Editor’s Note: A week ago, due to the release of the latest Jimi Hendrix posthumous release, we decided to take a look at what might have happened if Hendrix had lived past the age of 27. You can read the details of the first part of the timeline right here.
Today, we resume The Alternate Life of Jimi Hendrix where we last left off—it’s 1977 and Jimi, living in self-imposed exile in Washington State, has just listened to Television’s debut album, Marquee Moon, and decided that it might be time for him to return to the music business after about a four year absence.
Since this has become a bigger project than I originally envisioned we’ll run a third installment next week or the week following.
March 31, 1977 — After spending a few months deliberating over his decision to return to recording, Jimi decides to make the commitment. He calls Chas Chandler to see if he’d be interested in going to New York with him to record. Chandler, in the midst of an Animals reunion, tells him that he can’t. Instead, Hendrix asks if he can put him in contact with the members of Television. “You’re still on that, are you? Pretty fantastic stuff, innit?”
April 1, 1977 — The next day, Chandler calls Hendrix back and gives him the phone number of Richard Lloyd, one of the guitarists in Television. Jimi manages to get a hold of Lloyd in New York. When Jimi tells him who is calling, Lloyd, noticing the date, gets angry and yells, “What the fuck do you think you are asshole!?” at Jimi. In order to prove his identity, Jimi begins playing the Television song “Venus” on his guitar on the other end of the line. Lloyd finally takes Hendrix at his word. Lloyd reminds Jimi that the two had actually met in 1968 via their mutual friend, Velvert Turner, and that Jimi had actually punched him in the face at a gig in 1969. Hendrix apologizes and says that he doesn’t remember that period well but asks if it would be all right for him to come to New York and spend some time with the band. Lloyd is uncertain about how Hendrix might fit in with the new wave and punk scene in New York, but can’t say no.
April 14, 1977 — Jimi Hendrix arrives in New York, staying in Bob Dylan’s MacDougal Street apartment, which has been left largely vacant with Bob spending extended periods of time on tour and in Malibu. Hendrix wanders the streets in his first trip to New York in four years and sees how much it’s changed. Restless, he heads to Electric Lady studios where he finds old friend Eddie Kramer listening to some mixes that Jimmy Page gave him of new Led Zeppelin tracks that he—Page—had been working on. “It’s not bad, you know,” Jimi says. “I’ve always liked that thing Page did, you know. Those real riffs. Maybe he even did it better than me. But I’m not into that kind of heavy thing anymore. I’ve been kind of restless.” Kramer explains that he is restless as well even though he is preparing to team up once more with Kiss to record the follow up to their very successful album Alive!. Jimi and Kramer have an impromptu recording session where Jimi runs through a few of his new tracks. When they finish, it is past 2:00 AM.
April 15, 1977 — Hendrix and Lloyd meet for lunch. Lloyd asks Jimi if he is going to make an album while he’s in New York. “I’d like to, you know. I feel like I can. If I can just find a band. I played in Electric Lady last night. It felt good to be there. I guess it should, you know? I built it.” Lloyd tells Hendrix to come to Television’s show the following night. They’re playing with the Talking Heads, another band Lloyd thinks Hendrix will “really get into.”
April 16, 1977 — Hendrix shows up to CBGB’s in dark sunglasses, a beat up black sombrero he bought earlier that day and a trench coat. He is blown away by the energy of the scene in the bar and he quickly has his hat stolen. When he sees Lloyd, he asks that he keep his cover for as long as he can. The Talking Heads play and Richard Lloyd passes Hendrix bottles of Miller High Life, which is the only beer he can truly stomach. Jimi is impressed at David Byrne’s delivery and the almost elastic quality of the music. When the Talking Heads are finished, Jimi uses the bathroom and encounters a belligerent Dee Dee Ramone first berating a woman and then passionately and explicitly groping her. Richard Lloyd introduces Jimi to the Talking Heads as his buddy, “James,” and Television begins to play their set. During the set, Tina Weymouth and Jimi make small talk and she eventually convinces him to take off his sunglasses. She immediately recognizes him as does a gawking David Byrne. They try to contain their excitement, but soon the buzz gets around.
