Producer Presentation: Jimi Hendrix

We were asked to research and do a presentation on a prominent producer or artist since the 1950’s.

I chose to do my presentation on Jimi Hendrix, he has been a big influence to me in my studio as well as my guitar playing. Here is what I said in my presentation.

Hello and welcome to my presentation about Jimi Hendrix. I’m sure you all know who he was but just in case here is a short history about him.

History

Jimi was born ‘Johnny Allen Hendrix’, which was changed to James Marshall Hendrix shortly after he was born.

Hendrix got his first guitar aged 16, it was second hand acoustic that cost him $5. A year later he got his first electric guitar.

In 1961 he signed up to the army, in the army he joined many bands and by 1965 had worked with a number of famous acts including Tina Turner, Little Richard and the Isley Brothers. A year on he moved to London where ex- Animals bassist Chas Chandler helped him form “The Jimi Hendrix Experience”

Influences

When growing up many artists influenced Hendrix playing style. He listened to many blues guitarists as a child, Muddy Waters, Buddy Holly and Robert Johnson were some of his favourites. His biggest influence though was BB King.

Jimi Hendrix’ guitar playing was very similar to BB King’s style. Hendrix played similar blues riffs and solo’s to BB King but played them faster, more distorted and with various effects. Jimi’s vocal style also matched that of the blues guitar players.

Stage Presence

Hendrix will always be remembered for his flamboyant stage presence. Hendrix would have watched and picked up on stage moves from artists like Little Richard. Another artist to influence Jimi’s stage presence was Johnny Guitar Watson. Watson’s wild showmanship on stage would have definitely influenced Hendrix’ on stage tricks such as playing guitar behind his head and with his teeth.

Sound

Distortion was a big feature in Hendrix’ guitar sound. Many guitarists around Hendrix’ era such as Pete Townshend and Jimmy Page were experimenting with distortion and feedback. Yet before this era there as still some examples of artists discovering distortion. Link Wray worked on electric guitar distortion as early as 1958. He pioneered guitar distortions like overdrive and fuzz. He was also one of the first guitarists to use power chords to play melodies. His track ‘Rumble’ is one of the earliest examples of guitar distortion.

Other guitarists known for using distortion before the Hendrix era were Steve Marriot from ‘The Small Faces’ and Dave Davies from ‘The Kinks’. These were also known for using heavily overdriven guitars to create a distorted sound.

Guitar effects were also a big part of Jimi Hendrix’ iconic guitar sound. Roger Mayer was known for working with Hendrix during his time with ‘The Experience’ helping him find his sound.

He introduced Hendrix to many guitar effects such as the Octavia, which basically reproduced the input signal one octave higher. He also showed Hendrix the newly invented wah-wah, which he become famous for with songs like ‘Voodoo Child’. Frank Zappa is also believed to have introduced Hendrix to this sound.

Mayer would work closely with Hendrix in the studio when recording the bands albums. It is also said Mayer would help create the sounds and effects Hendrix had in his head.

Success

The Jimi Hendrix Experience went on to be one of the most influential bands of all time and Hendrix probably the most important guitarist to have ever lived. Here is a quick round up of the bands success.

The First album ‘Are You Experienced’ is considered by many to be the greatest rock debut of all time.  The Album reached number 2 in the UK album chart, behind the Beatles ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’. ‘Hey Joe’, ‘Purple Haze’ and ‘The Wind Cries Mary’ were all top 10 singles.

The second album ‘Axis: Bold as Love’ was delayed in America due to how big the bands first album was. The album went to number 3 in the US and number 5 in the UK.

‘Electric Ladyland’ was the bands third album, the most successful album the band released. It reached number 1 in the US and had 5 singles making it into the UK top 40. One of these singles, ‘Voodoo Child’ reached number 1 shortly after Hendrix death.

Late Career

The Jimi Hendrix Experience broke up in 1969 when bassist Noel Redding quit the band. Hendrix went on to headline the infamous Woodstock Festival in 1969 with newly formed band ‘Gypsy Sun and Rainbows’.

Hendrix died in a London Hotel room in 1970 after chocking on his own vomit. His legacy still lives on.

He was his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, his band the Jimi Hendrix Experience were inducted into the Rock and Roll hall of fame and the UK music hall of fame. Famous American magazine ‘Rolling Stone’ voted Hendrix top of their list entitled “100 Greatest Guitarists of all time”

Production

Hendrix was a keen producer as well as a singer, songwriter and guitarist. The second album ‘Axis: Bold as Love’ was very experimental in regards to recording techniques and effects. These songs were rarely played live due to the songs consisting of so many studio effects.

On the song ‘Castles Made of Sand’ Hendrix experimented with a backwards guitar solo. Hendrix wrote a solo but recorded it in backwards order, then on the studio track it was reversed to give it a unique sound. Syd Barret formally of Pink Floyd had also tried this technique.

The Beatles had used a mono flanging effect on the Magical Mystery tour album but the song ‘Bold as Love’ is considered to be the first pop recording to feature a stereo flanging effect.

The song ‘Little Miss Lover’ was Hendrix first use of Wah-Wah which he soon became famous for. This was also believed to be the first song to feature a percussive style muted Wah-Wah effect. The song and this effect are noted to have invented the genre funk rock.

EXP is the intro track from the album which includes a conversation between Drummer Mitch Mitchell and Hendrix, about UFO’s. The interview ends up being interrupted and Hendrix gets abducted by aliens. As there were no sound libraries back in the late 1960’s Hendrix had to recreate all the sound themselves. This was done by Hendrix making sounds on the guitar to match the UFO, then the recording was panned left and right to give the impression of the UFO flying around.

The bands third album featured the song, 1983 (A Merman I should Turn to Be), a song about living underwater. The band created an underwater interlude with a combination of bells, cymbals and distorted feedback from Jimi’s guitar.

In 1968 Chas Chandler quit as the bands producer after getting fed up of Hendrix being such a perfectionist. It is believed songs such as Gypsy’s eyes took over 43 takes and Jimi still wasn’t happy 100% with the result.

Hendrix began to build his own recording studio in New York so he could have unlimited time for recording and mixing. He was the first major artist to own his own recording studio but it took much longer than expected and wasn’t complete until mid-1970. Hendrix only got to spend 4 weeks in the studio before his death. The studio is still in use today and many artists have recorded there including ACDC, Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones and Kiss.

Legacy

Hendrix has gone on to influence every person who have picked up a guitar since his era. Hendrix is unique in the fact that he was gone on to influence artists who influenced him in the first place.

Guitarists such as Pete Townshend and Eric Clapton have said the Hendrix playing style helped them to create their unique sounds and techniques, and changed the way they played the guitar.

Rock Music took off after Hendrix showed the world the style of fast aggressive and distorted music. Metal is also thankful to Hendrix. In the early 1970’s Black Sabbath invented metal thanks to guitarists Tony Iommi. He was heavily influenced by Hendrix playing, he played blues like riffs with fast solos and a high amount of distortion.

During Hendrix life he was never really accepted by black music. Many people believed he had sold out as he dressed and acted differently to other black entertainers. Unfortunately Hendrix has had his biggest influence on black music in death. Hendrix has said to have been a key influence in Hip-Hop bands such as De-La-Soul who from time-to-time invoke Jimi’s name in lyrics and use his guitar riffs as samples to their music.

UPDATE: I received a Distinction for this piece of work.

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