- 16 Dec 21
55 years ago today, the Jimi Hendrix Experience released their debut single, 'Hey Joe'. The single, released with the b-side 'Stone Free', became a hit in the UK – peaking at No.6 on the charts. Since its release in 1966, 'Hey Joe' has come to be regarded as one of the greatest rock songs of all time. To mark its anniversary, we're revisiting Jackie Hayden's tribute to Noel Redding – the Jimi Hendrix Experience's bass player, and "one of Ireland's adopted sons" – originally published in Hot Press shortly after his death in 2003.
The death of Noel Redding last week has robbed the rock world of the second third of incendiary ’60s heroes The Jimi Hendrix Experience and one of Ireland’s adopted sons.
Originally from Kent, Redding lived for the last few decades in a country house outside Clonakilty with his mother Margaret who predeceased him by just a few weeks. They were both extremely popular in the area and Noel was a regular performer in De Barra’s pub in the town.
When I stayed with him a few times during visits to the Clonakilty area I was overwhelmed by the warmth and generosity of this quietly spoken man and felt privileged to be allowed view his lovingly-cared-for collection of Hendrix memorabilia. But I was simultaneously depressed by the comparative dilapidation of a once great house and the penury in which Noel told me he regularly lived. He went so far as to admit that he and the love of his life Carol Appleby, who died in 1990 in a car crash in County Cork, had at times been reduced to bartering apples for potatoes, and cleaned windows and chopped logs in order to earn the essential shillings. Bands he played in often gigged around Munster for as little as 15 quid a night under various names, including Tonite and Secret Freaks. It was a mighty long way from the acclaim and adulation of the love generation.
For despite the Hendrix Experience becoming one of the most popular and biggest revenue-generating bands of the ’60s, Noel’s career was dogged by his attempts to get hold of the vast sums of money he believed he was owed by various record, publishing, management and production companies, a situation no doubt acerbated by the purple haze that befogged most musicians in those days.
After quitting the Hendrix line-up he formed his own band Fat Mattress, but sales eluded their two albums, and he fared little better in later life with the Noel Redding Band and other combos. It was almost as if the story that he had originally been selected by Hendrix because of his trademark Afro hairdo and granny glasses prevented him being taken seriously as a musician in his own right.
While hundreds of millions of dollars have poured into the Hendrix estate over the years, Noel expended vast reservoirs of energy and patience pursuing justice through the courts on both sides of the Atlantic, trying to untangle the labyrinth of signed contracts, verbal agreements, dodgy investment schemes and financial arrangements often made with companies who often didn’t actually exist and could never be traced. In the process he suffered one humiliation after another. Among numerous horror stories, he told me of one court case in the USA during which an early hit single by the Experience was played and he was asked to prove there and then to the court that the bass notes on it were actually played by him. As he said while relating this tale, “On that basis Paul McCartney couldn’t prove he played on a Beatles record!”
But in order to help avoid other young musicians following in his footsteps he was generous with his time and practical advice. At a Hot Press Music Seminar in the late ’80s he joined fellow Hendrix man Mitch Mitchell in the RDS for what turned out to be an hilarious run-through of the various people who had ripped them off through the years, eventually arriving at the not-unconvincing figure of £23 million. Each!
Despite the endless and fruitless travails, Redding always spoke very warmly about Hendrix and seemed to assume that the late wild man of rock was as much a victim of industry shenanigans as he himself was. But music business bigwigs puzzled as to why so many people sided with Napster during the great download wars of recent years will find countless clues littered through many of the books that detail how Noel, Jimi and Mitch were repeatedly lied to and stolen from. They might also marvel over how he could have lived out the remainder of his life with such quiet dignity.