Television finish playing “Marquee Moon” and the crowd is in a frenzy. Tom Verlaine manages to calm them and addresses the rumor of Jimi Hendrix being in the audience by saying its true. He then invites a begrudging Jimi onstage. The crowd is confused; someone throws a can of beer that spills on Jimi’s trench coat. Verlaine gives Jimi his guitar and then he starts talking to Richard and they launch into a version of “Hey Joe” with dual guitars and a sped up-tempo. Verlaine sings the vocals and then has Jimi join in on the chorus in the end. They finish the song and the crowd is stunned. They go absolutely nuts before Verlaine has the band count off and go into “Venus,” with Jimi and Richard Lloyd still of guitar. CBGB's is in pandemonium and Dee Dee Ramone walks out during the melee and asks, “What’d I miss?
May 1, 1977 — Television aren’t set to record their follow up album until the fall, so with the permission of Richard Lloyd and Tom Verlaine, Jimi borrows bassist Fred Smith to start sessions on his new album. Joining them in the studio is Mitch Mitchell, who was eager to spring from his semi-retirement back into the studio. Eddie Kramer agrees to help produce and engineer under the table until he has to prepare for Kiss’ sessions in late July.
When asked if he needs a second guitarist to follow in the steps of Television and Richard Hell & the Voidoids, Hendrix says, “No, I’ll be fine, you know. I’ll just do both parts.”
September 13, 1977 — Jimi Hendrix’s first album in four years is released. Entitled, Ten, the album fits seamlessly into the punk and new wave movements. More Television than Talking Heads, the record sees Jimi at perhaps his most playful and creative since Axis: Bold as Love. Vocally, Hendrix uses his soft, round voice to great effect when countered with the rhythms of new wave. The album is ten songs long with the title track closing the album as an extended, bluesier ten minute jam, calling to mind Television’s “Torn Curtain,” where Jimi shouts at one point “Ten years is a lot of thinking/And the people come and go!” The highlights include the dancey, bordering on disco “Winterland” and the opening, six minute track, “Puget”, which opens with a wall of feedback, followed by two fluid guitar lines that build into a somewhat hypnotic melody where Jimi sings, “Puget and the morning gave to me/Cross country and the will to see/It’s 1977 and I’m all out of enemies.”
The album is well received by critics and audiences alike. Ten reaches #11 in the U.S. and goes to #3 in the UK. The night the record is released, Jimi plays CBGB's with Patti Smith and Blondie. It is the only time he ever plays CBGB's live.
October 1, 1977 — Jimi buys a townhouse apartment on Grove Street and Bedford and moves his family back to New York.
October 14, 1977 — Hendrix attends a London record release party for David Bowie’s album “Heroes” where he is convinced by Bowie to undertake a European tour where the record has been very well received. Hendrix considers it.
December 4, 1977 — With Chas Chandler as his manager once again, Hendrix decides to undertake a European tour with Mitch Mitchell as his drummer. However, they need to find a touring drummer. Chandler, through the pipeline, finds out that Jeff Beck’s most recent bassist, Fernando Saunders, is now available. Jimi meets with Fernando Saunders in New York to jam at Electric Lady. He offers him the position.
January 13, 1978 – April 5, 1978 — Jimi and his group embark on their European tour. The tour starts in West Germany and moves through Austria, France, Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Spain, and Portugal before concluding in the United Kingdom with five nights in London.
June – August 1978 — Jimi spends the summer back in Washington with his family, writing new songs and preparing for a mini U.S. Tour in the fall. During his time in Washington, Jimi takes in numerous guests. A depressed Bill Walton stays with Jimi for two weeks after his foot injuries ended his season, cost the Trailblazers from repeating as NBA Champions, and effectively ruined one of the best teams of all time. Jimi plays some of his new material for Walton, giving him hope that he can recover from his injuries. After the first leg of his 1978 World Tour, Dylan stays for a week in August, giving Jimi notes on some of his new songs. One night, while both are drunk on red wine, Dylan says to Jimi, “I don’t know. All this livin’, Jimi. I been running a long time. Not sure what exactly it is I’m looking for anyway.”
