|"If 6 Was 9"|
|Song by the Jimi Hendrix Experience|
|from the album Axis: Bold as Love|
|Recorded||May 4-5, 1967|
"If 6 Was 9" is a song written by Jimi Hendrix and recorded by the Jimi Hendrix Experience. It appeared on the release of their 1967 album Axis: Bold as Love and on the soundtrack for the 1969 film Easy Rider and the soundtrack for the 1991 film Point Break.
The style of the song has been referred to as "acid-fueled blues". The guitar solo is noteworthy for making innovative use of studio technology for the time, with stereo panning from left to right and vice versa, along with other effects, such as slap echo, fuzzbox distortion, and reverb.
There is some confusion as to whether Hendrix played a flute or a soprano recorder on this track. The credits list Hendrix as playing flute, but recorder player Rodney Waterman and Joe Vanderford of Independent Weekly refer to Hendrix's instrument as a recorder. Early music enthusiast Nicholas S. Lander maintains that "the high tessitura, the typical 'breaking' between octaves, and other characteristics are more suggestive of a soprano recorder."
Compared to the other tracks on Axis: Bold As Love, "If 6 Was 9" suffers from an unusually large amount of tape noise, dropouts, and overall "rough" sound quality. According to Hendrix biographer John McDermott, the master tape used for the album was a quarter-inch open reel tape belonging to bassist Noel Redding, containing an early rough mix of the song. This technically inferior copy (intended for a home tape player) had to be used at the last minute since the album's final stereo master tape had been accidentally lost, and "If 6 Was 9" was the one song that Hendrix and engineer Eddie Kramer could not satisfactorily remix. They reportedly had to use a clothes iron to remove wrinkles in the badly mishandled tape, copied it onto new studio-quality tape, and inserted it into the final album master with no further modification.
The theme has been described as an "individualist anthem". The lyrics portray the underlying conflict of the counterculture of the 1960s: the "social and cultural dichotomies" between the hippies and the "white collared conservative" business world of the establishment. Beginning with a blues riff, the lyrics accompany a "spacey" free-form jam, with Hendrix epitomizing the existentialist voice of the youth movement: "I'm the one that's gonna have to die when it's time for me to die/so let me live my life/the way I want to."
Authors Harry Shapiro and Caesar Glebbeek believe the lyrics, "if the mountains fell into the sea" are a reference to the creation myth of the second world of Hopi mythology. Frank Waters' Book of the Hopi (1963) was known to have influenced Hendrix, and many of his songs contain mythological themes and images related to Native Americans in the United States; Hendrix himself was part Cherokee.
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Most of this article was previously published in the Australian Journal of Musical Education. From an interview with Lander in Recorder and Music. 20, 2: 50-53 (2000).