Share this page!

 

Jimi Hendrix, the master improviser, left an indelible mark on the world of music, and “Machine Gun” stands as one of his greatest musical vehicles. Recorded live at the Fillmore East in New York in 1970, this iconic guitar solo is more than a collection of notes; it’s Jimi Hendrix’s greatest performance ever on guitar!

In the mesmerizing 12-minute performance, Jimi Hendrix skillfully replicates the sounds of war—bombs dropping, guns firing, and the haunting cries of the wounded. The guitar becomes Jimi Hendrix voice, conveying a powerful message about the tumultuous times. It’s not just a musical composition; it’s a sonic battlefield where Jimi Hendrix communicates with a language of emotion that transcends traditional musical boundaries.

What makes “Machine Gun” truly exceptional is its status as one of the most challenging guitar songs to play based on feeling alone. While many guitarists can replicate the notes, capturing the intense vibe emanating from Jimi Hendrix in this performance is a rare feat. It goes beyond technical prowess; it’s about channeling the spirit and emotion that Jimi Hendrix poured into every note.

 

Jimi Hendrix’s “Machine Gun” Background

 

The genesis of “Machine Gun” finds its roots in the turbulent landscape of the Vietnam War, a conflict that deeply impacted Jimi Hendrix. Witnessing the brutality and chaos of the war, Jimi Hendrix strongly criticized it as an unfair and senseless undertaking, revealing his deep perplexity in a 1969 interview:

We’re supposed to be civilized people, but this is what we’re doing to each other. It’s just beyond me.

Jimi Hendrix’s connection to war extended beyond mere observation; he had served as a paratrooper in the U.S. Army from 1961 to 1962.

Crafted by Jimi Hendrix, “Machine Gun” found its origins in the contractual obligations that pressured Jimi Hendrix to release the 1970 “Band of Gypsys” album. This pivotal work featured collaborations with Billy Cox and Buddy Miles. The song, distinguished by its loose, jam-based structure, not only served as a poignant protest against the Vietnam War but also arose from the broader commentary on conflict in all its forms. The contractual context sheds light on the circumstances that influenced Hendrix’s creative output during this period.

During a performance in Berkeley, California, Jimi Hendrix introduced “Machine Gun” with a dedication that encapsulated his sentiments:

I’d like to dedicate this song to soldiers fighting in Berkeley—you know what soldiers I’m talking about—and oh yeah, the soldiers fighting in Vietnam too … and dedicate [it] to other people that might be fighting wars too, but within themselves, not facing up to the realities.

The song made its debut on “The Dick Cavett Show” in September 1969, with Jimi Hendrix backed by drummer Mitch Mitchell, bassist Billy Cox, and conga player Juma Sultan. This particular rendition, lasting about two and a half minutes, stands as the shortest known performance of the song, with subsequent releases spanning ten to twenty minutes.

The heart of “Machine Gun” lies in its improvisatory essence, built around a core descending riff and bassline. The Uni-Vibe-based guitar riff that opens the song is a deliberate attempt to mimic the sound of a firing machine gun. As the bass and drum patterns unfold, a sonic landscape emerges, capturing the visceral experience of war through musical expression.

The song’s longevity and varied performances underscore its significance in Hendrix’s repertoire. From its introduction on “The Dick Cavett Show” to subsequent renditions, “Machine Gun” evolves into an extended exploration, ranging from moments of intense brevity to sprawling twenty-minute interpretations.

 

Jimi Hendrix’s “Machine Gun” Finest Performance

 

The heart of “Machine Gun” lies in its improvisatory essence, built around a core descending riff and bassline. The Uni-Vibe-based guitar riff that opens the song is a deliberate attempt to mimic the sound of a firing machine gun. As the bass and drum patterns unfold, a sonic landscape emerges, capturing the visceral experience of war through musical expression.

The song’s longevity and varied performances underscore its significance in Hendrix’s repertoire. From its introduction on “The Dick Cavett Show” to subsequent renditions, “Machine Gun” evolves into an extended exploration, ranging from moments of intense brevity to sprawling twenty-minute interpretations.

What makes “Machine Gun” truly exceptional is its status as one of the most challenging guitar songs to play based on feeling alone. While many guitarists can replicate the notes, capturing the intense vibe emanating from Jimi in this performance is a rare feat. It goes beyond technical prowess; it’s about channeling the spirit and emotion that Hendrix poured into every note.

After the dissolution of the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Hendrix’s new trio—featuring Billy Cox on bass and Buddy Miles on drums—created a fusion of R&B, funk, and rock. The Fillmore East shows on December 31, 1969, and January 1, 1970, were captured in their only release, “Band Of Gypsys.” This album showcased Jimi Hendrix’s evolution into a formidable freeform live improviser, effortlessly translating his unconscious impulses into music.

