Room Full of Mirrors: A Biography of Jimi Hendrix

Posted by Marie on Wednesday, October 17, 2012 in , , , , ,
Room Full of Mirrors: A Biography of Jimi Hendrix - Charles R. Cross; ISBN 1-4013-0028; Non-Fiction, Biography; Hyperion, 2005.

(This review was originally posted on my multiply page on January 27, 2009.)

If you're a Jimi Hendrix fan, do not to read this review.

Okay, consider yourself warned.

At the end of three weeks (a long read by my standards), I have to make an effort to finish reading this book. It was difficult to maintain interest in that seriously stupid guy that was Jimi Hendrix. Deliberately wasted talent, deliberately wasted opportunity, deliberately wasted life.

I would had still found the book fascinating despite having an unpleasant anti-hero as a subject (I like reading about the music of the 60s and the 70s, and the evolution of the genre that we call Rock) if only Mr. Cross doesn't have a limitless supply of excuses for Hendrix's failings. As an example, Mr. Cross reluctantly reveals about Hendrix's tendency to use violence towards his girlfriends - but, he hastens to explain, that was just the alcohol speaking and he's really actually quite gentle. But when one reads these sort of instances again and again and again, Mr. Cross's protestations becomes, not just ridiculous, but insulting to the readers' intelligence.

To Mr. Cross defense, one can argue that he have to contend not just with the entire Hendrix clan, but the hundreds of fellow musicians, friends and fans who zealously guard Jimi Hendrix's memory. He then has no choice but to tiptoe around; give the truth, of course, but provide exhaustive explanations, using carefully chosen and sometimes blandly neutral words. The general tone, therefore, comes across as ludicrously apologetic.

Not everything is bad though. Mr. Cross is at his best when writing about Jimi Hendrix and his band's (whether the Experience or the Band of Gypsys) professional life. The (r)evolution comes alive that you can almost see and hear it - the early forays of Rhythm and Blues musicians to Rock, the London Mod culture, the parallel hippie and psychedelic culture in the US. It is fascinating to read about Jimi's interaction with his fellow musicians, especially my favorite ones. My favorite part of the book was on the Monterey Pop Festival, attended by the "British delegation" consisting of The Experience and The Who, who totally owned The Experience that Jimi Hendrix was forced to do show gimmicks just to keep up with Townshend's gang.

Finally, the reason why I gave a good 4 instead of a mediocre 3 was that I'm eternally grateful to Mr. Cross for giving me Jimi Hendrix the Blues man, rather than just the rock star. I admit that I am part of the crowd that knows him by his four hits (Voodoo Child, Hey Joe, All Along the Watchtower and Foxy Lady) - now I love him for his less famous songs, such as Gypsy Eyes (which I thought was an Eric Clapton original; just goes to show that even the greatest guitarists are not immune to the temptation to steal 'n own); Castle Made of Sand (sad and hauntingly beautiful lyrics); Angel (if there is any theme song of Jimi Hendrix's life, this one is it); Red House (one of his hits but is more bluesy than most); and many, many more.



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