Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Random Rock Star Moment #13: Noel Redding

"I'm stone free, I do what I please..."

In 1996 Umlaut and Skychick traveled to Ireland for the first time. Renting a car in Dublin we drove through the center of the Emerald Isle and then took the road heading south. After passing through Cork, we found ourselves in the village of Clonakilty.

While walking around the village I noticed a flyer for an upcoming show by the Noel Redding Band in a local pub. The music geek in my head immediately shouted "Noel Redding?! Bass player of the Jimi Hendrix Experience?! What's he doing in this Irish village?! Shouldn't he be in swingin' London living off his Rock 'N Roll Legacy?!"

For those not up on their Rock History: Redding laid down the bottom end on the mighty trinity of Jimi Hendrix Experience albums Are You Experienced?, Axis: Bold As Love, and Electric Ladyland.... And on songs such as 'Purple Haze', 'Stone Free', 'Foxy Lady', 'Fire', 'Spanish Castle Magic', 'Little Wing', 'If 6 Was 9', 'Castles Made Of Sand', 'Crosstown Traffic', 'Voodoo Chile', 'All Along The Watchtower', etc. etc. I'm sure many of you readers have tripped out on his bass lines while stoned. If not, light one up and listen to 'Purple Haze' and zone on the bass. Fuck yeah...

Later that day, while visiting a local silversmith just outside of town, I asked the owner and his daughter about Redding. They informed us that Noel had been living in Clonakilty for several years and the pub where he was playing was his regular hangout. However, the circumstances surrounding how he ended up in Clonakilty were sad:

Evidently he'd fallen into drugs as many former Rock Stars do... but eventually he met a woman who pulled him out of the darkness, helped him get clean, and he got back into playing music. He formed a new band and toured pubs and clubs around England and Ireland. It was on one such trek that there was a freak accident. The band's van was either rear ended or had to stop suddenly and the equipment was not properly secured. The amps, etc. were thrown forward and hit Redding's girlfriend in the back of the head. The blow killed her instantly. Since the accident happened in the area, Redding simply stayed in the village to grieve and never left. And that, as the story went, is how Noel Redding ended up in the village of Clonakilty, County Cork, Ireland.

To be truthful, I've never researched to see if this story was true. Its tragedy was so romantically Rock 'N Roll that I've just let sleeping dogs lie.

Anyway, later that evening we made our way to the pub called De Barra where Redding was due to play. There was Hendrix memorabilia and photos scattered on the walls.. including a Gold Album award for Are You Experienced?. Nice.

As I stood at the bar waiting for our pints I noticed a short man come out of a back room. He proceeded to walk past me and I noticed he was wearing a Late Night With David Letterman jacket. It was Noel Redding. The first thing that came to my mind was "Where's the 'Fro?"

The Jimi Hendrix Experience - 1967 (Noel & 'Fro on right)

After a bit I had to visit the loo.. The pisshole was empty as I took my position... and who should enter and stand next to me to also heed the call of nature but.. Noel Redding. DOH. So... what do you say to a Rock Star when you find yourself in such a situation? Think fast... Upon completion of our duty I casually asked Redding "What time are you going on?" and he professionally replied "In about 10 minutes.."

Lock 'N Loll! Cue intro to 'Purple Haze'...

What followed was as far removed from Hendrix burning his guitar onstage as you could possibly get.. Redding took the stage with a simple 4 piece band and they proceeded to play nothing but cover songs. Beatles, Elvis Costello, Van Morrison, etc. The pub was crowded with locals who whooped and hollered after every song. Pints came and went. At one point in the middle of a song Redding stepped off the stage, still strumming his guitar, and walked over to the bar for another pint. He then returned to the stage without missing a beat.

Noel Redding @ De Barra (Pic by Umlaut)

It was a nice evening. Ya know, maybe it isn't better to burn out than to fade away. Fading away is more dignified. Redding had already seen a million faces, and he had rocked them all. He was playing music for the right reasons: A pint with friends. The neighbors from his village having a good time. F-U-N.

"And so castles made of sand melt into the sea, eventually..." [CLICK FOR LINK]

Added 7/13/06:

Hi, I just read your piece on Noel, nice piece. I came across it while randomly surfing for something else. Noel and Carol Appleby had lived in Clonakilty in a mouldering old farm house for many years prior to the accident. It was particularly tragic as Noel and Carol were really getting everything together, money was starting to come in, the book was a success, the recording studio was built and the both seemed contented. They gigged most friday nights, Saturday nights and Sunday mornings in various pubs in the town and surrounding areas if they weren't touring. The gigs had an eclectic mix of musicians and styles. A typical Sunday morning gig in Shanley's could have 10 or 12 musicians of various styles and experience from the "young guy who had only owned his guitar for 6 months and was still learning (me)" to international stars from Noel's past. No egos were allowed and everybody played their piece. It didn't matter who you were, you were just there because you enjoyed the music.

He is still truly missed in the area and he is still spoken of with great affection. It is mainly because of Noel's influence in Clonakilty since 1972 that Clonakilty has such a thriving live music scene today. Have a look at the line-up for the Clonakilty International Guitar Festival. Here's the link to the Pub De Barra's that you were in



Eric Bell, Nick Harper, Preston Reed, Louis Stewart, Jeff Martin, John Spillane, Bill Shanley, Clive Barnes, Frankie Lane, George Lowden, Thomas Leeb, Richard Gilewitz, Matt Churchill, Paul Brady (TBC) and more to be announced soon.

Would like to thank all who took part in last years festival and look forward to seeing you again this year. If you have any comments or queries about the festival please contact us. If however you are interested in a Cd (€10) or t-Shirt (€10) + p/p from the festival please email us and we will accommodate you.


www.clonguitarfest.com Coming Soon

Billy Shanley, one of the headliners mentioned in the piece above would have been a kid of 10 years when he started getting guitar lessons from Noel. Now there are 5 or 6 of his gold and platinum discs adorning the walls of his family's pub, Shanley's in Clonakilty.


David Ryan
Clonakilty, Ireland