Almost 50 years after his lonely death, Hendrix is the abiding symbol of musical genius cut tragically short. Wild Thing will be the first biography to bring together the splendour and sadness of his brief life, and to attempt to unravel the circumstances of his death.
Hendrix revolutionised classic rock, inventing a whole new vocabulary for the guitar. Onstage he pushed the boundaries of Sixties permissiveness, fellating the strings of the guitar with his tongue, lying it flat and straddling it, even setting fire to it. Yet in private he was polite, shy and sweet-natured. Norman will explore these contradictions in a narrative that takes us from Hendrix's roots in Seattle to his louche and glamorous life in Mayfair, when London was the world's most 'swinging' capital and then back to the US with the series of historic outdoor rock festivals that rounded out the decade.
Wild Thing will be a celebration of matchless artistry, and a gripping chronicle of those now mythical times. But it will also investigate the peculiar conditions of his death, part whodunnit as it tells the most cautionary of rock 'n' roll parables. After all these years of rumour and speculation, Jimi's ghost may finally be laid to rest.
In this rollicking biography, Norman (Paul McCartney) follows the electric guitar god from hardscrabble Seattle boyhood to enormous fame and his 1970 martyrdom to rock-star excess. (The author's lengthy postmortem considers conspiracy theory suspects his manager, the mafia, the CIA before returning to the official line that he overdosed on sleeping pills and drowned in his vomit.) Norman styles Hendrix as a great Black crossover pioneer who founded heavy metal with his flamboyant stagecraft and use of feedback and other effects in his virtuosic solos, which saw him play guitars with his teeth and behind his back and then hump, burn, and smash his instruments in ritual sacrifice. (Offstage, Hendrix is more shy naif than rock demon in Norman's telling.) Norman combines colorful, energetic picaresque "It might have been a brilliant duet had not Morrison been helplessly drunk and ruined the recording by shouting I want to suck your cock' at Jimi until Janis Joplin subdued him by breaking a bottle over his head" with lush evocations of Hendrix's sound. (One solo "resembles a thrillride through some extraterrestrial cityscape, each gush of the slide like a glowing elevator, sibiliantly ascending or descending.") Norman's entertaining, psychedelically tinged portrait shows why Hendrix made such a deep impression on rock 'n' roll.