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Chasing Jimi

Chasing Jimi is a rock 'n' roll period piece. It spans one year – the summer of 1966 to the summer of 1967. From New York's Greenwich Village to Swinging London to the stage of the Monterey Pop Festival. It follows the ascension of one Jimmy James, a struggling back-up guitar player, to the exalted throne of Rock-God super stardom.

On the road through merry-old England with the re-named Jimi Hendrix we meet the madcap royalty of the British pop scene. Jimi forms an endearing friendship with Rolling Stones founding member Brian Jones, whose battles with numerous personal demons and plunge from the top mirror Jimi's rise and fascination with the drug culture.

As the Jimi Hendrix Experience gains recognition, Jimi's past associations throw their own stumbling blocks in his path. Contracts signed by him as a hungry studio session musician surface. Jimi's management team are able to put out most of these fires, but one particularly sleazy New York record 'producer' refuses to be bought out, and even goes so far as to send a couple of Brooklyn 'wiseguys' to London to bring back his artist.

Chasing Jimi is The Sopranos meets The Beatles.

Click here to see a promotional poster for Chasing Jimi.


All books are available at all Asia Books & Bookazine stores. Signed copies of all books and CDs are available from the author. For more information please click here.


Bangkok Post
Friday 13 June, 2008
Bernard Trink

Locals like to wear T-shirts with the headshot of a personality covering the front. The thing is that a good many don't know who the pictures are of, even when the identities are captioned. Two of the most popular are of a politico and a musician.

Che Guevara was an Argentinian who helped Castro bring communism to Cuba, shot and killed by federales during his misguided attempt to do the same in Bolivia. Carrying around the image of somebody you admire and respect is one thing, but a bloodthirsty revolutionary?

Jimi Hendrix was an American rock guitarist who became famous after he was 25 and died of an overdose of drugs before he was 30. Though he wrote and recorded songs and appeared at musical festivals, he never achieved the legendary status of Elvis Presley and the Beatles.

Apart from ubiquitous T-shirts, Jimi Hendrix (not his real name, but the one that stuck after a series of nom de plumes came and went) is kept in the public eye less by re-releases of his records than by periodic biographies. A product of the 1960s, the writers are fascinated with that decade's music scene. Chasing Jimi is a case in point. Jim Newport allows that he was a hippy then and already interested in the changing musical forms (e.g., rock 'n' roll, blues, R&B). In time he travelled with bands as a photographer, witnessed and researched the era in the US and UK.

This book combines fiction and fact. It is filled with names of singers, trios, musicians, bands, managers, promoters, club, theatre and outdoor venues. Not to mention instruments, sound equipment, recording studios.

Only a year is focused on: 1966-1967. From the time he left Texas an unknown until his triumph at the Monterey music festival. Much is made of his struggle to make a name for himself then, nothing about his life before or after. For those details about Hendrix look elsewhere.

Hendrix attributed his turn of fortune to being given a Fender Stratocaster guitar by a fan who took it from her boyfriend, Keith Richards. It replaced his ratty Gibson guitar and became his talisman. The author devotes chapters to the stealing of the guitar and the efforts to recover it.

Drinking Jack Daniels bourbon, smoking ganja, taking uppers and downers, Hendrix lost none of his faculties when on-stage. He played the guitar over his head and between his legs. Alas, with many hands in the till, he made little money.

Newport's previous books include The Vampire of Siam trilogy. He is also a production designer for film and television. Those regarding the 1960s as the Golden Age of music will go for Chasing Jimi.

This reviewer would like to read a book about movie music, highlighting Max Steiner. Authors, please note.


Pattaya Mail
Lang Reid
Chasing Jimi Review

Jim Newport is the author of the Vampire of Siam series, but has gone from the vault of the dead to the electrifying life of Jimi Hendrix, best remembered for the number Purple Haze and for drug abuse (as did most of the recording artists in those days - see the wonderful book Black Vinyl, White Powder by Simon Napier-Bell).

Newport has had first hand experience of Jimi Hendrix, working as a band photographer in the 1970's, and the book introduces many of the famous names from that era. The Beatles, the Rolling Stones and especially Brian Jones, Eric Burdon and the Animals and even Mickey Dolenz from the Monkees.

