Nils Lofgren has recorded and toured with Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen as well as enjoying a successful solo career. His latest venture is a solo album entitled `Damaged Goods' (1995).
UV: I read that you saw Jimi Hendrix several times - the first time was in Washington DC.
NL: Yeah, on his first tour. Actually, the night I saw Jimi was the night I decided to become a professional musician.
UV: Were they related or was that coincidence?
NL: No, it was completely related. I was playing guitar a lot, I was very good for a seventeen year old who'd just started two years earlier but I never really thought of it as a career because back in the mid-'60s, at least in America, you know, people like the Beatles and the Stones... In the beginning they were freaks. No one really thought about it as a career. And when I saw Jimi Hendrix I just was possessed. I realised, "Oh my God, this is what I want to do. It's going to be my career." And there was no turning back. Just about a month later I was in Greenwich Village trying to sneak into record companies and get deals! It was pretty funny - I was pretty pathetic! But I was trying anyway. That really was a huge turning point for me. I followed Jimi around - he was, I think, probably the biggest inspiration to me of all as a guitarist and the Beatles really were the ones who inspired me to rock `n' roll and I fell in love with rock `n' roll through the Beatles and I think they have the greatest body of work still today. There's so many great influences - the Stones, of course, are huge, and the British invasion - the Who, the Yardbirds, the Animals, the Kinks... I mean, Christ, even Herman's Hermits had some records I loved [steady on, Nils] - I mean, I thought they were really underrated. I thought they did some great stuff. And all that stuff, the Cream... Jimi was at the top of the list really. I followed him around a lot, saw a lot of his shows and my band Grin wound up opening for him in California for a few cities which was an enormous thrill for me.
UV: Did you meet him at all?
NL: Yeah, I met him quite a few times but I didn't get to know Jimi. I just was a fifteen, sixteen, seventeen year old kid, you know, nineteen year old opening act just going to say, `Hey Jimi, you're the best, I love you, take care of yourself' and over the years you could see him getting more depressed and more ill physically and it was really sad to watch. And of course I was so in awe of him... And I wasn't like... I didn't know Jimi, I just met him and said `hello' to him as a fan and just was inspired by him and I just never, you know, I didn't know what to do. And I didn't never really think that... I just thought he was kind of immortal but there was really one of the biggest blows still in my life when I heard that he had died. Still to this day is a loss that has really diminished my life in some respect.
UV: Do you remember any particular concerts?
NL: Certainly the first time I saw him was the most memorable but all the times I saw him he was equally impressive. First night I saw him we were just kids and we'd just gone to see the Who - in fact there was a huge show with the Blues Magoos, Herman's Hermits and the Who. This was the original Who with Keith Moon. And they were just spectacular and then we all rushed over to the Ambassador Theatre - it's like our Ballroom here in DC to see, our psychedelic ballroom - to see Jimi. And Pete Townshend was in the audience - he had come over. And Hendrix came out and none of us really knew anything about him apart from he was supposed to be this magical guitarist. And he only had three people in his band which of course we'd never seen and then... It was funny `cause we were so naive - he announced he was gonna play `Sgt Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band'. And all of us are like, `Well, how can he play that? Where's the horns? Where's the strings? Where's all the extra guitars? What's he talking...' We were so oblivious to where Jimi was coming from and he was just such a... I mean, he was just so amazing to look at. He was just so, you know, gorgeous. Just like this animal athlete kind of thing. And he counted off the song and I'll never forget, you know... Everyone was just kind of sitting down wondering what the hell is going to happen. And he had these huge stacks of Marshall amps and, you know, you didn't really know how loud it was going to be and at the end of the count he literally just disappeared, you know. He fell on his, you know, like dropped back with his ass on his heels, guitar between his legs and just kinda went out of vision and the whole audience just leapt up to their feet and he's down there, you know, bumping and grinding doing `Sgt Pepper's [Lonely] Heart's Club Band' ˆ la `Purple Haze' - you know, that kind of rhythm, a little bit slowed down. And it was just completely mesmerising and overwhelming and inspiring. And I've been just hooked ever since.
UV: Have you got a favourite Hendrix song or album?
NL: Well, not really, there's so many great things... Off the top of my head, `Voodoo Child (slight return)', `All Along The Watchtower' is incredibly stormy and spooky... And I think `Little Wing' probably is the best 30 or 60 seconds of guitar playing - the intro - some of the most innovative, creative stuff I've heard in my life to this day. Just unbelievable. Even the `Cry Of Love' album I thought was really underrated - there's so many beautiful things on that. All his stuff was just spectacular but those are some of the things that jump out right off the top of my head. I think that one side with `Still Raining, Still Dreaming' and `Voodoo Child (slight return)', `All Along The Watchtower' and `House Burning...' That's probably one of the, you know, as great a side of a record as has ever been made.
© UniVibes 1995 - reprinted by permission of UniVibes, International Jimi Hendrix Magazine, Coppeen, Enniskeane, County Cork, Republic Of Ireland