“Cliffs of Dover”
Usually when I play “Cliffs”—which is probably every night, although I’d be happy not to play it all the time—I do a little interlude before it. I just start the song and make up some stuff before I break into it. I made the interlude a separate track in case someone wanted to go right to “Cliffs.”
It would be cool to play a tour and not have to play “Cliffs” every night. I don’t play it on the Hendrix tours that I’ve done over the years—that’s a "Cliffs"-free zone. I don’t mind playing it if people want to hear it, but I don’t feel the personal necessity to play it all the time.
I guess it all comes back to me, really. If I really, really don’t want people to request that tune, then I need to write another “Cliffs of Dover” that people like as much. It’s on my shoulders. I don’t think anyone would complain if the Beatles did “Fixing a Hole” instead of “Eleanor Rigby.” People like to hear it, so I try to include it,
It kind of psychs me out a bit. There are a couple of licks in that song that aren’t the hardest licks I play, but more often than not I screw them up in concert because I think, “Oh, this is ‘Cliffs’ and it’s what I’m known for and it has to be perfect.” I think it’s really better to just go out there and have fun playing it, and I’d probably do a lot better job of playing it. Sometimes that tune just freaks me out just because of the luggage that comes with it. But that’s probably personally induced; I could just chuck all that and go, "Whatever."
When I first wrote that tune, which was like eight years before I recorded it, it just came to me like in five minutes. I didn’t even really write it. It was literally five or ten minutes and I had that song. I have demos of me with no drums just playing guitar by myself with it. When I went in to do the Tones record, it was up for grabs to do that tune. It was voted down because the label said it sounded like a game show theme. Which is interesting, and it was good that they felt that way because the timing was right when we released it a few years later on Ah Via Musicom. It’s funny how all that happens.
Then, when that album came out, the record label I was with was never planning on putting it out as a single, but people started digging it. Also, it was weird when they actually did put it out because for probably 20 years before that the only hit song that was an instrumental was “Frankenstein” by Edgar Winter. It was all this weird shot in the dark that nobody really thought could happen.
When we finished Ah Via Musicom, the mix of that song didn’t sound very good. I took it to Bernie Grundman and he mastered it. I remember I was apologizing for how that song sounded, but he dialed up some EQ and I guess however it was totally wrong was perfect for him to make it totally right. It was a weird happy accident. It was way too bassy and it had a funky mix, but Bernie made it sound really good. Maybe some things are just destined and even if you try to screw it up you find little loopholes and ways to work things out.
That’s just a rock ’n’ roll jam. That’s another one where I just went back and played it start to finish because it really wasn’t even a song. I think it’s basically what I played in the studio. It just had a nice rock energy and it seemed like a good way to wrap up the record for an encore piece.
That was actually "When the Sun Meets the Sky." There’s an edit where the intro goes right into the ending. Inside that whole thing was the entire song, which was actually good but the microphones were screwed up on the recording and the tone was trashed. If I’d wanted to recut it, that would have required multiple parts and singing. I didn’t want to do that because my whole premise on anything I did fix was to perform it live in the studio, and it would have been too hard to do on that song. I wasn’t even going to put the song on the record, but a couple of people who heard it really dug that solo at the end. So we just turned it into a reprise and edited out the song.