It’s interesting the moments our brain chooses to remember very clearly: weddings, childbirths, disasters and the incredibly formative moments that shape what we become. Last Saturday, I was preparing for my first solo appearance. After dinner, I was discussing the day that changed my musical life; the day I discovered the type of music I wanted to play.
I’ve always listened to vinyl more than compact discs. There is something unmistakably brilliant about a record. Its smell, feel and shine convey auditory magic. How do the wizards get sound on these giant black circles? As a child, I enjoyed my mom’s Elvis albums and my dad’s Conway Twitty records. At 14, in ninth grade, I stumbled upon a Rolling Stones record. It changed my life.
I can remember picking the album out of a plastic storage bin. On the cover was a white frosted cake with a record as the middle layer. Let it Bleed is a wonderful recording, but I didn’t find the Stones inside. No, I had stumbled upon a misplaced Jimi Hendrix album. I was disappointed at first. I hadn’t heard of Hendrix… it’s difficult to imagine that now. Curiosity struck, and I put the needle to the vinyl.
From the first dissonant two chord riff of “Purple Haze,” I was transfixed, hypnotized. I must have played “Fire” eighteen times in a row. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I imagine my thoughts were similar to those of audiences hearing Hendrix for the first time in 1964. Guitars don’t sound like that; at least they didn’t before Jimi. I stayed up well into the night listening. Side A, B and back again. 30 years past sounded like the future to me.
I hadn’t touched my kid-sized electric guitar since second grade. There was no resisting the NEED to climb the stairs to my bedroom and dig it out of the closet. It was still missing the high E string snapped seven years ago, but that didn’t matter. I was going to fumble my way through these songs. Fortunately, I was a high school freshman; I existed on 3 hours of sleep and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. I had this.
Before passing out, I figured the basics of “Purple Haze.” I sounded much worse than I thought I did, but this night started the journey. Jimi was my genesis of music, and my life would never be the same. I found more than an old record in the wrong sleeve that night. I found a passion.