I’ve been hedging on Hendrix for a long while now. Substantially more than ninety-nine-and-one-half days, that’s for sure.
Since I first came across the nerdsite, it’s amazed me that no-one’s risen to the challenge. Perhaps, like me, a lack of technical instrumental knowledge has caused everyone to balk at reviewing the guitarist by whom all others are measured, with whom any other player dreams to be mentioned in the same breath, old stagers and young pretenders alike. Jimi Hendrix provides the most concrete before and after in the evolution of the electric guitar, both in terms of technique and technical innovations. A library-load of academic theses have been written on his work, and so-called experts are still trying to work out exactly how he pulled off some of his tricks.
But alright, dig this baby: I’ve been giving the matter some serious mulling over and I’ve made up my mind. After all’s said and done, is it really necessary to be a Cordon Bleu Chef to appreciate haute-cuisine? Does a detailed knowledge of viniculture actually enhance the flavour of a fine wine? I think not — and, over the years, the music of Jimi Hendrix has given me infinitely more pleasure than any fancy food or decent plonk ever have or ever will. While I don’t exactly believe he could’ve knocked down a mountain with the edge of his hand, I’m quite convinced that Jimi Hendrix would’ve sliced Everest clean in two with a guitar lick, had he lived to’ve tried it. But that, as they say, is a different album. So, Are You Experienced? I’m pretty damn sure I am…
Despite his musical activity in the States for five years or more, it took a British manager, a British group and the British public to recognise Hendrix’s genius. Having backed such high-profile acts as Little Richard, the Isleys, and Ike and Tina (being reprimanded for allowing his flamboyance to have him overstep the mark on more than one occasion), Hendrix — still short of his 24th birthday — hit swinging London in the autumn of 1966, hoping to make a name for himself in his own right, and extend his extravagant wardrobe collection along the way.
Mrs Wolfe, mother of the recently resurnamed Randy California, a ‘Blue Flames’ bandmate, had been unconvinced by Jimi’s itching desire to have the 15-year-old accompany him on the trip. Stephen Stills, believed to be in Blighty, was unsuccessfully sought to play bass. It was ex-Animal Chas Chandler who, awed by Hendrix’s virtuoso brilliance, teamed him up with the jazz-grounded drummer John ‘Mitch’ Mitchell and guitarist-turned-bassist Noel Redding. It doesn’t really matter: with no disrespect to any of the musicians with whom he associated, be they in this world or the next, it was always Jimi Hendrix who provided the experience — in tabloid headline capitals.
Chandler wasted little time in getting the band signed to the newly-formed Track Records, who became responsible for their debut album release — in the UK at least. There were considerable differences between the British, European and later American editions: in their track inclusion and ordering, the cover art and even their use of “?” punctuation in the title. This CD issue ties the loose ends together, providing all the songs that appeared on Are You Experienced [?] somewhere or other on the third stone from the sun at the time, along with a few tasty extras.
Different versions and/or mixes of various tracks on different re-releases over the years have further added to the (love or) confusion, as have wrangles over the rights. I’m simply gonna write up the versions I’ve always known and loved, and hope they’re close enough to the mono, stereo, ‘false stereo’ and digitally desecrated diversities bouncing round the cosmos to avoid anyone falling too deeply into manic depression. Issues with track order can be programmed away without too much problem.
Extensive gigging around Britain and Europe rapidly established the Experience as the hottest new act on the scene, with audiences being blown away by Hendrix’s increasingly extravagant performances, not to mention his playing. Three top-ten singles preceded the LP in the UK, but none of the material was included when the album was issued there in May ’67, having been recorded in a mad series of mini-sessions — largely financed by Chas Chandler, putting his money where his mouth was — over the previous six months or so. It peaked at #2, the topspot being obstinately blocked by none other than Sergeant Pepper.
It wasn’t until the Monterey Festival in June, however, that Hendrix gained any recognition on his home turf. Included in the line-up on the Beatles’ recommendation, Jimi seized the opportunity to knock ’em dead: if ever anyone was responsible for putting the ‘show’ into ‘showmanship’, it was Hendrix at Monterey! Decades before, the writer D.H. Lawrence had extolled the virtues of scarlet trousers as an expression of liberation; and Jimi, accompanying his exemplary pair with an ornamental saffron shirt, turned in one of the most compelling, sexually-charged performances in the history of rock ‘n’ roll, topping it off with his legendary guitar-burning ritual.
