At the time, Hendrix was on top of the rock world and based in New York, where he was recording seminal tracks such as Voodoo Child and Crosstown Traffic. Following a weekend trip to Woodstock where he may or may not have played harp with Dylan and the nascent Band, he had started to jam heavily with musicians such as Larry Lee, John McLaughlin, and Larry Young.
Bob Marley was in town as a 23-year-old aspiring musician who had come up from Jamaica to connect with JAD Records musician and impresario Jimmy Norman.* Marley had been signed to record as a solo artist on Johnny Nash’s new label. Traveling with wife Rita, Bob recorded numerous demo tracks with Jimmy in a sanctified soul way. He also did some home recordings, very much of a time and place.
While happening through Greenwich Village, Bob came across Jimi jamming with Paul Butterfield, Elvin Bishop, and “some flute guy” in a small basement club. He struck up a conversation with Jimi after the jam.** It appears that Jimi then invited Bob (and possibly the purple grotto DJ, who does not recollect anything from the first half of 1968) up to his suite in the Chelsea Hotel to have a spliff, listen to a few records.
Marley: That’s very deep mon, you know I was talking wit Bunny and Peter about this idea, how music is a continuum to the very soul of the tribe and bein’ reborn. Babylon, Zion. Myths and roots. The drums our cosmic mother, rocking us firm… n’ gentle, you know.
Hendrix: You know what happens? When you get known you get known, trapped and zapped––there is no way off of this spaceship Earth. Dig… (Rod Serling voice) Infinite galaxies we travel before others drag us down. We need to gather in this cosmic circle man, where we will unite. Each one of us playing his or her own instrument. Somewhere in the north woods I heard Bob sing about… create a harmony that informs the next generations and those of ice.
Marley: Yeah mon, like Peter taught me to play guitar. Before, me just have a drum. The very heartbeat, you could say. I made that with any plastic bucket or little piece of wood. Even if you eat cold porridge each day you still got your voice and that can surely wail.
Hendrix: Dig man, that is what Bob was saying in his shuffle way––he was telling it––you got to get rooted to transform. You can only go so fast… my roots are the blues, so…
Marley: Red House, I was really digging that mon, the way it moves…. like a snake but also traveling. You know in America you got the railroad, the space…
Hendrix: Yeah, you can really get away. To the bayou or even to that space in your mind. Rainy days looking out through foghorns and juke joints toward the Sound. You just travel, flow… beyond the last outpost, no one will stop you. We still have that tradition, I think. (Deep auctioneer voice) Freedom, folks, get it while it lasts. So basically (long drawl) you can put that up your chimney and smoke it.
Marley: Smoke mon, it been a long time since I share it…
Hendrix: (unintelligible) giggle
Marley: You got me mon, since the plane from Kingston, last Thursday. Eh, you know… there was one time when we were really praying for herb to fall. The preacher man say it fall mon, Irie, in good time it rain… and so it rain, Kaya. When it came, such a blessing.
[Extended break in conversation. Sound of muffled laughter, a random ball being kicked through imaginary goalpost. Copious coughing on both ends. Fragmented voice, Jimi “Dig man, talking about rain, you got to hear this…” puts on scratchy old acoustic John Lee Hooker record.
Did you read about the flood? Happened long time ago, In Tupelo, Mississippi. There were thousands of lives destroyed… It rained, it rained, Both night and day, The poor people was worried, didn’t have no place to go….
Marley: (laughing reflectively): Ya mon, that's what it’s about. Talking Blues, the old preacher man always tell it like that. He tell it like that, but not in that way. With feeling… Like Bunny said, who feels it knows it Lord. You know, it is about experience mon, the roads we travel….
Hendrix: So many roads travelled… Dig, I had this song that went like a rap, I just want to talk to you, I won’t do you no harm….
Marley: Ya mon, the old preacher say don’t harm them as don’t deserve it. We don’t need no trouble…
Hendrix: On this here people farm. (nasal voice) The smell of a world that is burned…
Marley: Yes mon, me also had a vision. Ten thousand chariots, they were coming without rider….
** Marley was unknown at the time, patrons and musicians still alive are unclear on whether he participated.
[Full Disclosure:I started this wishful exercise of the imagination on April 1. I wanted to put it up without giving away the authorship until the end. Hopefully those with listenin’ ears for Bob and Jimi will enjoy the spirit in which it was created.
SEO Alert: Damon Shulenberger (aka Damon D. Dawson of Bandito College, Drifter Emeritus).