“Machine Gun” on “Band Of Gypsys” is a harrowing and metaphorical musical journey. Jimi Hendrix employs a variety of effects, including the Cry Baby, Arbiter Fuzz-Face, Octavia, Uni-Vibe, vibrato arm, and stacks, to marshal a dynamic, fluid, and expressive assault on the senses. Even today, its intensity remains unrivaled.

The Fillmore East performance of “Machine Gun” holds a special place in the pantheon of electric guitar performances. In a Guitar World interview, Vernon Reid of Living Colour emphasizes its significance, stating that it goes beyond the notes played. Jimi Hendrix was tapping into the zeitgeist, connecting with people experiencing the Vietnam War thousands of miles away. The performance was a form of solidarity with both the Vietcong and American G.I.s.

Unlike other guitar masterpieces, like Eddie Van Halen’s “Eruption,” “Machine Gun” isn’t just about the guitar; it’s about a nation at a specific point in time.

YouTube player

 

Jimi Hendrix’s “Machine Gun” Lyrics

Machine gun
Tearing my body all apart

Hey machine gun
Tearing my, tearing my body all apart

Evil man make me kill ya
Evil man make you kill me
Evil man make us kill-
Evil man, evil man make you kill me
Even though we’re only families apart

Well, I pick up my axe and fight like a farmer
But your bullets keep cutting me down just the same

I’ll say I’ll throw down my axe and fight like a farmer
But your bullets knock me down, just the same, just the same

The same way you blow me mother
You father, just the same, just the same
Three times the pain
And you only got yourself to blame baby
‘Cause she know what I mean

Let’s calm ’em down
After a while baby, your bullets don’t even cause me pain
Don’t shoot ’em down
After a while, your bullets don’t even cause me pain

Same way your blood’s poppin’
You’ll be goin’ just the same
Three times the pain
And yourself to blame
Machine gun

Source: Musixmatch

Songwriters: Jimi Hendrix

Machine Gun lyrics © Experience Hendrix Llc

 

FAQ’S

Did Jimi Hendrix Ever Record a Studio Version of “Machine Gun”?

Yes, there is! Jimi Hendrix was in the process of recording “Machine Gun” before his untimely death. The fact that this version differs significantly from the Midnight Lightning version, both in length and the use of drum tracks, adds an extra layer of intrigue to the song’s evolution. Listen to the song below:

 

What did Jimi Hendrix do in the US Army?

What prompted Jimi Hendrix’s entry into the US Army was a pivotal decision he faced in 1961. Confronted with the choice between incarceration and military service, Jimi Hendrix opted for the latter, officially enlisting on May 31, 1961. His initial foray into military life began with eight weeks of rigorous basic training at Fort Ord, California, where he honed the skills that would later define his discipline and approach.

Following the completion of basic training, Jimi Hendrix was assigned to the 101st Airborne Division, a renowned unit with a storied history. Jimi Hendrix’s subsequent stationing at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, marked the continuation of his military journey. During his tenure with the 101st Airborne Division, Jimi Hendrix would have experienced the demanding routines and responsibilities characteristic of military life, shaping his perspectives and providing a unique backdrop to his later musical endeavors.

 

What is the Band Of Gypsys Story?

The story of Band of Gypsys revolves around a pivotal phase in Jimi Hendrix’s career and the formation of a new musical trio. Following the disbandment of the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Jimi Hendrix sought to explore new musical avenues. In 1969, he joined forces with bassist Billy Cox and drummer Buddy Miles to create a fresh ensemble known as Band of Gypsys.

The group made its debut with a series of performances at the Fillmore East in New York on December 31, 1969, and January 1, 1970. These shows were not only historic in the context of Jimi Hendrix’s career but also marked the recording of their only live album, also titled “Band of Gypsys.”

The Band of Gypsys album, released in 1970, showcased a departure from Jimi Hendrix’s earlier sound, delving into a fusion of R&B, funk, and rock. Notable tracks from the album include the iconic “Machine Gun,” a profound guitar-driven piece that became synonymous with Jimi Hendrix’s ability to push the boundaries of musical expression.

While Band of Gypsys proved to be a short-lived experiment, lasting only a few months, its impact on Jimi Hendrix’s musical evolution and the broader landscape of rock and funk music is enduring. The performances captured in the Fillmore East recordings are celebrated for their improvisational brilliance, marking a distinctive chapter in the legendary career of Jimi Hendrix.

 

Who was the drummer for Band Of Gypsys?

The drummer for Band of Gypsys was Buddy Miles. Prior to the formation of Band of Gypsys, Jimi Hendrix and Buddy Miles shared a longstanding friendship dating back to the mid-1960s when Miles served as the drummer for the Electric Flag, a blues-rock band. Buddy Miles’ dynamic drumming style, rooted in both technical skill and personal connection with Jimi Hendrix, added a unique dimension to the band’s sound.

 

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments