Jimi Hendrix’s 1965 Fender Stratocaster, the first guitar famously burnt by the rock icon, went under the hammer as The Fame Bureau and Idea Generation presented an auction of the musical artefacts that helped define the history of rock and roll. The sale, to name a few, included the last surviving drum-kit of Led Zeppelin’s John Bonham, Jim Morrison’s final notebook of poetry and musings before his death from Paris in 1971; and the song-sheet for Band Aid’s ‘We are the World’ – signed by the likes of Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan. This exhibition encapsulated so much of the excitement and nostalgia that the 60's had to offer, and with the auctioning of one of, if not the most, iconic electric guitar in music history.
JIMI HENDRIX: INTRODUCTION
It would be impossible to imagine the entirety of music, and the art of electric guitar without, Mr Jimi Hendrix. With his humble and eloquent attitude off the stage, and his electric, ear drum bursting beautiful chaos on every stage, he was the man that revolutionised life as we know it. Even with his short-lived career, with his mainstream career spanning only four years, he is widely regarded as one of the most influential electric guitarists in the history of popular music, and one of the most celebrated musicians of the 20th century. Hendrix emerged with such a unique playing style and appearance, with an upside down right-handed guitar with opposite string order, his revolutionary technique with double stops and hammer-ons, roaring wah wah solos and smashing and burning his guitars in absolute harmonious havoc, he will always be remembered for being the best of the best guitarist, and psychedelic rock and blues.
Hendrix was inspired by American rock and roll and electric blues. He favored overdriven amplifiers with high volume and gain, and was instrumental in popularizing the previously undesirable sounds caused by guitar amplifier feedback. He was also one of the first guitarists to make extensive use of tone-altering effects units in mainstream rock, such as fuzz distortion, Octavia, wah-wah and Uni-vibe. He was the first musician to use stereophonic phasing effects in recordings. Hendrix was the recipient of several music awards during his lifetime and posthumously. In 1967, readers of Melody Maker voted him the Pop Musician of the Year and in 1968, Billboard named him the Artist of the Year. Holly George-Warren of Rolling Stone commented: "Hendrix pioneered the use of the instrument as an electronic sound source. Players before him had experimented with feedback and distortion, but Hendrix turned those effects and others into a controlled, fluid vocabulary every bit as personal as the blues with which he began."
The Jimi Hendrix Guitar Exhibition gathered all the excitement that every Hendrix and 60's fanatic needed. For every single Hendrix lover, for the guitarists forever inspired by his brilliance, for those who grew up in the empowering era of Jimi who wanted a glance of what made them in complete awe, this exhibition was the key to that door. It's not often that you stand infront of Jimi Hendrix's very own 1965 Fender Stratocaster, the very one set aflame at Finsbury Astoria in London of 196; it's also not very often you get to see it this up close and personally, even taking it out of its hard case, lifting it in the air like the trophy this instrument is. Jimi Hendrix played the Finsbury Astoria on the opening night of the Walker Brothers tour on 31st March 1967. Only allowed into the UK on a temporary VISA, Hendrix was determined to leave an indelible impact on all who witnessed the performance. He instructed close confidante and press officer Tony Garland to buy lighter fluid from a local hardware store, and at the end of his show Hendrix re-defined the limits of live performance forever.
Flames flew into the air as Hendrix set fire to the base of his Fender Stratocaster – and the astonished audience looked on as the American renegade was ushered off-stage by petrified venue staff – and taken to hospital with minor hand injuries. Whilst Hendrix was being treated, his guitar was retrieved by his roadies, and eventually returned to Garland’s London offices. The guitar was then kept at the home of Noel Redding (bass player with the Jimi Hendrix Experience); before Garland collected the guitar and stored it at his parent’s garage in Hove – and only unearthed by Garland’s nephew in 2007. To have this very history inside of this guitar, for people to come and behold, was just a magical experience to say the least. And not just experiencing the mastermind's strat, this exhibition showcased Jim Morrison’s Last Notebook – Paris 1971, John Bonham’s Personally Owned and played Led Zeppelin Drum Kit, and the USA for Africa / Band Aid / We are the World Soloist Booth Songsheet. “Never before has such an important collection of music history been made available in a single sale” commented Fame Bureau Director of Acquisitions Ted Owen.
The Hendrix Guitar Exhibition opened from April 26th to September 4th 2008, at The Idea Generation Gallery in London.
Blog by Libby Mitchell