by John Faralaco
Copyright © 2010 by Bill Yenne
He was at the peak of his form.
He was on top of the world.
Indeed, the waters of the New World lapped at his feet.
The fire burned white hot.
The light burned brightly.
It is the property of every hero, in every time, in every place and situation, that he come back to reality; that he stand upon things and not shows of things—the first stroke of honest demolition of an ancient thing grown false and idolatrous.
The Sixties had literally exploded volcanically, and there would be long troubled periods before we could look back rationally. We find Jimi Hendrix to have been a breaker of idols, no less than any other prophet. The wooden gods of the Fifties’ pop were not more hateful to the Rolling Stones than Sixties pop was to Hendrix.
"You’ll never hear surf music again," he remarked.
One often hears it said that the Sixties introduced a new era, radically different from any the world had ever seen before. By this revolt against the rigid status quo of the Eisenhower era, everyone became his or her own person and learned, among other things, that we must never trust any spiritual hero-captain anymore. Sixties rock was the grand root from which our whole subsequent musical history branches out, for the spiritual will always body itself forth in the temporal history of music. The spiritual is the beginning of the temporal.
Whole ages, like the Sixties, are original. All people in them, or most of them, sense this. These are the great and fruitful ages for music: every musician in all spheres is at work not on semblance but on substance. Nearly every song and nearly every album issued is a result. The general sum of such work is great; for all of it is genuine and it tends toward one goal. All of it is additive, none of is subtractive.
On December 1, 1967, three days into Jimi’s 26th year, the Jimi Hendrix Experience released their second album: Axis: Bold As Love. Most of the tracks had been laid down at Olympic Studios in London during the first nine days of May, before the band traveled to the United States. In October, mainly between October 25 and 29, the Experience finished recording the final tracks for the album.
The cover paid tribute to the Hindu deity Brahma, and the lyrics recalled the characteristics of his various manifestations. According to Hindu doctrine, Brahma had abandoned the form he had used, and the form thus abandoned became night. Then from his mouth proceeded gods, and the form, which he then abandoned, became day, for goodness predominated in it. He next adopted another form, and the progenitors were born from his side, and the body, which he then abandoned, became the evening twilight. Brahma then assumed another body, and from this men were born, and the body thus abandoned became the morning twilight.
Thus gods, men, demons and progenitors were reconstructed from previous forms, and the bodies which Brahma abandoned became day, night, dawn and evening. Afterward, the hairs of Brahma, which were shriveled up, fell from his head and became cobras. The creator of the world, being incensed by the loss of his hair, created fierce beings that were denominated goblins. They were malignant fiends and eaters of flesh. The divine Brahma then created birds from his own vitality, sheep from his breast, goats from his mouth, and horses and elephants from his feet.
"Purple Haze all in my brain. Lately things just don’t seem the same. Acting funny but I don’t know why, ‘Scuse me while I kiss the sky."
In the form of Shiva, Brahma is supposed to pass from the work of creating and preservation to that of destruction. The human form represented even the god of dissolution. Hence, he was said to be living in the Himalayan Mountains, together with his wife Parvati, the daughter of the mountain. She was worshiped in Bengal under the name of Durga.
"Purple Haze all around, don’t know if I’m comin’ up or down," Jimi put it, "Am I happy or in misery? Whatever it is, that girl put a spell on me."
Axis: Bold As Love was released in England on December 1, 1967 and entered the United Kingdom. charts at number five, and on February 1, 1968, the album would enter the American charts at number three.
As had been the case with Are You Experienced?, the new album was released in the United States on the Reprise label. For reasons having to do with the expected American tour that was scheduled for February, Reprise would not release Jimi’s second album for two months after the United Kingdom release—missing a Christmas season when American fans would have added to the company’s bottom line.
Rolling Stone magazine reviewed the album in its April 6 issue. As John Landau had largely panned Are You Experienced? Jim Miller had a hard time grasping the future of rock that was represented by this strange man from Seattle by way of the London music scene.
