Thursday, March 01, 2012

The Hendrix Hundreds

"You're on now, Mr Bendix!"

"Hendrix,"
Jimi muttered for the hundredth time, which meant they'd been getting it wrong on average five times a year since he arrived.

Jimi shouldered his axe and edged past the pint pots to the tiny corner stage.

"The Bontddu Hall Hotel is proud to present Jimmy Bendrix's Experiences," coughed the manager into the squawk of dust and feedback.

"Hi, croeso cynnes, I'm Jimi Hendrix, out of Washington. That's Washington State, in the US Northwest, not Washington on your Tyne. Whay aye, maaaan."

Silence.

"Yeah, uh, here's something from way back. Perhaps some of you remember it. I've got some tapes, if you, uh. It's called 'All Along the Watchtower'."

"Bloody Jehovah's Witnesses!"
came a voice from the bar. Some laughter.

"Yeah, uh, cheers, diolch. So, uh, here it goes...."

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"You want to warm them up with some 'Streets of London' or something before your own stuff, bobol bach! Give them a fucking chance, innit?" The manager crammed some twenties into Jimi's NCB donkey jacket pocket. "You driving home?"

"Uh, no. Gwenllian's picking me up in the Cortina."

"Have a nightcap on the house then. Shame not to. You must be parched."

"Half of lager, if that's ok. Not the Wrexham, though."

"No problemo."


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"Go ok, love?"

"Sure. Some of them dug 'Foxy Lady'. Rest were pretty polite."


They clattered over the Penmaenpool Toll Bridge and headed for the coast. Jimi liked the long way back to Borth, so he could hear the waves and catch a gust of salt air with the windows down, even through the rain.

"Meic's got a new record out. I taped it. Fancy a listen?"

"Meic Stevens? Sure, why not."


Gwenllian fumbled with the stereo. A guitar struck up, and the tight, familiar voice cut through the dark in Welsh:

"See the fire in the still of the night, and smoke on the chilly breeze?... Must we pray with the Living Dead?... Too many vampires, everywhere... don't turn against your own blood..."

Jimi's head rolled down on his chin, his eyes fluttered.

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"Good idea to go up country, chance to get my head straight."

"I thought the Cardiff gig went well."

"Engelbert fucking Humperdinck, man. What was that? Backstage he told me I should go for an opera name too - no one will ever get 'Hendrix' right. I told him to announce me as 'Madame Butterfly'. Fat prick."

"Chill, man. Look, we're coming up to Aberystwyth now. There's some great blokes I'd like you to meet, they've got their own scene going."

"OK, let's drive."


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"Mike?"

"No, Meic. Ah, there's not much in it. Have a drink first?"

"Sure. What's that you've got there?"

"Red wine. Pretty rank, mind. The bitter here's ok."

"I'll stick to the lager beer, thanks. Cheers."


Gwenllian brought over the drinks as Meic and his friends struck up.

"So you guys do your stuff in Gaelic?" Jimi asked afterwards, rolling a fat one.

"Welsh - fewer vowels, but more people," grinned Mike. "Like a smoke, do you? We grow something special out here in the woods, blow your mind it will."

"I'm listening,"
grinned Jimi.

"'shrooms, man. Don't have to plant them, just keep your eyes open and your nose to the ground. Not hard for us, like. Once you've gone 'cap' you don't go black, if you don't mind me saying!"

"Just show me where it's at."

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The sharp bend at Aberdovey jolted Jimi awake. Across the estuary a corpse candle beckoned the unwary to Borth.

"Jesus, that brought it all back!"

"What d'you mean?"
Gwenllian changed down a gear and the sea scent receded.

"I was back in the summer of '67, when I first came up here, after the Cardiff gig. Bottom of the bill at The Capitol, behind Cat Stevens. Heh, never thought that would be me saying goodbye to the big time!"

"You miss it, don't you?"

