Machine Gun (Jimi Hendrix song)
1999 promo single cover
|Song by Jimi Hendrix from the album Band of Gypsys|
|Released||March 25, 1970|
|Recorded||Fillmore East, New York City, January 1, 1970 (second show)|
|Producer||Jimi Hendrix (listed as Heaven Research)|
|Band of Gypsys track listing|
"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:
Machine gun, 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
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. Two versions of the song appears on the expanded Band of Gypsys' album Live at the Fillmore East released in 1999.
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.
- Westergaard, Sean. "Jimi Hendrix: Band of Gypsys > Review" at AllMusic. Retrieved 17 October 2011.
- 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."