What makes a song a classic? What make a classic an anthem? Can a small group of friends build their own classics and have their own anthems? Sure they can.
That is how I came to know How Would You Feel? by Curtis Knight (featuring Jimi Hendrix) It wasn’t a widely known record (not sure it is now but I’ve had my perspective permanently tilted by the following story) and these days, if you find a copy the credits have switched places. Widely available on CD or download as part of the Jimi Hendrix PPX Recordings collection Curtis is now his Sidekick’s plus one and it’s Jimi’s name writ large on the spine.
“This is a song that asks a question and if you listen I think you’ll get the message”
This was not the case in 1965 when they pressed record on Curtis Knight and The Squires laying down some righteous rawkus rock and roll preacher man style. A civil rights anthem in the making this is a huge hit of the 60’s in my personal minds ear.
“He might look at you funny, but he takes your money then he says ‘hey you’re not one of us, sit at the back of the bus’, tell me how would you feel? If you were me, how would you feel?”
Once Hendrix had made his name just two short years later the crude cash grab of issuing the same few recordings over and over in repackaged and rejigged formats became an industry in itself. How Would You Feel? was out there as part of Get That Feeling, as a single with interchangeable Curtis and Jimi, Jimi feat. Curtis credits and on compilations and knock offs.
Curtis Knight may have milked the brush with greatness he had dry in a truly old school Detroit way, but let that not over shadow the fact he made a brilliant track here with How Would You Feel?
When I was but a callow youth of 19 I moved into a flat share with another guy called Steve, his buddy Nick and my buddy Dan. The four of us were a band of brothers for a good 18 months and we had a good thing going in our flat above a hairdressers and off licence. The Bramford Road Regulators would turn up at any party and throw down. Often dressed as characters from Monty Python sketches or decked out in matching head-wear. We loved raw rock and roll records like this one.
The other Steve was the oldest amongst us and had his ‘cool’ down pat. He was the front-man of our group and he looked every inch the rock and roll god. He had a huge vinyl collection and an absurdly good turntable and speaker set up. Steve was our leader. Fellow Essex Boy Dan spent his hours getting to grips with his guitar (playing riffs from Siamese Dream and Bleach over and over) and growing his hair incredibly long in the room next to Steve’s. I slept down the hall in a converted 70’s batchelor pad style living room with an inbuilt bar, a safe and a crazy chandelier light feature. I was across the hall from natural comedian and talented artist Nick.
Steve used to wake the house hold up when we had arrangements to attend with his cranked speakers and this song. He was nuts for the intro on How Would You Feel? Who wouldn’t be? It’s primal guttural rock music, with righteous grandstanding verses and a killer solo.
It reminds me of hangovers, friendship, college days and rushing into the room at the front of the flat to bare our asses out of the first floor window when the double decker bus passed on it’s way to The Catholic Girls School. Not quite the legacy Knight or Hendrix had hoped when they laid down the recording I suspect. The song must have found it’s way into millions of different homes through myriad ways in the last 50 plus years though. So there we are. Day 3 of Jimi Hendrix week.
Bramford Road Regulators! Mount Up!