Song of the Week: Little Wing

    More stories from Max Tirouvanziam

    Half a century ago to the day, the Jimi Hendrix Experience’s second studio album, Axis: Bold as Love, was initially released in the UK. It altered music forever. It’s part of the handful of records that are ground zero for classic rock. And the album’s pinnacle, its crowning jewel and its most recognizable piece is Track #6, a brief ballad named “Little Wing.”

    Riding high off a now-legendary performance at the Monterey Pop Festival in the summer of ‘67, where he famously burned his Stratocaster before walking off stage, Hendrix returned to London in October and the Experience put the last couple of songs onto Axis, “Little Wing” being one of them. He said that the track came from his experience at this festival, one of the first major ones in rock history, and also cited a Native American style as an influence on this clear, airy track.

    Hendrix only needed two and a half minutes for this masterpiece of rock music. It’s concise- maybe even too much so- sometimes I wish he’d have let that solo go on a bit longer, like countless artists who’ve made covers (think Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan) opted to do in their versions.

    It’s inimitable- you could spend days, as a guitarist, listening to that opening solo over and over, and looking at tabs, and messing with amps and playing notes up and down the neck, but the sound of those initial 30 seconds is something that you’re better off letting the voodoo child retain for himself.

    And it’s immortal; this album never hit number 1 anywhere, yet artists around the world continue to cover it in live performances and internet videos. Give me a Mitch Mitchell drum fill between the verses- if you can call those bits of imagery or dreams or maybe poetry that- and some floating riffs sprinkled in and around Jimi’s vocals, and then, as he himself put it, “it will just fly away.”

    Contact the writer, Max Tirouvanziam at [email protected]

    Listen to the a sample of the song below.