Thursday, September 23, 2010

Are You Experienced? The Inside Story of the Jimi Hendrix Experience by Noel Redding and Carol Appleby

Noel Redding joined the Jimi Hendrix Experience after a few years of dues-paying with bands that never did very much, so being a young, inexperienced (so to speak!) musician, he was not really ready to cope with the strangeness of the incredible rise to super-stardom. Redding was originally a guitarist and he was also never happy with being relegated to bass, though he was quite good on the instrument, and he was also frustrated with the lack of exposure for his own songs (only two were ever released in the Experience). These and other concerns made him decide to leave the biggest rock band of the time after a couple of years in order to get back to his roots and try his hand at his own music again.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t until he left that he realized what many 60’s musicians did – that the managers and lawyers shafted him in his contracts. For the rest of his life he was involved in legal battles with the Hendrix estate, the managers, record companies and whoever else he could find, in an attempt to recoup the money that truly was due to him.

He became a sad and bitter man, completely embroiled in legal actions that drained what little money he did have and contributed to his alcohol abuse (he says he refrained from drugs within a couple of years of leaving the Experience) which in turn contributed to his eventual death in 2003. He did attempt to make music, but never found the right band members and nothing clicked long enough to even give it a serious go. Apparently, he was too proud to try to find a “real” job, so he lived in near poverty while working on lawsuits and his occasional forays into music.

Carol Appleby was his companion through the lean years (17 of them!) and helped him to write this book, only to pass away herself just as it was being published. This must have been a truly crushing blow to Redding, who Appleby stayed with despite his many problems and moodiness. Luckily for Noel, he did find another love and apparently spent his last years in relative sanity, with some minor luck in music, though he continued with his lawsuits until the day he died.

This is certainly not a fun, fan book. More than half of the book is taken up by his legal battles, which is not all that surprising considering he spent decades fighting these fights while he only spent between 2 and 3 years in the Experience. Even his other bands and famous friends are only given footnotes to the lawsuits. A good lesson for aspiring musicians, but definitely not a book that will get you excited about music.