The short life and spellbinding music of Jimi Hendrix have been well covered by other writers, and, with the exception of some new and dreary information about his death, there are not a lot of surprises in Wild Thing ... the real value of his book lies in the almost casual comments he offers about Jimi’s one-of-a-kind brand of rock ’n’ roll ... Music is notoriously difficult to translate into words, but Mr. Norman comes close again and again ... This is a sad book, but Jimi Hendrix’s music is too original to be anything like sad. There’s something not quite of this world about it.
Wild Thing is good on Hendrix’s meteoric impact on Swinging London (and then the world), the crater he left in consciousness. It’s not quite as good on the precise electric-acoustic dimensions of that crater. But that’s always the challenge with Hendrix: How to describe, how to even verbally gesture at, the extraordinary sounds he made? Or to reconcile this diffident, melancholy man with the Promethean audacity of his art? ... Racism is almost a fully formed character in Wild Thing, popping up all over with demonic buoyancy ... Norman is sensitive to the racial context, except when he isn’t ... Where Wild Thing succeeds, sometimes spectacularly, is in its retelling of the Hendrix fairy tale ... a sadness sets in as one reads the last two chapters of Wild Thing. It’s the sensation of Hendrix slipping out of the story, out of this world, out of the hands of another biographer.
Always entertaining, if a little glib in places, the Sixties chronicler Philip Norman tells an archetypal crash-and-burn story of sex, drugs, rock’n’roll, dodgy gangster managers, debauched tours, bitter feuds, more sex, more drugs and even more sex ... Hendrix effortlessly attracted an army of girlfriends and groupies. Itemised with an unsensational eye in Wild Thing, his erotic exploits eventually start to feel comically absurd ... Norman’s forte is his pithy use of anecdote ... Wild Thing has less to say about Hendrix’s richer and deeper impact as a sonic innovator and counterculture figurehead. In fairness, Norman does make an effort to locate the rocker within the racial politics of his day ... Norman himself can be tone deaf on race at times ... Norman never met Hendrix, who falls outside his usual focus on the white founding fathers of British blues rock. That perhaps explains the uncertain tone of Wild Thing, which feels like the work of a capable chronicler rather than an impassioned devotee. Indeed, the author pads out his observations on Hendrix with tangentially related Beatles, Stones and Clapton anecdotes, as if struggling for a sure footing outside his comfort zone. Wild Thing brings few fresh insights to the table ... Most glaringly, the author skimps on serious analysis of Hendrix’s music or lyrics ... That said, Norman’s instinct for reportage serves him well in addressing Hendrix’s death ... There have been many superior books on Hendrix, and Norman has written better pop biographies than this, but Wild Thing is still an engaging memorial to a rock revolutionary whose music, in contrast to many of his revered Sixties peers, retains much of its explosively thrilling voodoo power.