"Dunno, I guess. I see those guys, you know, Clapton, those guys, and I think, shit, that's just the basic blues they're doing, year in year out. In the mountains, there you feel free, you dig? I'm laying stuff down for the grandkids. Maybe they'll get it, you know? Fragments, shored against my ruins."

"You what? The stuff you record down in Talybont with those stoners, on their eight-track?"

"Five-track, if it's working."

They smiled as the car crossed the Dyfi and tacked back along the shore.

"You ever hear the bells out there?"

"The Bells of Aberdovey? Don't be daft. it's just a petrified forest, like on the planet of the Daleks."

"Yeah, I do not think they will ring to me. I reckon they ring to Meic, though, don't you? You hear it in his music?"

Silence.

"You miss him, don't you?"

"No! it's just, just that he's doing stuff, got records coming out, got his own company, you know? You could be doing that, instead of this - busking."

"What we're laying down, Gwen, it's -"

Silence. They drove on. Borth came up in the near distance, the sea close on their right. The Moon lit up the fringes of his hair.

"You tired, babe?"

"I like our life, Jim, I do. I like our caravan, the t-shirt printing, the market stall in Aber, the pot in the oil drum, the hunting of the 'shrooms up the Rheidol. I do. It's just that sometimes -"

"I meant, you tired of driving?"

"It's not far."

"Let me take the wheel, you rest a while".

Jimi walked around the car, and Gwenllian slid across to the passenger side. He breathed in the night air. By the time he'd settled at the wheel, she was asleep.

Jimi slipped the tape out of the stereo and back into its case. He fished in a pocket for one of his own, and set it to play. He carried Gwenllian out and lay her down in the dunes, then steered the car onto the beach.

The wheels sank down gently, but soon gained purchase as he struck out seaward towards the Atlantic waves.







14 comments:

Gadjo Dilo said...

You know, I reckon that Jimi was such a top bloke that he'd have fitted in anywhere, including Borth. But from there he's headed to Dublin in his car, isn't it? I do hope he meets a young The Edge and pursuades him to concentrate on a career in chartered accountancy. And how delightful to make the acquaintance of Meic "The Welsh Dylan" Stevens, who is more considerably more palatable that the other ersatz Dylans one hears.

No Good Boyo said...

Glad to see my post hasn't baffled the entire reading world, or the dozen or so of them who park here from time to time, Gadjo. Mrs Boyo thinks the story is too Welsh for human comprehension.

Jimi is heading to Cantre's Gwaelod to hear the bells of Wales's drowned country, but it would have been great if he'd gone to Ireland and stopped U2.

I've a lot of time for The Edge, who is in fact Welsh. He was ruined by that Bono.

Meic is a tremendous singer and gobshite. He claims he was with Hendrix the night he died, and introduced him to the red wine that killed him.

The post itself was inspired by an intriguing blogpost that Hendrix did visit Borth once, which is worth reading. The rest just shambled together:

http://guyshrubsole.wordpress.com/2011/01/30/jimi-hendrixs-welsh-experience/

Rod Warner said...

Borth... Mike Pugh... Friendship Inn... my lips must remain sealed as an Englishmen living in Borth for several years and consequently vulnerable to curses/psychic attacks etc... strange secrets... although when an old roady who had based himself there between bouts of touring and rock depravity got married, before I went to the reception I was having a small one in the Friendship when two members of Black Sabbath, old friends of the groom, a Brummie, came in and proceeded to talk loudly about days on the road in the States etc. The few locals totally ignored them, much to my amusement and their incredulity, as Landlord Pugh sipped Guinness and watched the cricket or the golf (can't remember which) on the tv... As for Jimi...

Rod Warner said...

Borth Two: the best spot for the mushrooms was in the little playground near the launderette... I only recently explained to my now grown up daughter as to why her father took her there so much - 'but you love the swings' - and why he inspected the grass so thoroughly, with a somewhat guilty manner...

Gadjo Dilo said...

