My Day With Jimi

Here’s an article I wrote in 1975 for Rolling Stone magazine.

Either that or it’s a dream I had. You decide.

_____________________

At the height of his fame, in the fall of 1969, two months removed from Woodstock, I had the opportunity to accompany Jimi Hendrix to the house of Dr. Simon Boutille.

Boutille was an up-and-coming 60’s countercultural figure, somewhat in the vein of Timothy Leary. He was a proponent of LSD and MDA therapy, a practicing psychologist who earned an Ivy League degree, and a writer who had published several essays on the subjects of holistic medicine, the health rewards of consuming a massive amount of fish, and the benefits of psychedelic drugs. The reason you’ve never heard of him is because in the summer of 1970, he was admitted into a mental institution, having gone completely insane.

He contacted Hendrix and me because he felt that if his work was endorsed by two prominent, well respected musicians, it would gain a wider acceptance. I had never met Hendrix, although my band, The Wherewithals, had played on the same bill a couple of times. Boutille arranged for the two of us to spend the day at his estate for a day of learning, meditating, tripping, and conversation.

Hendrix and I hooked up at LaGuardia, and were chauffeured to Boutille’s by my band’s manager. I was surprised at how skinny Hendrix looked. He wore teal leather pants that clung to his body like cellophane and a purple velvet jacket–classic Jimi attire. We made pleasantries and hopped in the back of the limo. My immediate impression of him was that he was an extremely relaxing guy to be around. We talked music, guitars, and our shared love of London nightlife. I was picturing someone more morose, but he had an addicting smile and made wisecracks the whole way.

Thirty minutes later, we were walking up to the front door of Boutille’s massive house. He must have heard us arrive, as he opened the door before we even had a chance to knock. He was a short fellow, only about five and a half feet. He had probably the straightest hair I’ve ever seen, and someone had given him a perfect rendition of the Beatles haircut. His horn-rimmed glasses sat low on his nose, and he had a look on his face like a child with a new toy. He wasn’t star-struck, but his little body was buzzing with excitement.

“Welcome, gentelmen!” he said. “I’m so glad you both came. I’ve got a lot to show you, but first thing’s first.” He then opened his palms to us, and in the middle of each one was a tiny, white square. An LSD blotter.

Hendrix and I gladly placed the papers in our mouths and Boutille, satisfied, led us inside.

In just the first ten steps inside, I counted four sleeping cats and a jumbo sized terrarium, at least four feet by four feet, which surely housed some hideous reptile lurking in its foliage. The walls had been used, I assumed by the good doctor himself, as a canvass. Each one bore a different painting. There were outer space scenes, complete with warring alien ships, landscapes of forests and mountains, scenes of battling Indian tribes, and some walls were simply a hodgepodge of clashing colors. I remember thinking how looking at these walls all day could drive a person mad, but how groovy it was going to be when the acid kicked in.

He decided to wait about 45 minutes, when we were in touch with a different plane of reality, to give us the tour. We drank tea in the meantime. Boutille was going on about how the government was taking steps to outlaw his research, because they were afraid of people educating themselves. It also gave them a means to throw more people in jail, and that would be a reason to hike taxes.

After the tea, he asked if we were ready for the tour. I looked at Hendrix, who had been relatively quite during Boutille’s diatribe.

“I’m really connecting with you now, man,” he said. “I think we should move around and check things out.”

“Follow me,” Boutille said. His pupils were giant inkblots, and he had a giddy tremor in his voice, as if he could explode with laughter at any moment.

He took us to his bedroom first. We walked in, and the three of us squatted indian style near the contraption on the ground next to his mattress. It looked like a miniature boxing ring, but with three levels of barbed wire instead of ropes around the outside. Next to the ring, on the ground, were fifteen or so small robots. They were all different shapes. One looked like a reel mower, with shiny blades that seemed so sharp that they could cut you if you looked at them hard enough. Another was some sort of pyramidal shape on wheels. Next to it looked like a metal doll with hooks instead of hands. I remember thinking that if he rolled off the bed while sleeping, he’d fall right into the barbed wire and on top of all these robots.

“This will be how wars are fought in the future, gentlemen,” Boutille told us. “Nations will enlist their smartest men to make the most efficient and deadly robot, and they will square off in this ring. There will be no need for bloodshed.”

At that point, the acid really began to take hold of me. When Hendrix opened his mouth to speak, what came out was the sound of guitar music. His hair fluttered in the wind, though we were indoors.

Boutille told us we needed to eat, and the flesh of an animal would be best while tripping. It would empower us and make us aware of our instincts. He fed us steak. I recall going in and out of several rooms after that, and devouring a second cut of meat.

Somehow, we ended up in another bedroom and Boutille was sitting across from Hendrix at a small table. A deck of cards was between them and Boutille started to shuffle.

“Jimi, each card has a certain vibration frequency,” he said. “I want you to focus. Feel the energy of the card. Listen to the electricity change.” He pulled out cards and Hendrix attempted to guess. I didn’t bother to check if he was getting them right, because I was focused on the herd of scorpions marching in patterns across the floor, like a football halftime show.

The game, and the marching, continued for what felt like hours. Then Boutille served us more steak.

Next, he took us out to the pool. It was a kidney shaped pool, and looked especially small when compared to the size of the house.

“This is my wave machine,” he said, pulling a ten foot surfboard from a rack on the wall. He placed it into the pool and dived in, fully clothed. He then climbed atop the board and that was when the water began to ripple. There was a noise below us of grinding metal, and the patio floor began to vibrate. Hendrix screamed and it was the sound of guitar feedback.

“Jimi! No!” Boutille yelled as the water began to rise. A small hump turned into a hill, and then rose into a mountain. It must have been twenty feet high, and at the very top, somehow now completely dry, was Boutille. He stood atop the surfboard, triumphant.

When the water died down, he paddled to the side. We all ate another steak, our fifth of the day. Hendrix looked at me and said, “I thought this guy was supposed to be a fish guy.”

The next thing I remember is being back at LaGuardia, boarding a plane that would take me back home. Though I’ll never see either of them again, my time with Simon and Jimi is an experience I’ll always cherish.

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