Bloomberg’s 2013 release of Starting At Zero – His Own Story, is a unique, “posthumous autobiography” written, ostensibly, by Jimi Hendrix and compiled by filmmaker Peter Neal and record producer Alan Douglas. It is an inspiring textbook for those who appreciate the guitar legend and seek further insight into the workings of his incredible mind.
For those of us immersed in the music of that era – Hendrix, Janis Joplin, the Doors, the Rolling Stones, Beatles, Cream, etc, especially the disciples focused mostly on Jimi, this is a scholarly, important document isolating Jimi’s thoughts with both the composer’s song lyrics as well as Hendrix’s own diary entries, correspondences, notes and other such written (or tape recorded) artifacts.
My first go at reading this 256 page collection was not easy, the richness of the book demanding a period of time for thoughtful exploration beyond a mere perusal, as different material is juxtaposed alongside other fragments, certainly a daunting task and actually quite an accomplishment.
Alan Douglas’s controversial re-production of unfinished works, or post-production or, in some cases – rearrangement, is important on one level, and on that level I am one of Douglas’s champions. Quite clearly – on another level – I am one of the harshest critics of some of the late producer’s work.
Starting at Zero is a masterful achievement for both Douglas and Neal, it fills in the blanks for anyone playing Sherlock Holmes with Hendrix’s beautiful and mysterious legacy, for anyone missing the fact that “the man’s mind was just on so many different levels, it’s amazing” Eddie Kramer states in the film Night Bird Flying (Behind the scenes) – see video
The book brings you closer to Hendrix with staples like “Room Full of Mirrors” and “Voodoo Chile” taking on more meaning as you read the words to the songs and the complementary scribblings from the author. The additional information gives the music we’ve known and listened to deeper meaning with the additional information, the compositions have even more of an impact. The editors/co-authors align the subject matter in a planetary sort of fashion, all circling the sun – the memoir portions and other elements moving with their own identifiable gravity.
Originally entitled Room Full Of Mirrors, according to Page IV, and released in November of 2013, the book “was produced without the input, assistance, or authorization of Al Hendrix, Janie Hendrix, Experience Hendrix, L.L.C., or any parties associated therewith.”
The nine chapters are titled after songs (and some that became album titles,) ending with “Nine to the Universe,” of course, and holding twenty to thirty-five pages per chapter.
It is a scholarly effort which differs greatly from other post-their-time-on-planet-earth volumes such as Laura Joplin’s “Love Janis,” “Wilderness: The Lost Writings of Jim Morrison, Vol. 1,” The American Night: The Writings of Jim Morrison, Vol. 2” and similar archives and records prepared for publication after the protagonist has left this mortal coil. “Starting at Zero” is a book that moves into the upper region of my Top 4 categories for the plethora of Hendrix writings on the market, be they in the form of books, magazine articles, liner notes, tributes and other etchings found multiplying on the internet.
Post script: co-author/co-editor Peter Neal, according to the book’s official webpage “made the first-ever film about Jimi Hendrix, called Experience. Also known as Hear My Music Talking, it was the only one released during Jimi’s lifetime”
As compiled by Alan Douglas and Peter Neal
Hardcover: 256 pages
• Publisher: Bloomsbury USA; 1ST edition (November 5, 2013)
• Language: English
• ISBN-10: 1620403315
Joe Viglione is the Chief Film Critic at TMRZoo.com. He has written thousands of reviews and biographies for AllMovie.com, Allmusic.com, Gatehouse Media, Al Aronowitz’s The Blacklisted Journal, and a variety of other media outlets. Joe also produces and hosts Visual Radio, a seventeen year old variety show on cable TV which has interviewed Jodie Foster, director/screenwriter David Koepp, Michael Moore, John Cena, comics/actors Margaret Cho, Gilbert Gottfried, Gallagher, musicians Mark Farner and Don Brewer of Grand Funk Railroad, Ian Hunter of Mott The Hoople, Ray Manzarek, John Densmore, Felix Cavaliere of The Rascals, political commentator Bill Press and hundreds of other personalities.