"Jimi Hendrix sounds like a junk heap," Miller wrote in the pages of the fledgling rock music tabloid, "very heavy and metallic loud. Rock’s first burlesque dancer, superman in drag, his music is schizophrenic. Axis: Bold As Love is the refinement of white noise into psychedelia, and (like Cream) it is not a timid happening; in the vortex of this apocalyptic transcendence stands Hendrix, beating off on his guitar and defiantly proclaiming `if the mountains fell in the sea, let it be, it ain’t me.’ Such cocky pop philosophy shall not go unrewarded."
In 2003, Rolling Stone’s editors included Axis: Bold As Love at the number 82 spot in their "500 Greatest Albums of All Time."
Simultaneous with the United Kingdom release of Axis: Bold As Love, the Experience resumed their United Kingdom tour with an exhausting schedule. On December 1, they played two shows at Town Hall in Chatham, Kent. On December 2, there were another two at the Dome in Brighton, Sussex, then two on December 3, at the Theatre Royal in Nottingham and two on December 4 at City Hall in Newcastle.
On December 5, they crossed the border for a pair of appearances at Green’s Playhouse in Glasgow, Scotland. Then, it was back to the south of England for a December 8 show at Town Hall in Chatham; another appearance on December 9 at the Dome in Brighton; then back north to Newcastle on December 11 and Glasgow again the next day.
On December 15 and 16, they did the Top Gear and Top of the Pops radio shows at BBC Studios, London. The former program included "Day Tripper," another Lennon and McCartney Beatles’ song that Jimi often included in his shows during this period. On December 19, he picked up an acoustic guitar at the Bruce Fleming Photographic Studio in London to be recorded playing Hear My Train A Comin.’
The next day, the Experience returned to Olympic Studios in London, ostensibly to begin work on the third album. In two days, they laid down three tracks, with each of the three members of the group taking lead vocals on one. It was Jimi on "Crosstown Traffic," the only one of the three that would actually be officially released on a Jimi Hendrix Experience album. "Dream," with Noel Redding on vocals was not released, nor was "Dance," with Mitch Mitchell on lead vocals.
On December 22, the Experience was featured at the Christmas On Earth Continued show in London. As often, "Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band" was featured, as was Jimi’s own "Foxy Lady." After the show, Jimi and many of the musicians who had taken part retired to the Speakeasy, where they jammed all night long. On the actual Christmas day, Jimi went round to Noel Redding’s London flat to join him for his birthday festivities. The following day, Jimi was invited to join Bruce Fleming and his family for Boxing Day.
With Christmas over, the Experience returned to Olympic Studios to work on new material for the intended next album.
New Year’s Eve for Jimi was a party at the Speakeasy, where musicians traded licks, and where his half hour jam on "Auld Lang Syne" is still recalled as an unprecedented moment in the history of rock music.
The year of 1967 closed with Jimi having achieved monumental success. The live shows were legendary and Jimi was the personification of that legend. The two albums were ranked as among the best of the year. Indeed, most critics would place them second only to the Beatles’ Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, which is certainly regarded as the album of the decade.
It was the end of a year of triumph, but as the sun rose on Jimi’s jam, it was already the beginning of an auspicious year—a year of years.
The name "Shiva" means "auspicious." He is a good allegory for Jimi Hendrix. Like the other deities, he is represented as the Supreme God, while having over a thousand names, such as The Lord of the Universe, The Destroyer, The Reproducer, and The Conqueror of Life and Death. His worshippers are called Saivas, who exalt him to the highest place in the heavens. He is represented as Time, Justice, Fire, Water, the Sun, and also as the Creator and the Destroyer. His personal appearance must be rather striking, as his throat is dark blue and his hair light red, thickly matted together on the top of his head. He has five faces, in one of which is a third eye situated in the center of the forehead, and pointing up and down.
As Jimi Hendrix wrote, "He smiles—towering in shiny metallic purple armor, Queen Jealousy . . . waits behind him . . . blue are the life-giving waters . . . they quietly understand: Once happy turquoise armies lay opposite, ready, but wonder why the fight is on, but they’re all bold as love. Just ask the Axis."