Jimi Hendrix and The Band of Gypsys greatest track?…
Anything which combines Jimi Hendrix and the Vietnam War is worth a second look as far as Retroculturati is concerned and this video ticks every box. In 1970 Hendrix was touring with his latest band, The Band of Gypsys featuring former Experience drummer Mitch Mitchell and bass player Billy Cox. They released the self-titled live album and from it comes ‘Machine Gun’, a track which was never recorded but played live as a ‘jam’ a number of times with varying line-ups.
A ‘jam’ is essentially what it is, Hendrix let loose around a vocal which was anti-Vietnam, using effects pedals to mimic the sound of machine gun fire. Both the lyric and the solos changed from performance to performance but there are some memorable versions on live albums from his Isle of Wight recording to the Live at Berkley album. The version recorded with Band of Gypsys features the vocals of legendary drummer Buddy Miles who replaced Mitchell and this line-up promised much but was tragically cut short.
The Band of Gypsys were born out of contract wrangles and in truth never got out of them. A live album was released to placate Hendrix’s record company and despite Jimi’s personal dissatisfaction with it, the album reached the top ten on both sides of the Atlantic. The album and the playing begs the question of what lay ahead, Hendrix was clearly experimenting with jazz, funk and R&B and a radical departure seemed almost inevitable. The turn of the decade saw rock and jazz improvisation burst onto the scene and Hendrix was clearly influenced by Miles Davis, John McLaughlin and John Coltrane.
But in the end it is a live album and the odd dodgy bootleg we have to remember him and the band by. The eternal shame will always be the mis-management of both himself and his music. There are more poor live recordings than good ones and had he been gifted a guardian in the ilk of Led Zeppelin’s Peter Grant then who knows where he could have taken the music.
So here is ‘Machine Gun’, the video footage from Vietnam is worthy of a watch, the soundtrack both compelling and essential.
Categories: The Music Lounge