Are You Experienced (1967) - The Jimi Hendrix Experience - All About the Album ...

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History of the album "Are You Experienced" (1967) by the Jimi Hendrix Experience band

Are You Experienced (1967) is the first album by The Jimi Hendrix Experience. "Are You Experienced" represents the musical debut of the Anglo-American band The Jimi Hendrix Experience, released in May 1967 by UK-based Track Records and in August of the same year in the United States by Reprise Records. It is a bright and effective debut in the development of rock. Thanks to this event, Jimi Hendrix became a new world-class idol. Guitarist magazine awarded the album the leadership in its version of "the most influential in all of music history".

Vinyl record cover of The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Vinyl record cover of The Jimi Hendrix Experience

TV channel VH1 placed him at the 5th position among the best of all time - according to the 2001 version. "Rolling Stone" - at #15 among the top 500 in all of music history. "Creem" - at #6 among the top ten metal albums of the 1960s. "New Musical Express" put it at 29th position. Not so long ago, in 2005, the album was included in the list of national records of the Library of Congress.

The Rise of Jimi Hendrix

Jimi Hendrix, Noel Redding, Mitch Mitchell 1967.
Jimi Hendrix, Noel Redding, Mitch Mitchell 1967.

In reality, Hendrix had a long and difficult road to success. His family was poor, and he grew up a neglected child, closed and extremely sensitive. As a teenager, he received his first acoustic guitar as a gift and began actively trying to play, watching others do it; he listened to music avidly, absorbing the recommendations of those who were more experienced.

At 17, his father handed him an electric guitar. As recalled by his comrades of the time who shared his musical passions, Hendrix learnt incredible acrobatic twists, including playing with his teeth and blindly when the instrument is behind his back, from his friend Raleigh Snipes, who played in the Seattle band "The Sharps". Jimmy immediately adopted Chuck Berry's inimitable manner of walking in stagger, but his idol was Elvis Presley, who came to Seattle in 1957. Hendrix was very partial to blues tunes: he avidly devoured the music of Muddy Waters and B.B. King on his father's records.

Vibrant, musical, inimitable
Vibrant, musical, inimitable

By the time he was 19, Jimmy was having some difficulties with the police: he had been spotted more than once in stolen cars - twice he was arrested for it. He had to choose between a two-year prison sentence or the army. Jimmy chose the second, and ended up in the 101st Airborne Division of the States, which was stationed in Kentucky. This was clearly not an army man: standing on watch, he fell asleep, sleeves later executed orders, often drew attention to himself, shot very mediocre. A year later, his command petitioned for his recall, and Hendricks was only too pleased.

And then began the difficult road to musical Olympus. Hendrix travelled a lot in different states, travelling across America from north to south and from west to east. He was a member of The Isley Brothers, performed with Little Richard. It was the latter who taught Hendrix to wear shouting, provocative clothes, and by analogy with him Jimmy let go of his moustache. Already in 1966, the musician confessed:

"It makes me want to do to the guitar what Little Richard does to his own voice."

A serious intention. Hendrix could already do the famous guitar tricks, playing in various poses. During the performances he played the solo with enthusiasm and virtuosity, which attracted the attention of the fans: they were fascinated by Hendrix, not by the main idol. This was the reason for his dismissal and departure from Little Richard. Jimmy played with several other musicians, made recordings of other bands as a guest performer. The moment came and he formed a band called "Jimmy James and The Blue Flames" - the guys played a lot of gigs in New York clubs.

In the winter of 1966, at one of these performances, Jimmy met Linda Keith, who knew the Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards. She drew the attention of the Rolling Stones' manager Andrew Oldham and producer Seymour Stein to the aspiring musician, but they were clearly not keen on his compositions. Linda put him in touch with Chas Chandler, and that proved to be very helpful. Chandler was finishing his career as a bassist with the then famous The Animals and was hoping to be the manager and producer of someone new. And both of them had their moment in the spotlight.

Jimi Hendrix Experience performed at the House of Culture in Helsinki. Seen here before or after the concert, 1967. Photo: Marjut Valakivi
Jimi Hendrix Experience performed at the House of Culture in Helsinki. Seen here before or after the concert, 1967. Photo: Marjut Valakivi

The Jimi Hendrix Experience and first recordings

Chandler called Hendrix to Britain, signed a contract with him, and then began producing and promoting his band. It consisted of guitarist Noel Redding (bass parts) and drummer Mitch Mitchell, both British. The producer introduced his new mentee into the circle of English rock stars - Pete Townsend of The Who, Eric Clapton of Cream. Clapton's band allowed Hendrix to join them for a jam session, and the friendship between Clapton and Hendrix grew strong enough to last until Jimi's death.

