These photos are from Montagu Square when we were just beginning the collection. The record player belonged to Ringo Starr
Later on we built up a bigger collection.
This is an extract from an article in Guitar Player magazine (1 Apr 1996)
Listening Experience — Jimi Hendrix’ Personal Record Collection
Author: James Rotondi (The article was based on his interview with me)
Etchingham and Hendrix shared several apartments together, including one at 23 Brook Street, Mayfair, next door to a house once occupied by Handel. There they amassed close to 100 albums, ranging from Chicago blues to folk to classical to complete obscura. (The entire collection was sold a few years ago to the Experience Music Project in Seattle, the brainchild of Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen.) “A lot of our albums would have been bought at a place called One Stop Records on South Molton Street, W1, just opposite Brook Street,” Etchingham recalls, “and many were given to Jimi by other bands or sent through the post.” For classical records, they headed to tonier Oxford Street to the HMV (“His Master’s Voice”) record shop, where Jimi bought copies of Holst’s The Planets and Handel’s Messiah.
Jimi’s buying habits were, not surprisingly, impulsive. “Jimi would buy out of curiosity,” Etchingham remembers. “Often he’d go through the record racks, look at something for a moment, and buy it. Then he’d listen to it once and never play it again.” He bought John & Yoko’s controversial Two Virgins album on a whim, mostly because of the nude cover shot, which was made “decent” by packaging it in brown paper. “It was considered obscene,” Etchingham laughs, “and I remember all the giggling that went down at One Stop Records when they had to put it in the brown paper bag!”
Many of Jimi’s discs were blues records. Kathy remembers Elmore James as a staple, and, judging from the records he collected, Muddy Waters and Lightnin’ Hopkins were also big favorites. Testament Records’ Down On Stovall’s Plantation reissued Muddy’s 1941 and ’42 Library of Congress 78s. Etchingham clearly recalls Jimi going out of his way to get a copy of Electric Mud. (Muddy himself regarded Electric Mud as an experiment in psychedelia gone awry, proclaiming, “If you’ve got to have big amplifiers and wah-wahs and equipment to make your guitar say different things, well, hell, you can’t play no blues.”)
Jimi’s copy of Waters’ The Real Folk Blues, though, more than delivered the goods, with classic renditions of “Mannish Boy,” “Screamin’ And Cryin’,” and “Little Geneva,” as did his copy of More Real Folk Blues, released the following year. Jimi’s passion for Lightnin’ Hopkins is revealed by his collecting the Texas blues great’s Soul Blues, Lightnin’ Strikes, Something Blue, The Roots Of Lightnin’ Hopkins, and Earth Blues.
Jimi’s only John Lee Hooker album, Live At Cafe Au Go-Go, was recorded live in ’66 with the full Waters band, including Muddy on guitar and Otis Spann on piano. Jimi also owned copies of The Best Of Elmore James, The New Jimmy Reed Album, Stand Back–Here Comes Charlie Musselwhite’s South Side Band, The Driving Blues Of Smokey Smothers, Sonny Boy Williamson II’s Down And Out Blues and More Real Folk Blues, Howlin’ Wolf’s More Real Folk Blues, Guitar Slim and Jelly Belly’s Carolina Blues, and the Arhoolie label’s Lowell Fulson. Junior Wells’ It’s My Life, Baby could give him a good dose of primal Buddy Guy whenever needed.
Oddly enough, there were no B.B. King titles among Jimi’s remaining albums–though Etchingham reports that many were permanently borrowed–but he did own Albert King’s utterly essential Live Wire/Blues Power, as well as John Mayall’s Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton, Crusade with Mick Taylor, and A Hard Road with Peter Green. Besides Muddy’s Stovall LP, Hendrix’ other prewar blues records were the hard-to-find Bootleg Rum Dum Blues by Blind Blake, Washboard Sam’s Classic Blues, Sonny Boy Williamson I’s Classic Blues, and Lead Belly’s Take This Hammer, which was Folkways’ first ten-inch album. Jimi’s blues anthologies were Delmark’s essential Chicago/The Blues/Today! set, as well as American Folk Blues Festival, We Sing The Blues, and Original Golden Hits Of The Great Blues Singers, Vol. II.
“People will argue with me, but I tell you, that guy was a bluesman,” Kathy insists. “That’s what really got him. That’s where his heart really lay. Anybody who tells me he would have become a jazz musician–well, balls to them. The way Jimi was, if he was with a jazz musician he liked jazz, if he was with a folk singer, he liked folk. But what he really liked and what he really played at home was the blues.” Their collection also boasted one of the Columbia Robert Johnson albums, given to Jimi by Yardbirds manager Giorgio Gomelsky when the pair visited him at Polydor’s Oxford Street offices.
Jimi had a number of interesting and progressive folk albums, such as Sophisticated Beggar by Roy Harper, whose sidemen frequently included Jimmy Page and John Bonham. (Familiar with “Hats Off To Roy Harper” from Led Zeppelin III?) He also owned Tim Buckley’s 1967 second album, Goodbye And Hello, which began Buckley’s foray into jazz-tinged, vocally gymnastic folk-rock, and old Greenwich Village buddy Richie Havens’ Electric Havens and Mixed Bag. Dylan, of course, was a perennial favorite of Jimi’s, and he wore out copies of Bob’s Highway 61 Revisited, Greatest Hits, Nashville Skyline, and John Wesley Harding.
