Hear My Train A Comin’
Miami Pop Festival
These days you can’t ever get enough Jimi Hendrix, and 2013 is no exception. Perhaps the most anticipated offering is Hear My Train A Comin', an updated documentary about the guitarist, which premiered on PBS on November 5. Available on DVD and Blu-ray Disc, this is pretty much the documentary everyone has been waiting for since 1973’s (A Film About) Jimi Hendrix was slapped together in the aftermath of the guitarist’s untimely death — amidst an absolute feeding frenzy to manipulate his music posthumously. With Experience Hendrix LLC in charge, a steady flow of tasteful releases has helped sustain the man’s legend. Directed by Bob Smeaton, who worked his magic on Festival Express and The Beatles Anthology, Hear My Train A Comin' tells the story, top to bottom, with widely scene and never seen clips, home movies, photos and interviews with friends, associates, musicians and historians.
For over two hours, you are taken on a journey of Hendrix’s musical world, as told by Noel Redding, Mitch Mitchell, Billy Cox, Eddie Kramer, Paul McCartney and Steve Winwood. Friends like Linda Keith (who introduced the guitarist to Chas Chandler, Hendrix’s manager) and Faye Pridgon expand on his personal life. Even family members, such as cousin Bob Hendrix and old footage of Jimi’s dad, Al, help fill in the gaps of his early life. And then there’s those pivotal moments — a stint in the army (where he met Billy Cox), touring with Little Richard and the Isley Brothers, moving to New York where he was discovered by Chas Chandler and whisked off to England.
It is in England where Hendrix became a star and that indisputable fact is expanded on in Hear My Train A Comin'. It might have been nice to get commentary from Eric Clapton or Jeff Beck, but McCartney does a commendable job describing Hendrix’s ascension in London. The Beatle bassist would throw a solid Hendrix’s way when he recommended the guitarist for the Monterey Pop Festival, a major turning point. From there, Hendrix took America by storm, which culminated with his performance at Woodstock. Building Electric Lady recording studios in New York enabled him to create music the way he wanted to, for as long as he wanted to. That was cut short when he went to Europe and never came back.
Hear My Train A Comin' doesn’t dig too deeply into Hendrix’s death, other than acknowledging it and collecting remembrances from friends and loved ones. To that end, it was really comes off as more of a tasteful celebration than a straight-lace documentary. If you only saw it on PBS, and don’t own the DVD or Blu-ray, you’re missing out on the Special Bonus Features. There’s a whole other documentary here about the Miami Pop Festival, which features footage of the Jimi Hendrix Experience’s riveting performance, recorded on site by Eddie Kramer. You get a 5.1 mix of the set here, but a separate Miami Pop Festival CD is also available, with 11 songs, including the first recorded live performances of "Hear My Train A Comin'" and "Tax Free," plus a range of road-worthy staples like "Fire," "Hey Joe," "I Don't Live Today" and "Purple Haze."
More live performance footage includes a July 17, 1970 appearance at the New York Pop Festival and the Experience’s final show together on September 6, 1970 at the Isle of Fehmarn in Germany. A March 30, 1967 clip of “Purple Haze” from Top of the Pops rounds out the extras. It’s remarkable how much Hear My Train A Comin' brings to the table, both in terms of revelations about the guitarist and additional unknown and/or unseen tidbits that put you that much closer. What more can we possibly expect from the greatest rock guitarist who ever lived? All reports indicate there’s a lot more to come.
~ Shawn Perry