The importance of Are You Experienced cannot be overstated. It is one of the most important albums in rock history. It marked the debut of the Jimi Hendrix Experience and it was an inspiration for future rock guitarists.
The making one of the best rock albums of all-time is layered with some fascinating history. A mind-bending collection of songs proved to be an embodiment of the Summer of Love in 1967.
Jimmy James Was Before Jimi Hendrix
Before the Experience was relevant, Jimi was playing under a different name. The man named Jimmy James was living life in New York City. This was around the same time that Chas Chandler, former member of the Animals, saw the icon play.
Soon after, they agreed to let Chandler manager Hendrix, with the musician becoming Jimi and reinventing his last name.
Noel Redding Was A Guitarist Before Switching To Bass
Growing up, Redding played guitar. The musician from the southeastern coast of England played lead in a number of bands throughout the sixties. Eventually, he would switch to bass to join the Experience in 1966.
However, he did use his bass talent for “Red House” which is featured on the U.K. edition of Are You Experienced?
Mitch Mitchell And Aynsley Dunbar Both Auditioned To Join The Experience
As the story goes, drummers Aynsley and Mitch both auditioned to join the band. Hendrix took an immediate liking to both of them, so their fate would lead to something drastic. A coin toss ultimately selected Mitchell to join the band thanks to having experience in jazz.
As for Dunbar, he played with Frank Zappa.
Mitchell showing up late to rehearsals almost cost him the gig of his life.
Dick Rowe Has Some Notable Signings To His Credit
The chairman of Decca Records A&R signed acts like the Rolling Stones, but he’s more known for his blunders. Rowe infamously rejected The Beatles, and he even turned down the newly formed Experienced band in the fall of 1966.
The band would release the album with Track Records, a company formed by Who managers Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp.
The Relationship With Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp
The Experience’s relationship with Lambert and Stamp wasn’t their only Who connection. As a matter of fact, Mitch Mitchell drummed with the band a few years earlier. Mitchell was the drummer just before The Who went with Keith Moon.
This all came about when Hendrix was writing “Foxy Lady” which was about Heather Taylor, the future wife of Roger Daltrey.
Mitch Almost Got Ditched For Someone Else
With Mitchell being from West London, he was nearly booted from the Experience. He was nearly fired due to being late to rehearsals and recording sessions. Hendrix and Redding went ahead and auditioned John Banks, and offered him the gig to replace Mitchell.
However, Banks rejected the offer because of air travel.
Mitchell’s irresponsibility and other things almost made one of the members quit altogether.
Creative Input Was Limited For Redding And Mitchell
Despite the pair being in the band, their creativity was put on hold. Chas Chandler, former member of the Animals, had grown to dislike the democratic nature of his old band. Instead, he wanted Hendrix to lead the way.
But, due to his experience playing bass, Redding got some direct help from Chandler.
They Would Soon Prove Their Worth In Other Ways
Both Mitchell and Redding had no songwriting input on the album. However, the two proved their worth by how quickly they could learn Hendrix’s songs. When it came time to record the album, Chandler canceled any rehearsal time since the trio didn’t need it.
Instead, the three of them recorded the basic track for “The Wind Cries Mary” in one take.
Hendrix Threatened To Quit Altogether
The frontman was in an argument with his manager over the volume levels in the studio. According to John McDermott in Ultimate Hendrix, Jimisaid, “If I can’t play as loud as I want, I might as well go back to New York.”
When Chandler presented his immigration papers and passport, Hendrix laughed, saying “All right, you called my bluff.”
Read ahead to see what Hendrix introduced on “Purple Haze.” Hint: guitarists still use it today!
When Recording The Album, They Did Some Significant Damage
The Experience was so loud, it almost caused major damage. Not really though, but maybe. De Lane Lea Studios was located under a bank. Considering it had its early forms of computers, the band didn’t realize, or care, that they could have really messed things up.
They would play so loud that the machines from the banks would start to malfunction.
Hendrix’s Novice Song Writing Skills Took Inspiration From Anywhere
Chandler encouraged the frontman to begin writing songs, and “Fire” was one of them. It wasn’t the result of incendiary passion, but a desire to get warm on a cold night at Redding’s parent’s house.
The song “Move over Rover and Let Jimi Take Over” was about him getting the family dog to make room next to the fireplace.
Hendrix Introduced The Octavia Pedal On The Album
This guitar pedal was explicitly made for Hendrix by the technician himself, Roger Mayer. The effects of the pedal doubles the guitar sound with the same pitch an octave higher or lower, and adds some fuzz.
You can easily hear it on the guitar solos for “Purple Haze” and it’s a technique that is still used to this day.
