HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Book Review

Book Review: by Lang Reid

Chasing Jimi

Jim Newport is the author of the Vampire of Siam series, but has gone from the vault of the dead to the electrifying life of Jimi Hendrix, best remembered for the number Purple Haze and for drug abuse (as did most of the recording artists in those days - see the wonderful book Black Vinyl, White Powder by Simon Napier-Bell).
Newport has had first hand experience of Jimi Hendrix, working as a band photographer in the 1970’s, and the book introduces many of the famous names from that era. The Beatles, the Rolling Stones and especially Brian Jones, Eric Burdon and the Animals and even Mickey Dolenz from the Monkees.
Chasing Jimi (ISBN 978-974-07-1940-3, Willat Publishing, 2008) follows Jimi Hendrix from 1966 to 1967 with a semi-factual but still wonderfully fanciful tale of drug induced ‘haze’ and probably ‘purple’ with a pair of goons chasing Jimi and finally stealing his Stratocaster guitar to bring him face to face with Sid Gannet, a music agent with a prior contract with Hendrix when he was still a struggling performer called Jimmy James. Gannet is obviously modeled on Ed Chalpin, a real agent with a real prior contract.
The action is fast paced and the fictional characters well drawn. The ‘real’ characters are also described in period, such as this one on Brian Jones, “Brian was dressed in eighteenth century finery, velvet frock coat, white frilled blouse. Topped off with a purple feathered boa.” Remember Carnaby Street? If you are old enough, then you will.
Jimi’s penchant for setting fire to his guitars is given a star billing in the book, with one of his Stratocasters playing a leading role. Jimi Hendrix actually did set fire to many guitars on stage, so again author Jim Newport has taken a fact and woven it into his fictional (but inherently believable) tale.
If you attended the Monterey Festival in 1967, as the author obviously did, you would remember the three days, opened on the Friday with Lew Rawls, Eric Burdon and the (New) Animals and Simon and Garfunkel, followed on the Saturday by the Byrds, Jefferson Airplane and Booker T and the MGs. The finale was the Sunday with Pete Townsend and The Who vying with Jimi for who should go first, eventually settled by the toss of a coin, but of course giant egos such as theirs would not be satisfied by chance.
I have to admit that the Vampire of Siam series by this author was not my favorite pieces of literature and when ‘Chasing Jimi’ arrived on the reviewer’s table I ignored it for a few weeks; however, when I opened it and began reading, I found I was enthralled. Sure, it is a work of ‘faction’ but it has so much of the color of the era and the performers of the day woven into the dramatic story that it ‘could’ be true. And much of it is!
At B. 599, it is a reasonably heavy ticket for what is in many ways a lightweight book, but I did enjoy it. If you can remember Woodstock, you will enjoy this book.