Chasing Jimi (ISBN 978-974-07-1940-3, Willat Publishing, 2008) follows Jimi Hendrix from 1966 to 1967 with a semi-factual but still wonderfully fanciful tale of drug induced 'haze' and probably 'purple' with a pair of goons chasing Jimi and finally stealing his Stratocaster guitar to bring him face to face with Sid Gannet, a music agent with a prior contract with Hendrix when he was still a struggling performer called Jimmy James. Gannet is obviously modeled on Ed Chalpin, a real agent with a real prior contract.

The action is fast paced and the fictional characters well drawn. The 'real' characters are also described in period, such as this one on Brian Jones, "Brian was dressed in eighteenth century finery, velvet frock coat, white frilled blouse. Topped off with a purple feathered boa." Remember Carnaby Street? If you are old enough, then you will.

Jimi's penchant for setting fire to his guitars is given a star billing in the book, with one of his Stratocasters playing a leading role. Jimi Hendrix actually did set fire to many guitars on stage, so again author Jim Newport has taken a fact and woven it into his fictional (but inherently believable) tale.

If you attended the Monterey Festival in 1967, as the author obviously did, you would remember the three days, opened on the Friday with Lew Rawls, Eric Burdon and the (New) Animals and Simon and Garfunkel, followed on the Saturday by the Byrds, Jefferson Airplane and Booker T and the MGs. The finale was the Sunday with Pete Townsend and The Who vying with Jimi for who should go first, eventually settled by the toss of a coin, but of course giant egos such as theirs would not be satisfied by chance.

I have to admit that the Vampire of Siam series by this author was not my favorite pieces of literature and when 'Chasing Jimi' arrived on the reviewer's table I ignored it for a few weeks; however, when I opened it and began reading, I found I was enthralled. Sure, it is a work of 'faction' but it has so much of the color of the era and the performers of the day woven into the dramatic story that it 'could' be true. And much of it is! At B. 599, it is a reasonably heavy ticket for what is in many ways a lightweight book, but I did enjoy it. If you can remember Woodstock, you will enjoy this book.


Tokyo Joe's Website

Last Tuesday's launch of Jim Newport's new novel "Chasing Jimi" was an evening to remember. Attended by the who's who of the Bangkok writing community, newshounds, and many fans of his Ramonne Trilogy, Newport did not disappoint. Following some insight into his meticulous research, he read a few short selections from "Chasing Jimi", a novel that seamlessly blends fact with fiction in a year of Jimi Hendrix's life and the events that propelled him to unprecedented heights in the rock hierarchy.

Dr Blues and the Mercy Street Blues Band set up and Jim joined them as his alter ego/vivid alt Jimmy Fame for a rendition of some Hendrix and Doors favorites. The party continued and if it weren't for the new closing time we could all have been in a mess of trouble.

"Chasing Jimi" is available at all Asia Bookstores, just ask at the counter.


Newport Revisits Hendrix With A Smile
Dr Blues

Jim Newport's latest novel 'Chasing Jimi' takes the reader back to the days of Jimi Hendrix's discovery and recalls the Swinging Sixties better than most…!

"It seems like just a lifetime ago since I was sprawled out at my house on Laurel Canyon in California chuckling as my buddy, the affable Geordie rock star Eric Burdon recalled the smallest details of life with Jimi Hendrix - the man at the centre of his often hilarious recollections of the monster mash that was London in the sixties."

"Like the others hanging on every word, I was enthralled. Burdon fascinated his then herbally-aware audience with his 'I-was-actually-there' account of just what went on when Jimi hit London, the place where the spell-binding guitarist was brought to launch his career by his new manager ex-Animal Chas Chandler. Eric, as front man of The Animals and best mate of Chas soon became fast friends with Jimi too, and the pair were soon sharing digs, essential remedies and hanging out in the fastest city on the planet that was Planet Rock at the time," Newport recalls.

"And let's face it, Jimi has always been the centre of the rock-driven, fearless fashion fool, sex-mad sixties."

"Those stories from Eric set the scene and such a fresh and frank account of the times stayed with me I guess. Then when I was on tour in America with Eric and the Animals, Eric once again regailed us all with the madness of the Sixties and the (s)escapades that he and Jimi and Rolling Stone Brian Jones and Chas and the various girls got up to. Zoot Money was on that tour bus too and he was just as fascinated.

"I guess the seeds for a book were already planted, but back then I had a career in Hollywood ahead of me and a million things to do with women, so it was a while before I got around to writing this book."