September 1, 1978 – October 31, 1978 — Jimi embarks on a North American tour with Mitch Mitchell and Fernando Saunders. They play songs from Ten, Era’s End, Electric Ladyland, a punked up version of “Subway Shine” and a new wavy rendition of “Are You Experienced?” The tour ends with a Halloween show in New York City at the Beacon Theatre. Afterwards, Jimi hosts a party at his New York home. A drugged up Richard Lloyd attends the party and tells Jimi that Television has broken up. He offers Jimi some heroin, which Hendrix begrudgingly takes.
November 15, 1978 – January 4, 1979 — Jimi and his band re-enter the studio to record the songs Jimi had been working on in Washington. The songs are more meandering and fluid in nature, closer to a track like “Puget” from Ten. There is even a spoken word song that Jimi wants to include as the album’s centerpiece. For the album closer, Jimi, inspired by the Talking Heads’ “Big Country”, wants to do something even grander: “I really dug that track, but I want something bigger, man. Bigger, you know. I want to make something more country than country or new wave as country—I want people to forget what music they’re even listening to.”
Richard Lloyd’s presence is felt in the studio. Not only providing instrumental help, but also drugs. Jimi and Richard digress on guitar and take heroin. However, Jimi remains focused. He can operate in his new state. Though tensions begin arising at home with Anne Hathaway, especially when she begins to suspect him of an affair with an artist by the name of Jennifer Lawrence.
March 20, 1979 — The follow up album to Ten is released. Entitled Season’s Ghost, a reference to Bill Walton and the 1977-1978 Blazers’ lost title year, the album is ecstatically received and marked as Hendrix’s best work since Electric Ladyland or Era’s End. The album closer “Living Home,” is as Jimi had described it: something more than country. Though similar in nature to “Big Country”, “Living Home” is bigger sonically, with both Richard Lloyd and Hendrix playing guitar parts in addition to a pedal steel guitar covered in reverb. At one point on the track, Jimi moans, “Art isn’t anything/When you don’t know what you’re looking for.” Even the spoken word track, “Glasgow”, is well received. Lester Bangs wrote, “It’s what ‘Murder Mystery’ could’ve been if it had taken its head out of its ass. I’d written off Hendrix long ago as a holier than thou con artist; a failed actor disguised as some kind of false guitar god. However, I’ve been proven wrong before, and it looks like Hendrix may actually be made of that energy, that intangible noise of the firmament that he and his amplifier first arrived with in 1967.”
The album reaches #1 in the U.S. and #3 in the UK. Jimi’s marriage is in danger though, as many believe that the lyrics in “Glasgow” are directly about the artist Jennifer Lawrence and her Scottish descent.
April 7, 1979 — Jimi is the musical guest on Saturday Night Live, though he appears visibly under the influence of heroin. He and the band play the title track from Season’s Ghost, which is the most “punkish” song on the record, as well as “If 6 Was 9”. Bill Murray and Jimi hit it off backstage and Jimi attends the after party at Dan Akroyd’s Blues Bar by the Holland Tunnel. Richard Lloyd shows up as well and he and Jimi play an impromptu blues set with Akroyd and some of the SNL band members. Paparazzi photos are taken of Jimi with Jennifer Lawrence.
May 15, 1979 — Jimi embarks on the first leg of a World Tour with his band and Richard Lloyd. Before leaving, though, his wife Anne informs him that she will be taking the girls back to Washington for the summer and that he should stay in New York when the tour breaks. She tells him that he needs to “quit heroin, quit that girlfriend of yours and figure out what kind of life you can survive.”
June 15, 1979 — Jennifer Lawrence meets the band in Japan. However, after a long night of drinking, she, Richard Lloyd and Jimi are all arrested for their public drunkenness. They are bailed out, but Richard Lloyd decides to leave the tour. Jimi and the group continue on as a trio.
