As of May 12, 2017, Jimi Hendrix’s legendary album Are You Experienced is 50 years old. Not only was Hendrix’s 1967 masterpiece one of the most successful debut albums ever to be released, it is still regarded as one of the greatest albums in history by music fans and experts around the world. At the very least, Are You Experienced is regarded as a classic album that sits proudly amongst The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars and Sticky Fingers, while its most avid fans consider the album sacred.
This is easy to understand, especially when we consider the album’s role in rock iconography and cultural impact. The album is part of the very foundation of music as we know it today. For many music fans, Are You Experienced is more memorable than The Beatles’ Abbey Road iconic cover and the music videos produced for the album surpass Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” Even the Grateful Dead’s bears, Bob Marley’s dreadlocks and Jim Morrison’s nude undulating can’t compete.
The album has a prominent American theme, but the combination of blues, rock and R&B was instantly embraced by London’s 1960s psychedelic scene as well as the U.S. one. Though to understand how this came about, it is important to know about the legendary guitarist’s journey from James Marshall Hendrix to Jimi Hendrix.
Born in Seattle on November 27, 1942, Jimi Hendrix had a typical, yet challenging start in life. By 1965, he had already become a high school dropout, an army paratrooper and had toured the country as a guitarist with the likes of Little Richard and the Isley Brothers. Hendrix was struggling to get his career as a solo artist off the ground in New York City when Keith Richard’s girlfriend at the time introduced him to the Rolling Stones’ manager Andrew Loog Oldham. After Oldham cast Hendrix adrift, he auditioned in front of Chas Chandler, formerly of the Animals, who was instantly impressed by the guitarist’s skill. Soon after, he became Hendrix’s manager and took him to London.
After just a few weeks in England and with Chandler’s aid, Hendrix had formed the Jimi Hendrix Experience band alongside English bassist Noel Redding and drummer Mitch Mitchell. Interestingly enough, Mitchell was not the only choice when it came to drummers as Aynsley Dunbar of Journey had also auditioned. As Hendrix liked them both, he simply flipped a coin and Mitchell ended up joining the band.
Almost immediately, the band began recording what would eventually become Experienced. Though the album sounds cohesive and the music tends to flow easily throughout, there were some problems during the five months it took to record. The band had to get to know each other’s styles quickly, and Mitchell was even on the edge of being fired for showing up late all the time. Recording studio locations also became a problem, as they had to relocate three times from CBS, Olympic and De Lane Lea. They had to move from the latter as it was situated above a bank and Hendrix’s loud amplifiers caused malfunctions to occur on their computers. Still, as 1966 came to a close, the band had managed to record music and was playing to audiences all over Europe between track recordings.
Finally, Are You Experienced was released, featuring the hits “Foxy Lady,” “Purple Haze” and “The Wind Cries Mary” just to name a few. Hendrix’s signature vocal style and innovative guitar chords are utterly unmistakable, unlike anything else before them. The very first track the band recorded, a “Hey Joe” by Billy Roberts cover, featured Marshall amps stacked and turned up to full volume while Jimi’s guitar flowed with Redding’s R&B bass and Mitchell’s wild drumming. Meanwhile, songs like “The Wind Cries Mary” are completely different, soft ballads that allow listeners to get inside Hendrix’s mind and experience a moment in his life.
The music wasn’t the only thing that was innovative either, as it was just as technically profound. For instance, the title track features backing sounds that were created by playing tapes into headphones near a microphone. There are also up to five guitar tracks layered over one another on some songs, some of which use the octave-doubling pedal the Octavia, which was created specifically for Hendrix by technician Roger Mayer. Others have amps at full volume, reversed tracks and studio techniques such as distancing microphones from instruments.
Almost instantly, the world responded to these forward-thinking methods and Hendrix’s LP managed to stay in the UK Charts for a total of 33 weeks. In the States, it reached the fifth spot on the Billboard 200 and stayed in the charts for 106 weeks – 76 of which were spent in the top 40. To this day, Experienced remains in the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry and in 1992, the album was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, a reminder to the world of just how significant it was and still is.
Needless to say, though Hendrix’s career spanned just four years and took place almost half a century ago, there is no understating his impact on the world. In addition to Are You Experienced, his cover of the “Star-Spangled Banner” and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band remain staples throughout many music genres, while his other original works consist of almost every style and music technique you can think of. A total of three Hendrix albums are often cited by Rolling Stone as some of the greatest albums of all-time, these being Experienced, Axis: Bold As Live and Electric Ladyland.
Due to how successful Hendrix became, he was even able to influence some of the other incredibly famous artists that we also know and love. Jeff Beck, John Mayer, John Frusciante, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Kenny Wayne Shepherd are just some of the artists that have deep connections to the guitarist. Perhaps even more impressive is the fact Hendrix even has a chord named after him, which is often featured in songs today. The E7#9 appears in both “Foxy Lady” and “Purple Haze” on Are You Experienced.
Of course, Jimi Hendrix lives on in more than just his music due to dedicated fans. As recently as 2013, film director John Ridley released Jimi: All is by My Side, a biopic centered on Hendrix’s life, his rise to fame and his lasting legacy. In 2016, Hendrix even received his own iGaming title in the form of a NetEnt Rocks Trilogy video slot machine, alongside Guns N’ Roses and Motorhead-themed games. The slot features animated versions of Hendrix himself, as well as psychedelic reel symbols and many of his most popular songs. Unsurprisingly, Hendrix’s casino game is popular among players and operators alike, with Ladbrokes offering 10 free spins and £500 bonuses to new players who visit Oddschecker and wish to play the game.
Before Jimi Hendrix’s career came to a tragic end on September 18, 1970, he had become a true rock star, a celebrity that could not and will probably never be matched. He smashed instruments up and set them on fire while he played live, and was even known to play with his teeth — something that was entirely new. He demolished boundaries that had been perceived for years not only in music, but also in how people of different races and cultures digest and create music. Yet, despite all of his success, Are You Experienced still remains his defining accomplishment as nothing in this world could ever overshadow such an electric creation. It is more than an album … it is a psychedelic, musical movement and part of the foundation upon which rock is built.