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Friday, November 07, 2008

Crime Scene

I have a very special relationship with this place, Electric Lady Studios at 52 West Eighth Street. A regret of what could have been and what should have been. And if you were here with me in person, I would hold my forefinger and thumb as close together as humanly possible without actually touching, leaving the tiniest sliver of light to pass through. And I would tell you "That is how close I came to meeting Jimi Hendrix." Not just meeting him, but spending a night with him and one other jamming on guitar.
Now these were college days in a time of recklessness and excess. Everything from that period was chaotic and disjointed. Some of the details are foggy in my mind, so the story goes something like this:
It was 1969. A winter's night at approximately 4 AM with a snowstorm blowing outside. A fellow NYU dormitory resident whose name I do not remember (perhaps not even a resident; it could have been an interloper - common at that time) said he was headed over to Electric Lady Studios to jam with Jimi, did I want to go? A stunned yes was the proper response and with an electric guitar slung over his neck, we walked from the dorm down Eighth Street in the snowstorm. He buzzed when we arrived, announced his identity via intercom and asked if Jimi was in. The response was that he was not. He typically was. So, disheartened, we made the short trek back.
The following day I asked someone who knew this man well and asked if my friend really knew Hendrix, played with him before and whether we would have actually been admitted to jam with Hendrix had he been at the studio. The answer was yes, yes and yes. I was assured that my friend did know him and had Jimi been there, we would have been admitted.
Now this may not seem like much, but consider this was an opportunity missed to have spent some hours with a living legend, James Marshall Hendrix. Not to see him in a concert or perhaps see a fleeting visage on the street, but to spend time with him in a private setting. These were days when legends and gods were approachable, a time when things and people did not become so overexposed, hyped and marketed as to make them completely inaccessible. I missed other opportunities to see Jimi in concerts at The Fillmore East and his jams at a small club called Ungano's.
I have wanted to do a piece on Electric Lady Studios since the start of this blog, however the exterior is rather plain and uninteresting. But last night an opportunity made itself available. I saw someone leaving the studio and for the first time realized that the door to the entrance vestibule is not kept locked. Opening this door afforded a shot of the brass plaque in the photo. However, upon stepping into the vestibule, I was immediately warned that photography was not allowed.
I also never realized that the studios were in the basement, accessed by a stairway which can be seen from the street, if you peek through the crack in the curtains just right. I was able to see a marble plaque and a framed poster of Jimi in the stairwell. I was surprised to be able to get a couple of decent photos by squeezing my camera and head against a wall and shooting through a glass window at night into a dimly lit stairwell. If you go here, you can see an enlargement of the plaque and poster - the text of the plaque is actually legible.

The history of this studio is just amazing and rather than retell it here, I suggest you read it here at the Electric Lady Studios website. The studio was established in 1970, designed by John Storyk. It is still considered one of the finest recording studios in the world and the roster of clients who have recorded there has to be one of the most astounding who's who in music - see here.

Now I really want a tour of this place. And I had better do it soon, lest it becomes the second of life's major regrets around the same place - like two crimes at the same scene ...


The Real Me said...

wow wow wow! so close to meeting the one musician i truely love!
thanks so much for sharing your story!! love the sneaky photo too

Brian Dubé said...

Thanks. I waited to do this posting for so long because the exterior of this place is so nondescript. Finally an opportunity presented itself to capture a more interesting view.

Mame said...

Awesome post - not sure which is better, the writing or the photography. Thanks.

Chuck Pefley said...

Good for you, Brian. Glad you found a way to finally recount this story. We all miss opportunities. Trouble is that sometimes we simply don't recognize things for what they are at the time. Hindsight is wonderful stuff, though, and on cold winter nights memories often warm us.

Brian Dubé said...

Mame - Thanks much. I spent quite a bit more time on this post. It is quite a bit longer. I know not everyone wants to read that much text, but I am glad when visitors do.

Chuck- Thanks and well said.

Anonymous said...

A lot of thanks
Your posts are just a NewYork Culture lesson
And an English-reading lesson too.