#15 – Jimi Hendrix, Red House
When did you last get angry? Like, raging. Breath held, sucking your sternum into your lungs until your collarbones snap. Just me? I doubt it. Think back and ask yourself, did it help? Did it achieve anything? Did it actually help the situation in any way whatsoever? Did it make you feel better? I doubt that, too.
We get angry at the smallest of things. Crazy, really. The damp cloth left unsqueezed in the cloudy, day-old dishwater in the sink. Divorces have been filed for less. The empty butter tub that’s been put back in the fridge, discovered only as your toast pops in the morning, ruining breakfast ahead of that big meeting. The amateur who waits until they get to the ticket barrier before hunting through half their belongings in their bag to only find last week’s stubs, who turns around and walks back through the queue against the flow. Against. The flow!
Anger is everywhere, and it feels justified – politicians who are fools; professionals who are incompetent; Joe Wicks. Or worse, Olly Murs. Ok, these last two aren’t so small. But in most situations, anger doesn’t really get you anywhere. I’m not for a minute advocating a hug for dear old Joe or Olly, but I would say that as a general approach to living a happier life, speaking from personal experience as most could, there are better choices than anger almost all of the time.
Sure, Mike Phillips, the legendary Welsh No. 9 may have built his reputation on it, but it didn’t help him at 3am in the golden-arched burger establishment. Even Anthony ‘Angry Chef’ Warner, whose acerbic yet hilarious invective of pretty much every food fad & myth popularised over the past 20 years is borne of a desire to help people and stop them making bad decisions.
Imagine you could pause, just at the point the anger is about to boil over. You press hold on your surroundings, and everything…stops.
What would you do? Would you clench your teeth & fists tighter, slam the button and let rip? Or could you do something amazing?
You can tell from the intro of ‘Red House‘ that Hendrix knows what’s coming. He’s weeping, the writing’s on the wall. The senses are on high alert. His voice in the first verse tells you where it’s heading. We begin to feel his pain, then we realise. ‘Wait a minute, something’s wrong, the key won’t unlock this door‘. The big bends on the guitar fills contorting his heart as much as his torso. ‘My baby don’t live here no more.’
Oh Jimi. ‘She didn’t tell me nothin’ about it. But that’s alright I still got my guitar, look out baby.‘ And at that point, at 2 minutes 11 seconds into the track, there is nothing but anger. Pure white rage flowing from this desperate agony. What do you do?
Do you explode? Do you scream? All this hate & fury? At this point in history, faced with one of the oldest stories ever told, that’s happened for centuries gone by and will happen for millennia to come, a woman leaving a man, the story that has been the very essence of blues music since before Ms Johnson gave birth to young Robert in Hazlehurst, Mississippi back in 1911, what would you do? Hendrix? Jimi Hendrix pauses.
What follows, is one of the most electrifying blues guitar solos ever to have been played, combining to make this one of the greatest blues songs ever to have been recorded. Its understated complexity & technicality. Its raw power. Expressing exactly what you or I would felt had we got home and our beloved had walked out on us. As storming a run through those 12 simple bars as could ever have been felt at the time or has ever been felt since. Genius is used to describe Hendrix for many reasons, but for me the simplicity yet emotional explosion of his talent has never been more evident than here. It is the perfect rendition of the most treasured of combinations – Hendrix, playing nothin’ but the blues.
And finally, like any man who’s been in this position can relate to, and as the blues instructs that it must, humour and lust come back to the fore. As the final verse climaxes, we know, with delight, that Jimi will be ok. ‘If my baby won’t love me no more, I know her sister will.’
Next time you feel the red mist rising, pause and think of ‘Red House’ instead. See if you can direct that emotion to something more constructive. Get creative. Get humourous, get some good out of it. Do something wonderful, something beautiful. Make music, make love. Just try not to get angry.*
* Some may argue that Hendrix adopted a very different outlook when singing ‘Hey Joe’, encouraging cold-blooded murder as a response to a similar scenario. To those, I would remind them that in that he was singing about Joe, whoever that mad bastard was. Red House is about Jimi and what Jimi did.