JIMI HENDRIX, PM MAN
You could call it Pop Mechness: that blend of genius, practicality and idiosyncrasy. Which makes Jimi Hendrix the epitome of Pop Mechness. (The ability to make a guitar scream, sob and practically disembowel the listener also helps.)
Back in the days when I had long hair – well, when I had hair, period – I, too, played a Fender Stratocaster. More of a rock or bluesman’s axe, it may not have been the ideal choice for a jazz-funk band. A battered ancient specimen of the breed, it wasn’t white like Jimi’s; what was left of its finish seemed more cloudburst than sunburst. At least it was a genuine Strat and it was in the band’s equipment pool.
My nostalgia trip kicked in when I flipped through this month’s HYWW* and found the feature on the remaking of a guitar legend, the Jimi Hendrix Fender Stratocaster. Turns out left-handed Jimi’s unorthodox choice to play a righthanded guitar upside down and strung for left-handed playing not only solved the practical problem of instrument availability, but also helped create his unique sound. Which is why the set-up is being replicated, 45 years after his untimely death. I like to think that my own mildly fussy rhythm technique and earnest solos on the Strat made a modest contribution to the musical development of the guys (they were almost always guys) with the puppy-dog look, lined up near the stage or bandstand instead of dancing. It was obvious that, besides being music geeks, these onlookers were also dorks, hence not deemed suitable dance-partner material.
Come to think of it, that possibly described me, too, which is why I was hiding behind a guitar and not mingling with the hot… er… female patrons.
My career trajectory didn’t quite reach the heights of those many guitar legends associated with the Strat, some of them listed on Page 20. Besides, I always had a thing for nylons (that’s nylon strings, by the way), archtop cutaways and the mellowness of jazz.
Still, I have fond memories of my Strat for the way its punchy midrange and plangent top end cut through the haze of what I suspect wasn’t entirely tobacco smoke. At least during the times when my temperamental amp was actually working.
* How Your World Works. But here at PM we like to think of it as being short for HeY, shoo WoW.