After all these years all you need to write is Jimi. Everyone knows who you mean. There is only one Jimi. He was not only the epitome of a guitarist, a showman and performer but an icon of an age, a symbol of all that a generation stood for and the idealism that changed the world.
When one thinks of Jimi standing there in his outrageous costumes you knew he was not dressing up for the show, he was expressing himself as an individual. He was blowing away the cobwebs from a dull and dreary post-war existence; he was drawing a line in the sand between the establishment (and the generation who chose routine, boredom, profit and war over fun, harmony, and meaning) and a new idea, a new approach, a new attitude – that we could live in peace, equality and freedom with purpose.
When I think of Jimi I think of helicopters in Vietnam, Agent Orange and machine guns, peace riots on the streets and phalanxes of State Troopers shooting at kids. I think of that young girl running down the street and enveloped by napalm. And I think of the friendship in the parks and gigs where everyone shared what they had and laughed, black with white, male with female and all together.
I only managed to see Jimi play three times for some ridiculous reason. I think we thought that it would go on forever and he would always be there. He wasn’t and nothing ever does – not even the bad stuff. But Jimi playing was a highlight of my life and will always be right up there with the best – and not just musically. He represented something greater than music.
We tried to change the world and I think we did. But the establishment fought back and wrested it back, tightening their control. We need another bout of sixties optimism, passion and rebellion. We need another Jimi, Bob and Roy.
So many years on and he is still Jimi.
With the elbow, teeth and the back of the hand
As feedback wailed by design
Over the sound of the band;
With shades of Sci-fi
And the limits of the mind
Soaring free on the wind
As it cried Mary
And my thoughts drift back
To what might be.
Chewing gum to the cracking of a machine gun,
Outrageous in costume and style,
To test the limits
Of all that could be
And might be in that castle of magic
That left us all aghast
And has never been surpassed.
Opher – 1.8.2016