DEF LEPPARD guitarist Phil Collen recently spoke to Classic Rock magazine (web site) for its latest issue in which the stars of rock (plus some assorted rock-loving comedians, sportmen, MPs and other riff raff) nominate their "rock icons." The following is Collen's explanation for why Jimi Hendrix belongs on the list:
"I was obviously very aware of Jimi Hendrix in the early 1970s. My cousin had got me into rock music, and he was like: 'Hendrix is fucking great!' And I did like him, but it wasn't until much later — until way after I'd started playing the guitar — that I really started to appreciate him. It wasn't just because of the guitar thing. Everything about Hendrix went against the grain. Everything about him was a contradiction to your standard rock stereotype.
"Even from a fashion point of view, Hendrix was different. And his stagecraft — that's the kind of shit that makes you want to become a musician, especially when you're a kid. Plus, the fact that he was a black man playing what was basically white music was, again, very different. You don't get anything like that now. Maybe Prince has crossed over here and there, but not like Hendrix. That was much more pure. The thing is that I didn't actually realise all this until years later, when I was suddenly like: 'Fucking hell — the penny's dropped!' Then I started to appreciate him properly. So I went back and listened to him playing live and listened to what he was actually doing. And it wasn't just the standard bollocks that everyone else was doing. It was completely different, and far deeper. As a musician, I found it amazing what he did; the way he left gaps in his playing; the way it was rhythmic and melodic; based around the vocal and the song. To me, he was the perfect musician.
"I'm sure it probably helped his iconic status that he died young. When anyone pegs it, obviously they have a special place in the public's heart. All of a sudden, they just become a tragic hero. To be really iconic, I guess you do have to snuff it. It's like the whole Kurt Cobain thing. Having said that, I think Eric Clapton has an iconic status and I don't think he really should, personally, compared to Hendrix. There was so much more there.
"Would Hendrix have lost it if he'd lived? Actually, I think that when he died, he was writing stuff that sounded a bit more muso, if you like, and I think he would have experimented with that, and I actually think he would have done something really exciting. I think he would gone on to do some great stuff…"