Does Jimi Hendrix really suck?
“Jimi Hendrix just plain sucks!” That statement, as well as his music being way overrated still keeps coming up. And quite frequently so, though the poor soul has been gone for a couple of decades now. Even though in the circle of his fans, he has gained kind of a godlike stature, there are plenty of stubborn people who dare to think otherwise. Of course there are those (we can call them immature by nature) haters who are in a period of favoring another guitar player, and only that single one. These periods usually fade with the completion of puberty, or at least soon after it. Sometimes this kind of stage takes a lifelong journey throughout the life of a poor, clueless music fan. But let’s talk about another group. They are the ones who tend to think outside the box. They are the people who know that if it walks like a duck and what’s more, quacks like a duck, then it’s a… strat with the selector switch in one of the in-between positions.
Oracles vs Hendrix
Anyway. Jimi and his strat can still be considered world famous. But does he really blow, like one of those pesky hair dryers? What do these above mentioned different thinkers (let’s call them oracles, cause that’s what they really are, now, aren’t they) say about it? Well, my friend, yes. They indeed claim that Mr. Hendrix does suck. Not unlike a well designed Pratt & Whitney turbofan jet engine, from the front end side. But why do they say that? Among these claims are the following:
Slop or abandon?
“He was sloppy as hell; couldn’t play in time.” And yep, if one blessed with musical ears checks out many of his live performances and even his albums, he’ll notice a floating Jimi. I mean, a guitar player who trips across measures with quite a peculiar abandon. One that recklessly neglects well established musical terms like note duration. Or dangerously lacking the sassy nature of rhythmic pulse we happen to call groove.
“Jimi couldn’t play in tune to save his life.” Yup. In the above mentioned “out of time” period, his tuning was similarly “reckless” in many cases.
“His singing sucked. Quite comparably to a sperm whale courtesan.” Hmm… maybe he was just following the tuning of his guitar. Right.
Being in tune? Overrated.
There are also oracle originated comments about him acting extremely pompously and pretentiously on stage, or not being able to come up with a coherent composition or song lyrics. Some guys call him a limited songwriter, or something along those lines. They also bravely say that Jimi’s solos were downright awful. For these solos started out as boring trite, then quickly turned into a whacked out mess, spamming the surrounding air with incomprehensible gibberish. And they also went on forever, rather annoyingly.
The fans of course defend their dear hero with various claims. For example, they state that Hendrix used very light gauge strings, the monitoring system was lacking, and his nut was not well lubricated. Not even the one on the guitar. Also, that he chose to play the way he played, it was his style, man. Yo swag, got it? Well, most of these can be true of course. After all, doing dive bombs with an old school synchronized tremolo like a freaking Junkers 87 Stuka will probably have the almighty power to disturb an otherwise impeccable tuning. And if you can’t hear yourself because of the screams of a perpetually shagging, rabbit farm imitating (and intimidating) audience and the yucky on-stage monitors, your singing will surely suck as well.
But if you happen to be one of those with a pair of not too musically hopeless ears, check out this recording. It’s young(er) Jimi Hendrix, playing the tune “Testify” with The Isley Brothers.
Now tell me if it is any of the above listed, negative things. It sure isn’t, right? He plays dexterously and joyfully. Which leads us to the answer of the title question. Jimi’s music might have been suffering from being god awful in his later years, but what really sucks are drugs.