An escape from a war-torn world
Jimi Hendrix’s 1968 release of Electric Ladyland is known for some hits, like “All Along the Watchtower” and “Voodoo Chile,” but I usually don’t see many other’s eyes light up when I say “have you heard 1983?”
The full title is “1983 (A Merman I Should Turn to Be)” and is the second longest track ever conceived by Hendrix (“Voodoo Chile” of course winning spot #1) running at about thirteen minutes long.
Hendrix tells a story of him and his love escaping a world riddled with war and pain: “oh, say can you see, it’s really such a mess/every inch of earth is a fighting nest/giant pencil and lip-stick shaped things. This song really shows Hendrix’s anti-war method of thought and his fondness for fantasy within reality.
Hendrix and his love, Catherina, built a machine—that apparently their friends wouldn’t think would work, “that’s why they aren’t coming with us today.”
Just as It’s alluded that the machine works, “without a scratch on our bodies and we bid it farewell/starfish and giant foams greet us with a smile,” Hendrix takes the listener on a trip underwater with an intense psychedelic breakdown; the drums beat like bubbles whizzing by; a loss of sound besides a few strings on guitar at one point mimics the wide-open sea, and a mind melting riff on his guitar signals that Hendrix and his love reached their destination: Atlantis
Hendrix ends the journey chanting “I can hear Atlantis full of cheer,” showing a genuine transition from the war-torn world he escaped from. His imagination shows clearly in this song like no other; his creativity flows in psychedelic imagery. In a BBC review in 2007, music writer Chris Jones said it’s “a stoned classic, utilising washes of backwards tape, jazzy time shifts and far out fish-friendly lyrics to tell the tale of future apocalypse and return to the oceans.”