I recently had a guitar repaired* and when I got it back the first thing I did was blast out the opening to this song. I don’t know why but at some point it became my go to riff. I guess I got comfortable playing it and just settle into easily, but I haven’t picked a guitar up in years. I can”t remember the last time I even thought about how to actually play this song yet it comes out without much thought.
It got me to thinking about Jimi Hendrix though, this song as well as others, and what attracts me to his music. It’s the guitar obviously, I learnt to play guitar largely by picking up guitar magazines and in the mid to late 90s Hendrix was all over them. There was never much of his tab in there, the early days of sites like Ultimate Guitar Tabs did the job there. But there was barely an issue of any magazine where he wasn’t mentioned in some way, the magazines loving to propel the battle of Jimi / Jimmy’s – the Hendrix v Page debate. I was funnelled through that to listen to more and more Hendrix and spent lots of time listening and trying to play his songs and emulate his riffs.
I got to thinking about the whole package though and something else struck me whilst listening again to this song, I’ve never considered Hendrix to be a great vocalist, I don’t think he considered himself to be either. I wondered though, if Hendrix didn’t sing, wasn’t that driving force up front in the vocals as well as the guitar would you lose something? I really think you would, I think the persona of Jimi up there as front man drives so much, being the focal point adds so much. You feel the interplay of the guitar and the vocals in a way that really enhances both. That’s not to say you can’t get a great marriage of both with a separate guitarist and vocalist but I think it really makes the guitar sing, you feel Hendrix sing so deeply in the vocals as well as the guitar.
“Hey Joe” is as great an encapsulation of that as any of Hendrix’s song, the traditional blues style call and refrain coming from Jimi in the vocal and the guitar. The passion as he meets the mid point guitar solo which is almost understated for a Hendrix guitar part. There’s such an ease to it though and such a pleasure in listening to someone play just as easily as he can open his mouth and sing.
I don’t pick up those same guitar magazines like I used to, in the same way I don’t pick up guitars as often, but I’d imagine there’s still plenty of Jimi in there, and it’d be for good reason.
*great job by JC Guitars by the way (https://www.facebook.com/jcguitarsuk/)