Interview by Keith Altham
Keith Altham sat down with Jimi Hendrix in London on September 11, 1970. This would turn out to be Hendrix’s final interview.
We discovered this tape in the archives of Rocksbackpages.com
The Animated Transcript
Keith Altham is a rock music journalist, broadcaster and press agent who has interviewed the likes of The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who, Marvin Gaye and more.
Do you feel personally that you’ve got enough money now to live comfortably?
Ah, I don’t think so. Not the way I’d like to live. Because like I want to get up in the morning and just roll over in my bed into an indoor swimming pool. And then swim to the breakfast table, you know, come up for air and get maybe a drink of orange juice or something like that. Then just fold up on from the chair into the swimming pool and swim into the bathroom and, you know, go and shave or whatever…
You don’t want to live just comfortably, you want to live luxuriously?
No, is that luxurious? I was thinking about a tent maybe overhanging a mountain stream. [laughs]
It does appear, doesn’t it, the days of the baubles and bangles and the freaky hairstyle have all disappeared.
Yeah, but see everybody goes through those stages… The first time around when you wear all these different things, you know. I just did that because I felt like I was being too loud or something. because my nature just changes, you know. Well I don’t want it to be only hyped up on all the visual thing, you know. I wanted people to like listen, too. I don’t know if they were or not though. It started to bring me down a little bit so I started cutting my hair. And started… rings disappearing one by one. [laughs]
One time I said: maybe I should burn a guitar tonight. You know [laughs] smash a guitar or something like that. And they said: yeah, yeah! I said: you really think I should? They said: yeah, that’d be cool. I said: well, ok. So like I just worked up enough anger where I could do it, you know. But like I didn’t know it was anger until they told me that it was, like with destruction and all that. But I believe everybody should have like a room where they can get rid of all their releases, where they can do their releases at. So my room is a stage. [laughs]
I mean, it has been said of you that you invented psychedelic music.
[chuckles] A mad scientist approach. The way I write things, I just write them with a clash between reality and fantasy mostly. You have to use fantasy to show different sides of reality; it’s how it can bend. As a word reality is nothing, but each individual’s own way of thinking. Then the establishment grabs a big piece of that.
You know all I write is what I feel that’s all. I don’t really round it off too good. I just keep it naked almost, you know. And like when we go to play, you know, you’re flipping around and flashing around and everything. They’re not going to see nothing but what their eyes see, you know. Forget about their ears. So like well I was trying to do too many things at the same time, which is my nature, you know. I just hate to be in one corner. I hate to be put as only a guitar player or only as a songwriter. Or only as a music tap dancer. Something like this. [chuckles]
I think certain people think of your music as essentially as “angry music.” As raging against perhaps the establishment principles.
Oh it’s not raging against it. If it was up to me there’d be no such thing as the establishment, you know. It’s the blues that’s all I’m singing about. Today’s blues.
Do you have any politics in fact yourself?
Not really. I was getting ready to get into all that, but like everybody goes through that stage, too. I just… it all comes out in the music most of the time. We have this one song called “Straight Ahead.” And it just says, like, power to the people, freedom to the soul. Pass it on to the young and old. We don’t give a damn if your hair is short or long. Communication is coming on strong. And all this kind of stuff, you know.
What are the things that you would like to see change?
Oh, I don’t know. More color in the streets probably. I mean [chuckles] I really don’t know. If there’s a new idea, a new invention, or a new gas, or a new whatever you know, It should be brought at least into the open instead of carrying these same old burdens around with you. You have to be a freak in order to be different. And freaks they are very prejudiced. you have to have your hair long and talk in a certain way in order to be with them.
In order to be the other way you have to have your hair short and wear ties. So we’re trying to make a third world happen, you know what I mean? There are too many heavy songs out nowadays. music has been getting too heavy, almost to the state of unbearable. I have this one little saying: when things get too heavy just call me helium–the lightest known gas to man. [laughs]
You talk quite a bit about audio visual importance, too. The importance of a having a film with your music. Now are you thinking in terms of the days when we can fit a cassette into the side of our television and play music and a film together or, I mean…
Yeah, a lot of people are making more money than they ever had nowadays. So when they get their flat they can…. they always find themselves with an extra room. So like this extra room could be a whole audio-visual environment. They could go in there, you know, just lay back, and the whole thing blossoms out with this color and sound type of scene. You can go in here and jingle out your nerves or something, you know.
Hendrix’s Final Interview
Keith Altham interviewed Hendrix a total of eight times over the years. According to Altham, Hendrix was “rambling” and showing signs of ill health during this their final interview together. Hendrix drank Mateus Rosé during the interview. More from Altham:
“He wasn’t in the best physical shape five days before his death. He had been going through a difficult period with drugs and stress and tension and the (new group) Band of Gypsys, which he had brought together, hadn’t quite come off as he’d hoped it would.”
Hear the full interview at Rock’s Backpages
What’s In A Name?
Hendrix’s birth name was Johnny Allen Hendrix. He was born November 27, 1942 in Seattle while his father, Al, was away fighting in World War II. When Al returned home three years later, the couple changed Johnny’s name to James Marshall Hendrix.
The reason for the name change is unknown, but it is speculated that Lucille, Hendrix’s mother, had an affair with a man named John Williams and when Al found out, he had the boy’s name changed. The boy may not have noticed, since everyone called him ‘Buster’ anyway.
Finding His Voice in the Army
In 1961, Hendrix enlisted in the United States Army and earned the right to wear the “Screaming Eagles” patch for the paratroop division.
While stationed at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, Jimmy formed The King Casuals.
Experience Music Project
Paul Allen, the billionaire who co-founded Microsoft with Bill Gates, is a massive Jimi Hendrix fan. Such a big fan, in fact, that he wanted to build a museum dedicated to the musician in their mutual hometown of Seattle.
That idea latter blossomed into the Experience Music Project, a museum dedicated to pop culture that is housed in a controversial (some folks think it’s ugly) Frank Gehry-designed building that opened in 2000.
Allen also has a massive collection of Hendrix memorabilia. It’s rumored that he shelled out $2 million the 1968 Stratocaster that Hendrix played at Woodstock.
Here are some gems from the museum:
“Message of Love”
“Come on (Let The Good Times Roll)”