Bass Transcription: Noel Redding’s Bass Line on “Come On (Part One)” by The Jimi Hendrix Experience

Jimi Hendrix Experience

Fifty years ago, on the 27th August 1968, The Jimi Hendrix Experience entered New York’s Record Plant studio for the final session on Electric Ladyland. This album was to be perhaps Hendrix’s greatest artistic achievement, but it was also the catalyst for the breakup of the band.

With producer and mentor Chas Chandler in control, and holed up in Olympic Studios in London, the early sessions for the album had been relatively straightforward, and the band had recorded basic versions of “Crosstown Traffic” and “All Along the Watchtower” before setting off on their early ’68 North American tour. On a break from their schedule, a short recording session at The Record Plant convinced Hendrix to complete the album in the USA. The band returned to the studio in April 1968 once the tour was completed.

The Record Plant was a more sophisticated studio than Olympic, with a 12-channel system that would allow Hendrix to explore a more creative and experimental approach than on the previous albums. However, completing the remainder of the album proved to be challenging for the band and their producers. This was caused partly by Hendrix’s penchant for inviting friends into the studio, who were often a distraction, but also by Jimi’s insistence on recording many versions of each track (“Gypsy Eyes” ran to fifty takes). The studio had been booked, at Hendrix’s insistence, on a round-the -clock basis, but he regularly took time away to indulge his need to “party”, sometimes taking weeks off at a time in Los Angeles while the clock ran on in New York. The sessions stretched on into the summer, and frustrated at the lack of progress, Chas Chandler eventually gave up and walked out. Bassist Noel Redding also felt the same, and would often choose to sleep in the studio, or simply not to turn up to the sessions. In Redding’s absence, Hendrix recorded six of the bass lines himself, including “All Along the Watchtower” (submitting his own line for Redding’s original), but he also invited Jack Casady of Jefferson Airplane to play on “Voodoo Child.”

By the end of August 1968, the album was nearly completed, but there was space on the LP for one more track. Hendrix, Mitchell, and Redding jammed “Come On (Part One)”, a song Jimi knew from his early days playing at The Spanish Castle, a music club in Seattle. The song was written by New Orleans R & B artist Earl King, who initially recorded it in 1960 under the title “Darling Angel Honey Child.” The Experience’s version of the song is a more straightforward track than some of the more esoteric songs on Electric Ladyland, and this allows Redding to create a driving and supportive bass-line, and explore some syncopated chromatic runs and interesting rhythmic combinations behind Hendrix’s joyous and flowing guitar playing.

Noel Redding was born in Kent, England on Christmas Day 1945. He began his musical journey playing the violin and mandolin, before taking up the guitar at the age of ten. By seventeen he was a professional musician, and, during the early 1960s, he played guitar in a number of bands that played in the UK and Germany. In 1965 Redding joined The Loving Kind, who were taken on by Tom Jones’ manager Gordon Mills, and then signed to Piccadilly Records. Their first three singles were unsuccessful, and, frustrated by this, Redding left the band. He moved back in with his mother for a while and considered giving up the music business.

In late August 1966, prompted by his mother, Redding traveled to London to audition for the lead guitar role in the soon-to-be-emigrating, psychedelic version of The Animals. However, unknowingly, by the time he auditioned, the role had already been promised to Vic Briggs. While he was waiting for the results of the audition, he bumped into former Animals bassist Chas Chandler, who was trying to form a band around his new protégé Jimi Hendrix. On September 29th, Chandler invited Redding to jam with Hendrix, and they played for hours on a range of songs, including “Hey Joe,” later to be the band’s first single. Hendrix was impressed enough to offer Redding the gig – although he later said that he had hired Redding due to his haircut! The band now needed a drummer, and although Aynsley Dunbar (later in The Mothers of Invention) tried out for the band in early October, the role eventually went to Mitch Mitchell. The Jimi Hendrix Experience was born, and with just three days’ rehearsal, the new group made their first live appearance on October 13th at the Novelty Cinema in Evreux, France. After a short tour supporting French vocalist Johnny Hallyday, the band returned to London, and on October 23rd the band entered De Lane Lea studios to cut their first single “Hey Joe.” Hendrix had been in England for less than a month.