The LP was hastily scheduled for US/Canadian release in August, including the recuperated 45s at the expense of some of the other material: “Red House”, for example, being omitted due to Reprise Records’ conviction that Americans didn’t like blues music. Hendrix was understandably outraged: for all the psychedelic trickery, feedback fury and jazz-folk tinges on the album, he always considered The Blues to be his purest source of inspiration and feeling. Reinstated as the final theme on this edition, some of the injustice has perhaps been undone.
The tragic fact that he had so few years to share his gift with the world has, undoubtedly, fuelled the Jimi Hendrix legend. What would he have done next, what could he have done with the technological advances he never got to play with? Who can even begin to guess, given the complex diversity of what he did accomplish in so short a time. His relentless inquietude may well have been what drove him, in the words of Faron Young, to ‘live fast, love hard, die young’. But it was that same unceasing quest for something new which fuelled his music, which is why it’s still blowing minds and touching souls, generation after generation, four decades on.
I was just starting infant school as the ‘summer of love’ turned into autumn, so certainly wasn’t in on the initial impact. My son Will painted his silhouette on the back of his jacket when he was seventeen. “Tomorrow, or just the end of time?”
Jimi Hendrix — Are You Experienced?: Track-by-track review
1. “Purple Haze”
The JHE’s second UK single, and Track Records’ white-label debut. Not a bad beginning for either party, it has to be said: Hendrix creating what many regard as his signature tune, and inventing a new chord into the bargain. Which is probably why it opens this recompiled version of the album, despite its non-appearance on the original UK release. No quibbles from this particular reviewer! My modest understanding doesn’t, however, run to explaining the technicalities of ‘The Hendrix Chord’ — suffice to say that, finding the standard A to G musical scale to be a little too limiting, he extended its range to include an H for Hendrix. Something like that, anyway.
Said chord crops up in the brilliantly brutal dissonance of the introductory duel with Noel Redding. Theme song or no, the blazing onslaught which ensues is unmistakable, and remains inimitable. Mitchell has no option but to crank in alongside; his bass pedal marking the palpitating heartbeat, sticks flailing to follow Jimi’s asphyxiating guitar rushes. That thing called Rock would never be the same again.
Though blaming the mental mayhem on a bewitching babe in the lyric, Hendrix claimed that the scenario was lifted from a dream, like many of his songs: in this case an undersea nightmare. The muted mutterings way down in the ocean depths of the mix and his intermittent gasps for air help to bring it on home. ‘Purple Haze, Jesus Saves’.
“Purple Haze” was also the name of one of the most legendary industrial-scale LSD batches to be produced by the ‘counter-chemist’, Owsley Stanley; unleashed on America a year prior to the song which musically matches its reputed intensity. With something like that swimming round your system, you ain’t gonna be able to tell up from down, day from night, or rationalise any other perceptual contrast for that matter! And never mind the mondegreen, you’d have absolutely no reason to excuse yourself for kissing “the sky”, “this guy”, or even “that fly.” A cop, mind you, as he proposes on a live take I picked up recently, could well be a different matter…
2. “Manic Depression”
“Music, sweet music”: that’s what life’s all about, innit?
Yet when the the compulsive quest for its excitement and exhilaration becomes too all-consuming, it’s all too easy to find yourself in a “frustrating mess”. “Ugly music for ugly times” was the way Hendrix defined it, evidently sensitive to the conflicting vibrations of ‘Love’ and ‘Confusion’ which were marking his generation. On a purely personal level, the reconciliation of serious relationships with free-love philosophy was rarely straightforward.
The crazed waltz-time rhythm which drives the song is, in itself, enough to’ve driven the entire Strauss Dynasty into dementia (as it did with Mitch Mitchell’s drumming!) Redding takes the psychiatrist’s role, trying to keep it all together, while Jimi provides not just a class, but the entire coursebook of rock guitar. The feelings that ‘drop from his fingers’ may well not be ‘sweet’, but there are few of them that haven’t been copied by innumerable other players. Rollicking runs, screaming scales and whammy-bar wails, the supreme fusion of rhythm and lead lines; you got the lot here. Enough to have fuelled all things heavy, for better or worse, for the subsequent forty years at least… Pretty sure that ‘Hendrix Chord’ musta got thrown in there somewhere!