Lemmy out of Motorhead, who'd spent his formative years on Anglesey, worked as a roadie for Hendrix when he first came over and clearly told the man about the joys of bird watching, jellyfish and seaweed, hence the Borth sojourn.

Ha, ignoring members of Black Sabbath - like it, Rod! The estimable Landlord Pugh should have changed the programme to Pobol y Cwm and turned the volume up.

No Good Boyo said...

I wondered how long it would take for you to turn up, Rod, knowing your Borthian links. My legal adviser, the K-Man, and his colleague "Scottish John" and a debate with some Hells Angels there back in the day, which these Caledonian clowns still count as a Victory for Scotland. Over whom it's not clear.

Lemmy, Gadjo, is the great wad of gristle that connects England to Wales and the 21st Century to some remaining sense of decency. And Angelsey made him.

Rod Warner said...

Suckered in, for sure, Boyo. My years in Borth still loom large in the memory, in a hallucinatory dazzle. Probably the mushrooms. But a strange place full of memorable characters who seemed to be reading from scripts that were not available to me. Which added to the general gaiety.
Gadjo - the Black Sabbath episode still makes me hoot. The two musos in question were getting almost hysterical, their anecdotes got louder as the fog of indifference got thicker and eventually drove them out into the daylight beyond. Not sure about Pobol Y Cym if the sport was on - Pugh had certain priorities. The Friendship Inn was what caused my foolhardy move down there in 1988 - spent much time in it on drinking holidays previously. Before the licensing laws were changed, Pugh had a waggish school certificate in his name tacked to the bar with a zero against marks awarded for the spoof subject: 'Licensing Laws and Their Observance.' Which says it all really. Even the raids were surreal...

Gadjo Dilo said...

Lemmy, Owain Tudor, Glenys Kinnock and Dawn French (apprantly), Boyo - it's a wonder there's any puffins left.

Like it even more, Rod. I wonder if that would happen the other way around, i.e. if Charlotte Church walked into a pub in Brum. Ahhh, the Licensing Laws - didn't life have so much more of a 'dynamic' back then?

No Good Boyo said...

You've got a memoir in the making there, Rod.

Anglesey, Gadjo, is the idiot savant head that rules Wales slatlely heart. The locals call themselves "pobol medra" - the can-do people. The rest of us call them "maip Môn" - Angelsey turnips. See Kinnock, passim.

Rod Warner said...

There is a memoir in there, Boyo - but it would have to remain sealed until after my death and those of many others... unfortunately. Having finished one such last year in collaboration with two others, as editor I had to go through with a very sharp eye and excise various libels that had been cavalierly committed to the narratives.

Joel said...

Hi, I came across your site and wasn’t able to get an email address to contact you. Would you please consider adding a link to my website on your page. Please email me back.

Thanks!

Madison
maddie0147@gmail.com

No Good Boyo said...

Rod, I'm hoping to make Wales a libel-friendly publishing Interzone, like America. Lawyers will be used for sandpapering.

Joel, if that is your real name, a piece of geek spam - thank you! Makes a difference to Chinese adverts for cock rings.

Rod Warner said...

When the great day arrives Boyo, count me into the Zone and I will unleash what I know. The rest, of course I will make up. Re spam - odd stuff - when I was blogging much more sometime back, I tried to keep the comments open. The chinese spam I put up with for a while as I was genuinely amused - could it be praise, blame, earnest contributions, some Lang Po friends of the earnest but dull and aptly surnamed Ron Silliman trying to muscle in, or just advertising?
Cock rings and exotic herbal remedies for the promotion of flagging erections I could cope with and might have even gone to trouble of translating for research purposes (of course), but then I got grossly invaded by some boring shit in English which infested the whole site. Sadly, measures had to be taken... The frontier closes in...

No Good Boyo said...

True Rod. I can't help but think Fu Manchu is behind all this spam. His reach is long and disregards the grave.