Saturday, September 18, 2010

Buddy Miles - A Jimi Hendrix Conspiracy?

Today commemorates the 40th anniversary of the death of Jimi Hendrix. I have Electric Ladyland playing right now, starting with the first track: . . . AND THE GODS MADE LOVE. Perhaps the 3 dots represent the 3 qabalistic veils of nothingness that precede the manifestation of existence on the qabalistic Tree of Life? Or something else, entirely? Conceptually, the 3 dots seem to indicate something going on before the Gods made love. Just musing here . . . we've since moved on to CROSSTOWN TRAFFIC followed by VOODOO CHILE.

Earlier this year while in Tuscon producing an album with Mark Growden, I met the owner of an established music store and a dealer/collector of guitars. He showed me a Hohner Bass that Paul McCartney had signed and given to him. He also had a drum head signed by Ringo on his wall. I don't have his name at the moment, but will get it.

We were at his house in the desert hills above Tuscon, to return some Neumann U67's we had borrowed for Mark's sessions. Our host showed us his amazing home studio - a vintage Neve desk, Studer 800's, the works. THEN . . . he pulled out a shoebox full of cassettes which he said were copies of everything that Hendrix had ever recorded, all his ideas, jams, everything! Quite an amazing collection!!

He put one on over his studio's Genelec monitors. The music just seemed so fresh and alive, definitely had that Hendrix spark, you could almost feel him playing it. The sound was raw and immediate in all it's unproduced and unprocessed glory. It was our host's educated opinion that these raw cassettes sound better than recent commercial releases of Hendrix's archival materials which he felt were too bright and overcompressed.

. . .

Buddy Miles entered Greenpoint Studio for the first time with a white Stratocaster, embossed with an American flag design, slung over his shoulder which he proceeded to lay across the large black table in the control room area. He said that Jimi Hendrix had given it to him. This was in the early '90's some 20 years after Hendrix died. It was my first time meeting Buddy. In a way, he introduced himself to us with that Strat. Hendrix was obviously still very important to him and loved by him.

Buddy was a real, larger-than-life character. Most people know that he was a solid and powerful drummer with great feel but what many don't know is that he was also an amazingly strong and soulful singer, one of the best I've ever worked with. He and I got along great, mostly, I suspect, because I provided him with significant quantities of Alchemical Gold Patchouli essential oil which he loved and applied copiously.

Miles, it seemed, liked to live life to the fullest. At night he would go out and rage against the dying of the daylight in his own inimitable fashion. He would inevitably show up the next morning very hungry, usually ordering a couple of Chinese food dinners for breakfast. After breakfast he'd get very sleepy. Imad, our assistant engineer, would brew up a pot of strong coffee to jump start Buddy back into service. Sometimes the coffee wasn't enough, so Imad would up the caffeine level with a couple of No-Doz tablets. This would usually suffice.

One day, a few hours into the session, Buddy became very emotional. I suspect he'd been given an extra No-Doz dose that led to his state. For some reason, between takes, he started thinking about Hendrix. Maybe it was because he was playing with Bootsy Collins who sounds as good, and with a similar style as Hendrix, but on the bass. Buddy was upset, he said, about bad elements in the music industry feeding Hendrix drugs which eventually destroyed him. He got so upset that he started to break down and cry. Bootsy got up from his bass station, went over to Buddy to calm him, patting him on the back and saying in his classic falsetto voice so familiar on his recordings, "It's alright, Buddy, it's alright." At the time, the whole scene appeared quite comical, though Buddy was genuinely distraught.

Buddy Miles was a close friend, musical partner, and part of Hendrix's immediate circle in his latter years. Buddy genuinely believed, he said it more than once, that unscrupulous people were supplying Hendrix with drugs to control and bring him down. I have no idea about the truth of this but it does make one wonder about his death.

. . .

One of the pleasures I had recording Buddy Miles was hearing him sing Dylan's ALL ALONG THE WATCHTOWER (the song titles are all in caps because that's how they're printed on the Electric Ladyland cover, and I'm honoring the Hendrix legacy today). Although Buddy banned Stevie Salas from playing the classic Hendrix riff for this song, his version feels much more like Hendrix's cover of this apocalyptic classic than Dylan's original. Buddy aced it on the vocals. I can still vividly remember the power of him belting out the vocal across Greenpoint.

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