Built on a flip-comment which Chandler made about him, Hendrix had already had his share of ups and downs by the time the whirlwind of success started to spin. Mania and depression are extreme diagnoses, but frequent frustrations in his perpetual pursuit of perfection did characterize his itchy-footed impatience: “Really ain’t no use in me hanging around…”
3. “Hey Joe”
Mr Hendrix had quite a habit of recording definitive cover versions: taking somebody else’s songs and making them all his own. “Wild Thing” and “Watchtower” are just two more classic examples, though this — his first excursion into coverville — remains the cream of the crop, for me at least.
“Hey Joe” had been knocking around for years, copyrighted (if not provably penned) by an obscure folkie name of Billy Roberts, and had already been popularly versioned by the Leaves and the Byrds. Given the grimness of the lyric, I’ve never quite equated their up-beat renditions… Arthur Lee claimed that Love’s version influenced Jimi directly, but Arthur Lee claimed a lot of stuff over the years, rest his soul. Tim Rose had slowed it down before, but it’s the majestic Hendrix interpretation (the arrangement credited to Noel Redding) which most perfectly captures the torment of two-timed Joe and his shotgun vengeance. Such status has it achieved, that it’s on the list of prohibited try-out tunes in at least one guitar shop I know. To my mind, only the lushly overladen Randy California take on Spirit of ’76 comes anywhere close. Rest his soul, too. Shit, man: so many great souls gone…
The unmistakable resounding chimes of the intro have the hair standing up all over your body in preparation for Joe’s delerious confession, and Hendrix’s instrumental interjections over the course of the song by turns seem to echo the assassin’s anger, angst and desperation. Sure, “it ain’t too cool” to find your woman “messin’ round town”, but blowin’ her away isn’t precisely ethical either! Mitchell marks the beat with a rifle crack throughout, his recoil rolls also reflecting the fugitive’s rattled mind. The increasing intensity of Jimi’s crashing fret-runs with Redding at the climax have him racing frantically for the border and freedom from the gallows. Then there’re those lush lady vocals at the back, courtesy of the aptly-named Breakaways. Does Joe have a host of guardian angels cruising in to save his neck, or are they the growing calls for justice of his potential jurywomen?
As the Experience’s debut single in the UK (backed with “Stone Free”) it actually went out on Polydor in Dec ’66, financed as well as produced by Chas Chandler, because Track Records was still not fully up-and-running. Neither track was included on the original LP release but “Hey Joe”, at least, did appear on the first American edition — and it’s sure good to have it incorporated in this set!
4. “Love Or Confusion”
For all the idealisation of the 1960s as some kind of a golden age, musically and ideologically, they were turbulent times. Change is rarely smooth: especially for those at the forefront of the proposed new order. Hendrix was clearly no exception:
My heart burns with feelin’
But — woah — my mind is cold and reelin!’
Is this love, baby?
Or is it just confusion?
The music similarly encapsulates the head poundin’ paradoxes of the period. For all the tremolo psychedelia of the drones, do they not evoke a piper’s lament to the passing of the old days’ old ways? And that niggling banjo-style under riff is pure folk! Like the delicate placing of flowers into gun barrels, Hendrix — ably aided and abetted by his rhythm section — succeeds in turning the enemy’s weapons against them. Yet the real question remains to be answered: how far can it all go? Jimi Hendrix, like Icarus, seemed compelled to find out, whatever the cost:
Will it burn me if I touch the sun?
5. “May This Be Love”
Often referred to as ‘Waterfall(s)’, the confusion isn’t really surprising, given the dominance of the cataract in the lyrical landscape (while the title-line doesn’t actually feature at all). Jimi flows some liquid licks into the calmly cascading drum intro, which splashes into the verse and starts the bassline rippling:
Nothing can harm me at all,
My worries seem so very small
With my waterfall…
The laid-back good-time feel continues, lyrically and musically, throughout the delicate beauty of its 3 1/4 mins. It’s a rare and special glimpse of a happy Hendrix, at ease with the world, finding refuge from the pressures of his spiralling fame amongst the mists and rainbows, even content to let the establishment critic brigade go ahead and “laugh at me”.
