Hendrix Releases Acid Rock Album

The heavy psychedelic blues and guitar virtuosity of Jimi Hendrix created a new rock genre called “acid rock” and pointed the way to the fusion and heavy metal genres.

Summary of Event

When Are You Experienced? was released in the United Kingdom in May, 1967, the rock revolution of the 1960’s in many respects had yet to reach its fullest flowering. Bob Dylan Dylan, Bob had recorded his classic trilogy combining visionary lyrics with folk rock; the Beatles had released Revolver, which fused a psychedelic pop sound with Dylan-influenced lyrics; and the Rolling Stones had recorded Aftermath, but nothing like the slabs of sound and feedback thrown from Jimi Hendrix’s guitar Guitars, electric
Music;electrified instruments had been heard. Music;rock
Acid rock
Rock and roll
Are You Experienced? (Hendrix)
[kw]Hendrix Releases Acid Rock Album Are You Experienced? (May 12, 1967)
[kw]Acid Rock Album Are You Experienced?, Hendrix Releases (May 12, 1967)
[kw]Rock Album Are You Experienced?, Hendrix Releases Acid (May 12, 1967)
[kw]Are You Experienced?, Hendrix Releases Acid Rock Album (May 12, 1967)
Acid rock
Rock and roll
Are You Experienced? (Hendrix)
[g]Europe;May 12, 1967: Hendrix Releases Acid Rock Album Are You Experienced?[09270]
[g]United Kingdom;May 12, 1967: Hendrix Releases Acid Rock Album Are You Experienced?[09270]
[c]Music;May 12, 1967: Hendrix Releases Acid Rock Album Are You Experienced?[09270]
[c]Cultural and intellectual history;May 12, 1967: Hendrix Releases Acid Rock Album Are You Experienced?[09270]
[c]Popular culture;May 12, 1967: Hendrix Releases Acid Rock Album Are You Experienced?[09270]
Hendrix, Jimi
Chandler, Chas
Mitchell, Mitch
Redding, Noel

The drug-influenced lyrics and aggressive sexuality of Are You Experienced? were accompanied by pounding rhythms and heavy guitar feedback, slashing power chords, and screaming guitar leads. Hendrix’s manager, Chas Chandler, took advantage in his production of recent advances in recording-studio technology to create stereo effects that complemented the otherworldly textures Hendrix summoned from his guitar. On the instrumental “Third Stone from the Sun,” “Third Stone from the Sun” (Hendrix)[Third Stone from the Sun] Hendrix created science-fiction paintings in sound over Mitch Mitchell’s jazzy drums; on the album’s title track, Hendrix played a howling guitar lead that sounded as if it were being played backward. It was a distinctive sound that some have labeled “psychedelic blues.”

In the months prior to the album’s release, Hendrix had become a sensation in England, guided by the careful management of Chandler, the former bassist for the Animals, a popular British rock band. Before Chandler heard him playing in Greenwich Village, Hendrix had honed his skills for years as a sideman for the Isley Brothers, Little Richard, and many others, listening to the great blues guitarists and taking what he liked from each of their styles. By the mid-1960’s, the Seattle-born Hendrix was living in New York City and playing small Greenwich Village bars. He became interested in the possibilities of guitar feedback after hearing recordings of the Who, while his discovery of Dylan influenced Hendrix’s lyrics and convinced him that his voice was good enough to front a band.

When Hendrix’s first band, the Jimi Hendrix Experience Jimi Hendrix Experience , played the Monterey International Pop Festival in June, 1967, Hendrix amazed an American audience only distantly familiar with his work by doing an innovative cover of Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone,” playing his guitar behind his back and with his teeth, and lighting his guitar on fire and smashing it at the end of his set. Sales of Are You Experienced? took off. The album stayed on the Billboard charts for 106 weeks and sold more than one million copies.

The rest of Hendrix’s life is the archetypal story of the 1960’s rock star. He toured incessantly, breaking box-office records, and continued experimenting with music. He saw the Mothers of Invention using a wah-wah pedal Wah-wah pedal[Wah wah pedal] , a foot-controlled guitar attachment that radically changes the timbre of the instrument, and was soon using it so well that many associate the device with his music. The wah-wah and Hendrix’s songwriting skills were prominently featured on his more restrained second album, Axis: Bold as Love (1968) Axis (Hendrix) .

On his third album, the double set Electric Ladyland
Electric Ladyland (Hendrix) (1968), Hendrix broke away from the formula of his first two albums. Several tracks are long jams with other musicians such as keyboard player Steve Winwood of Traffic, bassist Jack Casady of the Jefferson Airplane, and old friend Buddy Miles Miles, Buddy , a drummer. Some songs use multiple tracks of wah-wah guitar, while others display jazz and soul influences. Hendrix at this time was reportedly the highest-paid act in rock, with concerts grossing a minimum of $50,000 per show.

