Friday, September 18, 2015

Remembering Jimi Hendrix: If 6 Was 9

Forty-five years ago today, the world lost one of the most innovative guitarists – Jimi Hendrix. For today’s Friday Flipside feature, we use “If 6 was 9” – the “B” side of “Stone Free.” While “If 6 was 9” never charted, “Stone Free” only made it to #130. While “Stone Free” had been issued as the flip of “Hey Joe” in the UK in 1966, it was not released in the US until July 1969 when it appeared on the “Smash Hits” LP.

“If 6 was 9” was originally released on the Jimi Hendrix Experience’s 1967’s “Axis: Bold as Love” album and later appeared on the “Easy Rider Soundtrack” in 1969. The single was released on September 15, 1969 – a year and three days prior to Hendrix’s death. Penned by Hendrix, “If 6 was 9” contains plenty of distortion, reverb, echo, and even features Hendrix on soprano recorder. It is a counter-culture anthem that pits one side of the generation gap with the other.

The original stereo master of the “Axis: Bold as Love” unfortunately was lost so Hendrix and engineer Eddie Kramer hurriedly remixed the album with the exception of one cut: “If 6 was 9.” Unable to get a satisfactory remix of the tune, a noisy premix of the song that belonged to bassist Noel Redding was used as the final master.

It has been reported that Redding’s copy so was badly wrinkled that Kramer resorted to using an iron to straighten out the tape. The copy was transferred to virgin tape and was inserted into the album’s master. “If 6 was 9” was produced by Chas Chandler – Hendrix’s manager. Chandler, by the way, was the original bassist for The Animals.

On Friday, September 18, 1970, Hendrix died from aspirating his own vomit while overdosed on barbiturates and alcohol. It certainly was a sad day and I remember hearing the news 45 years ago like it was yesterday.

As an aside, this occurred during my sophomore year at East Allegheny High School in Pennsylvania. The very next school day, while Principal Joseph Churchman prepared to play the “Star Spangled Banner” and lead the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag over the public address system as he did every morning, several students approached him about playing Hendrix’s version from the Woodstock soundtrack. While it was definitely not his musical style, he obliged this request.

The next issue of the Wildcat Crier, the student newspaper, poked a bit of fun at Joe Churchman for allowing the Hendrix recording to be played in place of the military band record that he typically used. Unfortunately, I don’t remember the artist’s name, but I have remembered this all these years.

“White collared conservative flashing down the street, Pointing their plastic finger at me. They're hoping soon my kind will drop and die, but I'm gonna wave my freak flag high, high. Wave on, wave on.” Unfortunately, “If 6 was 9” was somewhat prophetic and in a year after this single was released, Jimi died in London at the age of 27. Play on Jimi – and the world will be playing your music for centuries to come.

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