The trio gelled quickly and soon became an effective musical unit. Even though he had never played the instrument professionally before, Redding made an effective bassist, complementing the other members, and often kept a solid groove alongside Hendrix’s pyrotechnics and the Ginger Baker-inspired drumming of Mitchell. The Experience were soon a successful live draw in the UK, and with a show-stopping appearance at the 1967 Monterey Pop festival, the band also began to be noticed in the US. Their debut album Are You Experienced? was a critical success on its release in May 1967, and a commercial one also; it sold a million copies in the first seven months. The second album Axis: Bold as Love released later that same year was an adventurous step forward in terms of song-writing and musicianship and featured Redding singing lead vocal on his own composition “She’s So Fine.” The third outing, Electric Ladyland – released in October 1968 – also contained a Redding song, “Little Miss Strange,” but by now Hendrix was becoming more confident in his songwriting and singing, and Redding’s input was no longer encouraged.

To enable a return to his original role of guitarist, and to have a more consistent outlet for his songwriting, Redding formed Fat Mattress with former bandmates from his home county. For a while, he played with both groups, and Fat Mattress was the support band for The Experience on their 1969 US tour. By this point, his relationship with Hendrix was strained, and in June 1969, at the Denver Pop Festival, Redding played his final show with The Experience. Although Chandler had cast The Experience as a power trio in the mold of Cream, Hendrix had originally been keen to form a more revue-style nine-piece band, and now, free from Chandler’s guidance decided to expand the line-up. He did so without first consulting the other band members, and this caused Redding to finally quit, and he flew back to London the next day. Redding continued playing with “Fat Mattress” to promote their first album Fat Mattress, and the band played at the Isle of Wight Festival in August 1969. They began a tour the US in November, but this was canceled after only five shows. The album was not a major success. Redding eventually left the band after he fell out with bassist Jimmy Leverton during the recording of their second LP.

Redding then briefly lived in the US, and during this time he formed “Road,” a power trio who released one album in 1972. That year, he also recorded with former Hendrix acolyte Randy California on his Kapt. Kopter and the (Fabulous) Twirly Birds album. Later he was to settle in southwestern Ireland, forming The Noel Redding Band with former Thin Lizzy guitarist Eric Bell, releasing two albums in the mid-1970s. In the 1990s Redding also toured the US on a number of occasions with Keith Dion and his band 3:05 am. Later, he played with the Hendrix tribute band “More Experience” and his own band “Secret Freaks.” Redding also regularly played with musicians in nearby Clonakilty and had led the resident band in a local pub for twenty years until his death in 2003.

Although Redding’s early performances and recordings for The Experience were played on a Gibson EB-2 borrowed from Chandler (he had also used it to audition for the band as he didn’t own a bass), for much of his time in The Experience, Redding played a sunburst Fender Jazz. He also played a Fender Bass VI, a Fender Mustang, and a Hagstrom 8-string. While with The Experience, Redding favored Sunn amplification. In 1997, Fender gave Redding the honor of producing the Noel Redding Signature Jazz Bass, a copy of the ’64 Jazz bass that Redding was known for playing in the Experience.

“Come On” is essentially a twelve-bar blues in E, interspersed with a simple stop-start verse based on a simple E-G riff, and this ends on a snaking unison line that leads into the chorus. The choruses and solo sections revert to a twelve-bar format, and although he improvises extensively through the vocal sections, Redding mainly sticks to a more straightforward quaver based root/fifth/minor seventh line behind Jimi’s solos.

Note-wise, Redding makes use of the E minor pentatonic, often emphasizing the G natural which, in its enharmonic form F## fits well with the E7#9 chord. There is also use of the Mixolydian mode, especially during the guitar solo, and also bars 34, 73, 95 and others, mainly over the A7 chords. Redding often utilizes a root/third idea (where the third is reached by a descending leap) at the beginnings of bars, for example in bars 13, 16 & 17 and 116. There are relatively few octave leaps, although this is seen at bars 127 and 139 and more continuously in bar 146. Redding also uses chromaticism throughout the song, with good examples at bar 13, 22-3, 44-5 and 153-4.

Rhythmically, the bass line contains quite a lot of syncopation, including many over-the-bar-line pushes (bars 12-13, 14-15 and 20-21), and there is some use of off-beat quavers (16-17 for instance). As the bass line develops, Redding includes more complex semi-quaver rhythmic ideas. A good example is in bars 127-8, and although he doesn’t quite pull it off, he tries it again at bar 139. The complexity continues through to the end of the recording, with a return of crotchet triplets in the last two audible bars.

This was a very challenging bass line to transcribe, as the recording is not very clear in places (so apologies for any errors).

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