Fifty years ago this week, The Jimmy Hendrix Experience exploded on the scene with the release of their début album Are You Experienced (Track Records), and changed music forever. A critical and commercial success at the time, the album stands today as one of the most innovative and enduring records ever released, with a musical shadow that is still inspiring new guitar players today across every genre of music.
The story of Jimi Hendrix having been a sideman for Little Richard, and American Blues and R & B struck out on his own in the early 60s trying blend the poetry of Bob Dylan, the danger of rock, the rawness and sexuality the blues, and his own incredible performance style is well-known. Totally ignored in the USA, Jimi ended up in London where,, with the help of Chas Chandler of the animals, formed The Experience – drummer Mitch Mitchell and bassist Noel Redding, and started developing the material that would end up on Are You Experienced. Building up on the hype of a string of top ten singles in Europe and further notice in the USA, the release of Are You Experienced was a smash critically. This came at a time when sixties rock was just really finding its footing after the British Invasion, and non-Jazz or Blues rock artists who were African-American were few with the Civil Rights-era racism being what it was.
With his amazing soloing, deft songwriting, and the groundbreaking recording techniques developed by Chandler and engineer Eddie Kramer (on one of his first jobs before his own producing career took off) Jimi wrote an album that remains a masterpiece. Live performances on TV cemented the Hendrix legend and cemented the burgeoning era of psychedelic rock in music and in popular culture. Its release instantly terraformed the extant musical landscape and deeply influencing radical changes in The Beatles, Rolling Stones, The Beach Boys, The Who, Eric Clapton, Pink Floyd, YES, Deep Purple, and setting the table for future artists like Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Rush, Prince, Rick James, Lenny Kravitz, Michael Jackson, Metallica, and more. Although the album is rife with popular hit songs Hendrix is synonymous with like ‘Purple Haze’, ‘Hey Joe’, ‘The Wind Cries Mary’, ‘Foxy Lady’, ‘Manic Depression’ and the title track, the entire album is flawless top to bottom, with inventive writing and techniques that would change guitar playing and album creating to this very day. Jimi would somehow go on to top this album in the future with in his Band of Gypsies project, provide a cultural landmark politically with his performance live at Woodstock `69, and impact generations to come.