Original Booklet Notes, "The Hurricane Story," for MCA's Jimi Hendrix :Woodstock CD.
page 7 of 8
Back in Bethel, Funeral Taps articulate unspeakable rage for a war against hatred. "I'm American so I played it," Jimi said when quizzed about his National Anthem. "They made me sing it in school, so it was a flashback. We're all Americans, aren't we? When it was written then, it was played in what they call a very, very beautiful state, nice and inspiring, your heart throbs and you say 'Great, I'm American!' But nowadays when we play it, we don't play to take away all this greatness that America's supposed to have. We play it the way the air is in America today. The air is slightly static, isn't it? You know what I mean?"
Michael Wadleigh lead the camera crew that was hired to film the festival. "I thought Hendrix was the best act at Woodstock," Wadleigh later said. "He just stood completely still and played some incredible solos on the guitar. For me it was very interesting to see where music had gone through the last three years. The whole flower children bit was gone and the music was so serious. One of the most exciting things about making Woodstock was showing the musicians the footage of themselves. Hendrix was really turned on by it. I think he realized it wasn't enough to go on being a sex symbol or a super-freek. He wanted his music to be more directly political, and I think he was feeling his way towards this, and the Star Spangled Banner was the start of it, the start of something really new and important; it showed the direction he was moving in, could have moved in."
Jimi's Banner was first heard on the '68 tour at an August 16 gig in Columbia, MD, just south of the Mason-Dixie line. Near a year to the day later, the anthem was ripe to ignite "slightly static" American air.
You got Mississippi talkin' in your blood
You better let it out before you swallow a flood...
Just look up in that hole in the sky, I wonder why...
Lemon Lenin, looks like skim milk, looks like rain
Turn your head back and drink what the lord is bringing,
but don't burn your eyes, between heaven and here
There's a smoggy mud pie...
There goes those pregnant screams again.
You got Mississippi talking in your blood.
Get back to your cricket,
or you're gonna drown your flood.
Jimi - 1969
Plowing ahead back on the farm, Jimi wrings out a twister cadence and slams into Purple Haze. Pointing to the heavens at the break, he chants "'Scuse me while I kiss the sky." Lips pucker up at a haze of purple rainclouds.
And two-hundred-thousand homes explode along the Gulf Coast. Winds spin at tornado speed. Camille churns like a 50-mile wide cyclone. Tidal waves disintegrate the shoreline. It is the most powerful storm ever to hit the continent. $500-million in damage is inflicted to military installations alone. Large sections of Biloxi and New Orleans drown under six-feet of water.
The Evil Wind bypassed expansive Louisiana and Florida shorelines to instead score a bulls-eye hit in Mississippi's strip of narrow coast. The odds were astronomical. And unlike normal hurricanes, which quickly lose intensity and disperse after striking land, Camille bore down unrelenting as she smashed a path through the heart of Dixie, screeching straight ahead for Washington's star-spangled war machine.
Intersecting this whirlwind time-warp, Jimi spins out of Purple Haze and corkscrews through the most cyclonic guitar figures ever created. Genetic codes erupt and mutate under his aural formulas. The band is motionless for four minutes as he darts about the fretboard with flamenco ingenuity.
An Arabian Nomad chordal solo abruptly subsides into the ethereal A-minor masterpiece known as Villanova Junction. Like a butterfly floating to a halt, this serene prayer gently returns the crowd to their futures.
"Thankya" bids Jimi as he leaves the stage.
Awaking from his spell, people regain their breath and mount a roar for "MORE! MORE! MORE!" Hendrix complies with a rare encore. Thinking of a tune named for the god of the sea, he says, "We're gonna try this one song called Valleys Of Neptune." But quickly Jimi changes his mind. "Oh, I forgot the words to that, man. I can't do that right now." Rumbling through riffs in the key of E, he stumbles into Hey Joe. The crowd claps to the beat of the last song at Woodstock:
I'm goin' way down South, way down to Mexico way
Ain't gonna hang me, brother,
Ain't gonna put a rope around me...
Way down to Gulf Of Mexico way, a governor surveyed Camille's aftermath and declared, "This is the greatest disaster Mississippi has ever known." It was as if the Valleys Of Neptune had risen from the sea to reap a very harsh peace in Mississippi.
As long as you want to believe the world is a stage,
then appoint me your electric stagehand.
And I shall produce upon you an overwhelming hurricane
and sling you through the vast middle...
as calm as an untouched baby's brain
I shall let it drain away your clammy nerve...
See your children outside the swirling hurricane,
with your blurred tears, laughing at your vision keen.
Wonder, don't they, where you learn how to bleed
and scream your homemade pain.
Music goes by the rules of the present air.
Listen passively as my guitar howls and grinds and unwinds
and dines upon the spelling of your name...
You're on stage! Hear The World Hurricane applaud...
See your reflection on your self-made stage
as you are forced up to the spinning edge.
"The world is a stage, the world is a stage"...
History even forgets.
The hurricane leaves before you finish off the world;
Thank God. Your act's a disgrace.
Jimi - 1969