Not one of his best known tracks: but if you don’t know it, don’t miss it.
6. “I Don’t Live Today”
A cranked-up tribal beat brings in Jimi’s Stratocaster war chant. Hendrix may not have had too much actual contact with his Cherokee heritage, but he repeatedly demonstrated that he had it in his blood. Mitch and Noel obviously couldn’t lay claim to such lineage, but were never shy to go along for the ride.
The lyric’s an indignant protest against the depression of repression. The backing may well recall the plight of the American Indian, but the sentiment holds true for any downtrodden minority group:
Will I live tomorrow?
Well, I just can’t say.
But I know for sure
I don’t live today!
The rhythm section maintains the stomp as Jimi deftly handles the simultaneous rhythm and lead parts. Angry howls of distortion, whammied screams of pain. “There ain’t no life nowhere”, he announces over his climactic barrages of feedback, the bass and drums tumbling almost out of control. And no-one could ever accuse Jimi Hendrix of not looking for life, as he similarly exhorts us to do at the song’s finale: “Are you experienced? Get experienced!”
7. “The Wind Cries Mary”
For all his fame as a feedback-fuelled rock merchant, Jimi Hendrix’s ballads have endured the passage of time equally well. “(The) Wind Cries Mary”, the third UK single, was the first occasion on which Hendrix revealed his soft underbelly, and remains a prime example.
Written after a fall-out with his then girlfriend, Jimi sends his sorrow blowin’ in the wind, “’cause the life that lived is dead.” Hendrix never rated himself as a songwriter — nor a singer — but he had no trouble here in projecting his blue-lighted images of laughterless clowns, weeping queens and wifeless kings, with a shiveringly cool poignancy:
A broom is drearily sweeping
up the broken pieces of yesterday’s life…
Maybe the quarrel was over the question of fidelity, as Jimi seems to swear loyalty in the lyric: this name, on his list of flames, “will be the last”. Kathy Etchingham (whose middle name was indeed ‘Mary’) was successfully re-entranced by the spell: they remained an item for a while longer at least — in an open-plan, swinging sixties sort of way. Needless to say, promises apart, she wasn’t Jimi’s ultimate lover. The enchantment of the music, on the other hand, survives for eternity.
The band put down what was intended to be a demo track during leftover time on the “Fire” session. And so it would have remained, ‘to be continued’, had Hendrix not suddenly thought of an overdub — spontaneously recorded — “to fill in the sound between the notes.” Three further flashes of gap-fill inspiration were subsequently overlaid, mixing all manner of musical styles to brew a potion all his own: the entire process taking less than twenty minutes!
Equally incredibly, neither Noel nor Mitch had actually heard the song before, and were literally making it up on the spot. Mitchell’s swishing cymbals call up the breeze, punctuated by snare-cracks of desperation, with Redding’s subdued, melodic bassline carrying the mournful aeolian lament. It’s a testimony to the rapidness with which the trio developed their telepathy: an unrepeatable ‘experience’
“Awlright — now dig this baby!” You may be forgiven for assuming that the relentlessly raunchy “Let me stand next to your fire” is a straightforward manifestation of libidinous lust, but if you think Jimi was getting the hots for Noel Redding’s mum, then it must be your brains that got burnt!
The actual object of desire was, quite literally, the good Mrs R’s hearthside — the boys having gone back to crash after their gig on the sub-zero New Year’s Eve of 1966. One can only assume that nightlife in Folkestone was a little limited back then: and there was certainly no M20 motorway back up to the London clubs. “Nuvvacuppatea, anyone?” The family pooch, keeping Jimi from the heat, gave rise to that wonderful “Move over Rover” quip. It does, however, sound as though he’d begun to acquire something of a taste for traditional English milk stout during his few short months in the country: “You say your mom ain’t home, that ain’t Mackeson’s…”
But so much for innocent inspirations (and silly soundalikes): of course “Fire” is about more exotic ways of warming yourself up. Jimi did at least have his girlfriend with him that cold night on the Channel Coast! As with his come ons to the “Foxy Lady”, he’s completely cocksure of himself here, both in the uncompromising ‘burning/itching desire’ of the lyric, and the swaggering strut of the soundtrack. Not even Redding’s urgent backing vocal can distract him from his goal.
