Richard Lloyd: 'Scuse Me While I Hit This Guy
Richard recalls, “The first song we heard was ‘Are You Experienced,’ and I was agog. I didn’t think anyone could do that song live. The films we see of him now don’t do him justice. They were all made late in his career when he was tired and crushed by his business manager. He signed a lot of contracts he shouldn’t have. But that night, I was agog. It was like seeing God.”
It turned out that Velvert didn’t just know Jimi—he was his protégé, confidante and guitar student. Richard quickly became Velvert’s best friend, and the two vowed to carry their own Stratocasters almost everywhere almost all the time, even to school. They vowed never to pay for a concert and used their considerable social skills and growing connections to sneak in or charm their way onto guest lists. Most important, whenever Jimi gave Velvert a guitar lesson, he would teach Richard everything Jimi had taught him, so Richard was a second-hand student of Hendrix.
“Velvert showed me some other things as well,” Richard says. “Magic spells that Jimi had taught him and that Jimi had learned from his grandmother. He was one-eighth Cherokee, and he knew real voodoo. Black magic. I haven’t done them myself, because I think they backfired on Jimi. It’s like the stories about genies. They grant three wishes, and the third wish is always to take back the first two, because of unforeseen consequences.”
In November 1969, Jimi played a small club in Greenwich Village called Salvation. It was supposed to be a warm-up gig for a long tour, and an early birthday party for Jimi. It was billed as the Black Roman Orgy. The sound system was crap, and Jimi gave up after a few songs, returning to his table where Richard had somehow wangled a seat. As the evening wore on and the sundry guests got up to go to the bathroom, Richard found himself sitting right next to Jimi, who was in a deep state of melancholy, complaining that he was trapped, being forced to perform like a circus act, and that he wanted to explore new musical terrain but “they” wouldn’t let him. Richard decided to give him a pep talk, tell him how much his music meant, that he should do what he wanted, because he was Jimi Hendrix. Jimi turned around and slugged Richard three times. Richard then hid out in the club for a while on the theory that he didn’t want to get slugged some more by Jimi’s security guards. After half an hour or so, Richard decided it might be safe to exit. Outside, Jimi was waiting for him in one of his Corvettes in the parking lot.
“He called me over and asked for my hands,” Richard says. “He apologized and began weeping on them. My hands were wet with his tears. I kept telling him it was okay, and finally he rolled up his window and drove off. Velvert later explained to me that Jimi hated compliments, thought they were patronizing. I didn’t understand that he was being tortured by criminals. But I didn’t care that he hit me. He gave me something that I’ve carried to this day. It was a gift. And that’s why I had to make this album. I owe Jimi. And I owe Velvert.”
Why not call it the Jimi and Velvert Story? “ ‘Jamie Neverts’ was what Velvert and I called Jimi when we didn’t want any of the other kids to know who we were talking about.”
The Jamie Neverts Story is a great album. All the guitars were recorded through Richard’s Supro Thunderbolt, which is turned up to 10 for a taste of distortion, though most of the tones are pretty clean. You can hear the lyricism that sometimes gets buried in the guitar wash on Jimi’s own albums. There are minimal overdubs, just Jimi’s slashing style married with Richard’s slashing style. I’ve always had a thing for “I Don’t Live Today” (“That was Jimi singing on behalf of Native Americans”), and Richard rips it, but the best moment may be the quietest—“Castles Made of Sand,” about the temporary nature of everything and the death of dreams. Richard could make you cry when he played it during the tour, if he wasn’t screaming obscenities at the audience. That made me cry too, but in a different way.
“There’s no fuzz box, no wah-wah, no Octavia—none of the things that people buy to sound like Hendrix,” Richard says. “It’s just not fresh anymore. Psychedelia has been around for a long time. I wanted to emphasize the songs themselves, especially the ones on the first two albums where Chaz Chandler [bassist for the Animals and Jimi’s first manager] had an influence. I loved what Chaz did, sitting with Jimi while he jammed and telling him what lick was the chorus and what lick was the verse. All those songs, you’ll notice, are short. That was Chaz. I didn’t want the big guitar hero songs like “Voodoo Chile (Slight Return).” And I didn’t want the songs that Jimi came to hate, like “Foxy Lady, because it made him look like a clown. What I wanted to convey was clarity, melody and the songwriting skills that emerged when Chaz and Jimi were together. Jimi’s lyrics are incredible, but people don’t notice because the guitar was so revolutionary.”
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