Jimi Hendrix: Wild Thing

An exclusive first glance at Classic Hendrix, the dazzling and definitive new Jimi Hendrix photo book with text by Guitar World editor Brad Tolinski.

I thought I knew everything there was to know about Jimi Hendrix. A lifelong fan of his music, I’ve spent countless hours consuming a library’s worth of books, videos and films devoted to him. As editor of Guitar World magazine for 15 years, I’ve assigned and pored over dozens of feature stories covering every aspect of his life and art.

So when Genesis Publications asked me to write the text for Classic Hendrix, its planned limited-edition volume of photos chronicling Jimi’s career as a star, I hesitated. After all, what could I possibly say about Hendrix that hadn’t already been said, often in great detail?

Despite my misgivings, I asked Genesis to send me the photos that would appear in the book. The natural interest I had in anything associated with Hendrix was further piqued by my knowledge that the images had been personally selected by the legendary rock photographer Ross Halfin, whose work has often graced the pages of Guitar World.

The pictures arrived, and I was hooked. They were gorgeous, yes, but there was something far more profound about them that led to my involvement in this project. Just as Jimi was never a poseur when it came to his art, he never struck a false pose when it came to being photographed. It seems he was unable to dupe the camera lens—whether he was miserable, bitter, comfortably happy or ecstatic, he could no more mask his mood before a photographer than he could conceal his cosmic talent when he was onstage or in the studio.

I immediately realized my job was to maximize the impact of the extraordinary photos in this collection by not cluttering things up with extraneous information. I therefore chose simply to report the events that occurred on the day the photos were taken and let the images speak for themselves.

And speak they do, with all the power and passion of the best of Jimi’s solos. These photos reveal things about their famously enigmatic subject that no prose account or film documentary, however well researched and presented, ever could.

The following is just a small glimpse of the treasures found in Classic Hendrix, which will be available early this summer through genesis-publications.com.

THE PHOTO March 17–19, 1967; Hendrix eliciting feedback from his amp at the Star Club in Hamburg, Germany; photographer Friedhelm von Estorff

BACKGROUND While England is often credited with launching Hendrix’s career, it was early concert tours in Scandinavia, France and, particularly, Germany that garnered him his first substantial following. This photo of the Jimi Hendrix Experience was taken at the Star Club in Hamburg during a whirlwind, seven-day tour of Holland and Germany.

EYEWITNESS Experience drummer Mitch Mitchell: “I feel very, very fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with someone so inspiring—someone who was not scared of the unknown. There were no musical boundaries playing with Jimi. With certain players, you may take a certain musical perspective with the intention of trying to push them into new areas, but sometimes musicians may be too scared or uncomfortable to take chances. Their instinct is, ‘Uh-oh—I don’t know about this one! Let’s revert to the safe zone.’ That notion didn’t exist with Jimi.”

THE PHOTO November 12, 1967; Hendrix, Redding, Mitchell and hairdresser Gary Craze at Sweeny Todd barber shop in London, England; photographer Bruce Fleming

BACKGROUND During the heyday of Swinging London, all the beautiful people had their hair done at Sweeny Todd. Why? Mitch Mitchell learned the hard way. In late March 1967, the drummer decided to have his hair permed to match Jimi and bassist Noel Redding’s fuzzy afros. Redding suggested that his band mate see a friend of his who would do the job for far less than he’d have to pay a professional hairdresser. It was only when the friend finished the job that, to his unutterable horror, Mitchell discovered his hair was a total disaster. “I ended up having to go to a hairdresser anyway,” sighed Mitchell.

That salon was Sweeny Todd, and soon the entire band were regulars at the hot clip shop. Not surprisingly, Sweeny sought to capitalize on the trio’s fame and soon asked the Experience to pose for a promotional photo.

THE PHOTOGRAPHER Bruce Fleming: “The shoot was basically joint publicity for the Experience and the shop. I don’t think Jimi even wanted his hair cut. I think they crimped it and pissed about with it, but they didn’t cut very much off. In fact, I’ve got a photo of him looking at me, as though to ask, ‘What do I look like?’ And immediately afterward, he put his hat on.”

THE PHOTO September 6, 1970; Jimi at the Love and Peace Festival on the Isle of Fehmarn, Germany, his final concert appearance; photographer Gunter Zint

BACKGROUND It was dubbed “The Love and Peace Festival,” but that was far from the case. Torrential rains off the Baltic Sea drenched the performers and the thousands of German fans who’d come to see them, while a marauding gang of bikers stoned on booze and downers terrorized the crowd with loaded pistols and pummeled anyone who got in its way.

Unfortunately, Jimi didn’t help matters much. After waiting fruitlessly for a break in the weather, Hendrix refused to go on. He finally made his way to the stage the following morning, and the wet and exhausted masses who’d waited all night to hear him play greeted him with jeers and cries of “Go home!”

Hendrix, with his usual aplomb, gave the crowd a once over and said, “I don’t give a fuck if you ‘boo’—so long as you ‘boo’ in key.” He then apologized for not playing the previous night, explaining that it was just too “unbearable.” The audience quickly forgave the guitarist after he launched into energetic renditions of “Killing Floor,” “Spanish Castle Magic” and “All Along the Watchtower.”

Halfway into his set, however, it began raining again, and, offstage, bikers attacked Jimi’s road crew, shooting one of the stagehands. Yet the band played on, concluding Hendrix’s last concert ever with “Voodoo Child (Slight Return).” Eerily, the last words Jimi Hendrix would ever sing were, “If I don’t see you no more in this world, well I’ll meet you in the next one, and don’t be late. ’Cause I’m a voodoo child. Lord knows I’m a voodoo child.”

Classic Hendrix features 260 photographs, many of which have never been seen before, by 34 photographers.

Only 1,750 copies of this hand-made book will ever be produced. Each copy is signed by Ross Halfin and Brad Tolinski. From this limited edition, 350 deluxe copies will be made in full leather and contain an additional signed Baron Wolman print. Regular limited edition copies are priced at $485 plus shipping. Deluxe copies are $865 plus shipping. Expensive? Several past limited editions from Genesis have risen significantly in value.

For details and to order: genesispublications.com

Genesis House, 2 Jenner Road, Guildford, Surrey, England, GU1 3PL, UK; (800) 775-1111

Thank you for reading 5 articles this month**

Join now for unlimited access

US pricing $3.99 per month or $39.00 per year

UK pricing £2.99 per month or £29.00 per year 

Europe pricing €3.49 per month or €34.00 per year

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Prices from £2.99/$3.99/€3.49