CROSSTOWN TRAFFIC by Charles Shaar Murray


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Musicultural criticism that uses Jimi Hendrix as an armature for amassing a body of ideas about rock 'n' roll. Murray, a former editor of England's New Music Express, shows how Hendrix--born in Seattle of white, black, and Cherokee blood--spent his life escaping: he escaped from Seattle and school by joining the Army but found himself regularly mocked and beaten up, ""his guitar stolen and hidden until he would get down on his knees and plead for its return."" He then escaped from the Army into the world of road musicians, shifting from group to group; escaped from the codes of black show-biz by bopping off to London; from the assumptions of his well-meaning new British admirers by breaking out of the straitjacket of ""arbitrary musical definitions separating blues and soul or jazz and rock. . ."" Murray tries to smash Hendrix's image as a ""crazy black man who did funny things with a guitar, had thousands of women and eventually died of drags,"" Finds him essentially shy and relatively conservative sexually. In 1967, Hendrix's Experience band released its first singles for London's Reaction label, signed with Track Records, and was on its way into the stratosphere. Barely a year later, after remorseless touring, Hendrix cracked up under LSD and booze, and greater success found him a totally erratic public drunk who had to pay hush money for beating up and hospitalizing a girl. And he'd tired of hard rock, wanted to get back to his blues roots and soul ballads when he accidentally suffocated on sleeping pills. Murray adds a deep-focus history of blues, rock 'n' roll, jazz and various fusions thereof. Among the most idea-rich rock 'n' roll reads since Greil Marcus' Mystery Train (1975)--but dense.

Pub Date: Aug. 22nd, 1990
Publisher: St. Martin's