Hendrix’s personal life, however, was falling apart. He was spending money on cars that he would quickly destroy in accidents; he often got violently drunk and was taking ever-larger amounts of drugs. Despite his artistic success, Hendrix was beginning to feel trapped in the role of guitar hero. He was tired of constant touring, of playing “Purple Haze” “Purple Haze” (Hendrix)[Purple Haze] and his other early hits over and over again for audiences who were not interested in his newer material. He wanted to branch out and play with a variety of other musicians. His band and his management, however, did not want to tamper with a winning formula. Hendrix’s desire to change styles led to disagreements with Chandler and fights with bassist Noel Redding, who barely appears on Electric Ladyland. In the wake of such controversy, the Jimi Hendrix Experience broke up, and Hendrix began playing with Miles and another old friend, Billy Cox Cox, Billy , on bass.

At the Woodstock Music and Art Fair Woodstock Music and Art Fair (1969) in August, 1969, with the Vietnam protests in full swing, Hendrix gave one of his most memorable performances, one indelibly associated with the counterculture United States;counterculture
Counterculture;music of the 1960’s. On the final day of the festival, shortly after dawn, Hendrix climaxed a brief set by playing a free-form version of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” “Star-Spangled Banner, The” (Key)[Star Spangled Banner, The] Using his trademark feedback and vibrato bar (“whammy bar”) effects, Hendrix caused his guitar to howl and explode with the sounds of jets and falling bombs, turning the patriotic anthem on its head to capture the frustrations and contradictions of the 1960’s generation.

On January 1, 1970, Hendrix recorded the live Band of Gypsys
Band of Gypsys (Hendrix) album with Cox and Miles. Chandler was worried, fearing that this all-black band would alienate Hendrix’s mostly white audience. The uneven Band of Gypsys included “Machine Gun,” “Machine Gun” (Hendrix)[Machine Gun (Hendrix)] a virtuoso display in which Hendrix made his guitar sound like a machine gun and again imitated the sounds of falling bombs.

After Woodstock, Hendrix worked on concert films and began recording material for a new double album. He was in bad shape as the result of his constant drug use, however, and felt more trapped than ever by his earlier image. He wanted to straighten out his life by switching to new management and taking his music in a different direction. He had been playing with diverse musicians and wanted to continue to grow as an artist. Hendrix was interested in writing for and playing with a big band, and he had arranged for rehearsals to begin with Gil Evans and his orchestra in late September of 1970.

It never happened. On September 18, 1970, at the age of twenty-seven, Hendrix choked to death after taking too many sleeping pills. Many believe that he was on the threshold of a major new direction that may have found him playing with avant-garde jazz musicians. His last true studio album, The Cry of Love, Cry of Love, The (Hendrix) taken from studio material recorded in the months before his death, was released shortly thereafter; the album found Hendrix turning away from hard rock and feedback in favor of bluesy songs.


Hendrix’s mature period lasted only four years, but his work has had a tremendous effect on rock and jazz, and to a lesser degree, blues and soul. Many critics believe that Hendrix was the single most important instrumentalist in the history of rock and consider the scope of his influence equal to that of musicians such as Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, and Bob Dylan.

If Muddy Waters Waters, Muddy updated Delta blues by picking up the tempo and adding electric amplification, Hendrix updated Waters’s urban blues by integrating it with rock and turning the amplification into howling feedback, using a whammy bar to mimic the glissando of the slide guitar favored by many old bluesmen, and modifying the tone with wah-wah pedals, fuzz boxes, and other technological tricks. While the hardware Hendrix used is primitive by later standards, he demonstrated persuasively that technology had much to offer musicians, and his constant experimentation with guitar sound and texture was the precursor to the work of Pat Metheny, David Gilmour of Pink Floyd, and Robert Fripp and Adrian Belew of King Crimson.

An entire generation of young guitarists was influenced by Hendrix. His influence is easily discernible, for example, in the work of Robin Trower, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Nils Lofgren, three prominent guitarists who rose to stardom after his death. Virtually anyone who modifies instruments with a wah-wah pedal is influenced by Hendrix’s use of the device. Despite the excellent use of the wah-wah pedal by Eric Clapton and Frank Zappa at about the same time, the wah-wah’s distinctive sound has become indelibly linked with the lead guitar style of Hendrix.

