Okay, so, yeah. It’s entirely subjective. The best of. The best that. The top of the heap. Towering over us all like ancient mountains. The pinnacles and centers and foundations of the Sublime, the extraordinary, the heat from a thousand suns and so on. Who was the best? And what stands out amidst their own medleys of genius, as we climb ever higher and higher? As in, among those deathless glories, those white hot suns, which work rates as the brightest, the most unforgettable?
When it comes to Jimi, I really don’t know. I’m not qualified to make that call. I can only tip my cap, lost in mesmeric fog, to all that was and could have been. I can only marvel at the context of these explosions, and how they burst through barriers some of us didn’t even realize were there at the time.
Because, to me, Jimi is a bit like the Greeks and the various pagan artists we never got a chance to really know, because their works were destroyed by religious zealots who couldn’t stand the idea of the pagan, and this went on beyond the destruction of the Library of Alexandria, and truly beautiful minds like Hypatia, and lasted for centuries, and still haunts and cripples us to this day. This all too human desire to destroy what we fear, and our refusal to admit that our fears stem primarily from abject ignorance. Fighting the source of that ignorance was always the true root force of Rock ‘n’ Roll. Rebelling against the “authorities” who perpetually try to domesticate the non-rich, especially the poor, the black, the brown, to preserve and protect the power and wealth of the elites. Fighting that ignorance was also the root of the Hendrix “experience.” Question all authority! No gods, no masters! That was Jimi’s true message.
Below is arguably his best guitar solo, followed by an heir to that genius, a song I’ve only recently discovered. Another one of those Late to the Party moments like my (Jeff Buckley) epiphany, posted back in 2008.
When Hendrix performed “Machine Gun” in Berkeley, in 1970, he introduced it this way:
I’d like to dedicate this song to soldiers fighting in Berkeley—you know what soldiers I’m talking about—and oh yeah, the soldiers fighting in Vietnam too … and dedicate [it] to other people that might be fighting wars too, but within themselves, not facing up to the realities.
Has there ever been a more soaring, moving guitar solo, with a more oft-putting title? How many people chose never to listen to it based on its name? Eddie Hazel is the lead guitarist, all of 21 at the time. Legend has it that George Clinton told him to play this song as if he had just been told his mother had died. That and the LSD led to greatness.