And now for something completely different.
You’ll know by now that I have a thing for the 60s (although my Mother is one of these people that says if you remember the 60s, you weren’t there), and in my opinion Jimi Hendrix embodies the drug addled dandy-ism that I adore about that time.
Nothing quite beats a sultry afternoon in summer listening to the Jimi Hendrix Experience’s Are you Experienced. Ok, so this is England, and those sultry afternoons are few and far between and I listen to this album far more than on the one day of heat. I’ll be honest, I’ve only really ever listened to this album on CD or digitally – an original vinyl copy of it goes for extortionate sums (along with The Who’s My Generation, I really don’t understand). Anyway, I recently found out that there was a collectors copy going cheap and I decided to give it a go.
I’m so glad I did. The difference in the sound was amazing, no really, I was completely and utterly gobsmacked at the difference a vinyl makes.
You can’t fail to know that Jimi Hendrix basically blows every other guitar player out of the water, and I suppose that’s part of his mystique (he’s part of the 27 club don’cha know). This album has the power to move me, in a groovy way rather than a sad way – but somehow listening to it on vinyl just made it even more groooooooovyyyyyy. Sorry, I know I’m repeating that word, but there’s no other way to realistically describe this album.
Released in the Summer of Love of 1967 when the likes of Cream, The Beatles, Pink Floyd, The Velvet Underground and The Doors were all releasing legendary albums, Are You Experienced burst onto the scene and the Jimi Hendrix legend began. The album is frenzied, raw – yet at the same time is beautiful. Listening to the album, you realise that this was an earthquake of a shift away from the likes of Eric Clapton and George Harrison. Forming The Experience with bassist Noel Redding and drummer Mitch Mitchell, the three piece moulded together an incredibly tight sound – Are You Experienced is the master class on managing to blend spot-on lyrics in genres as diverse as: blues, rock, psychedelia and funk (I love that word, funk).
It is almost impossible to pick out stand-out songs from the album, especially as there isn’t a filler track in sight. If I had to pick out any, it would have to be the three main singles (or best known songs to the uninitiated)- the trippy Purple Haze, Hey Joe, The Wind Cries Mary; oh, and I can’t forget Foxy Lady.
As the opener to the album, Purple Haze is as in your face as you could hope to be. It’s as shocking as today as I can only assume it was back in the day. The song doesn’t seek to ease you into the album, it drops you in at the deep end – it is full on psychedelic rock; once you’ve heard this song there’s no going back. With the impressive beats and guitar riffs, you can see why this is one of Hendrix’s most recognisable songs, and one that really exemplifies the age – turn on, tune in and drop out. (Ok, so I’m no music aficionado, but apparently this is the first time we hear the signature Hendrix Chord. I wouldn’t know, but that’s what guitarist friend of mine bangs on about – if that means anything to you, then let me know).
I can’t think of a song that demonstrates the power in Hendrix’s fingers more than in Foxey Lady. I can only imagine sitting down having placed the needle on the record, and hearing that guitar slowly marauding its way through the amp, then breaking through to produce one of the most hypnotic guitar riffs ever created. It’s infectious, if I wasn’t rewinding to this album this week, Foxey Lady would be this week’s earworm.
Another stand out track springs to mind when I think of Are You Experienced: Manic Depression contains hypnotic and frantic drums by Mitchell under a driving rock riff by Hendrix and Redding. Listening to it, you wouldn’t think that this song would set the stage for all the future heavy blues and heavy metal for the the coming decades. I know! Crazy?! Although thankfully, lyrically it is more an expression of romantic frustration than the clinical definition of manic depression…
Whilst my liking of Are You Experienced may be a tad exaggerated, the musical genius and quality of the tracks is anything but over the top. Jimi Hendrix was an amazingly talented and an almost scarily creative man. His tones were unprecedented, and his playing was Godlike. The release of Are You Experienced gained Jimi the notoriety of being revered as one of the most innovative and majestic musicians of all time. And after hearing his debut, I couldn’t agree more.
Stand Out Songs:
- Purple Haze
- Foxey Lady
- 3rd Stone from the Sun
The Knitty Gritty:
The album is available on Spotify, Deezer, iTunes and on CD/Vinyl
Other albums to listen to:
The Velvet Underground & Nico (AKA the one with the Andy Warhol Cover)
Mellow Yellow – Donovan
The Piper at the Gates of Dawn – Pink Floyd