Thursday, December 01, 2011

16. Jimi Hendrix Experience, "If 6 Was 9" (1967)


If 16 was 91 I guess it's pretty clear that I already would have written about this song some time ago. Loopy logic pervades this little masterpiece and it's one of the things I love most about it, and about Hendrix more generally. He was just fun—and amazing at the same time. Here he opens with a clobbering riff he returns to all through, at varying sonic levels, even as the lyrics meditate on ... something. "Individualist freedom," maybe—yeah, that's the ticket. "If all the hippies cut off all their hair / I don't care," but also, he's gonna wave his freak flag high, and "wave on, wave on." Oh, JPK, stop trying to make sense of the song. It doesn't make sense. It's not supposed to. "[laugh] Fall, mountains, just don't fall on me." But I can't stop myself keeping picking out all the choice bits: "White-collar conservative flashing down the street / Pointing their plastic finger at me"—I think maybe that's my favorite. Wait a minute, what am I thinking? "Now if uh 6 turned out to be 9 / I don't mind," and it's heavy, truly. The structure is a freewheeling glorious mess, modeled loosely on a blues and moving from one set piece to the next, with his lyrical guitar-playing and sound-making leading the way. Towards the end he picks up a flute or recorder or something and makes like a mad bird on the fade, rockin' robin rockin' the tree like Albert Ayler in the rockin' forest. I think the point, in the end, is that 6 has indeed turned out to be 9. So put that in your calculator and work the returns on your stock investment portfolio now, Mr. Business Man. Oh yeah, dig, that's telling 'em.


  1. Jimi invented Metal and everything Rock knows about the guitar after 1970 came from his psychedelic twisting of what the instrument could do. I paid homage to Hendrix with a portrait called Purple Haze on the anniversary of his passing recently. You can see it at and tell me how the voodoo child’s music has influenced you!

  2. I watched 'Easy Rider' a few days ago [a necessary fix every now and then!] and the song is played just as they get on a bridge heading in to New Orleans for that last amzing trip. Blows you away every time!

  3. It's been too long since I've seen Easy Rider -- I'm going to make a point of rectifying that pronto. Thanks for the reminder and thanks as always for your comment.