The latter, notes Etchingham, was brought over from the U.S. and yielded Hendrix’ most famous cover tune, “All Along The Watchtower.” “He’d listen to it time and time again,” she recalls. Jimi considered covering “I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine,” but according to Kathy, deemed it “too personal.” John Wesley Harding was also the source of another Hendrix cover, “Drifter’s Escape.” Speaking of Dylan covers, he also owned The Byrds’ Fifth Dimension and Younger Than Yesterday, Joan Baez’s 1968 album of Dylan covers, Any Day Now, and The Hollies’ The Hollies Sing Dylan.
The few jazz records that remain in Jimi’s collection include Jimmy Smith & Wes Montgomery’s classic The Dynamic Duo and The Charles Lloyd Quartet’s Journey Within, which featured the warm, adventurous tenor sax and flute excursions that made Lloyd popular among both jazz and pop sets in the late ’60s. Jimi was also hip to Boston-based jazz pianist Jaki Byard’s Freedom Together and Sunshine Of My Soul. Byard frequently worked with another of Jimi’s favorite jazz artists, the late saxophone iconoclast Rahsaan Roland Kirk.
Hendrix loved a great vocalist as much as sterling players. He listened to Nina Simone’s Nuff Said, gospel diva Clara Ward’s Hang Your Tears Out To Dry, Otis Redding’s The Immortal, and Johnny Cash’s At Folsom Prison. Though he wasn’t a huge fan himself, Hendrix bought Etchingham a copy of The Best Of Ray Charles. Jimi was an Elvis fan since his youth, and his early rock LPs included Eddie Cochran and Little Richard titles. Hendrix’ supply of fellow pop and rock acts was relatively limited, although he had copies of the Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour and Abbey Road, the Rolling Stones’ Their Satanic Majesties Request, Joe Cocker’s With A Little Help From My Friends, and Vanilla Fudge’s eponymous debut featuring their remake of “You Keep Me Hanging On,” which was a huge hit in the U.K. in 1967. He owned albums featuring past and future jam partners as well, notably Delaney & Bonnie’s Home and the Spencer Davis Group’s Autumn ’66, which featured a young Steve Winwood, who’d play organ on Electric Ladyland‘s “Voodoo Child.” The Bonzo Dog Band’s 1968 satirical gem Doughnuts In Granny’s Greenhouse was probably given to him by the Bonzo Band’s Viv Stanshall, and his buddy Eric Burdon probably gave him the copy of the Animals’ The Twain Shall Meet. The Temptations’ 1969 release Puzzle People–which featured the smash “I Can’t Get Next To You”–was filed near James Brown’s aptly titled Ain’t It Funky, Dr. John’s second album Babylon, Canned Heat’s self-titled 1967 debut, and the Bee Gees’ first album, which Etchingham describes as “one of the first records in the collection. We used to listen to that quite a lot. Jimi thought their harmonies were really great.”
The more esoteric titles in Hendrix’ collection included George Harrison’s 1968 solo album Wonderwall Music, a bit of proto-ambient soundtrack music with some Indian instrumentation. An early supporter of Indian classical music, Rolling Stone Brian Jones, a close pal, gave Jimi copies of Ravi Shankar’s Sounds Of The Sitar and Karnatak vocalist Subbulakshmi’s The Sounds Of . . . The collection also included some amazingly oddball artifacts, such The Zodiac/Cosmic Sounds, a gem of the emerging psychedelia featuring keyboard synthesist Paul Beaver playing original music for each of the astrological signs, “composed, arranged and conducted by Mort Garson,” with words by Jacques Wilson. Elektra Records’ instructions on the album jacket: “Must be played in the dark.” Bach On The Pedal Harpsichord was the work of E. Power Biggs, a renowned classical pipe organist, and French electronic music pioneer Pierre Henry was represented by Le Voyage. Even more obscure were Friar Tuck And His Psychedelic Guitar and The Red Crayola With The Familiar Ugly. (I think Jimi liked the artwork of Red Crayola because it had a similar style to his own. KE.)
Kathy remembers that she and Hendrix played records on a Bang & Olufsen turntable, but he had to “stick a ha’penny with cellotape onto the turntable arm, because the balance wasn’t quite right. Otherwise it would jump up and down the louder it got.” And it got loud. The turntable was hooked up to a Leak-70 amplifier, a Bang & Olufsen reel-to-reel, and two Lowther speakers with 30-watt output on each side, which needed frequent repair to fix blown cones. “When the cones in the speakers blew, I used to put them in the back of a taxi and go down to a place in Bromley, Kent, where Lowther had a small workshop,” Etchingham explains. “They would mend them while I waited because they knew the terrible withdrawals we’d have if they took a week to repair! They even tried to reinforce the cones for us. We didn’t have any neighbors in Brook Street, so we blew them quite often.” The pair also used a Decca portable stereo with flip-up speakers that collapsed to make a little suitcase.
Hendrix was no anal-retentive audiophile. “He was terrible– never put the records back in the sleeves,” laughs Etchingham. “They were all over the floor, and that’s why they were all so damaged. If he particularly treasured an album, he’d put it away, but otherwise . . .”
Many thanks to Jas Obrecht for his contributions to this article.
To get a copy of my book click here