When I was a teenager, I belonged to a record club. Not just any record club, mind you, but the Record Club of America. And though I’m sure that I bought a number of records from them, there’s only one that I actually remember the day I received it in the mail.
That record would be: Electric Ladyland by the Jimi Hendrix Experience.
I can still see that grainy, just-out-of-focus, flaming red and yellow cover photograph/head shot of an emotive, eyes-closed Jimi Hendrix coming out of the brown, corrugated cardboard mailing box.
I’d been waiting for this one.
It was a two-record set, 16 songs in all, and to a small town New Hampshire teenage boy in 1969, the music contained in those vinyl grooves was…
Side A, my first listen.
Whoa. What the heck was that?
The back of the gatefold jacket said: “…AND THE GODS MADE LOVE.”
The last song on the side was something called “Voodoo Chile.”
The liner notes said that Jack Cassidy (from Jefferson Airplane) played bass and Stevie Winwood (from Traffic) played organ on this song with, I assumed, Mitch Mitchell on drums.
It was a 15-minute-long cut and there were cheers, clapping, like it was recorded live in a small club or there was a party going on in the recording studio while the band played. Jimi’s guitar is huge, simply huge, his voice passionate and soulful, sounding like he looked on the record cover.
The music started with a low-string, reverb-drenched guitar riff and slowly built, adding vocals, the organ, bass and drums, through verse, chorus, guitar solo, more chorus, an organ solo and finally climaxed and then slowly dropped down through a drum solo and just when it seemed the song was over, the guitar came back and all of it, not-so-slowly this time, built up again, and let loose with another thunderous, mountain-shattering roar.
End of Side A.
On sides B, C and D, there were more great songs, more mind-boggling sounds, more amazing music unlike any other record I’d ever owned.
“Come On (Part 1),” “Rainy Day, Dream Away,” “Still Raining, Still Dreaming,” “All Along The Watchtower” and (thank you, Jimi!) “Voodoo Chile (Slight Return).”
I am, to this day, in awe as I listen to this music.
This was the third and soon-to-be final release by the Jimi Hendrix Experience. It came out in October of 1968. Jimi died on September 18, 1970 in London, England, where the Experience had been formed on October 6, 1966.
Jimi Hendrix was born James Hendrix in Seattle, Washington, on this day, Novemeber 27, in the year 1942.
No one before him, no one while he was alive, no one since, ever did or, in my mind, ever will play the electric guitar like he did. No one.
I remember hearing Purple Haze for the first time. Fourteen years old and it simply blew me away. Nothing has ever sounded like that, ever….
Jimi Hendrix is one of those few guitarists in history that you always speak in reverent tones when mentioning his name. How many others come to mind that earned that degree of respect and appreciation.
Electric Ladyland was and is one of my favorite albums. It is Hendrix at what I believe was his creative peak, considering his all too brief time with us. Another, gone at 27 years old.
I remember one of my earliest experiments with editing recording tapes, I always wanted to hear the full unbroken version of “Rainy Day, Dream Away”, and “Still Rainin’, Still Dreamin'”. So, I recorded both cuts and spliced them together at a critical point where it could be done seamlessly. Damn I thought I was cool….!
I got to see Jimi once, in the summer of 1970, probably one of the last shows he played in the states before he died. He was with the “Band of Gypsies” at that point, and the opening act was The Illusion, a band know for its lead singer jumping into the audience at the end of their set. Pretty wild. Jimi came out and played his heart out. At one point he blew the speaker enclosure off of one of his Marshalls. It almost knocked him down, as he was quite wasted, but man could he play. At the end, he had to be helped off stage, indicative of what lay in his future.
I wonder what he would/could have evolved into had he lived an appropriate lifespan. He already influenced thousands of guitarists at his young age. Think of what could have been, with a maturing Hendrix, in his 50’s, 60’s,.
It’s a credit to his style, his innovation, that leaves his work still appreicated by new generations, 40 years after his death.