3 Sep

Jimi had a Strat. Jimi had a lot of Strats. He did mean things to ’em.

Jimi Burning

He busted some, burnt others, turned ’em upside down and fucked ’em. He played them like God would if He had the time.

This was 1966 and LSD was still a vanguard experience. America still had de facto apartheid and the culture of this planet’s prosperous cities revolved around the trans-Atlantic shuttling of various hipsters across the Pond from London to New York and then back again.

Discovered in NYC by some geezer called Chas, Hendrix was bought over to London: set-up, signed up, all the connects. This was the time of Blow-Up and David Bailey; ‘Clapton is God’ all over the East London walls. Clapton was God; the best, the kids agreed, of the best. This was the London of Jimmy Page before Led Zeppelin, Jeff Beck before Blow by Blow; of John, Paul, George and Keef. What these white boys played came from black men. Working musos who struggled to pay the rent and sometimes didn’t. In America they were niggers, in England they were the fires of Orc.

Clapton was God. Chas got Jimi onstage with Clapton. Clapton got demoted.

After Hendrix, black guitarists don’t much play rock. They played the funk instead. Hendrix was the fork in the road. One way went: Catfish Collins, Prince. The other: Joe Perry, Eddie Van Halen. It’s as if the blackcats sent the whitecats one last man; a voice that could never be matched. A reminder: this is our music.

So Hendrix is a star. And Fender is doing very well. So they make two custom models for favoured guitarists out of solid rosewood. (They must’ve been heavy but the sustain and the growl!) George Harrison put his Rosewood Telecaster to good use on Let It Be and (it’s supposed) Abbey Road.

For Hendrix, of course, the Rosewood Strat.

He died before he got it. The week he kicked he was supposed to get together with Miles Davis. They were going to record. He was 27. When I think of what kind of bitches brew I’ve missed I get a bit pissed.

His custom rosewood Strat never arrived, anywhere. No more were made. There were two in existence, one in the Fender workshop. Both are missing: the Strat and the Strat-God. Two loose threads that finally lead to nowhere. Who knows how many magical instruments and magical musicians have been lost in time that way.


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