The Song That Changed Your Life
The Jimi Hendrix experience by Bruce LeFevre
This story is on the shortlist for The Song That Changed Your Life challenge.
Video source: Youtube
A familiar voice booms down the basement stairs:
“What ‘cha doin’ Bruce?”
“Listening to my new album.”
I lift the tone arm on an old Viking portable and carefully position the needle.
“I went downtown and bought it this morning.”
“By yourself? Surely you’re joshing Gerald.”
Gerald is Gerry, my brother in law. He is one of the only adults that don’t bore me, fill me with dread or piss me off. It is early December 1968 and I’ve just turned 13. Flush with birthday cash and infatuated with a song about a lineman in Witchita, I’ve just bought my first album.
Gerry sits beside me just as I let the needle drop.
A descending base line floats by, plaintive strings set the mood, the story begins and I’m rapt in a world of longing; graced with a noble solitude.
I look over at Gerry; his head slowly nods - he gets it. Then it dawns on me; with his face puffed by a little baby fat, side parted light brown hair sweeping across his forehead and mini sideburns he looks the portrait on the album sleeve. He looks like Glen Campbell.
The song ends and Gerry lets out a sigh:
“That’ll put some ifnay on your imnay.”
Gerry and I have a bunch of private code words. He has just said that he really likes the song.
Seven months later, Gerry and I are at the dinner table, sharing an awkward silence. I’ve moved beyond the thrill of AM radio and three-minute pop songs. It’s now underground rock, long hair and bellbottoms and I’m sure all that Gerry can see is a wannabe hippie. Earlier I showed him my new album - Are You Experienced by The Jimi Hendrix Experience. He handed it back: “Too noisy.”
Gerry slides what look like two passport photos across the table.
I pick them up. They’re mug shots. I recognize him.
“Is this Hendrix? How’d you get these?”
“They came across my desk the other day.” Gerry is a clerk with the OPP.
“They arrested him at the airport. Heroin possession. We’re not talking soft drugs. Don’t be a fool and start on that road.”
“Jeez, I didn’t know.”
I didn’t have the heart to argue. It would be about a year before the purple haze was in my brain, but I knew that I had already been experienced.
Bruce LeFevre lives in Toronto, ON.