July 30, 1979 — During the tour’s London shows. Jimi spends time with the Clash who are working on London Calling. The band plays him some of the tapes and Jimi is impressed with how they have managed to expand and tighten their musical vision simultaneously.
August 8, 1979 — Returning to New York in between legs of the tour, Jimi is served with divorce papers from Anne Hathaway Hendrix. Jimi pleads with Anne and tells her that he will clean up; that he will go cold turkey off heroin. Anne says that it’s too late. She knows how much he loves music and what he feels he needs to do when he’s in “that world” and that she isn’t going to be a “guilt inducing presence” that prods him into getting better. Jimi accepts her decision and decides to quit heroin cold turkey anyway.
October 1, 1979 — Jimi cancels the second leg of the World Tour citing health reasons.
November 14, 1979 — A package from London arrives for Jimi. It’s an advance copy of London Calling. Inside there’s a note from Mick Jones, “Enjoyed having you, Jimi. Hope you like the record.”
December 24, 1979 — Clean from heroin, Jimi spends Christmas with Anne Hathaway’s family in Baltimore, Maryland. He calls Anne and the girls the next morning. He lies to the girls and tells them he’s on tour. He apologizes to Anne for his mistakes and he tells her that he’ll keep trying to make it all up to her.
February 4, 1980 — Rolling Stone runs a feature on Jimi with the title “Rock n’ Roll’s Ambassador.” In it are accounts from various musicians all over the spectrum (Dee Dee Ramone next to born-again Bob Dylan) of how they believe Jimi might be the most beloved figure in rock n’ roll.
March 1980 – June 1980 — Fueled by his improved health and his love of London Calling, Jimi, Mitch Mitchell and Fernando make up the North American dates of their World Tour. Fernando especially is impressed by the new energy Jimi brings to the live show.
July 1980 – September 1980 — Jimi spends the summer in New York and begins living with Jennifer Lawrence. He spends time with Bill Murray and Robert de Niro more than any other musicians. Still inspired by London Calling, Jimi begins work on his next album. Whenever he’s out with friends, its hard to get him off the subject of the Clash. “I need to be writing things like that, you know. Things about New York and love and problems with fidelity and marriage. I need to make big statements but I need to start using smaller things to make them. Just rock n’ roll, soul, something pure that means a lot.”
October 9, 1980 — Jimi Hendrix attends John Lennon’s 40th birthday party with Jennifer Lawrence. Upon entering the party, Lennon quips to Hendrix, “Jim, so glad you made it. Ida thought that Michaels fella would’ve had you playing in his house band by now.” Both Jimi and Jennifer have a good time at the party, with both actually spending most of their time with the Lennons. Jimi remembers when he played “Sgt. Pepper’s” at the Savile Row theatre a few days after the record was released. “You played it for, Paul,” John says quickly. “I wasn’t there.” They laugh over that and the fact that they’ve known each other for thirteen years. John plays Jimi the advanced pressing of Double Fantasy.
October 11, 1980 — Anne Hathaway Hendrix is married to Seattle Times editor Timothy Hendricks. Jimi cries when he finds out.
November 22, 1980 — Jimi and Anne speak for the first time since her wedding. “I know it’s in poor taste,” she says. “I just couldn’t help the name.”
December 2, 1980 — Determined to put Anne’s remarriage behind him and make a record as good as London Calling, Jimi, Fernando and Mitch Mitchell begin recording at Electric Ladyland. Jimi wants to put out a double album. “I’m not going to hide the fact that I love London Calling, you know. I’m not going to hide what’s happened to me this past year.”
December 8, 1980 — Jimi hears about the shooting and death of John Lennon he rushes to Roosevelt Hospital to be with Yoko and the rest of John’s New York friends.
December 10, 1980 — A grieving Hendrix proposes to Jennifer Lawrence, telling her that when something like this happens, you realize that there is no time to waste.
January 1, 1981 — Recording for the double album is going well. However, while in bed on the morning of the New Year, Jimi reveals to Jennifer that in light of John Lennon’s death, he believes this will be his final record. “I don’t think I want to be around, you know, be public enough, make music long enough for my music to drive someone else insane.”