In fact today Newport is an internationally renowned writer and an Emmy-nominated movie production designer. His many credits in film production include "Brokedown Palace", "The Stepfather" and "Heart like a Wheel". In 2007 he designed the film "Bangkok Dangerous" starring Nicholas Cage. In 2008, he took over the award-winning ABC TV series "LOST."

His television credits include pilot episodes of "The Lyon's Den", "The Shield", "The Education of Max Bickford" and "China Beach".

His first published book "The Vampire of Siam" was published by Asia Books in 2004, and was followed by "Ramonne" in 2005 and "The Reckoning" in 2006, which completed the trilogy.

That 1983-84 Animals' reunion tour took Newport around continental America and into daily contact with the lads from Newcastle, England and with Eric Burdon in particular. Eric's engaging story-telling soon created something of an expert in Newport of Jimi's last days, but it was not until some of the characters in this new novel-to-be had passed on that Newport could rattle off the facts in a setting of eminently believable fiction.

"Yeah and let's be quite clear here. This a novel in which Jimi Hendrix and a year in his life are the backdrop to what I hope is an amusing but insightful look at Jimi's most important year. Everything in the book is in correct chronological order and lots of it really happened. But the central plot is an amusing fiction centred around (the fact) of how Jimi's former and grasping New York agent/manager tried to get his artist back from Chandler's grip, albeit with a fictional premise."

The story brings to life two shady characters recruited by that pitiful New York manager, and the Mafia-linked pair are sent off to London to knick Jimi's precious Fender Stratocaster to entice him back to the Big Apple.

The fast-paced story that emerges is worthy of a Blues Brothers movie treatment and the book does a great job of taking the reader into the world of sixties rock and roll and the vibe that was Jimi's…and mine and maybe yours' too!


LOSING JIMI – Truth or fiction?
A novelist reflects on the strange death of Jimi Hendrix – 39 years later.
Alasdair Forbes

When James "Tappy" Wright's book Rock Roadie came out in May this year, one of the first to snap up a copy was Jim Newport. Quickly, he leafed through to pages everyone in the business had been talking about – the pages that alleged that, 39 years ago, rock hero Jimi Hendrix died, not of an overdose of sleeping pills and red wine, but was murdered.

Newport had his own book, Chasing Jimi, a semi-fictional romp through the the same era of rock music, published last year. He was riveted by what he read.

Eric Burdon of The Animals, one of Hendrix's closest friend, after reading some lyrics left at the dead star's bedside, had concluded that the death was suicide. Hendrix's girlfriend Monika Dannemann made a variety of contradictory statements, but all pointed to suicide or accidental overdose.

In Rock Roadie, however, Wright accuses Michael Jeffery, a thoroughly unpleasant self-professed ex-spy, a manipulator par excellence and Hendrix's agent and co-manager, of forcing pills and wine down the already unconscious guitarist's throat.

Wright writes that Jeffery admitted to him that he killed Hendrix, after Hendrix had announced that he wanted to end Jeffery's management contract.

John Bannister, the doctor who was called after Hendrix's death, added to the controversy earlier this year, recalling, "The amount of wine that was over him was just extraordinary. Not only was it saturated right through his hair and shirt but his lungs and stomach were absolutely full of wine. I have never seen so much wine…I would have thought there was half a bottle of wine in his hair. He had really drowned in a massive amount of red wine."

Jim Newport was riveted. He knew most of the players in the drama. "I remember I was at Ronnie Scott's [jazz club in London's Soho] and Eric Burdon & War were doing a week there and they had two nights left. Jimi was there with a couple of girls at the back of the room. He was obviously very screwed up. You could see that this guy was gone.

"Later, Eric told me about that night. He said that Jimi wanted to jam but he was so high that Eric told him, 'Don't do this to yourself. Go home and get straightened out and come back tomorrow.'

"I went on a plane the next night to Paris, and I remember one of the first things I saw in the morning was a great big placard in front of a Paris newsstand, with the headline, 'Hendrix is dead.'

"Eric also told me later he got a call from Monika, saying that Jimi was in a bad way, and should she call an ambulance? She was worried, because there were drugs all over the apartment. Eric said, 'Of course – call an ambulance. Then get rid of the drugs.' He himself went over there. He was worried that if Jimi died, things would go missing. So he grabbed a couple of guitars and also a poem by Jimi, which was by the bed.

"The poem ended with the words, 'The story of life is quicker than the wink of an eye. The story of love is hello and goodbye. Until we meet again' Eric knew Jimi was not in a good state. He was being bullied by record companies to do things he didn't want to do and he was deep in debt."

