2024… (A Merman Knocked On My Door)

Hendrix. Electric Ladyland. Side three. ‘1983… (A Merman I Should Turn To Be)’.

 This song fracking soars. It soars like Beethoven at his deafest. The riff is one of his best, sinuously driving the song as it unwinds like a dream through your mind. The lyrics are Jimi’s soul laid bare, shaking his fist as a triumphant merman from the year 1983. The truth is, he was right. His producer quit halfway through recording the album because of Jimi’s perfectionism. This proved to be quite a boon as Jimi was left to produce the record himself and the result speaks for itself. Hendrix had a very specific image in mind for the album cover: he wanted Linda Eastman to photograph the band sitting with children on an Alice in Wonderland sculpture in Central Park. Instead, he got the heavily processed red and yellow tinged photo that currently adorns the US version. The UK cover is a photo of a couple of dozen nude women. Hendrix apparently loathed both of them. He was even more upset when somewhere along the line a technician accidentally renamed the album ‘Electric Landlady’ and the artist himself was the one who caught the error. Nobody else even noticed. I imagine it would take quite a bit to freak out Jimi Hendrix, but that was apparently enough.

By 1983 Jimi Hendrix had been dead for over a decade. By that time it would be hard to ever imagine him as somebody that was disregarded and discounted during his lifetime, but it was the case. He was booed off the stage when he opened for the Monkees. He certainly had fans and people who recognized his musical genius but his mentor/manager/producer Chas Chandler gave up on him and his fellow musician Noel Redding didn’t understand what he was trying to achieve. Yet he sang of seeing himself in the future achieving an impossible vindication. It’s too bad he couldn’t have lived longer. I think he would have been immensely gratified to see Prince get booed off the stage in 1983 while opening for the Rolling Stones when he was touring ‘1999’.

I persist with my own artistic endeavors not because I believe that in some future era people in berets sipping wine will somberly agree upon my genius but rather because I really don’t want to die inside. It’s the same reason I listen to Hendrix, Prince, and Beethoven to name a few. It’s why I look at paintings and pictures and portraits and contemplate statuary and haiku. I’ve stopped pretending to try and create ideas from my head anew; I’ve learned that to make art is to engage in a conversation. A poem speaks to the past as much as any future iteration and a song about tomorrow’s hope springs from today’s tribulation. I’m going to paint the Experience in the park with the children just the way Jimi dreamed it; it’s my way of saying thank you for songs that left me redeyed.      

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