|Originally Performed By||Jimi Hendrix Experience|
|Original Album||Are You Experienced (1967)|
|Historian||Parker Harrington (tmwsiy)|
While some nights of the Baker’s Dozen had unexpected twists and turns and surprising covers, there were probably two nights that had the most predictable songs performed for the theme of night: "Cinnamon Girl" on Cinnamon Night and a Jimi Hendrix song on Jimmies Night. You could definitely make an argument for “Powderfinger” on Powdered Night but let’s not digress.
The big question on Sunday, July 30, 2017, the eighth night of the Baker’s Dozen residency, was what Hendrix tune would the band play? The answer was finally given in the encore slot and before a couple of other nods to the night’s theme. There was of course “Runaway Jim” early in the first set, and the second set opened with a stellar and sprawling “Drowned” which was of course sung by Jimmy in the rock opera Quadrophenia.
After some hilarious and typical “Phishy” banter during “Harpua” where the band collectively decided the universe was shaped in the form of a donut and followed by a donut inspired “2001,” “Golgi,” and the second performance of “In The Good Old Summer Time,” the set was over and the anticipation was palpable.
“The Wind Cries Mary” was the choice and it was absolutely perfect.
“After all jacks are in their boxes
And the clowns have all gone to bed
You can hear happiness staggering on down the street
Footprints dressed in red
And the wind whispers Mary”
The ballad is probably one of the most tender songs in the Hendrix repertoire and was penned in 1967 after an argument with his girlfriend whose middle name was “Mary.” Hendrix apparently penned the lyrics after the fight and immediately brought it to his band the Jimi Hendrix Experience. Unbelievably, the song took just twenty minutes to record during leftover time from a recording session for “Fire.” His bandmates, bassist Noel Redding and drummer Mitch Mitchell went into the session totally blind and completely unrehearsed never having heard the song before.
If the recording time for one of the most loved songs rock has ever seen seems short, consider the time it actually took to write it; a mere matter of minutes. As described in the 1999 book Jimi Hendrix: The Ultimate Experience, his girlfriend, Kathy Mary Etchingham, explained: "I smashed plates on the floor, [and] he swept them up. He locked me in the bathroom for absolutely ages and ... eventually Chas's girlfriend Lotta let me out ... I ran out to get a taxi and was standing under the traffic lights, and I had red hair and a red dress. I went back after I'd cooled down and he'd already written it."
The song went on to become a staple in Hendrix’s live sets throughout 1967 and 1968, was released as the B-Side of the “Purple Haze” single and ultimately on one of the most critically acclaimed, most sold, and highly appreciated rock and roll albums of all time: Are You Experienced. The much loved song then became part of several other live Hendrix albums including his performance from the Monterey Pop Festival. It has been famously covered by a slew of performers including Sting, Widespread Panic, John Mayer, Robyn Hitchcock, and many others.
Phish is no stranger to Hendrix covers with “Fire” having been performed well over 100 times, “Bold As Love” being a setlist staple for years and often used as an encore, and the fan favorite and little heard “Izabella” also having been performed several times in 1997 and 1998. These were of course all seemingly on the board for the encore on Jimmie’s night. Alas, for fans of “Izabella” they would have to wait another week on the run closing Glazed Night for the first set closing performance after a 574 show gap. Fans were likely not disappointed when the first licks of “The Wind Cries Mary” flew off Trey’s guitar; one of the most recognizable opening riffs in rock and roll. Trey respectfully covered the wistful, gorgeous and gentle song to the delight of the sold out crowd. There was no need for showboating or grandstanding - just a faithful and loving rendition of one of the best songs of one of Trey’s guitar idols.
Trey said in a New York post interview in 1999:
“My three all-time-favorite guitarists are Jerry [Garcia], [Jimi] Hendrix, and [Frank] Zappa. They are all totally unique from one another, yet oddly similar. They were all striving for this depth where a solo would take you on a journey. But the journey was their own vibe: Zappa was sarcastic, Hendrix was bluesey, Jerry was downhome. I guess I have a suburban vibe. But I still want to get to the places that they got to.”
In another interview referring to a Hendrix performance, Trey states “It's as if Jimi broke free of human constraints for about five minutes. To say it went beyond scales and riffs is a gross understatement; it was an outpouring of humanity."
When Trey and Phish are at their absolute peak it is often the humanity of the moment created that really shines and pours out. To not understand the emotion and humanity of this particular performance of “The Wind Cries Mary” and what it must have meant for Trey to be performing on the World’s Greatest Stage in the midst of a thirteen show run and performing one of the quintessential Hendrix and rock songs in history is simply missing the point. It was a breathtaking encore littered among so many other special moments in that extraordinary run in 2017. Time will tell if Trey ever dusts this one off again, but the odds are much higher at hearing the other Hendrix tunes in the Phish repertoire, and having “The Wind Cries Mary” at MSG, like the lyrics say, “be the last.”
"Will the wind ever remember?
The names it has blown in the past
And with its crutch, its old age and its wisdom
It whispers "no, this will be the last"
Phish ”The Wind Cries Mary” – 07/30/17, New York, NY. Video by runaway jr
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