'Mad Men' Music: Jimi Hendrix's 'If 6 Was 9'

Monday, 28 April 2014 06:12 AM Written by 


Warning: Don't read on if you haven't seen the latest episode of Mad Men, titled "Field Trip."

No obscure tunes this week. No sir. Mad Men ended a barn-burner of an episode, Don Draper being blown off by actress wife Megan and returning to SC&P with stipulations I would have suggested Bert Cooper use as a suppository, given no support by Joan, his former ally, who's, not surprisingly, become more calculating in the past two seasons since she made partner.

To my amazement, Draper desperately accepted this BS agreement. The notion of reporting to Lou Avery, the alleged "creative director" who's actually the SC&P equivalent of MASH's Frank Burns, wasn't onerous enough to keep him from signing the deal to return. Of course the likelihood Mr. Avery and his cardigans are long for the agency is very small and Don may spy an opportunity here.  As for the increasingly bitter Peggy, one wonders how much more of her increasing, self-inflicted bitterness anyone at the agency will tolerate.

But to the closing song: the Jimi Hendrix Experience's extremely raw recording of "If 6 Was 9," from his 1967 album Axis: Bold As Love, was as jarring—and appropriate—a conclusion as the Season Four premiere that ended with "Tobacco Road" by the Nashville Teens. There was always something stark and even chilling about this particular Hendrix performance, with its deep blues influences. It was in this period Hendrix, with bassist Noel Redding and drummer Mitch Mitchell, was still creating music that changed rock forever and that revolutionized electric guitar playing the way Les Paul and Charlie Christian had did before him.

The song was used in two films: the classic Easy Rider (1969) and the Patrick Swayze-Keanu Reeves Point Break (1991).  And it's worth noting that three other rock stars well known in the UK contributed to the foot-stomping: Graham Nash, Gary Leeds (of the Walker Brothers) and then-Hendrix manager Chas Chandler.  Hendrix himself plays the flute. **

The blues influence in Hendrix's playing was always in your face, and while I can't say it with certainty, I always wondered, even when I first heard "If 6 Was 9," whether this next song might have rolled around in his brain, and inspired the "Voodoo Chile" on his next album: Electric Ladyland.  This song inspired the name of another iconic rock act: "Rollin' Stone," by Mississippi-born Chicago blues legend Muddy Waters.

**Source: Ultimate Hendrix: An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Live Concerts and Sesssions by John McDermott, Eddie Kramer and Billy Cox (


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