Pete Townshend says Jimi Hendrix’s early recordings miss the “magic” of his live performances

"Unless you were there, you kind of missed 80 to 90 per cent of where the magic was.”

The Who’s Pete Townshend has spoken about the enduring legacy of Jimi Hendrix and how, in his view, those who never experienced his live performances missed a lot of the “magic” of his artistry.

In a recent Guitar.com interview, Townshend discussed how Hendrix’s genius encompassed performance as well as musicianship. “Unless you were there, you kind of missed 80 to 90 per cent of where the magic was,” Townshend explained.

“[Hendrix] was just such an extraordinary presence once he walked onto the stage with a guitar. It was kind of weird. It was almost like he was some kind of angelic, seismic, metaphysical force, who seemed to have light rays coming out of him, and then, as soon as he walked offstage, it would switch off. He was an extraordinary presence. And that definitely made what he did as a player penetrate in a soulful way as well as musically.”

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Townshend then added that this presence was impossible to translate onto an album. “So those early recordings – they were great, of course – but I always felt they were missing something. Like they’re missing one bite of magic.”

Townshend’s praise for Hendrix’s playing came as part of a discussion of lead-guitar playing in three-piece bands, as his playing was an example of musicality compensating for the stripped-back lineup of The Jimi Hendrix Experience. Townshend also gave his opinion on the sonic palette of Cream, the trio formed of Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker. He noted that while he admired Clapton’s playing, the lack of other accompaniment when he played solos thinned out the band’s sound.

“I have to say, that was my experience listening to Cream,” he said. “It felt to me that sometimes it sounded so empty. I thought they would’ve been so much better if they had a Hammond player. I always loved Eric’s playing, but not always his sound. It always felt to me like it was a bit muffled, in the Marshall days. That’s why I prefer Traffic and Blind Faith. I like the sound of that.”

You can read Guitar.com’s full interview with Townshend here.

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