Day 25 – A Song That Makes You Laugh – Jimi Hendrix – Villanova Junction (Woodstock)
Now one might wonder, why this song would make me laugh. Well, as a guitarist, I hear this song, and, knowing Jimi was totally off his face for this entire gig, I laugh at the ease that he performs this, and in fact improvised a great deal of it, as if he were playing a nursery rhyme!
Jimi had recently disbanded his “Jimi Hendrix Experience” band, and had formed a new band called “Band of Gypsys” which took the bill at Woodstock in place of Experience. Jimi was quite often stoned whilst on stage, however watching the video you will notice, he has trouble even keeping his eyes open. Reports say he was passed out in a roadie tent up until 30 minutes before going on stage. Yet, his guitar and amp sing this song, using the feedback as another instrument, and even more impressive was he completed the 5 minute intro (Woodstock Improvisation) completely improvised, unrehearsed, stoned off his head, and with a band who had only seen approximately 1 month together as a band, and with almost no rehearsals.
Although rather stoned, Jimi can be seen to be directing the band with their queues, telling them when to play, when to stop, even ‘turn your volume up a bit’ etc. Jimi knew exactly what he wanted from this improvisation 30 seconds before he played it, he knew what direction to take it, leading out from Purple Haze, and into a slow blues ballad-type song, he had to bridge the gap, and did so with pure talent. Remember, at this time, he was only 26, He had never had formal lessons, his band were only a month or so old, they were in front of 180,000 people (down from the earlier 500,000, as Jimi went on last, and faced technical delays that prevented him going on until about 40 minutes after the previous band, so most people had walked off, not expecting him to play) This set was Jimi’s longest in his career, spanning a total of more than 2 hours.
This is why it makes me laugh. His level of talent, and considering he did it whilst stoned and with his eyes closed.