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Music

The sharp joke Brian Jones made about the arrival of Jimi Hendrix

I don’t think anyone would protest at the argument that Jimi Hendrix was the best guitarist of all time. He completely changed the parameters of what it meant to be a musician by imbuing guitar playing with a bite and a swashbuckling style that remains highly influential today. It is safe to say that the “turn it up to 11” gag in This is Spinal Tap originated at the hands of Hendrix.

Iconoclastic in every sense of the word, the Seattle native caught the world of music off guard, and after first seeing him play and hearing his records, everyone knew that the time for complacency was over.

It’s a testament to the magnitude of his craft that he managed to raise the level of all of his contemporaries, who up until his arrival, had enjoyed a God-like status, with their status quo unchallenged. Undoubtedly, one of the most interesting things about Hendrix was that he wasn’t classically trained like many of his peers but was self-taught. Ironically, this gave him the authenticity that is so timeless.

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Through tearing up the rulebook, Hendrix demonstrated that you do not have to follow the established route to musical success and that often, doing things in a way you see fit is the key to achieving what should be the ultimate goal for any musician, artistic fulfilment.  

Perhaps the most famous story of Hendrix storming onto the scene is that of his performance at London’s Saville Theatre on June 4th, 1967. A host of the most prominent musical acts of the day were in attendance, including, Paul McCartney, Eric Clapton, Pete Townshend, Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck. Everybody there had heard whispers of this magical musician from across the pond, but no one was prepared for the unfettered power of what they saw.

In Charles R. Cross’s biography of the late guitarist, Room Full of Mirrors, he recounts an anecdote where The Rolling Stones founding member, Brian Jones, joked about the grumpy guitar heroes in attendance who, after the show, felt they had just had the rug pulled from under them. They were no longer the best guitarists around.

According to Cross, during a break in the show, Jones ran into another unnamed musician when they returned to their seats to watch Hendrix deliver the second half of his mind-blowing set. “It’s all wet down front,” the impish Jones cautioned his anonymous peer. At that point, the musician looked incredibly confused by Jones’ cryptic message, so he clarified, “It’s wet from all the guitar players crying.”

Reflecting what Jones meant, famously, Eric Clapton was rather miffed after watching Hendrix dazzle the audience, telling Chas Chandler in annoyance, “You didn’t tell me he was this f***ing good”.

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