and Jimi Hendrix
Jeffrey A Beyl
Photo N. Sukumar
During the years of 1968 through 1971 we lived in a house
on the beach. Our house stood on pilings like a pier out over the sand.
At high tide the water came up under the house and we could feel the
vibration of the waves against the pilings. When we set a glass of water
on the dining room table we could see rings form in it as a wave hit.
I used to lie in bed at night feeling the rocking of the water against
the house. We could fish off our deck, casting our line right out into
the surf and catch rock fish and corbina. At high tide we could step
through the living room sliding glass door and jump off the deck right
into the Pacific Ocean. We used to watch the sun set every night from
the living room windows. To this day, all these years later I still
remember those sunsets as being the best thing about those times. Well,
there were the sunsets, yes, but then there was also our next door neighbor.
Our next door neighbor was a beautiful young woman in her late twenties
named Holly. She used to walk out onto her deck each morning in the
nude to have a cup of coffee and look at the ocean. Maybe she liked
the feel of the early morning breeze. Maybe she liked the freedom, her
moment alone with the sunrise before heading off to work. Her deck was
screened off on both sides by bamboo. She couldnt be seen except
maybe by someone out on the water on a boat looking directly back at
the shore, directly back at her. Well, there was one other way and leave
it to a couple teenage boys to figure it out.
My brother and I used to climb up onto our roof in the mornings before
we had to go catch the school bus. We would hunker down on our stomachs
and peer over the roof gable, down over the top of her bamboo screens.
There shed be, Holly, in the morning, especially if it was nice
weather, standing naked on her deck, shaking out her hair, looking toward
the ocean, watching the morning cast its first rays of light onto the
water, a million dancing diamonds of reflection, enjoying her cup of
coffee completely oblivious that she was being gawked and leered at
by her neighbors teenage sons. Holly, she was great!
She had long dark brown hair that hung down below her shoulders. Her
hair was wavy and she had bangs cut across her forehead just above her
eyebrows which were heavy and dark. She had a slightly aquiline nose
and thin, pronounced cheekbones making her look very American Indian
though she claimed to be of French descent. She frequently wore large,
dangling earrings which accented the line of her face from her ears
down along her jaw line. Her eyes were dark brown and thin. She was
small but looked strong. Her voice was deep. She smoked cigarettes which
in those days we thought was sexy. She was not only beautiful, she was
cool. Wed go over to her house and hang out. We would play gin
rummy and listen to music. She drank wine from basket wrapped bottles
which she would then use as candleholders. At night she always had candles
lit all over her house, the wax dripping down over the bottles in dazzling
We would tell Holly things that we couldnt tell our mother or
our friends from school. We would tell her how things were really going
in school or how things were going with our girlfriends. Wed talk
about rock and roll music and she would introduce us to new bands that
we hadnt heard yet. She was an educated lady and she became our
confidante and mentor. We did not tell her about watching her in the
I actually ran into her one day about seventeen years later in a restaurant.
I hadnt seen her since, well since before she had even turned
thirty. No longer the fourteen year old kid, I was now a family man.
We sat down and had a beer together and after catching up I did tell
her about our peeping-tom-foolery.
"Oh hell, I knew you guys were up there all the time," she
"Youre kidding? You knew?" Holly was now in her late
forties but still a knockout. She still had that long hair though now
slightly streaked with grey. She may have been around the block a time
or two but she was savvy and beautiful and she knew it and showed it.
"Oh yeah, I knew all along." She took a sip of her beer, her
dark eyes twinkling at me over the rim of her glass.
"Well, I figured what the heck, what could it hurt? I mean, there
are worse things for a teenage boy to do besides look at a naked lady."
Holly, she was cool!
Back in 1969 Holly was dating a guy who worked at one of the record
companies. One afternoon while playing a marathon gin rummy tournament
at her place she asked us "how would you guys like to go see Jimi
Hendrix?" She said she could get tickets from her boyfriend. Thats
how cool Holly was. Not only was she a dark-haired, dark-eyed beauty,
not only did she let us hang out with her and play cards, not only did
she assume the role of our mentor, not only did she let us watch her
drink coffee in the nude on her deck in the mornings but she gave us
tickets to see what was about to become a milestone in the history of
rock and roll. She gave us free tickets to see Jimi fucking Hendrix
at Newport 69 in Devonshire Downs LA.
