Hear My Train A Comin'

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"Hear My Train A Comin'"
Depiction of solo performance featured in A Film About Jimi Hendrix
Single by Jimi Hendrix
from the album Soundtrack Recordings from the Film Jimi Hendrix
B-side "Rock Me Baby"
Released August 1973 (1973-08) (UK)
Format Seven-inch 45 rpm record
Recorded Bruce Fleming Photo Studio, London, December 19, 1967
Genre Blues
Length 3:05
Label Reprise (no. K 14286)
Writer(s) Jimi Hendrix
Hendrix British singles chronology
"Johnny B. Goode"
(1972)
"Hear My Train A Comin'"
(1973)
"Fire"
(1982)

"Hear My Train A Comin'" (or a variation of "Get My Heart Back Together") is a slow blues song written by Jimi Hendrix. Biographer John McDermott calls it "a powerful blues prayer based on the salvation-train metaphor running through American folklore of every color and faith".[1] Hendrix recorded it in different settings several times between 1967 and 1970, but never completed it to his satisfaction. A solo acoustic guitar performance by Hendrix in 1967 is considered one of his most memorable. It is featured in the early documentaries See My Music Talking (also known as Experience) and A Film About Jimi Hendrix and was released as a single in the UK.

The song was a staple of Hendrix concerts and several live renditions were recorded. Over the years, he developed "Hear My Train A Comin'" into an extended improvisational guitar piece comparable to "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)". Early releases include those from Woodstock, Berkeley, and Maui, with the last two included in the films Jimi Plays Berkeley and Rainbow Bridge. More recently, studio demo versions have appeared on Hendrix compilation albums along with more live recordings, including on People, Hell and Angels and the Miami Pop Festival albums released in 2013.

Background and lyrics[edit]

"Hear My Train A Comin'" is one of several blues-oriented songs that were in Hendrix's repertoire throughout his career.[2] With the Experience, one of his earliest recordings was "Red House", which was recorded December 13, 1966, and included on the UK Are You Experienced album.[3] Other blues songs, including Howlin' Wolf's "Killing Floor", B.B. King's "Rock Me Baby", Elmore James' "Bleeding Heart", and a medley of Muddy Waters' songs, titled "Catfish Blues" were adapted and frequently performed by the Experience during the early years.[2] Muddy Waters' "Hoochie Coochie Man" was also performed with BBC Rhythm and Blues show host Alexis Korner accompanying the group on slide guitar.[4] Hendrix biographer Harry Shapiro describes "Hear My Train A Comin'" as "delv[ing] deep into the well of blues history, recalling one of the classic motifs of the genre" and compares it to two earlier blues songs which deal with "escap[ing] trouble, be it political, social or personal".[5] "Jim Crow Blues", recorded in 1929 song by Cow Cow Davenport, includes:

I'm tired of this Jim Crow, gonna leave this Jim Crow town
Doggone my black soul, I'm sweet Chicago bound
Yes I'm leavin' here, from this ole Jim Crow town[5]

Big Bill Broonzy's "Make My Getaway", recorded in 1951, includes:

Bye-bye Arkansas, tell Missouri I'm on my way up north now baby
I declare I'm gonna pack up, pack up now baby
And make my getaway[5]

A live version of "Hear My Train A Comin'" from 1967, has a similar theme, but on a more personal level without geographical references:

Well I wait around the train station, waitin' for that train
Waitin' for that train to take me, from this lonesome town (have mercy)
Well now the city's put me through some changes, Lord my girl put me down[6]

After an energetic guitar solo, Hendrix announces "Can you dig that, you see me gettin' it together, I'm tryin' to get my heart together that's all" and concludes by singing

And then I'm gonna come back to this town (yeah yeah), and buy this town
Might even give a piece to you (yes indeed baby) ...
I'm just tryin' to get my heart back together, back together again[6]

He nearly always introduced the song as "Getting My Heart Back Together Again" or "Get My Heart Back Together", the latter of which was used for the first release of the song in 1971.[7] On his August 1970 handwritten notes for the track listing of his proposed fourth studio album, Hendrix listed the song as "Getting My Heart Back Together".[8] It is unclear why it was renamed "Hear My Train A Comin'" for subsequent releases.[9] Over the years, he continued to develop the song in a similar manner as "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)" evolved from "Cat Blues" and sometimes included references to the other song.[10] Although the verses vary somewhat, they usually follow the common theme.[11] Hendrix usually prefaced his performances with a short commentary, such as at one of his best-known performances in Berkeley, California, on May 30, 1970:[10]

Here's a story that a lot of us have been through ... About a cat runnin' around town and his old lady, she don't want him around and a whole lot of people from across the tracks are puttin' him down. And nobody don't want to face up to it but the cat might have somethin', only everybody's against him because the cat might be a little different. So he goes on the road to be a Voodoo Child, come back to be a Magic Boy.[10]