The sizzling and screaming of the guitar-fuelled passion have the throbbing bass struggling to keep up at times, and Mitchell’s agility is pushed to the point of contortion. Incredibly, it got even faster and heavier during successive live renditions, often a show-opener, with the searing solo generally being subjected to extensive and extended experimentations.
9. “Third Stone From The Sun”
A slurry slowed-down radio interchange between Scoutship Pilot Chas and Starfleet Jimi opens this instrumental spacetrip, over a shimmering intro and assorted daft vocal sound effects, which come and go throughout the voyage. The two pseudo-aliens had an out of this world time getting it together, if their fits of giggles on an alternate take are anything to go by! This was the first recorded expression of Hendrix’s sci-fi fascination: to be continued with “Laughing Sam”, “EXP” and other extraterrestrial etceterae.
“In orbit around the third planet of star known as sun” (that’s us, y’know), “known to have some form of intelligent species” (which may or may not be us…) Fasten your safety belts, it’s an ‘acid-drop flight’ and, at close on seven minutes, the longest track on the album. Down in the engine-room, Mitchell and Redding have everything firing to perfection as Hendrix takes the helm, reporting back his findings of “beautiful grassy green”, “silvery seas” and “mysterious mountains.” His silky-smooth jazz motif glides majestically through the feedback turbulence and solid rock Stratshowers. Chief Engineer Chandler, like Scotty on the ‘Enterprise’, has the machinery doing things it was never designed for.
Spaced-out weirdness aside, the fusion of musical styles on “3rd Stone” make it an essential example of the kind of crossover experimentation which made Hendrix stand out so galactically from his peers. One thing’s for sure: once you’ve subjected yourself to something like this “you’ll never hear surf music again…”
10. “Foxey Lady”
OK, everybody knows there are orthographical differences between British and American English. No problem. Nevertheless, both Webster’s and The OED alike concur that “foxy” = “sexy”, while “foxey [arch.]” means “putrid”. Does anyone really think that Jimi Hendrix would’ve been wasting his precious time sniffing round a fetid female?!! It was a misprint on the original US issue (probably creditable to the same imbecile who considered “Red House” to be unfit for inclusion) yet somehow it continues in circulation. After 40+ years, you’d think someone would get it sorted out!
Right, having got(ten) that off my chest, down to the review…
The bubbling testosterone of an intro boils over in a puddle of feedback, then slams into one of the biggest ball-bursting riffs ever to’ve been extracted from a guitar (or bass or drumkit either). “Foxy!” Resistance is futile, Hendrix ain’t messin’ round:
I’ve made up my mind…
…you’ve got to be all mine
Throbbing, grinding, bucking, pumping; it’s difficult to describe without getting porno: especially with all the groaning and panting going on in the background. Politically correct the approach most certainly isn’t, but it never seemed to hamper Hendrix’s hit-rate with the chicks back in the Sixties he never saw turn out to be Nineties. The man himself did confess that he overstated things a little in the lecherous lyric, which was largely written from ad-libs during a jam session. Shucks, he probably didn’t need no chat-up lines in any case.
Replete with that legendary ‘H-Chord’ it was the opening track on the original British LP, “comin’ t’ getcha!”
11. “Are You Experienced?”
If you can just get your mind together, then come on across to me…
Hendrix’s whole life — musical and personal — was dedicated to breaking down the barriers to the expansion of existence. His innate urge to test the ‘if’ at the centre of life was undoubtedly what fated him to sustain it for such a short time; packing a billion years of ‘experience’ (the pun all his) into just around ten thousand terrestrial days.
The challenges issued to all dwellers in mundanity in this, the title track; musically as well as ideologically; have always led me to consider it as his key-signature, even displacing “Purple Haze”.
