In some ways, Jimi Hendrix is more of a character than a man. He is a superpower who descended from afar, some other planet where melody is a language and riffs can be summoned beyond the limitations of six strings. How else do you reconcile the greatest guitarist in history and his unrivalled talents?
Well, this mythologised notion is one that even the humble Hendrix would’ve relished himself. Alongside the melodies, he looked to weave a second love into his music: Science fiction. Anthems like ‘Purple Haze’ are directly derived from this colourful realm.
The anthem was borne when the guitar-hero had a dream in which he was walking under the sea in a plume of purple haze, which was directly inspired by reading Philip José Farmer’s book Night of Light. The book’s synopsis reads: “Once every seven years, a world in orbit around a binary star is bathed in a bizarre radiance that rearranges physical reality.” This bizarre radiance is described in the book as a “purplish haze”.
Thus, Hendrix was already mixing his own otherworldly influences and spooky experiences into song. However, there was one occurrence too grand and awesome to fit into a six-minute track. And as such, Hendrix got busy with a screenplay. The movie would be called Moondust, and it would tell the tale of how Hendrix encountered a UFO during his childhood.
One night, Hendrix was gazing out of the back window of his old Washington state house with his brother Leon. What they saw that night would stay with them forever. Some mysterious lights whizzed through the sky and had them both standing agog. With Hendrix being such a huge fan of Flash Gordon that he insisted on being called Buster Crabbe, this sci-fi apparition was manna from heaven.
Naturally, he moved on from this moment, but its impact never left him in a creative sense. He was always obsessed with somehow reaching further with his music and tapping into a space beyond the norm. He looked to do much the same with the screenplay that sadly never came to fruition, Moondust.
The handwritten script was scribbled by Hendrix between 1969-1970. In a rock opera that coupled the powerful effects of rock ‘n’ roll music with extra-terrestrial encounters, the truly original work was set to be a movie like no other. Featuring scenes where an “innocent little girl” first hears a rock band while cautiously sheltering behind the rock and envisions the music as dragons and mystic beast duelling in the air, the fanciful screenplay offers a great insight into the mind of Hendrix himself.
Over the 38-page journey, lights flash over strange fields, Arabian tents display mystic connections, and a string of other stratospheric developments unfurl. Sadly, however, Hendrix would pass away before he could stretch his vision beyond the mere barebones of his imaginative thoughts. Nevertheless, it shines a light on the innocence and adventure that coloured his rock with a wholesome sense of profundity which is often lost amid the highwire tales of his tearaway life.
In what some folks might view as a mystic trend, Hendrix is not alone when it comes to megastars witnessing bright lights in the night sky—he joins Elvis Presley, John Lennon, Black Francis, Lemmy, Sun Ra, Keith Richards and more in citing celestial sightings. In fact, there’s even a community that has been set wondering whether messages have been imparted in the music of these numina by the Martians that they have met with.