nouns in the title. The first album, for example, would be about people, the second hell and the third angels. I’m surprised the title wasn’t used for a box set.
My only criticism – and it’s a minor one – is with the sequencing. I suggest you burn this playlist to a CD and play it in your car: Hey Gypsy Boy/Villanova Junction Blues/Hear My Train A Comin’/ Bleeding Heart/Mojo Man/Let Me Move You/Izabella/Easy Blues/Crash Landing/Earth Blues/Somewhere/Inside Out
It’s a very different listening experience. It begins quieter and the noisier pieces come during the second half but it flows much better; much more pleasing to the ear.
MT: What are you currently working on?
GJ: Well there’s some discussion about doing a Rolling Stones FAQ, which I’d love to do. I think one of my suggestions to Robert Rodriguez was about the Mick Taylor period; he’s the forgotten Rolling Stone but the Stones’ peak period was with him in the line-up. But right now I’m working on a book about The Clash, their recording of their fourth album Sandinista!, and the tours promoting that triple album, especially the legendary Bonds residency at a disco in New York City’s Times Square in May-June 1981. I saw 8 of those 17 shows.
MT: Can you recommend a few of your favorite music tomes?
GJ: Well, as I mentioned above, 9 is my favorite number so I’ll give you 9:
1. The Fallen – Dave Simpson
2. Jimi Hendrix: The Intimate Story of a Betrayed Musical Legend – Sharon Lawrence
3. Just Kids – Patti Smith
4. Bowie in Berlin – Thomas Jerome Seabrook
5. Redemption Song – The Ballad of Joe Strummer – Chris Salewicz
6. Our Band Could Be Your Life: Scene from the American Indie Underground 1981-1991 – Michael Azerrad
7. The Beatles Recording Sessions – Mark Lewisohn
8. The Minutemen’s Double Nickels On The Dime – Michael T. Founier
9. Miles Beyond: The Electric Explorations of Miles Davis, 1967-1991 – Paul Tingen
It’s fairly self-evident what each of those music tomes are about except for the first one, which happens to be my favorite. Dave Sampson is a British music journalist whose book is about The Fall, one of Great Britain’s longest running bands. They
formed in 1976 and so far have released 29 studio albums as well as countless live recordings, collections, reissues. But only one member has been in The Fall all that time. That’s mercurial cofounder Mark E. Smith, a British legend who runs his
band like a sports club and fires members left and right. Dozens of line-ups have constituted The Fall and Sampson’s book is like a detective story as he tries to talk to every ex-Fall member, or “the Fallen” alluded to in the book’s title.
Thanks for asking to interview me. I really enjoyed doing this.