In doing research for my super secret special guitar writing project, which I may or may not get around to talking about at some point (depending how it goes), I’ve been reading Crosstown Traffic, Charles Shaar Murray’s rather good book on Jimi Hendrix. Writing about guitar without spending time with Jimi makes as much sense as writing about the blues without listening to Robert Johnson.
And, of course, it’s impossible to even think about Hendrix without a certain overhanging grief, tortured by what-might-have-beens. It’s like imagining what would have happened if Dylan really had died in his post-Blonde on Blonde motorcycle accident (to some people, he did). Sure, we’d have been spared Down in the Groove or Empire Burlesque, but we’d also never have had Blood on the Tracks, The Basement Tapes, his fantastic resurgence since Time Out of Mind, or, for that matter, John Wesley Hardin and, consequently, Jimi, All Along the Watchtower.
On the other hand, we were spared watching hard living wreck Hendrix or seeing him end up playing Purple Haze at state fairs, but, assuming he’d kept it together, one can’t wonder where Hendrix would have taken us with today’s technology. Jimi Hendrix recording with a Parker Dragonfly, a Mesa Boogie Mark V, Pro Tools, and a still inquisitive mind.
Look far enough west, and you come up ’round the east again.
“Maybe creativity will become fashionable again.”
This is just a weird little notion rocking around my brain but I was trying to think of who, after experiencing the junkyard cool that is Tom Waits, who is or was the epitome of the coolness, and not some kind of popularity cool or new cool, but…an eternal cool. A cool so blue that it transcends.
Your suggestions are welcome. No answer is right or wrong. Unless you say “Kool and the Gang.” Here’s my Top 10, in ascending order, but 10 could 1 and one could be 10, etc. Naturally, no names are necessary.
(And granted, if you have to ask what’s cool, as Louis Armstrong said about jazz, you’ll probably never know.)
Below is a simple comparison and contrast of what is and what is not cool:
So I have the day off, and I’m starting it the way most normal Americans do, brewing up a triple espresso of Celebes Kalossi and sitting on the covered back porch, sighing at my snow-buried garden while smoking a briar packed with Rich’s Cigar’s Midnight Express…while listening to Jimi Hendrix play “Machine Gun” (a live cut off the Band of Gypsies album). Foot gently tapping. Watching huge, fluffy snowflakes fall in psychedleic swirls. Another morning at the fun factory, just like at your house.
When I get this…impulse. A nagging instinct. “Look up,” it says. Look up? Hendrix is wailing out, doing call and response machine gun blasts between his guitar and the drummer. But the feeling’s growing and impossible to ignore. So I look up.
And directly–directly–over my skull hangs an inch-thick, three-foot icicle with a wicked sharp point, that has dripped down through a small bend in the patio rool metal.
So, uh…casually, I put the pipe down, turn off the music, rise, and grab the nearest metal implement at hand–in this case a sprinkler head–and give the icicle a gentle tap. Instantly, it drops, shattering. Right where I was sitting.
This gives one pause, surely: mostly, given that we’re into our sixth or seventh day of snow and ice, how long had it been hanging there? But I sweep away the shards, sit down again, relight the pipe, and find a weird smile smile crawling up my face.
No one interrupts the Jimi.
When you’re really good, man…when you’re really, really good…color’s just someone else’s hangup, dig?