Composition and early live releases[edit]

Jimi Hendrix, Mitch Mitchell, and Noel Redding performing on Dutch television, 1967

"Hear My Train A Comin'" is a slow tempo blues centered around one chord with breaks. Hendrix's early performances show blues roots, including the early style of Lightnin' Hopkins.[12] The first known recordings were made by the BBC on December 15, 1967, with Noel Redding on bass and Mitch Mitchell on drums.[13] Redding and/or Mitchell also provide backing vocals during Hendrix's vocal.[14] In contrast to the subdued vocal sections, the middle section features highly charged guitar soloing, with Redding and Mitchell following. Two takes were recorded, both lasting about five minutes.[15] The second take was broadcast on December 24, 1967 for the Top Gear radio program.[13] The first take recorded was released in 1988 on the Radio One album;[14] both are included on BBC Sessions, issued in 1991.[13]

Around the same time, Peter Neal was making a short film documentary about the Experience, titled See My Music Talking (also known as Experience).[16] On December 19, 1967, he captured Hendrix playing an impromptu solo version of "Hear My Train A Comin'".[13] The filming took place during a publicity photo session at the London studio of photographer Bruce Fleming, who had photographed the British album cover for Are You Experienced.[13] For the shoot, a twelve-string Zermaitis acoustic guitar restrung for a left-handed player was conveniently on hand.[17] Hendrix, seated on a stool against a white backdrop, sang while playing the guitar. After a false start, he settles into the song, which biographer Keith Shadwick describes as "100 percent country blues, reflecting a knowledge of Leadbelly, Robert Johnson, and Skip James, as well as some more contemporary acoustic players. Hendrix sings with great feeling, however artificial the circumstances of the session made have been".[18] Music writer Michael Fairchild compares some of his guitar techniques to those found in 1928 recordings by Tommy Johnson, such as "Big Fat Mama" and "Big Road Blues".[17] The guitar was tuned down two whole steps (C–F–B–E–G–C), perhaps influenced by Leadbelly's twelve-string style.[19] At the end of the 3:05 performance, Hendrix laughs it off with "Did you think I could do that?" In addition to the documentary released in 1968, the "Hear My Train A Comin'" footage is included in the 1973 A Film About Jimi Hendrix.[20] The song also appears on the soundtrack album and a single released in the UK by Reprise Records in 1973[21] (re-released on Blues in 1994).

As he had done with "Voodoo Child", Hendrix gradually developed "Hear My Train A Comin'" from a shorter, blues-oriented number into a longer, improvisational piece with extended guitar soloing.[10] This transformation is apparent in three live recordings which were released in 1971, which range from over nine to twelve minutes. A version by Hendrix's interim band Gypsy Sun and Rainbows was performed at the Woodstock Festival on August 19, 1969.[22] Shadwick describes Hendrix's guitar solos as "fluently spectacular, stringing long, arching phrases together".[23] It was released on the Woodstock soundtrack followup album Woodstock 2, with the title "Get My Heart Back Together"[7] (reissued on Woodstock and Live at Woodstock). On May 30, 1970, during the Cry of Love tour, Hendrix with Mitchell and bassist Billy Cox were filmed performing the song in Berkeley, California.[24] This twelve-minute rendition is considered by many to be the definitive version.[10][25][26] Shadwick makes note of Hendrix's soloing:

He solos with a distinctive flavour, for the most part entirely melodic rather than the usual fusion of chords, melody and outright sonic manipulation. As with every great improviser he had his own distinctive melodic shapes, and a lot of them crop up here. But he makes them fresh by placing them in new contexts, either by using different registers or one of his electronic effects (here wah-wah or Uni-Vibe) to alter the timbre and texture, or by reordering them to create different continuities of phrasing.[27]

An edited version appears in the film Jimi Plays Berkeley by Peter Pilafian;[28] the 11:15 song is included on the Rainbow Bridge album[29] (re-released in 2001 as a 11:00 version on Voodoo Child: The Jimi Hendrix Collection;[30] in 1994, a 12:08 version with Hendrix's introduction was included on Blues).[31] On July 30, 1970, Hendrix, Mitchell, and Cox performed on the slope of Haleakalā volcano on Maui, Hawaii. Manager Michael Jeffery had arranged for their concert performance as a contribution to another film, Rainbow Bridge, directed by Andy Warhol associate Chuck Wein.[32] Due to many technical problems, little of the concert footage was usable, although an edited "Hear My Train A Comin'" was included in the movie (although none of the performances from the film appear on the so-called soundtrack album).[33] The complete audio recording is included on several bootleg albums of the Maui concerts.[34]

Studio recordings[edit]