Curtis Knight, in his 1974 biography of Hendrix, confirmed this. He laid out the financial woes of Hendrix's Electric Ladyland recording studio, and quoted Hendrix as saying, just months before he died, "I know I have been spending a lot of money lately but I have also been making a lot of money and I was shocked to learn what my financial situation is. I had a lot of faith in the people that were handling my affairs – I trusted them. But there are definitely going to be some changes made...The vultures have lived off me long enough."

Burdon went on TV for an interview in which, adding all these circumstances together, he came to the conclusion that Jimi had killed himself. But, says Newport, in later years Burdon came to doubt this conclusion.

The malevolent Jeffery died in an air crash in 1973. "Eric had suspicions about Jeffery," Newport says, "and when Jeffery died, a lot of money disappeared – he'd been shoveling money from the Animals, Hendrix, and other bands into offshore accounts and millions were never found. Eric always felt that Jeffery was a devious enough guy to fake his own death and then do a runner with the money."

Jeffery had also, Wright claims, insured Hendrix for $1.8 million. If true, this would provide a solid monetary motive for murder.

The repercussions continue to rumble on. In 1996 Dannemann died, a supposed suicide – though her then-lover alleged foul play. And recently Newport stumbled upon more battles, nearly 40 years after Hendrix's death.

From the crazy rock 'n' roll photographer days, Newport went on to make his living as a highly respected movie production designer. (Bangkok Dangerous, with Nicolas Cage, was his most recent big movie.)

Now living more or less permanently in Phuket, Thailand, he sings blues ("for immediate gratification") and appeared in this year's Phuket Blues Rock Festival as "Jimmy Fame", singing Hendrix songs.

He also writes books. He started with a vampire trilogy set in Thailand before heading off in a completely different direction with Chasing Jimi. With his Hollywood connections he has been discussing with some people in the biz the possibility of turning the book into a TV mini-series.

To do this, he would naturally have to get permission to use some of Hendrix's music. He began to research who owned the rights. And this is where things got darker and murkier. "One of the first things that popped up on the Internet was that Jeffery's estate recently sold the masters and the publishing rights to a bunch of songs for $15 million [to an anonymous buyer].

"[The bidder] paid $15 million to be on the receiving end of a lawsuit," Bob Merlis, a spokesman for Experience Hendrix, said. "If he tries to assert his rights, he will be challenged."

"So even more than 30 years after Jeffery's death people are still fighting over how to make money off Jimi."

The plot thickens. In Chasing Jimi, Newport creates an unpleasantly money-obsessed character he calls Sid Gannet, who chases Jimi through the book, trying to force him to abide by a contract the guitarist signed in his early days as a player on the Chittlin' Circuit.

This character, Newport, says, is loosely based on Ed Chaplin, who signed Hendrix to a three-year management contract in 1965, in return for which Hendrix got $1 and one percent royalty on records made with Curtis Knight. When Hendrix decamped the following year for the UK, signing up with Chas Chandler to manage him, Chaplin started legal proceedings.

In 1969, he won his suit against Hendrix. Chaplin was given the US rights to one album (Band Of Gypsys, specially recorded to settle the suit); a percentage of Hendrix's earnings, past and present; and $1 million up front.

"Apparently, in the end, Chaplin and Jeffery became partners," Newport explains. "And now Chaplin manages the Jeffery estate! So here's another wrinkle to this legend that never stops giving.

"It's led me to think that I've got another book there called Losing Jimi, about his death and the different versions and the mysteries surrounding it. Also, Losing Jimi is an interesting title because a lot of musicians feel that way about it – that they lost something so precious when this guy was gone. The young guys watch his videos and they'll say, 'I wasn't around then, but I still feel I suffered this huge loss.' Eric Burdon always says that the death of Jimi was too much – that he just couldn't get up on stage at that time." He suffered a nervous breakdown shortly after Jimi's demise and left War to carry on the European tour, and ultimately their career, without him.

But before he piles into that, Newport has to get through publication of his latest book, Tinsel Town: Another Rotten Day in Paradise. The first third of this, he says, is autobiographical, before it goes away into "faction". Set in the '70s when independent films were king, and there was plenty of sex and drugs and rock 'n' roll, the book is due out in mid-November from Willat Publishing (Los Angeles).

Then, maybe, it's back to chasing Jimi and trying to track down all those mysteries.


Email. jfamenewport@gmail.com

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