- 14 Jul 93]
Cherokee Mist: The Lost Writings of Jimi Hendrix - Bill Nitopi
(Published by Harper Collins in 1993, about $20)
I just bought it at Walden Books yesterday (for $20 -- and that was with my
10% discount card!). It's a collection of published and unpublished songs
and laundry lists, including what is purported to be the lyrics to the
entire "Black Gold" Suite. Otherwise, with the exception of several aborted
(no pun intended) versions of "Belly Button Window", "Message of Love",
"Straight Ahead" and "Astro Man", I found the 40-minute read somewhat
embarrassing. Especially considering the price of admission.
All of the lyrics are written in Jimi's own hand. There's some artwork,
unpublished photos and what seems to be an early version of "Purple Haze"
called "Purple Haze - Jesus Saves". Goes something like this here...
1, 2, 3, 4...
"Purple Haze...beyond insane
Is it pleasure or is it pain --
Down on the ceiling, looking up at the bed
See my body painted blue and red
I see fetus unborns, pointing at the time
Rush through space...my hair is blowing in their minds
Through the haze, I see 1,000 crosses
Scratched in the..."
Where could THAT have gone? There's alot of stuff in there like that.
There's also a 1968 diary entry that suggests he had the hots for Joni
Mitchell. Later, depressed after a bad show, he resolves to "get
completely smashed...let's see...where's that bottle?" Nuggets like that
are far and few between. And while it's true that Jimi was a prolific song
writer and lyricist, there's sad little evidence of it here. There's also a
very convoluted film treatment that Jimi wrote. One can only imagine what
sort of flick it would have been. I don't know what it's about -- seems
there's this "supernatural innocent girl" who's corrupted by the music of
the "Power Sound King" (Jimi). Jimi is torn between making love to her and
making love to the "supernatural witch". Her evil spells bounce off him
because his shield of sound is too powerful, so he kills her with sound
waves, but not before he makes love to her one more time. Of course, he's
already screwed the innocent girl. Then there's a scene where he plays a
gig at a club that is raided by the police. One of the police -- get this
-- CHOPS THE HEAD OFF OF AN AUDIENCE MEMBER! On its way to the ground, the
bleeding, severed head says, "But we are on private grounds, doing our own
thing!" Jimi goes on: "Someone gets blasted in two. Meat and blood
splatters over camera lens". Thank God Jimi stuck to making records. You'd
have to read it to believe it. Not that I'm recommending you buy the book,
because I'm not.
Hendrix is given author's credit for the book, although it is a compilation
by Bill Nitopi, whose premise is, and I quote: "Finally the world has a
book on Jimi Hendrix, written by the only person qualified to do so --
himself." Not quite. He then goes on to take a cheap shot at Hendrix
biographers in general, and apparently Eddie Kramer in particular:
"...Every book thus far released on Jimi Hendrix has failed miserably in
capturing his spirit, mostly because of gypsy authors who attempt to set
records straight while they fatten their wallets. ...These long-winded
authors are better qualified to milk goats rather than to write books."
Evidently, he didn't read the preface of his own book, written by Charles
Blass, a man who seems to have dropped anchor in 1968 Haight-Ashbury and
decided to never leave. Eight merciless pages of Aquarian-age drivel that
would have sounded foolish even back then. What a con job. The book is not
without insight, but as far as I'm concerned, it's the literary equivalent
of an Alan Douglas-produced posthumous Hendrix album. It shows a side of
him you haven't seen, but you're left with the strong sense of doubt that
Jimi himself would have ever allowed to have anything like this put out for
public consumption. Nice cover photography though....
[ - 9 Nov 93]
About 30 pages of intro and then 134 pages of photos and Jimi's unpublished
scriblings. Jimi's stuff is all in his own hand-writing. Half the fun (?)
is figuring out just what Jimi wrote.
The photos are generally quite nice; most I've never seen before. Only the
book's dust-jacket is in color; everything else is B&W. The writing is
another matter. The introductions to the book (four of them) are a bit
uneven. First is a brief "Appreciation" by Noee Gold that is short and to
the point (Hey, lets do a book with Nitopi). Next up is Bill Nitopi with
his "Editor's Note", also short and to the point but IMO rather crass and
mean (and wrong too).
Next is the "Preface" by Charles Blass. Trying to get us in the mood for
Jimi's "Purple Haze" state of mind I guess. It's a bit annoyingly spacey. A
sample: "There are dangers in trying to see through Jimi. Blindness and
confusion are pitfalls beside the road which lies Straight Ahead. His
earthly person was brought forth under specific circumstances, with
specific results. One thing is absolute: Jimi Hendrix had much *experience*,
and his writing and playing are direct transmissions of his True Life. Jimi
Hendrix lived his own Gospel." Seven pages of similar stuff...ouch.
Finally there's a nice "Introduction" by Michael Fairchild (the guy who did
the good and detailed liner notes for the recent MCA Hendrix album
re-issues). He spends about a dozen pages describing (hmmm, warning) the
reader about Jimi's writings. Mike has some talent for writing, and this
section is a welcome relief...it's just about the only part of the book
that can easily be read and understood.
OK, the "lost writings". A collection of poems, train of thought ramblings,
song lyrics in developement, song lyric fragments, a movie story idea, a
couple pages from a daily journal, and some other random pieces of paper
Jimi wrote on. Overall, some of it is very interesting, some of it weird,
some of it trash, but mostly I found it boring. It is rather a lot of work
to read (spelling, puncuation, hand-writing, and the sloppiness of some of
the papers). Hmmm, I think I would have prefered a thicker book where the
top 2/3 of the page is the text as presented (ie basically like a photocopy
of the original paper) and the bottom half is a type-set, eh, translation
of the original. At 150 pages the book is a bit thin, so another 50 pages
would have helped the "value for money" ratio.
Another problem is that towards the end some of the papers are recycled by
us again...not enough material to fill out the book I guess. "Ride That
Pork-Chop Down" twice is at least once too many times for me. So, overall
I'd rate the book as worthwhile but so-so. Probably worth taking a look at,
but not necassarily reading all the way through or buying.
[Mr. Scott Hannon