Musically: the cerebral and spiritual massage administered by the interfused forward and reversed guitar/drum tracks leaves you open not to the concept that “Tomorrow Never Knows”, but rather ‘let’s see Today what Tomorrow has to offer.’ The crushing, crashing chords, in whatever direction they fall — be they in the key of H or J or just plain D — were wielded to demolish all that had gone before; ringing its deathknell in the same act. It sounds arch-radical still now: I, child born in the sixties, can only begin to imagine how wild it must have come across as the first styli traversed those original vinyl pressings.
Lyrically, Jimi echoes the call of his great word-hero, Zimmy: “Get out of the new road if you can’t lend a hand”. Only Hendrix isn’t merely informing that “The times they are a’ changing”, he’s exhorting us to be the change.
Trumpets and violins I can hear in the distance,
I think they’re callin’ our name.
Maybe now you can’t hear them,
but you will if you just
take hold of my hand
In the times which he was living, ‘lysergic liberation’ was evidently the most commonly taken shortcut to getting experienced; though Hendrix doesn’t regard it as a mandatory requirement. Come as you are: “Not necessarily stoned, but beautiful…”
12. “Stone Free”
The B-side of “Hey Joe” in Britain, this tune had to wait another two years to make a 45 in the States (backing “If 6 Was 9”). It wasn’t included on the original album on either side of The Pond, though has graced a plethora of compilations, and fully deserves its inclusion on this extended version.
The result of Hendrix being pressured by Chandler to come up with a self-composed flipside for the debut single, it was the first song that Hendrix penned after arriving in London, and the chorus seems to sum up his intentions in making the move:
Stone free, to ride the breeze,
Stone free to do what I please!
That said, it’s also an anthem to his eternal restlessness:
You can’t hold me down,
I don’t want to be tied down,
I gotta be free!
Standing still is tantamount to stagnation: “Stone Free” shows a stiff middle finger to the finger-pointing straight cats, and not even the women who throw themselves at him everywhere he stops for gas offer sufficient attraction to hold him “in a plastic cage.”
Musically, the getaway car careers along at around 150. The ringing harmonics of the intro crank the ignition key, the bass guitar splutters the engine into life, and Mitchell’s cowbell has the pistons clanking relentlessly. The gear-shifts are fit for Formula 1; Jimi’s guitar strings squealing with the tyres, leaving us in a swirling cloud of tremelo exhaust fumes and fed-back road dust.
The recording process, always a shoestring job in those early days, was equally break-neck: a few run-throughs in a less costly rehearsal room, then in the can in just an hour!
13. “51st Anniversary”
In his continuing mission to challenge Establishment Ideologies, here it’s the institution of marriage which comes in for Hendrix’s crossfire. It’s not so much an all-out attack, more the well-aimed sniping affirmation that “I ain’t ready, I ain’t ready, I ain’t ready!”
Musically and lyrically, it’s well-placed on this extended version of the album, echoing both “Stone Free” and “Highway Chile”, which sandwich it (though none of them actually appeared on the original releases in Britain or America). A chunky funky rhythm ‘n’ blues riff carries the argument relentlessly, dropping down to a wagging finger of a pulse for the incredulous rhetoric of the refrain:
So you say you wanna be marrried?!!
Let’s think about this a minute, girl! For every Happy Golden Anniversary that comes round, there’re a hundred struggling families and strained relationships, chained and tied. Hell, babe: there’ll be plenty time for all that later on in life… Had, of course, he been granted the time.
Let me live
-a little while longer…
14. “Highway Chile”
Originally released as the flipside of “The Wind Cries Mary”, its grating R&B; drive was in deliberate contrast to the lush ballad. Unreleased on the original LP, it’s good to have it recuperated on this edition after decades of relegation to compilations.
Said to have been inspired by a latter-day hobo he’d met on the road in the States, Hendrix evidently felt more than a little affinity with the wandering spirit:
Now you may call him a tramp,
But it goes a little deeper than that:
He’s a highway chile,
One more brother, yeah!
That old ‘rolling stone’ adage is quoted in full as hazy details are given of the intriguing Johnny Guitar character’s past-life, the days before “he left the world behind.” The chuntering road-rhythm is worthy of any ride down “Route 66” , “Highway 61” — or any other Interstate, for that matter — and the chord-clashing squeal which serves as an intro and punctuates the trip comes across like an outraged warcry for recognition and respect to be conceded, if not for some kind of justice to be done.
