Writing about music is like dancing about architecture

Friday, 8 July 2011

Exploito # 8 - Hendrixploitation and beyond

Charles Shaar Murray in his wonderful book Crosstown Traffic (which, if you haven't read you really must - its one of the best pieces of writing on pop and rock that I have ever read) points out that the Hendrix image can stand for a range of things.
There's drug use, phallocentric hard rock, wild sex and anti-authoritarianism.
Of course, if you were a teenage boy in the late sixties what could be more attractive than sex drugs and rock and roll? What did you care about the real man, or maybe ever the real man's music? If you could associate yourself with the image of Hendrix maybe people, or even better girls, would see you as the bad boy you really wanted to be? Which in a nut-shell is the purpose of exploito records - image over content every time!
Hendrix, however, was a guitar genius and where were the likes of Miller and Sherman going to find one of those? Jerry Cole of course.
T Swift and the Electric Bag are Jerry Cole and his Id buddies. This record came out in 1968 around the time of Electric Ladyland when Hendrix was at the peak of his popularity and powers.
The cover versions are all competent and quite fun. A Jet is a version of the Box Tops The Letter while Take it Easy Baby is really just Spooky by Classics IV - but we already know that Jerry Cole is very good a 'reinterpreting' the hits of the day.
Interestingly What's Your Bag is Our Man Hendrix which appears on the Projection Company LP  - an even earlier example of Hendrixploitation!
It wouldn't be a Miller record without some Animated Egg which we get in the form of Free Form in G which is really Sock it My Way from the Animated Egg LP.
The Stinger, the Strut and Red Eyes are re-tooled amped up tracks from an even earlier Cole exploito record called Guitars a Go Go - well why waste them even if they were recorded before Hendrix released his first record under his own name?
My favourite is Expo in Sound. A freeform freakout that is quite brilliant and which should have made it on to the Animated Egg LP.
Of course, Hendrix was only one of a number of counter cultural sources that the exploito merchants would draw upon.
That changed dramatically in 1970 when Hendrix died mysteriously in his flat in London, possibly of an overdose of legal sleeping tablets, an overdose of illegal drugs, or as some conspiracy lovers claim, he was killed by the CIA.
What should the owners of a record label do to mark the passing of a guitar god? Release some knock off records of course!

It would have cost money to use some of Hendrix's own music and as we know spending money was not something that the owners of Alshire liked to do.
Instead why not simply use a photo of the dead musician on the cover and retitle some old songs so that they sound a bit like ones Hendrix wrote?
So we have Hazy Color - Purple Haze, Flame - Fire, Experienced You - Are you Experienced? etc etc. All credits are to Sherman/Miller!
But what about the music I hear you ask. Oh yes the music. It is of course the Animated Egg LP. Of all the things that Jerry Cole was, a Hendrix follower was not one of them. And given that he recorded the Animated Egg tracks in 1967 it would have been pretty amazing if he had been!

Alshire liked the Black Diamonds approach so much that they licensed the record to Swedish record company Super Sound. It was repackaged with this slightly scary free-floating woman's head on the cover and retitled Fire Music, although the Hendrix-y song titles were retained.
To be honest I'm slightly surprised that this only got a limited release.
Perhaps Alshire/Europa realised that they had already released the Animated Egg LP in as many countries as they could and they just couldn't squeeze anything more out of it. Maybe the Black Diamonds didn't sell well enough? Or perhaps they just didn't think of it?
Instead they continued to use the Hendrix image but this time with the twist of some new songs!
Although there are some Hendrix originals, such as Fire, Purple Haze and are you experienced, there are some new tracks, which of course are by Miller/Mueller.
To be fair they are not bad, but not a patch on anything that came from the Animated Egg.
This record, however, does have one other claim to fame. Fat Boy Slim/ Norman Cook sampled the intro to Acid Test for this track Build It Up - Tear It Down. It seems fitting that a Mueller record should be sampled.
Here are the priceless linear notes: "Alex Boggs is a young man "with hair down to his knees" (as the man said), that sings and plays a wailing guitar under the name, The Purple Fox.  His sidemen: Bob Gray, bass, and drummer: Raff Witkin: both came up from New Orleans to join The Fox in St. Louis about a month after Jimi Hendrix's untimely death.  Their understanding of the Hendrix idiom is uncanny.  Their drive and the Fox's blues inflections could possibly fill the void left by Jimi." Or maybe not.
The Purple Fox must have been pretty successful because in Germany someone called Jeff Cooper and his band the Stoned Wings came out with this.
 But wait a minute! Look at the track listing. Acid Test (a track name that appears on numerous Miller/Sherman exploito records), Patch of Grass, Git Some, Gittin' Busted and Requiem for Jimi appear on both records - as does the Jimi track Fire.
There are some other originals, Blues for Jimi
Having typically squeezed two records out of the sessions that produced the originals the same tracks continue to pop up in the most unlikely of places.
Bluesy hard rock, or Motown, or Soul??? Perhaps none of the above.
Some rather lame Motown covers find themselves rubbing shoulders with three tracks (Talkin Trash, Road's End and Steve Says) from the Purple Fox/ Jeff Cooper sessions. Dianne and the New Worlds was put out on the Stereo Gold Awards label in 1971. Stereo Gold of course was Mueller's UK exploito label.

Looks like a Gladys Knight record - but of course its just a covers record.
For some reason there weren't enough Knight covers to fill the paltry 40 minute record so something else was added. You guessed it, two of our ex-Hendrix tribute tracks, Talkin' Trash and Road's End.
This time attributed to Funky Junction who were also supposed to be behind a Deep Purple tribute record which if you find I suggest you leave it behind!
But who was behind these records. It has been suggested that it was the same people behind at least one of these beauties.
The first is better than the second, which is not saying very much, however, the guitar work does sound very similar. 
The model for both sleeves appears in a number of other easy/exploito/Top of the Pops record sleeves from that era but I don't know her name.
I have read somewhere online that the Purple Fox is actually the Chicago-based Christian  band the Exkursions.
 Well they do sound quite Hendrix-y but then so did lots of other bands.
Its not impossible, although the singer is definitely not the Purple Fox. However, it seems highly unlikely.
I am sure that there were any number of bands and musicians in Europe who would have jumped at the chance to make a few pounds or deutchemarks and knock out a few dodgy tracks one day.
Finally, just in case you thought that this was in any way an exhaustive trip through Hendrixploitation here is a copy of a Canadian Hendrixploitation attempt. Purely covers of the man's songs, some better than others, none great. I love the cover though. There are literally hundred of these kinds of records, just as there are hundreds of Beatles cash-ins. Which are you favourites?


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