The Tuk Ten: Day 1 – Jimi Hendrix, Live at Monterey
As all things with Facebook, you periodically see these quick little challenges to list your favorite childhood memories, favorite movies, and so on. One of these challenges, the “List your top ten records” challenge caught my eye.
Then one friend nominated me after he had put his own list out. Then another friend did the same thing. I thought about it. The more I thought about it, the more difficult it became. Having a lifetime of music to choose from, listening to records and cassettes and CDs and mp3s and every other format since I was about 5 years old, is a very deep reservoir to navigate. There was absolutely no way that I could pick just ten recordings and hold them out as the top of the top. There are too many musical genres, too many to choose, and too many to possibly miss.
So, I stuck to the rock and roll realm, which formed the basis of my youth, the first years I started playing drums, and noticing musicians and styles, and riffs, and the cover art on the album covers. (We’ll do a Tuk Ten for Jazz later). So in no particular order, here is the one of my ten.
Also, a note for those who are going to follow along on this little journey. Avoid youtube when you are trying to digest the recordings. This is about sound quality and timbre. Hearing music on vinyl on a good setup with good headphones is a richer experience than listing on wireless earbuds to an mp3. If not vinyl, then whatever you have but used corded headphones. Almost all digital compression and delivery (especially bluetooth headphones//earbuds) significantly degrades the audio quality. So a word of guidance: do your best to experience the audio only, it will enrich your appreciation for the greatness that follows on this list.
JIMI HENDRIX – LIVE AT MONTEREY (1967)
Energy, energy, energy. The Jimi Hendrix Experience made some great studio albums in their short recording career (which lasted only 4 years!), but for my money, this was a band built to play LIVE in front of an audience. The vitality and muscularity of this performance comes right through the headphones and grabs you. There’s nothing like it.
Jimi’s banter in between songs with the audience is priceless. He’s totally at home, totally relaxed and talking to the audience as if they were hanging out over at someone’s house listening to records.
On this recording, Hendrix is at the height of his powers. The guitar tone is one of a kind: gritty, squealing and dense but also spacious (check out the rendition of The Wind Cries Mary). The licks in-between the chords were unique and unmistakably Jimi. No one could do what Hendrix did. Almost every rock guitarist that came after him was more or less paying homage to Hendrix’s style.
This set ran a taut and economical 43 minutes. In that span, the trio put forward a parade of Hendrix classics: Killing Floor, Foxey Lady, Hey Joe, The Wind Cries Mary and Purple Haze. Plus, for good measure, Hendrix throws in two covers, a Bob Dylan tune (Like a Rolling Stone) and a T. Rex song (Wild Thing).
Noel Redding (bass) and Mitch Mitchell (drums) were one of the absolute best rhythm sections ever. Period. I generally stay away from using superlative terms to describe things, but in this case the praise is justified. There were many legendary bassist/drummer duos from back in the day that have withstood the test of time: Chris Squire and Alan White (Yes), Geddy Lee and Neil Peart (Rush), John McVie and Mick Fleetwood (Fleetwood Mac), John Wetton and Bill Bruford (King Crimson). There are others.
I suspect that if you polled all the great bassists and drummers that followed the Hendrix era, they would all unanimously cite Redding and Mitchell as one of the greatest rhythm sections of all time. Redding and Mitchell complemented one another so well stylistically that the whole was greater than the sum of its parts. They were just a massive wall of groove. That was one of the things I think listeners don’t realize enough about Hendrix. There is a swing that underlies these anthemic rock classics. That is what makes it so difficult to cover Hendrix tunes well. Anyone can play the riff to Foxey Lady, but when you can – as a band – push and pull the groove underneath the riff, then you are onto something. Trust me, that doesn’t come around often.
Hendrix’s material was a living breathing animal where the tempo pushes and pulls and the meter swings just enough to be noticeable. Very subtle, but very effective.
Mitch Mitchell in particular didn’t get enough credit among his peers at the time. In terms of groove, feel, technical ability, and by any other dimension by which a drummer can be evaluated, Mitchell is one of the greats. Go back and watch some YouTube on him and you’ll quickly see what I mean.
Like a Rolling Stone
Rock Me Baby
Can You See Me
The Wind Cries Mary
Bryan Tuk is a writer, attorney and musician. His recent book: risk, create, change: a survival guide for startups and creators, is available on Amazon. You can find out more about Bryan’s writings and music at http://riskcreatechange.com
His law practice represents clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey and focuses on arts & entertainment law matters, copyrights, trademarks, nonprofit organizations, startups and entrepreneurs. You can learn about Bryan’s law practice at http://tuklaw.com.