February 19, 2012 in City

Clark: Hard Rock Café serves full Jimi Hendrix experience

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Doug Clark poses with a Stratocaster guitar.
(Full-size photo)

Scuse me while I kiss the sky” – from the song “Purple Haze

SEATTLE – The lyric has wormed into my brain here on the second floor of the Hard Rock Café in downtown Emerald City.

That I’m surrounded by Jimi Hendrix photos and memorabilia may have something to do with it, of course.

There’s the green floppy felt he loved to wear. And check out the groovy pair of tall, black boots. They date back to performances at New York’s Salvation Club.

High on one wall hangs a stage-worn 1969 Fender Stratocaster guitar – a sunburst model – that Hendrix played with both the Experience and his Band of Gypsys.

How cool is this stuff?

I’ve always been totally geeked out when it comes to Hendrix.

Come on. I grew up in the Psychedelic Sixties playing in garage bands. How can I not be in awe of the man who revolutionized electric rock guitar?

So being in Jimi’s hometown for the weekend, I felt compelled to catch the Hendrix items that will be at the Hard Rock until March 1. Not to mention that 15 percent of all Hendrix merchandise sales benefit the Fender Music Foundation as well as the Jimi Hendrix Park Foundation in Seattle.

What I didn’t bank on was being able to actually hold one of the exhibition’s crown jewels.

But 10 minutes after I arrived, Amy McKillop, the Hard Rock’s sales and marketing manager, joined me on the second floor with a long black guitar case in hand.

“Thought you’d want to see this,” she said.

No kidding.

McKillop opened the case. Inside was a new white Stratocaster patterned after the guitar Hendrix played at Woodstock in 1969.

This guitar, however, is adorned with images representing lyrics in some of Hendrix’s most famous songs.

The images date back, so the story goes, to collaboration between Hendrix and artist Alan Aldridge in 1970, the year Hendrix died. T-shirts sold in the Hard Rock gift shop bear an image of the very decked-out Strat that McKillop handed over to me.

I held it. I ogled it.

I posed for a snapshot with it.

I handed it back nervously.

The last thing I wanted was to go butterfingers and drop this one-of-a-kind piece.

My love for Hendrix music began in 1967, the year I bought a copy of his mind-blowing debut album, “Are You Experienced.”

All my friends were in awe of Hendrix for his mastery as a guitarist as well as the variety of sounds he could coax out of his instrument.

A whole new sonic world had just opened up.

But the deal was sealed when I sat in the old Spokane Coliseum on a September night in 1968.

I can’t recall if the term “power trio” was used back then. But that’s exactly what the Jimi Hendrix Experience was.

Hendrix on guitar. Noel Redding on bass. Mitch Mitchell on drums.

Just three guys cranking out thunder in our boomy excuse for an arena.

I remember sitting transfixed by Hendrix’s wild costumes and electric showmanship.

We were all such squares, politely applauding between numbers when we should have been pulling our hair and screaming.

But what a night.

Who knew this enormous talent would be gone in just two years?

Hendrix’s music is ageless, of course. Every modern guitarist owes a huge debt to the man.

The Hendrix fashion sense lives on, too.

One of the exhibit pieces is a small leather satchel with a shoulder strap. Hendrix used to tote paper for writing lyrics, guitar picks and Lord knows what else.

McKillop laughed.

“It took a while for the man purse to come back,” she said. “But it did with a vengeance.”

Doug Clark is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review. He can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or by email at dougc@spokesman.com.


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