Dedicated to those songs that I can’t stop playing, humming, or thinking about; the 4+ minutes you fall head-over-heels in love with. Past instances have included Ike & Tina Turner’s “River Deep, Mountain High,” Johnny Cash’s “(Ghost) Riders In The Sky,” and Matthew Sweet’s “Girlfriend.”
Some artists are so monumentally great that they become as common as your garbage disposal. It isn’t until you’re apart for a passage of time that their innovation is appreciated. Somehow, somewhere, the situation presents itself and you’re left to realize, “Hey! I don’t have to scrape food into the garbage!” I experienced a similar moment during Watchmen where the not-so-inspired cue of “All Along The Watchtower”* reminded me with the immediacy of a lightning bolt — “Holy crap! I have Jimi Hendrix music at home!”
During my rediscovery period I traveled through the misty works of the Jimi Hendrix Experience, but it seems only natural that “Bold As Love” would surface to the repeatable top, as it has done so in the past. Maybe five years ago I went through a similar period and I can distinctly remember doing household chores in our speaker-less bedroom while listening to this song over and over again. I had either turned the volume up so high that it resonated throughout the apartment (which might not have been that difficult), or I set up a CD player in the bedroom with our portable speakers (which might have been a little more difficult and awkward). I’m leaning toward the latter for the reason that it would have given me quicker access to the rewind button, because a simple “repeat” program for “Bold As Love” isn’t good enough; as much as I love the song, I do not like the coda.
Hippie lyrics are normally and rightfully called out as pretentious, and while that’s true in “Bold”, it doesn’t mean they don’t work. I’ve always felt Hendrix’s guitar virtuosity overshadowed one of the coolest lyricists (along with best song writers) of the era. “Sci-fi Blues” was his style, where mountains were chopped down with edge of his hand and skies were easily kissed. Even under these high-concept phrases a writer’s true emotions can still reveal themselves, and I can think of no more honest lyrical moment from any Hendrix song than the final line of the final verse of “Bold”. After establishing the color motif from the very beginning, he plays it off by listing his own colors, demonstrating his own fears before delivering the emotional peak of, “And all of these emotions of mine keep holding me from giving my life to a rainbow like you.”
This line may explain the post-chorus chills I shudder during the final guitar solo, which I know sounds like hyperbole, but that’s the kind of person I am: I get chills listening to acid rock solos and then tell people about it. Now that the truth has been exposed — he’s afraid, but he’s in love — the language of Jimi’s solo becomes clearer than ever before. It’s a love letter written on the strings of a Stratocaster. Hendrix often played solos you could sing, but there’s no more moanable solo than the one closing “Bold As Love”. The song builds and crescendos, finding the kind of perfect natural finishing point every songwriter should dream to achieve.
And then it keeps going. The final minute-twenty-five sort of gives every Hendrix fan what they want (more guitar magic), but the song is over. Finished. Finito. This choice may have inspired Peter Jackson with his final Lord of the Rings film: the curtain dropped and we’re out the door, but instead those pesky Hobbits are still finding new ways to drag out the ending. But the benefit of fanship grants the power of rationalization, and while I cannot say I love the coda, I have made my peace with it by rationalizing it to be the end of the album, and less the end of the song itself. I believe this argument holds because the album Axis: Bold As Love — partly sharing the title — begins with a sort of throw-away intro (the alien intro “EXP”). In any case, its inclusion perpetuates my repeat-ad-nauseum approach to the song, because when those final “Dun-dun-dun-duns” call the finale, I’m always in button watching mode. Before those drums kick in once more, I have a decision between skipping ahead or jumping back to “Anger!” again. For this entire week, I chose to jump back.
The Jimi Hendrix Experience – “Bold As Love”
*Seriously, the use of this song demonstrates the core problems of Watchmen. You’ve got a movie pushing closer and closer to the three hour point, and then you have the scene where Rorschack and Night Owl are flying to the fortress in Antarctica. Cue “All Along The Watchtower”, which in the opening strains got me excited. “Okay — here comes the final showdown!” We know they’re gonna make it, and this song is telling us exciting things are to follow… but Snyder gives us a 3 minute scene of the ship almost not making it, and then Night Owl talking about recharging the ship and on and on…all, I believe, to time the on-screen action with the line “Two riders were approaching, and the wind began to howl.” This was a direct quote from the graphic novel, but is by no means 100% necessary, and it’s waaaaaay too cutesy. And what’s more: the “two riders” line comes very late in the song, but the editors moved it up to fit the on-screen image; so if they’re already messing with the timing of the song to fit the images, why not mess with the images (re: TRIM THEM!) to make a better movie overall? I’m still not done with you, movie. You think you’ve got it all figured out, but I’ll never tire before I expose all your stupidity.