Because it’s Friday, we have a treat for you: a recently unearthed take of Jimi Hendrix ripping through a song called “Somewhere,” with Band of Gypsies drummer Buddy Miles and Stephen Stills (of CSNY) on bass. Released last November to mark the 70th anniversary of Hendrix’s birth, this track will be included on a 12-song album of previously unreleased Hendrix recordings from 1968-69 called People, Hell & Angels, coming in early March.
“Somewhere” has appeared before, on the 2000 box-set moneymaker The Jimi Hendrix Experience and a hit-and-miss 2003 double-disc of cuts called Axis Outtakes (culled from the Axis: Bold as Love Sessions). The previous release, however, was a different take, a blues-rock demo made prior to Electric Ladyland. Recorded early in 1968, with Mitch Mitchell adding drums in ’71, two years after Hendrix’s death, the other version is nothing to write home about, frankly, with a definite demo feel—exploratory, but somewhat uninspiring production, although the ideas are there (listen to it here).
The version above is another animal: it bursts out of the gate in full breakdown, then the drums recede, Hendrix rides the descending rhythm line in a long, expectant pause, and when the rhythm kicks back in, he wails and wahs his way into a tight verse, punctuated with bursts of his blues fills and Miles’s confident snare cracks. Stephen Stills’ bass playing holds up to anything Noel Redding or Billy Cox contributed to Hendrix’s ensembles. Between each verse, Hendrix explodes into the wild solo runs he’s known for. It’s a real gem, and the lyrical content perfectly captures the street-level, and Southeast Asia-ground-level, hostility, fear, and frustration of the late sixties:
I see fingers, hands and shades of faces,
Reachin up and not quite touchin the promised land,
I hear pleas and prayers and a desperate whisper sayin,
Whoa Lord, please give us a helpin hand,
Way down in the background,
I can see frustrated souls of cities burnin,
And all across the water vapor,
I see weapons barkin out the stamp of death,
And up in the clouds I can imagine UFO’s jumpin themselves,
Laughin they sayin,
Those people so uptight, they sure know how to make a mess
Back in the saloon my tears mix and mildew with my drink,
I can’t really tell my feet from the stones on the floor,
But as far as I know, they may even try to wrap me up in cellophane and sell me
Brothers help me, and dont worry about lookin at the storm
Yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah
Hendrix was right. They did wrap him up and sell him.
Josh Jones is a writer and musician. He recently completed a dissertation on land, literature, and labor.
This made my day. Thank you!
Excellent. Best Jimi I’ve heard in a long time… I was already thinking of repeating it and repeating it before I hit the end of the first verse…
A lot of people still bang on about Jimi being the greatest, etc etc, and I’ll be the first to admit that his “sound” was new and original. But just yesterday, I learned of a guitarist, born in a little town in Italy, just like some other more famous Italians of centuries gone by, who uses the name Dr Viossy. My guess is that he does, in fact, have a doctorate in music. If you look up Viossy moonlight sonata on youtube, you’ll get to a clip that is 6.16 minutes long and it’s him playing a note-for-note transcription of the last movement of that famous piece of music by Beethoven. He plays rock music usually but the fact that he can actually play that “classical” music, and fast and faultlessly, on a guitar, well, you be the judge. I was astounded, utterly. No one who has seen it will rave about Hendrix in future!
Technical ability does not automatically make one a “musician”. Yngwie Malmsteen, for one example, is as technically proficient (or better) as this “Dr Viossy” person is, yet I wouldn’t spend more than a few minutes willingly listening to either one of them, except perhaps to use them as a example of how technical ability on the guitar does not equate to musicianship. I’d take Hendrix on an out-of-tune ukulele over either one of these guys, anyday.
Jimi will always be raved about. Not for being the best. For being the only. For being Jimi.
Sounds like a slowed down version with different lyrics of Earth Blues.
His fingers were flying, and I was hearing some scales, or portions of scales, and modes, or combinations thereof, that I’m not sure I ever heard before. The man’s musical energy was taking off in this take, even if the organization and some of the tuning or accompanying chords weren’t totally tight. Jimi was a phenomenon, a genius, and he was just getting started. What a shame to lose him when we did.
Jimi is a god!
Jimi was the single most artistically inspirational person that the United States has ever produced, in my opinion. He was unabashedly and beautifully exactly who he was meant to be. No black, no white, just a peace-loving, freedom-loving, love loving, music-loving man… He epitomized the American renaissance, in my mind. He taught so many how to wave their freak flags… This new music is so welcome… and incredible. I’m not convinced that all of the lyrics above are accurate, though…someone might want to edit those. Thanks for posting this!! Made my day!!!
Jimi was a virtuoso. But he was, also, something else – he had a quality, a vibe, something from a different world. He’s not my favorite guitar player (that would be Clapton) but even I know he’s something else. I would say he was the most creative guitar player ever.
(Other guy that I love because of this same trait is Jack White.)
By the way, went to check out that Viossi guy – he’s just an insanely skilled session musician. Why kids mistake virtuosity by artistry these days?
Jimi is the best for his creativity. Anybody can practice something and get it down- and I’m speaking as a guitar player myself. Not everyone can write originals that are any good, and nobody understands the guitar as did Hendrix