Chandler signed Hendrix's band to the newly formed Track Records label, barely founded by The Who's managers Keith Lambert and Chris Stamp.

Album "Are You Experienced" (1967)

The newcomers released three singles one after another under Chandler's direction, and all of them ended up in the British Top 10. Although the first one - "Hey Joe/Stone Free" - had to be released at Polydor Records (end of 1966), as Track Records had not started its activities officially yet. The following singles were released there - "Purple Haze/51st Anniversary" - as the initial release of the new label, the 40-piece had a specific white label - and "The Wind Cries Mary/Highway Chile" (May 1967).

At the same time the other tracks included in the launch album were recorded. As is the British custom, the songs released as singles were not included in the album, which is why it was released in the May version without them. The album recently made headlines across Europe, reaching number two on the UK charts, and would have had every chance to lead if the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band hadn't been released at the same time, which would have stayed at number one for a long time.

Are You Experienced - The Jimi Hendrix Experience (Track Records/Polydor Records/Reprise Records, 1967)
Are You Experienced - The Jimi Hendrix Experience (Track Records/Polydor Records/Reprise Records, 1967)

Different editions and versions...

On the European continent, the album was released by three different recording studios. The first was Track Records, which designed a distinctive cover with a photo of Bruce Fleming. Another variation was the independent label Barclay Records in France, with a completely different cover featuring a photo of Hendrix on TV against a psychedelic graphic backdrop. The authors of the project also put a question mark in the album title.

Album cover of Are You Experienced -The Jimi Hendrix Experience (Barclay Records, 1967)
Album cover of Are You Experienced -The Jimi Hendrix Experience (Barclay Records, 1967)

Finally, the third variation was the Polydor Records version - in German, Italian and Spanish parts of the European continent, with the original British cover. An important nuance - Jimi Hendrix's name was circled in yellow-green letters, in Italy in red, in Spain in yellow. It was a mono mix.

There are also interesting details when publishing on different continents. In South Africa, for example, Polydor removed the photo images from the cover so as not to provoke the public with the image of a Negro. It was probably the only chance to publish the album there. A plain red envelope with letters on the back. In Japan and on the Australian continent, Polydor released the album with a Track Records cover.

Success, achievements, fame and concerts

When the album was played in European countries and England, Hendrix and his team found themselves as regular idols of many famous TV programmes. Fans such as Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck, Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones and the entire team of The Beatles and The Who were always present during their performances. Hendrix's band began travelling extensively throughout the UK and then the European continent. The peak of Hendrix's career was the performance on 31 March 1967, when in the finale he triggered a short circuit and ceremonially burned his guitar in public. And then, important in the promotion of the tour were materials in which the administration of one hall demanded not to repeat anything like that, otherwise threatening to refuse to hold the concert. Chandler's position was unchanged: he said there would be no compromise.

The final concert before the trip to America, in the summer of 1967, opened with the Beatles' song "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" from the recently released album of the same name. Among the celebrity guests in the audience at the time were McCartney and Harrison, who expressed complete delight at the reading of the song. Although Hendrix's band was well known in Europe, the same could not be said for the States. There, the initial single went unnoticed, and there was no hurry to repeat the experience. McCartney helped by recommending to the organisers that Hendrix be invited to the Monterey Pop Festival in the summer of 1967. This helped to bring the performer and charismatic showman to the thousands of festival-goers and to capture the attention of journalists working during the event. Among other things, the festival was filmed, and then D.A. Pennebaker made a documentary that was shown in American cinemas in 1969. And Hendrix's concert, where he burned his guitar, became a legend.

Vinyl record cover
Vinyl record cover

After the festival there were a few more good shows in the west of America, and then Reprise Records wanted to release Are You Experienced in the States and Canada.

The American version has many significant adjustments. There are no "Red House", "Can You See Me" and "Remember". But three songs that were released as singles in Europe, but were unknown to Americans, are included. These include: "Hey Joe," "Purple Haze" and "The Wind Cries Mary." Hendrix approved the sequence of songs, but "Red House" was removed against his wishes. The argument was that in the States and Latin America blues was not very popular. The cover was changed too - to a more colourful psychedelic design. In the centre was placed a photo of the whole team, taken with a fish-eye lens by pioneering photographer Carl Ferris. Released in the summer of 1967 in stereo and mono versions, the album quickly broke into the charts and stayed there for a year, until the release of the new album.

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