Machine Gun (Jimi Hendrix song)
cover for 1999 promo single
|Single by Jimi Hendrix|
|from the album Band of Gypsys|
|Released||March 25, 1970|
|Recorded||January 1, 1970 at the Fillmore East, New York City, New York|
|Genre||Blues rock, psychedelic rock, acid rock|
"Machine Gun" is a song written by American musician Jimi Hendrix, and originally recorded by Band of Gypsys for their self-titled live album (1970). It is a lengthy, loosely defined (jam-based) protest of the Vietnam War, and perhaps a broader comment on conflict of any kind. Although a proper studio recording was never released, there are several other live recordings on album, including Live at Berkeley and Blue Wild Angel: Live at the Isle of Wight.
The Band of Gypsys performance is often lauded as Hendrix's finest, and is widely considered one of the finest electric guitar performances in the history of recorded music. The Band of Gypsys version of "Machine Gun" is roughly 12 minutes long. Hendrix's long guitar solos and percussive riffs combine with controlled feedback to simulate the sounds of a battlefield, such as helicopters, dropping bombs, explosions, machine guns, and the screams and cries of those wounded or grieving.
"Machine Gun" debuted in September 1969 with a performance by Hendrix and his bandmates at that time, drummer Mitch Mitchell and bassist Billy Cox. The song was broadcast on the Dick Cavett Show the week of September 5. Most known performances are between ten and twenty minutes long, varying somewhat in their lyrics. The improvisatory material revolves around a core descending riff and bassline: the song opens with a Univibe pedal-based guitar riff intended to mimic the sound of a firing machine gun. The bass and drum patterns then commence. The rather sparse lyrics, which differ in every performance, relate the point of view of a soldier fighting in war:
Tearin' my body all apart
Evil man make me kill you
Evil man make you kill me
Evil man make me kill you
Even though we're only families apart
Well, I pick up my axe and fight like a farmer
But your bullets still knock me down to the ground
The same way you shoot me down, baby
You'll be goin' just the same
Three times the pain
And your own self to blame
I ain't afraid of your bullets no more, baby
I ain't afraid no more
After a while your cheap talk don't even cause me pain
So let your bullets fly like rain
'Cause I know all the time you wrong, baby
And you'll be going just the same
In the Band of Gypsys recording, Hendrix's vocals are accompanied by drummer Buddy Miles's vocals. "Machine Gun" is a prime example of Hendrix's use of guitar effects, as most recordings use a wah-wah pedal, an Arbiter Fuzz Face, a Univibe pedal, and an Octavia pedal, as well as heavy feedback.
The intro to "Hear My Train A Comin'" at Jimi's Woodstock performance in August 1969 is reminiscent of the "Machine Gun" intro, once again using the Univibe pedal. He used similar vocal lines and riffs in a blues jam mainly beginning at the 12th fret, much like the "Machine Gun" intro.
Midnight Lightning version
During the writing and recording of (what would have been) Hendrix's fourth studio album, Hendrix began a studio version of "Machine Gun", which was later heavily edited by Alan Douglas and released on the 1975 posthumous album Midnight Lightning. This version, which was edited to 7:30 (actual length was about 12:56), was not well received among fans, as Douglas had brought in session musicians to overdub drum, bass and even guitar parts, which had been lacking due to either poor recording quality or damage to the tapes. Although the Hendrix estate gained control of his recordings in 1995 and re-released what are presumed to be authentic recordings of some of the songs that Douglas had overdubbed, an unaltered studio version of "Machine Gun" has yet to be released.
Isley Brothers version
The Isley Brothers covered "Machine Gun" on their 1971 album Givin' It Back, entitled "Ohio/Machine Gun", as their tribute to Hendrix and in reference to the Vietnam War occurring at the time. This arrangement later appeared on their 1973 album The Isleys Live. During the "Machine Gun" portion of this performance, they refer to the band's prior association with Hendrix before Ernie Isley launches into the guitar solo.
2010 arrangement by Kyle Sanna
In October 2010 the band The Knights of New York performed an arrangement by Kyle Sanna for orchestra and cello soloist at the Staatstheater Darmstadt. The work was performed as part of the Musikalischer Herbst in Darmstadt, Germany, by the Philharmonie Merck of Darmstadt by the German cellist Jan Vogler of Dresden, Germany, directed by Eric Jacobsen.
- Moriarty, Frank. "Reloading Machine Gun". Guitar Shop (Port Chester, NY: Cherry Lane Magazines). ISSN 1071-8494. Retrieved 17 October 2011.
- Introducing the song at Berkeley, Hendrix said: "I'd like to dedicate this song to soldiers fighting in Berkeley—you know what soldiers I'm talking about—and oh yeah, the soldiers fighting in Vietnam too ... and dedicate [it] to other people that might be fighting wars too, but within themselves, not facing up to the realities."
- Westergaard, Sean. "Jimi Hendrix: Band of Gypsys > Review" at AllMusic. Retrieved 17 October 2011.