The song “I Don’t Live Today” helped popularize a famous guitar effect.
No One Expected The Spanish Inquisition To Be Relevant To The Album
It’s safe to say that the Seattle native wasn’t a troubadour during the era of the Spanish Inquisition. In the opening for “Purple Haze”, there’s a tritone which was eventually banned by the Catholic Church in that era.
Although the sound was perceived as demonic, it’s no different on the song “Spanish Castle Magic.”
Purple Haze Was NOT About Drugs
Although many fans believe it is, “Purple Haze” has no reference to drugs. In fact, Hendrix wrote the song about a long, rambling dream he had. In the dream, he encountered Jesus Christ, who saved the guitarist while he was walking underwater.
The original title of the song was “Purple Haze, Jesus Saves.”
One Of Their Songs Helped Popularize The Wah-Wah Guitar Effect
“I Don’t Live Today” helped popularize the “wah-wah” guitar effect. At that point, the infamous guitar pedal didn’t even exist. For the solo part of the song, Hendrix created the spectral glide, which sounded like a voice saying “wah-wah.”
The sound would inspire Vox to create the wah-wah pedal, and the rest is history.
That same song is actually a tribute to Hendrix’s background, and more.
The Album Was Recorded In Three Studios Thanks To Chandler’s Issue
CBS, Olympic Studios, and De Lane Lea were all used to record the iconic album. The reason why is because of Chandler’s shortage of money. Despite being a fresh face to management, the former Animals member thought he could pay for time upon completion of the album.
Running into difficulties, owners demanded payment as soon as possible.
Hendrix Might Have Been Too Honest With Some Of The Band’s Fans
The term “Loose lips might sink ships” applies to the late Hendrix. After shows or events, he would let out when and where the Experience would next be recording.
It didn’t do any damage, but the studio employees weren’t keen on it because they had to make sure people wouldn’t interrupt the recording process.
Hendrix Dedicated The Song To One Specific Group Of People
“I Don’t Live Today” is dedicated to the American Indian. With is despairing lyrics, Hendrix pays tribute to what he believes was his Cherokee heritage. The artist was one-eighth Cherokee because of his paternal grandmother.
She claimed that she had Native American blood, but it’s been called into question to this day.
Despite popularity in the UK, someone wasn’t so sure Hendrix would be a hit in North America.
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Yes, that’s Are You Experienced spelled backward. The effect, which sounds a lot like a record scratching, is a popular pop music technique. The technique would not exist for another decade.
But, the title track made the song incredibly hard to play live, especially for Mitchell, who was on drums.
Horst Schmaltz Was Shocked By How The Album Came Out
Due to the experimental nature of the music, it’s no surprise that Chandler was nervous playing the finished product. Once he played it for the record company, the manager was shocked by the reaction of Host Schmaltz.
The head of Polydor called the LP brilliant, and made sure both the band and record would be promoted greatly.
American Record Companies Weren’t Sure If Hendrix Would Be A Hit
“Hey Joe”, “Purple Haze”, and “The Wind Cries Mary” were popular singles from the album. However, the record company, Reprise, became convinced by the trio’s wild performance at the Monterey Pop Festival.
Unlike the U.K. edition, the U.S. version included the singles “Red House,” “Can You See Me,” and “Remember.”
A one-hit wonder band faced trouble for using the interpolated riff from “Third Stone From the Sun.”
Polydor Was A Little Bit Too Excited To Release It
As mentioned before, the head of Polydor was excited for Are You Experienced. The distributor released the album a little bit too early. Track Records was surprised when an error caused 2,000 copies to be sent to London stores.
This came two weeks before the planned release, May 12, 1967.
The Alternative Album Cover
The “Experience Afro” came about from a photo shoot. This was for the U.S. cover of the album as Hendrix asked for a new sleeve.
The frontman wasn’t a big fan of the U.K. cover. Hendrix and Redding already had afro-like hair, but they were in a similar style for the shoot. Meanwhile, for Mitchell, got his hair permed to match his bandmates.
Musicians Owe Their Success To Hendrix And His Band
For Right Said Fred, a one-hit wonder duo, eventually came out with the popular song “I’m Too Sexy,” which became a novelty hit in the nineties. However, the interpolated riff from “Third Stone From the Sun” was a contribution of guitarist Rob Manzoli.
Once the single hit the charts, the Hendrix Estate soon contacted the duo.
Jimi will forever be one of the best guitarists of all-time. He even has a chord named after him from two songs from the album. “Foxy Lady” and “Purple Haze” found Hendrix playing an E7 #9 chord, something rarely heard in rock songs.
The harmonic device was used by jazz musicians prior to Hendrix becoming identified with it after 1967.