Black Gold (Jimi Hendrix recordings)

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In early 1970, Jimi Hendrix recorded an autobiographical song cycle in his Greenwich Village apartment that he titled Black Gold.[1] The tapes consisted of 16 songs, all created by a solo Hendrix armed only with his voice and a Martin acoustic guitar. Near the end of the collection lies an embryonic two-part rendition of his superhero themed funk-rock tune Astro Man, in which Hendrix sings lines from the 1950s Mighty Mouse cartoon theme and makes humorous references to Superman. Other songs from the Black Gold sessions were also further developed in the studio and have surfaced in the Hendrix catalogue ("Stepping Stone", "Machine Gun", and "Drifting"), but at least nine of the songs are known to be unique to the tapes.

Months later, at the Isle of Wight Festival, Hendrix gave the tapes to his drummer Mitch Mitchell to have him listen and comment on the necessary rhythm section requirements for recording the songs. After Hendrix's death in September 1970, Mitchell simply forgot about the tapes, apparently unaware that they were one-of-a-kind masters. For 22 years, the Black Gold tapes sat in a black Ampex tape box that Hendrix tied shut with a headband and labelled "BG".

It was not until 1992 that Tony Brown, the avid Hendrix collector and biographer, interviewed Mitchell and learnt that the mythical Black Gold tapes, thought to have been stolen from Jimi's apartment by vandals who ransacked it for collectibles soon after his death, were lying in Mitchell's home in England. Mitchell also possessed the Martin guitar that was used to create the material. Brown was invited to review the tapes and published a summary of his account, but to date the material has not been released and is not available to Hendrix collectors.

There is a bootleg release called Black Gold but that is a collection of Electric Ladyland outtakes and rehearsals, and does not include the Greenwich Village material. Only Brown and a handful of friends close to Mitch Mitchell have listened to the real Black Gold tapes.

Many aficionados consider Black Gold the "holy grail" of Hendrix collectibles. The themed songs, plus the label markings and conventions used by Hendrix to identify the tapes lead fans to believe that this demo represents a proposed fifth studio album and predict that the material will reveal the broadest extensions of Hendrix's intended musical direction.

Mitch Mitchell's association with Experience Hendrix LLC was an indicator that Black Gold might see worldwide release. Mitchell's death, however, means that the future and whereabouts of Black Gold are even more uncertain. In March 2010, Janie Hendrix stated that Black Gold will be released "this decade".[2] "Suddenly November Morning" was included in the album West Coast Seattle Boy: The Jimi Hendrix Anthology, released in November 2010. The first track on the Black Gold suite, it was released as the last track on the album. This is the only track from Black Gold ever released.

Tentative track listing[edit]

There is precious little to go by regarding the actual names of the tracks on Black Gold. On the only recorded source Jimi had written "Idea for L.P. side 1 suite ... Black Gold" on side A. On the B side of the cassette the only writing was "cont from side A". Some of the tracks have been released on other albums, such as the tracks "Machine Gun" and "Drifting", found on Band of Gypsys and First Rays of the New Rising Sun, respectively.

Side A[edit]

  1. "Suddenly November Morning"
  2. "Drifting"
  3. "Captain Midnight"
  4. "Local Comotion"
  5. "Here Comes Black Gold"
  6. "Stepping Stone"
  7. "Little Red Velvet Room"

Side B[edit]

  1. "The Jungle is Waiting"
  2. "Send My Love to Joan of Arc"
  3. "God Bless This Day"
  4. "Black Gold"
  5. "Machine Gun"
  6. "Here Comes Black Gold"
  7. "Astro Man (Parts 1 & 2)"
  8. "I've Got a Place to Go"

References[edit]

  1. ^ Robertson, John; Doggett, Peter (2004). Jimi Hendrix: The Complete Guide to His Music. Omnibus Press. p. 31. ISBN 1-84449-424-1. 
  2. ^ "Many cosmic returns". The Age (Melbourne). 12 March 2010. 

Works cited[edit]

  • Roby, Steven (2002). Black Gold: The Lost Archives of Jimi Hendrix. Billboard Books. ISBN 0-8230-7854-X.