Walk on brother
Don’t let no one stop you!
15. “Can You See Me”
A good question (with or without the question mark). It’s not actually that easy to keep Hendrix in focus here, veering off on the craziest of side-tracks with all the velocity of “a freight train comin’ from a thousand miles.”
Noel and Mitch keep it pretty much on the rails, “Shaking All Over” with the effort; except, of course, for those wild 250 mph out-of-gear whammy-curves which precede each incredulous “can you see me?!!” break, rendering both of them soundless every time. And then there’s that short but oh so sweet solo — oh yeah, you’d better open up you ears!
Jimi was, needless to say, something of a peacock. ‘Can you see me?’ in a crowd was never really a problem, and it’s his peacock pride which permeates the whole of the lyric here. ‘Do you honestly believe it’s for me to apologise? Get a life, girl, get back here where you belong! The Cavalier uncompromise of the sentiment may well sound a little ‘chauv’ these days — but it has to be recalled that Hendrix was swinging the sixties further than anyone since the Beatles had started the game. And pride, as everybody knows, normally comes before a fall…
If you don’t know the album, it’s unlikely that you’ll be familiar with this little number, which is as good a reason to get Experienced as any.
Jilted Jimi serves us with a souped-up Soul lament. Aw shucks: even the birds and the bees are with him in his despondancy:
Since my baby left me they ain’t sang in two long days!
Redding’s boosted bassline chugs it along, both Mitch and Jimi remaining remarkably restrained — for them (though maybe it’s just that the maestro makes the soloing sound so damn simple!) The intensity rises with a series of subtle rhythmic shifts as Hendrix urges ‘Baby’ to “Come on, stop jiving around, hurry home”, so he can feed on her kisses.
I’ve no idea if the inspiration came from a real row with his lady, as did “The Wind Cries Mary”; but, if it was the case, I reckon this passionate plea would have surely had Kathy come home!
17. “Red House”
Surely one of the slinkiest, sexiest blues ever to have issued from an electric guitar!
The tantalising slow tease of an intro gets the goosebumps bumping, then you’re slammed into submission as Jimi smacks up the intensity. And there you willingly remain for the duration.
The rhythm section nail down the underlying drowsy blues rhythm, though never allow it to nail them; leaving Hendrix at liberty to unleash his lightning fret-runs and sensuous sustain, cat and mousing his vocal to devastating effect. Little wonder it remained a staple of his live repertoire! Stage takes abound: he turned it out on just five strings at Woodstock.
‘The easiest kinda music to play, the hardest to feel,’ was how he always defined the genre, constantly seeking to capture the definitive ‘New Blues’. The scenario is well inside Wolf territory: dang gal’s gone an’ up an’ left me. Even changed the darn lock. Yet Hendrix prevents the Waters from becoming too Muddy with his characteristic laid-back good humour. No time for sitting round Howling in the New Blues. It’s a simple matter of priorities, as he points out before launching into one of the most scintillating of all his spine-tingling solos: “That’s alright, I still got my guitar!” Anyway, why waste time whining when, back yonder over the hill, you know damn well you’ve got her (big fat-butt) sister waiting to give you the warmest of welcomes…
Reprise Records, however, failed to recognise the novelty (and brilliance) under their noses, rejecting the track for US release on the basis that ‘American listeners don’t like blues music.’ Understandably outraged, Hendrix tried to challenge the execs, though his little man protests were to no avail. Another part of the reason, perhaps, that he continued to flaunt it so flagrantly on stage, from Winterland to Wight. Don’t recall hearing no booing on any of the renditions I’ve heard, either, whichever side of The Pond.
Were you to tie me down and threaten to hack off my limbs with a celery stick if I didn’t single out just one Jimi Hendrix song as my all-time favourite, this — in all it’s manifold versions — would probably be the one. Having said that, I’d probably lose at least an arm umming and ahhing it…
Are You Experienced? by Jimi Hendrix
“Love Or Confusion”
“May This Be Love”
“I Don’t Live Today”
“The Wind Cries Mary”
“Third Stone From The Sun”
“Are You Experienced?”
“Can You See Me”