If 6 Was 9
|"If 6 Was 9"|
|Song by the Jimi Hendrix Experience|
|from the album Axis: Bold as Love|
|Recorded||May 4–5, 1967|
"If 6 Was 9" is a song written by Jimi Hendrix and recorded by the Jimi Hendrix Experience. It appeared on the release of their 1967 album Axis: Bold as Love and on the soundtrack for the 1969 film Easy Rider and the soundtrack for the 1991 film Point Break.
Style and instrumentation
The style of the song has been referred to as "acid-fueled blues". The guitar solo is noteworthy for making innovative use of studio technology for the time, with stereo panning from left to right and vice versa, along with other effects, such as slap echo, fuzzbox distortion, and reverb. 
There is some confusion as to whether Hendrix played a flute or a soprano recorder on this track. The credits list Hendrix as playing flute, but recorder player Rodney Waterman and Joe Vanderford of Independent Weekly refer to Hendrix's instrument as a recorder. Early music enthusiast Nicholas S. Lander maintains that "the high tessitura, the typical 'breaking' between octaves, and other characteristics are more suggestive of a soprano recorder."
Compared to the other tracks on Axis: Bold As Love, "If 6 Was 9" suffers from an unusually large amount of tape noise, dropouts, and overall "rough" sound quality. According to Hendrix biographer John McDermott, the master tape used for the album was a quarter-inch open-reel tape belonging to bassist Noel Redding, containing an early rough mix of the song. This technically inferior copy (intended for a home tape player) had to be used at the last minute since the album's final stereo master tape had been accidentally lost, and "If 6 Was 9" was the one song that Hendrix and engineer Eddie Kramer could not satisfactorily remix. They reportedly had to use a clothes iron to remove wrinkles in the badly mishandled tape, copied it onto new studio-quality tape, and inserted it into the final album master with no further modification.
The theme has been described as an "individualist anthem". The lyrics portray the underlying conflict of the counterculture of the 1960s: the "social and cultural dichotomies" between the hippies and the "white collared conservative" business world of the establishment. Beginning with a blues riff, the lyrics accompany a "spacey" free-form jam, with Hendrix epitomizing the existentialist voice of the youth movement: "I'm the one that's gonna have to die when it's time for me to die/so let me live my life/the way I want to."
Authors Harry Shapiro and Caesar Glebbeek believe the lyrics, "if the mountains fell into the sea" are a reference to the creation myth of the second world of Hopi mythology. Frank Waters' Book of the Hopi (1963) was known to have influenced Hendrix, and many of his songs contain mythological themes and images related to Native Americans in the United States; Hendrix himself was part Cherokee.
- 1976 – Todd Rundgren recorded it for the album Faithful
- 1976 – Roy Buchanan on Street Called Straight
- 1989 – Lenny Kravitz performed it during his Let Love Tour between 1989 and 1990. A 1989 recording was officially released in 2009 on the 20th Anniversary Deluxe Edition of his album Let Love Rule
- 1991 – Beautiful People adapted the song as "If 60's Was 90's" for the album If 60's Were 90's. Written by group leader Du Kane, it reached 74 on the UK Singles Chart and number five on the Hot Dance Club Songs chart.
- 1994 – Tori Amos on the limited edition CD single of "Cornflake Girl" released in the UK as part of a two disc set (sold separately). To date it is one of the few Amos songs that has not been re-released in a collection or boxed set, or made available digitally.
- 1995 – Bootsy Collins with guitarist Buckethead on Funkcronomicon (released as a single in 1996)
- 2000 – Fifteen quotes the "White Collared Conservative Businessman" verse in their song "Brian's Song" on Survivor
- 2003 – David Lee Roth on Diamond Dave
- 2009 – Wolfmother on Cosmic Egg, which also was partially recorded at Electric Lady Studios
- 2009 – Maria Pia De Vito on Mind The Gap
- 2012 – Left Lane Cruiser and James Leg on their joint album Painkillers
- Newquist, Harvey P. (2003). The Blues-Rock Masters. Backbeat Books. p. 32. ISBN 0-87930-735-8.
- Prown, Pete; Harvey P. Newquist (1997). Legends of Rock Guitar: The Essential Reference of Rock's Greatest Guitarists. Hal Leonard. p. 50. ISBN 0-7935-4042-9.
- Lander, Nicholas S. "Recordings". Recorder Home Page: Instrument of Torture or Instrument of Music?. Retrieved 2007-07-16.
Most of this article was previously published in the Australian Journal of Musical Education. From an interview with Lander in Recorder and Music. 20, 2: 50-53 (2000).
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- Shapiro & Glebbeek 1995, p. 13
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- Tori Amos' "If 6 Was 9" at Discogs
- Axiom Funk's "If 6 Was 9" at Discogs
- Carlson, James G. (July 6, 2012). "Review: "Painkillers" by Left Lane Cruiser & James Leg". No Depression.
- Shapiro, Harry; Caesar Glebbeek (1995). Jimi Hendrix, Electric Gypsy. St. Martin's Press. ISBN 0-312-13062-7.
- Kubernik, Harvey (2006). Hollywood Shack Job: Rock Music in Film and on Your Screen. University of New Mexico Press. ISBN 0-8263-3542-X.
- Roby, Steven (2002). Black Gold: The Lost Archives of Jimi Hendrix. Billboard Books. ISBN 0-8230-7854-X.
- Shadwick, Keith (2003). Jimi Hendrix: Musician. Backbeat Books. ISBN 0-87930-764-1.
- Stubbs, David (2003). Jimi Hendrix: Voodoo Child: The Stories Behind Every Song. Thunder's Mouth Press. ISBN 1-56025-537-4.
- Klein, David (2016). If 6 Was 9 and Other Assorted Number Songs: From the No. 1 Song in Heaven to the 99th Floor. White River Press. ISBN 1-88704-321-7.