Castles Made of Sand (song)

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"Castles Made of Sand"
Song by The Jimi Hendrix Experience from the album Axis: Bold as Love
Released December 1, 1967 (1967-12-01)
Recorded October 29, 1967 (1967-10-29) at Olympic Sound Studios, London
Genre Blues rock, psychedelic rock
Length 2:46
Label Track, Reprise
Writer Jimi Hendrix
Producer Chas Chandler
Axis: Bold as Love track listing
"You've Got Me Floating'"
(8)
"Castles Made of Sand"
(9)
"She's So Fine"
(10)

"Castles Made of Sand" is a song by English-American psychedelic rock band The Jimi Hendrix Experience, featured on their 1967 second album Axis: Bold as Love. Written by eponymous frontman Jimi Hendrix and produced by band manager Chas Chandler, the song is a biographical story about Hendrix's childhood, and was recorded towards the end of the production cycle for Axis: Bold as Love.

Recording and production[edit]

The Jimi Hendrix Experience began and finished work on the recording for "Castles Made of Sand" at London's Olympic Sound Studios on October 29, 1967, the penultimate day of recording for Axis: Bold as Love on which the songs "Up from the Skies", "Bold as Love", "One Rainy Wish" and "EXP" were also completed.[1] As with the rest of the album, "Castles Made of Sand" was produced by Chas Chandler and engineered by Eddie Kramer,[2] and was mixed at Olympic on October 31.[1]

Composition and lyrics[edit]

Writing the Hendrix biography Jimi Hendrix: Electric Gypsy, commentators Harry Shapiro and Caesar Glebbeek summarise "Castles Made of Sand" as "a sharply observed reflection on life's bitter ironies".[3] Addressing the lyrics of the song, Shapiro and Glebbeek go on to discuss the significance of sand within the track as a metaphor "for the temporary nature of existence, of time slipping away, how nothing can be taken for granted – love, loyalty, family bonds, [and] friendship".[4] It is claimed that "Castles Made of Sand" is one of Hendrix's more obviously biographical songs, said to be written about his uncertain and transitional childhood involving "different homes, different schools, different carers and a mother who was here one minute and gone the next".[4] The lyrics are semi-autobiographical, coming from different points in Hendrix's life according to two of his siblings, Janie and Leon. The first lines refers to their parents' (Lucille and Al) constant arguing, domestic violence, drinking, and eventual divorce when Hendrix was 10. The second lines refer to the way Hendrix and Leon were always playing Cowboys and Indians in the until Leon was surprisingly taken away by the welfare agency one day; The lyrics may also draw on Hendrix's Cherokee heritage (1/16th Cherokee) and stories his grandmother would tell him. The third lines refer to how unhappy Lucille was with Al, how Al would always verbally abuse her, causing her to feel emotionally crippled, and how Lucille was also so physically abused to the point that, when Hendrix and Leon came to the hospital one day, they saw that she was in a wheelchair; It also refers to how she wished she could find peace until she finally died in 1958 of cirrhosis of the liver. The lyrics do not refer to the Bordj El Berod watchtower in Morocco (Hendrix visited there 2 years after Axis: Bold As Love was released), but rather refer to, according to Leon, how Lucille and Al had had something eventually eroded away, like a sand castle on the beach.[5]

Writing for music website Allmusic, Tom Maginnis outlines the lyrical delivery of the song as follows:

Each verse contains separate descriptions of universal disappointments ... All is not lost, however, as in the last verse a suicidal girl who is "crippled for life," moving her wheelchair to the shore, is saved by a sort of optimistic epiphany ... The band drops out as Hendrix speaks [the] final lines, his voice and slithering guitar circling and echoing up and away into the heavens.[6]

Musically, "The track begins with overdubbed backwards guitar creeping in, as Hendrix lays down his signature clean guitar sound", drawing comparison with fellow Axis: Bold as Love track "Little Wing".[6] According to Maginnis, "The backwards-recorded guitar ... [creates] a dreamy atmosphere and [lends] the song its distinctive character", with fellow band members Mitch Mitchell and Noel Redding providing a "laid-back groove" with their "mid-tempo drum shuffle" and "concise bass line", respectively.[6] Similarly, Chris Jones of the BBC also notes the "signature backwards guitar" in the song.[7]

Reception[edit]

Writing a five-star review of the album for Allmusic, Cub Koda has cited "Castles Made of Sand", along with "Little Wing", "One Rainy Wish" and "Bold as Love", as evidence of Jimi Hendrix's "remarkable growth and depth as a tunesmith, harnessing Curtis Mayfield soul guitar to Dylanesque lyrical imagery and Fuzz Face hyperactivity to produce yet another side to his grand psychedelic musical vision", describing it as a "beautiful, wistful ballad".[8] Speaking about the track specifically, fellow Allmusic commentator Tom Maginnis cites "Castles Made of Sand" as evidence that, in writing material for The Experience's second album, "Hendrix [was] becoming a songwriter of depth, while unafraid to make use of the latest studio technology available to him".[6]

Legacy[edit]

Possibly the most famous cover version of "Castles Made of Sand" is a live recording released by funk rock band Red Hot Chili Peppers as the B-side to 1989 single "Taste the Pain", and later the same recording from the Taste the Pain b- side was included on 1994 compilation Out in L.A.,[9] which has been described by Tom Maginnis of Allmusic as a "largely faithful tribute where guitarist John Frusciante displays a considerable Hendrix influence".[6] The band also recorded another version of the song for their breakthrough album Blood Sugar Sex Magik.

Other artists to have covered the song include electronic musician Four Tet in 2004, R&B singer-songwriter Chaka Khan in 2007, and rock guitarist Richard Lloyd in 2009.[10]

Jason Isbell references the song in "Codeine", featured on his 2011 album Here We Rest.[11]

Personnel[edit]

References[edit]

  • Geldeart, Gary; Rodham, Steve (2007). Jimi Hendrix: The Studio Log – 2008 Edition. Warrington, Chesire: Jimpress{{inconsistent citations}} 
  • Shapiro, Harry; Glebbeek, Caesar (1995). Jimi Hendrix: Electric Gypsy. New York City, New York: St. Martin's Press{{inconsistent citations}} 

Footnotes[edit]