Newport 69 was to be a two day outdoor music festival. Woodstock
wouldnt happen for a couple more months. There were to be some
great bands there; Creedence Clearwater Revival, Taj Mahal, Booker T
and the MGs, Buffy St Marie, Joe Cocker, Eric Burdon and The Animals,
Spirit, Jethro Tull. But Jimi Hendrix was the big number. He was to
play Friday night. We were jazzed. But something came up and my mother
couldnt make it home in time so we couldnt get her car to
pick up our girlfriends and make it over the coastal hills to Northridge
in time. Bummer! Instead we spent the evening over at Hollys place
bewailing our lost chance at seeing Hendrix. But Holly was cool. She
told us not to worry about it, hed come back to town and she see
about getting tickets again. In the meantime, hey, wouldnt Creedence
Clearwater be there tomorrow? We agreed, we dug Creedence. Holly told
us that Buffy St Marie would also be there and put one of her records
on the stereo.
So we went to the festival the next day and Sunday as well. We saw Buffy
St Marie and Creedence and The Edwin Hawkins Singers and Jethro Tull
and many others and it was great. We were with our girlfriends and though
people were crashing through the chain-link fences by the hundreds we
had tickets given to us by our beautiful benefactress, Holly.
Hendrix had played Friday night and we had missed it but something had
happened at the concert. The story went that he was angry with the crowd
and had told the audience to fuck off, or something along those lines,
and now, feeling sorry for it, was planning to come back for a jam session
with Buddy Miles, Eric Burdon, some of the members of Janis Joplins
Full Tilt Boogie Band and various musicians from the band Mother Earth.
Thats when I saw Jimi Hendrix.
Sunday, June 22, 1969. As I said, Woodstock wouldnt happen for
another couple months but we had heard about how Hendrix played his
guitar with his teeth and behind his back. We had seen the Monterey
Pop video where he lit his guitar on fire. We wanted to see Jimi Hendrix
do his stuff up close in person. So we worked our way up through the
crowd to within a hundred feet or so of the stage.
He was already being called one of the greatest guitarists ever and
he showed it that day. For me it was really something special. I do,
however, remember it as being a little messy. It was really just a jam
session, unrehearsed. I have this vision in my mind of people everywhere
and the whole package being a little un-together. But that didnt
matter. We were seeing Jimi Hendrix. He was Big Time to us. He did it
all. He played with his teeth. He played his guitar up behind his neck.
He held it low near his crotch, squatted down and made suggestive pelvic
thrusts with it as his hands pumped the neck. He made his guitar scream
and wail, feedback pouring from the speakers like an onrushing tidal
wave of sound.
It was awesome and I remember being awestruck. He played "Hear
My Train A-Comin", "Red House", "Machine Gun",
"Voodoo Chile, Slight Return". He played "The Star Spangled
Banner" (remember this was before Woodstock). Messy or not, this
was Jimi Hendrix at his best and we all cheered and clapped and watched
in amazement. It was almost as if the crowd knew, as one, that we were
witnessing something important. This guy was doing things with his guitar
that no one had ever done before. History was being made right there
on that stage in front of us on that sunny June day in 1969.
I wonder sometimes, all these years later, just how good Jimi Hendrix
really was. Oh, I love putting his music on the stereo and turning it
up, way up. His version of Bob Dylans "All Along The Watchtower"
or "Voodoo Chile" still grabs me by the throat. People are
always saying that he was the best rock guitarist ever. But was he?
How good was he? Was he the best?
Well, yes, he was. Hendrix was definitely an original. He knew how to
play that guitar of his. That is something I am reminded of every time
I listen to his music and every time I remember that day in 1969. Nowadays
I pick and choose my doses of Jimi Hendrix. But Im one of those
people who feel they need a dose of Hendrix now and then to stay sane.
One never knows when "Machine Gun" will be just the thing
to take him out of that line of traffic on the freeway and onto another
plane. Hence I always keep a Hendrix CD in the car for just that reason.
After seeing Hendrix that day my brother and I drove our girlfriends
home, took our mothers Camaro back home, parked it and went over
to Hollys place. While she shuffled the cards for some gin rummy
we told her all about Jimi Hendrix and how he played with his teeth
and that barrage of sound he produced. Holly brushed her hair from her
face and dealt out another hand of cards. We told her how it seemed
to us that the day had never happened now that it was over. She smiled
and told us to get used to it. The next morning we got up early and
climbed up onto our roof. We peered over the top of the gable and down
over the top of her bamboo screens and there she was, standing naked
on her deck, looking out at the ocean, watching the morning sun cast
its first rays of light onto the water, a million dancing diamonds of
reflection. She was drinking a cup of coffee and we could hear the sound
of Buffy St Marie coming from her stereo speakers. We climbed down,
ran to catch the bus to school and as I sat in the seat looking out
the bus window at the ocean it seemed to me that those moments on the
roof had never happened either. Holly, she was cool!
© Jeffrey A
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