Hendrix recorded several studio demo versions of "Hear My Train A Comin'" and some have appeared on various compilations over the years.[35] Producer Alan Douglas issued the first version in 1975 on the second of his controversial albums, Midnight Lightning.[36] It was fashioned from a demo recorded by the Experience on April 2 or 9, 1969.[36][37][38] Douglas erased Redding's bass part and overdubbed new bass, guitar, and percussion parts by musicians who had never recorded with Hendrix.[36] Shadwick describes it as "painfully out of tune" and its release as "unfortunate";[37] it has not been reissued.[39]

At a February 17, 1969, rehearsal at the Olympic Studios before their upcoming London concerts, multiple takes of "Hear My Train A Comin'" were recorded by the Experience.[40] The first take was later included on the 2000 The Jimi Hendrix Experience box set[41] (re-released in 2003 on Martin Scorsese Presents the Blues: Jimi Hendrix). During their following appearances at the Royal Albert Hall on February 18 and 24 (which turned out to be their last UK shows), the Experience were filmed and recorded performing the song.[42] These have not been officially released because of contract disputes, but are frequently bootlegged.[43] Two additional demos were recorded at the Record Plant in New York City in 1969. One, recorded on April 7 by the Experience, is included on 2010's Valleys of Neptune.[44] On May 21, a second demo was recorded during Hendrix's first recording session with Billy Cox on bass and Buddy Miles on drums, who later performed on the live Band of Gypsys album.[45] It was issued on People, Hell and Angels in 2013.[45]

Other live recordings[edit]

Previously unreleased recordings of "Hear My Train A Comin'" continue to be issued along with re-releases.[46] Several amateur concert recordings are also free to stream from the Experience Hendrix official website.[47] Hear My Train A Comin' is also the title of 2013 documentary film about Hendrix, first presented on the PBS American Masters series.[48]

Notes[edit]

Citations
  1. ^ McDermott 1999, p. 13.
  2. ^ a b McDermott 1992, p. 43.
  3. ^ McDermott 2009, p. 28.
  4. ^ Sinclair 1998, p. 12.
  5. ^ a b c Shapiro 1990, p. 423.
  6. ^ a b
    {{cite AV media
    | people = The Jimi Hendrix Experience
    | year = 1998
    | title = BBC Sessions
    | chapter = Hear My Train A Comin'
    | medium = Song recording
    | time = 0:20 & 2:47
    | publisher = MCA Records
    | id = MCAD2-11742
    }}
  7. ^ a b Shapiro 1990, p. 538.
  8. ^ Shadwick 2002, p. 227.
  9. ^ Roby 2010, p. 11.
  10. ^ a b c d e Fairchild 1994, p. 24.
  11. ^ Hendrix, Janie 2003, p. 69.
  12. ^ Shadwick 2003, p. 157.
  13. ^ a b c d e McDermott 2009, p. 81.
  14. ^ a b Shapiro 1990, pp. 555–556.
  15. ^ Sinclair, pp. 18, 20.
  16. ^ McDermott 2009, pp. 78–79.
  17. ^ a b Fairchild 1994, p. 21.
  18. ^ Shadwick 2003, p. 132.
  19. ^ Shadwick 2002, p. 248.
  20. ^ Roby 2002, p. 226.
  21. ^ Shapiro 1990, p. 546.
  22. ^ McDermott 2009, p. 169.
  23. ^ Shadwick 2002, p. 194.
  24. ^ Shadwick 2002, pp. 224–225.
  25. ^ McDermott 1992, p. 266.
  26. ^ Shadwick 2002, pp. 225–226.
  27. ^ Shadwick 2002, p. 226.
  28. ^ Roby 2002, pp. 249–250.
  29. ^ Shapiro 1990, p. 543.
  30. ^ Loder 2001, p. 12.
  31. ^ Fairchild 1994, p. 24, backcover.
  32. ^ Roby 2002, pp. 251–252.
  33. ^ Shapiro 1990, p. 542.
  34. ^ Belmo 1998, pp. 310–311.
  35. ^ Belmo 1990, pp. 303–311.
  36. ^ a b c Shapiro 1990, p. 549.
  37. ^ a b Shadwick 2002, p. 182.
  38. ^ McDermott 1192, p. 338.
  39. ^ Belmo 1998, pp. 303–311.
  40. ^ McDermott 2009, p. 142.
  41. ^ McDermott 2000, p. 48.
  42. ^ McDermott 2009, pp. 142–144.
  43. ^ Belmo & 1998 pp306–307.
  44. ^ McDermott 2010, p. 20.
  45. ^ a b McDermott 2013, p. 8.
  46. ^ "Jimi Hendrix: Hear My Train a Comin'". AllMusic. Rovi Corp. Retrieved July 21, 2014. 
  47. ^ "Concert Broadcasts". JimiHendrix.com (official website). Experience Hendrix, L.L.C. Retrieved July 21, 2014. 
  48. ^ "Hear My Train A Comin' (DVD and Blu-ray)". JimiHendrix.com (official website). Experience Hendrix, L.L.C. Retrieved July 21, 2014. 
References