Tag Archives: Philip Norman

Wild Thing: the short, spellbinding life of Jimi Hendrix – Philip Norman



AUG 25, 2020 | 9781474611497 | RRP $32.99

Once again Philip Norman has crafted a biography that is both mesmerising and eminently readable just as he has done previously, but most notably for me with Slowhand. It’s hard to believe that it has been fifty years since Jimi’s brilliance was extinguished and to write the story of such an icon of both music and the 60s is no easy task let alone so long after his death, yet Norman has done so with both flair and meticulous attention to accurate detail.

James Marshall (born Johnny Allen) Hendrix had what can only be described as a tragic childhood – poverty, neglect, abandonment and pretty much starved of love or even affection. Growing up – or more accurately, surviving – in Seattle, Washington with an indifferent at best father and an absent mother, the man who was to become “the greatest instrumentalist in the history of rock music” according to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame always dreamed of rising above his circumstances to great heights. And rise he did, from his first attempts at music with a salvaged one-stringed ukelele through battered second-hand guitars to playing (and burning) sleek Stratocasters, the determined, indeed obsessed, self-taught Jimi became the supreme maestro of his chosen instrument.

His early attempts in the professional music scene were hampered and obstructed through racial prejudice and resistance to his own flamboyant creativity but when he was finally picked up by Chas Chandler (formerly of The Animals) and transported to London, his ascent to the heights was mercurial. Sadly for us all, his reign as the most innovative of musicians was plagued and ultimately cut short by depression, poor management, drugs and alcohol and lasted only a few all-too-short years.

Though troubled by his upbringing and difficulties with relationships (despite a legion of groupies and girlfriends) and often mis-represented by the media as wild, troublesome and a bad influence, all those who knew him well unfailingly describe him as gentle, caring, well-mannered and knowledgeable on a whole range of subjects and topics.

The circumstances of his lonely death have been shrouded in mystery with contradictory versions given by those who were the closest to being eye-witnesses but Norman has doggedly unearthed testimony from as many sources as possible to try to re-construct the tragedy.

I found this compelling reading and realised just how little I knew about this elusive personality who literally revolutionised pop music single-handedly.

Whether you are a Hendrix fan or not, or indeed interested in music history, this is a fascinating read and I highly recommend it to you.

RIP Jimi – fifty years later your legendary talent lives on and still influences so many.

By Steve Banks – Steve Banks, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=63987610

Slowhand: The Life and Music of Eric Clapton – Philip Norman




NOV 6, 2018 | 9781474606561 | RRP $32.99

Over the past week or so I’ve had the pleasure (despite my almost complete exhaustion at the end of year with long commutes etc) to read each night some of this new biography of the legend who is Eric Clapton.

For many of us fans, a great deal of his history is known, even if only in sketchy detail. Philip Norman, with his long experience of writing biographies of numerous musicians, coupled with his own experience within the music industry, has created a detailed warts-and-all insight into the Master.

From his early childhood, which was in part tragic due to the callous abandonment by his mother, but also blessed as his beloved grandmother and step-grandfather raised him as their own to the most recent of his achievements, Norman traces it all via in-depth conversations with friends, family and ex-partners.

This is a man who has triumphed over his demons his whole life, and in one way or another is, actually, pretty lucky to have survived. But survivor he is, and has risen above all the adversities, deadly habits and tragedies, including the death of his much-loved little son, to become arguably the most well-known and able guitarist in the world.

The boy who yearned for his own guitar, and went through many ‘bangers’ until he could afford the best of the best, and listened relentlessly to his heroes of the great blues tradition, has become a lodestone for those who not only aspire to carry on the blues tradition, but also those who seek to rise above their addictions and self-harm.

Altogether an inspiring read, filled with drama, humour, pathos and resilience, if you are a fan you will love it, and if you’re not you just might be after reading it – and even if not, you will not be able to help coming away with a sense of admiration for this man.