Saturday, December 8, 2012

3. “1983 (A Merman I Should Turn To Be)”/
“Moon, Turn the Tides…gently, gently away”

The Jimi Hendrix Experience: Electric Ladyland (Reprise, 1968);
composed by Jimi Hendrix

Electric Ladyland is the only album Jimi Hendrix released in his lifetime that was entirely the way he wanted it and it now makes for an unsettling backwards telescope into what might have transpired if the ambulance medics had kept his lungs clear in 1970. Not coincidentally, this sixteen-minute tone poem about the end of the world in the middle of it has to be addressed with a certain skepticism. Not because of the music, of course. Played entirely by Hendrix, except for Mitch Mitchell’s drums and occasional flute interjections by Chris Wood of Traffic, the track comprises stately inversions of one chord extended through a bone-chilling sequence of sound constructions produced entirely through the delicate interaction of upside-down guitar, amplifier, and remarkably little tape manipulation. It remains one of the very finest and intuitively musical noise excursions in the music. So, why skepticism? Because it sounds like an ending when it was not one. Because it also sounds like an experimental opening that did not ultimately open (although his “Machine Gun” solo makes me wonder). Its only message is that Hendrix could do anything he wanted and we live with never knowing exactly what that means.
Note: 25 secular essays about 25 songs, each one exactly 200 words long, appearing one per day during Advent from Dec. 1 through Dec. 25. Or, most likely, later.

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