Jimi Hendrix: Star Power
GW It’s been intimated that Jimi’s management took an active role in disbanding this ensemble. COX The truth is that there was a lot of tension in the air, in that the management was trying to pressure Jimi into changing things without regard for what Jimi really wanted to do. These gun-carrying heavies would show up at the house with Mike Jeffrey, and things were a little scary. They wanted Jimi to put a different band together and go back out on tour immediately— they tried to force him to audition different players—but Jimi knew what he did and didn’t want to do. Ultimately, there was no tour, so following the few commitments we had after Woodstock, I went back to Nashville and Mitch went back to England. But I was back in New York about a month later, because part of what was going on involved what at that point had become a long-standing and unresolved legal issue with Ed Chalpin [Hendrix had signed a recording contract with Chalpin back in 1966]. Ultimately, the decision was made to give Chalpin an album as part of the settlement, which turned out to be Band of Gypsys [recorded by Hendrix, COX and Buddy Miles under the name Band of Gypsys]. MITCHELL Jimi and I had always had a correspondence, even during the Band of Gypsys period [from November ’69 through the end of January ’70]. At the time, I worked in a group with [Cream bassist] Jack Bruce and [jazz-rock guitarist] Larry Coryell, and Jimi came to see our gigs at the Fillmore. I was still staying at Jimi’s 12th Street apartment! And even during the Band of Gypsys period, Jimi called me and expressed some personality conflicts within the group, which had nothing to do with Billy I hasten to add. My feeling is that, if Jimi were alive today, we would probably not have a regular band together, but I’m sure we would have always gotten back together for recording and to play shows. We did work with a few other lineups—horn players or what have you—so we got to explore that a little. Regrettably, we never got to further explore larger ensembles and different instrumentation with Billy. GW After the fallout from the Band of Gypsys, Jimi’s management decided that it’d be best to get the original Experience back together, right? MITCHELL Yes. Jimi, Noel and I did an interview with Rolling Stone wherein we’d announced the reformation of the original lineup, but things didn’t feel quite right. Jimi called me at about 10 o’clock that same night, and he said, “So, how do you feel about it?” I said, “What do you mean?” and he said, “About Noel.” I didn’t say anything—I suppose I was waiting for someone else to say something! He said, “Well, we’ve played with Billy…don’t you think it’s time [to let Noel Go]...” and I said, “Yes!” There was a certain amount of resentment from Noel’s side, bless his cotton socks. He was an adequate guitarist, and the bass was never his instrument. He played very proficiently, but he didn’t care for the instrument at all. He didn’t try to learn about the bass, and that used to bug the shit out of Jimi and myself. Noel, and Chas [Chandler] as well, weren’t interested in experimenting in the studio, either; it was all about getting it done quickly. Chas would always say, “ ‘The House of the Rising Sun’ [the Animals hit song on which Chas was the bassist] cost $30 to record,” but, truthfully, that was meaningless to me and Jimi. That was then; things were changing. We liked to work hard in the studio; we lived for it. I had worked in the studio quite a bit before I had ever even met Jimi, and I’d never seen anyone work so naturally in the studio as him. To Jimi, the studio was just another instrument. The closest person to Jimi in that regard was Tommy Dowd [legendary Atlantic Records producer/engineer who worked with Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, Cream, Derek & the Dominoes, Eric Clapton, the Allman Brothers, Ray Charles, etc.], who is generally and rightfully regarded as a genius. GW One of the great things about a truly effective “power trio” lineup is that the three musicians learn how to make a huge, powerful sound with just one guitarist, a bass player and a drummer. The personality of each individual has to be very strong in order for the trio lineup to really work. This was true of Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker in Cream, and it was certainly true in the original Experience and also in Jimi’s later trio with you both. COX In a trio, each musician must carry a lot of weight. We three, as a band, knew how to do that, and we loved doing it. We enjoyed great communication with each other, visually and musically. MITCHELL That’s the deal. I have always attempted to learn what not to play and to leave the proper amount of space for the other musicians. And I do believe that the three of us did have great musical and personal communication.
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