Hendrix imitators sprang up quickly. Blue Cheer Blue Cheer , a power trio that was also fronted by overdriven guitar manipulated by a whammy bar, put out its first album about a year after Hendrix did. The vicious wah-wah guitar on the first two Stooges Stooges, the (musical group) albums, recorded in 1969 and 1970, shows how quickly some of the more superficial elements of Hendrix’s style were assimilated by other guitarists. More than anyone else, he was the master, the standard by which other guitarists were judged. The long guitar solos of late 1960’s and 1970’s rock were partly an outgrowth of Hendrix’s live style, as the guitar-hero image Hendrix helped create led to the glorification of guitar technique. Heavy-metal bands picked up on Hendrix’s use of feedback, overdriven amplifiers, and power chords. Later guitarists such as Eddie Van Halen are flashy descendants of Hendrix.

In the early 1970’s, bands with a guitar-centered sound inspired by Hendrix flourished. Frank Marino, the guitarist of the heavy-metal trio Mahogany Rush, even claimed to have been visited by Hendrix’s ghost. While heavy metal evolved principally from the work of Clapton and other British blues-rock musicians, the genre’s heavy guitar sound is virtually unthinkable without Hendrix. Rock guitarists as diverse as Neal Schon of Journey and Brian May of Queen owe debts to Hendrix, as do jazz guitarists Lee Ritenour and Metheny.

The funkier sound Hendrix used with the Band of Gypsys was an important influence on the psychedelic soul records of the late 1960’s and 1970’s, including the work of Curtis Mayfield and Sly and the Family Stone. Albums by the Isley Brothers from the late 1960’s on also bear Hendrix’s stamp. Funkadelic’s free-form music, with its numerous guitarists playing over a groove, also was affected by Hendrix’s sound, as was their flamboyant dress. Prince owes a similar debt to Hendrix.

When Are You Experienced? was released, jazz had not assimilated the possibilities of electric guitar to anywhere near the degree that rock had. Many jazz musicians, however, took note of Hendrix’s phrasings, the textures and sounds of his guitar, and the way he incorporated elements of jazz into rock. Hendrix, whose own guitar sound was influenced by the saxophone playing of John Coltrane, often played guitar in a way that made the instrument sound like a horn. This guitar/horn sound influenced a generation of jazz guitarists in the 1970’s and 1980’s.

By the time of Hendrix’s death, jazz was beginning to explore the use of the electric guitar and other elements of rock. In the late 1960’s, Miles Davis Davis, Miles began to unite elements of rock with jazz, giving rise to the genre known as fusion. Hendrix played with many of the musicians who played on Davis’s groundbreaking 1969 album, Bitches Brew. Bitches Brew (Davis) On Bitches Brew and on several albums from the 1970’s, Davis is clearly influenced by Hendrix’s work, even processing his trumpet and organ through a wah-wah pedal. Davis said at the time that he would have used Hendrix as the guitarist for his 1975 release Agharta.

According to the prestigious jazz magazine Down Beat, most jazz-rock fusion musicians cited Hendrix, along with Coltrane and Davis, as their major influence. Jazz guitarist Al DiMeola, who was a teenager when Are You Experienced? came out, has related how the sounds Hendrix wrung from his guitar were a primary influence. The funky, multitracked sound used for several pieces on The Cry of Love were an influence on the electric Prime Time band that Ornette Coleman formed during the 1970’s.

Finally, Hendrix’s skill as a song interpreter sometimes influenced even those who wrote the original songs. When Dylan rerecorded his “All Along the Watchtower” “All Along the Watchtower” (Dylan)[All Along the Watchtower] in 1974, his new arrangement was clearly inspired by the powerful version of that song that Hendrix recorded on Electric Ladyland. Music;rock
Acid rock
Rock and roll
Are You Experienced? (Hendrix)

Further Reading

  • Egan, Sean. Jimi Hendrix and the Making of “Are You Experienced.” Chicago: A Cappella, 2002. A biographical history of Hendrix and the making of his album Are You Experienced? Part of the Vinyl Frontier series.
  • Henderson, David.’Scuse Me While I Kiss the Sky. Rev. ed. New York: Bantam Books, 1996. A long, worshipful biography containing many interviews with relatives and friends who provide many anecdotes. Takes a long look at Hendrix’s early years. Includes many of Hendrix’s song lyrics.
  • Hopkins, Jerry. Hit and Run. New York: Perigee Books, 1983. This biography contains the most material on Hendrix’s family and childhood and makes some attempt to re-create the atmosphere in which he grew up. Hopkins examines Hendrix’s early influences and brief Army service. The bulk of the book, on Hendrix’s brief career, delves into how chaotic Hendrix’s adult life was and dwells on the drugs and groupies that seemed to follow him everywhere.
  • Mahon, Maureen. Right to Rock: The Black Rock Coalition and the Cultural Politics of Race. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2004. Argues for a rethinking of the place of blacks in the history and making of rock music, with foci on “the connections between race and music, identity and authenticity, art and politics, and power and change.”
  • Milkowski, Bill. “Jimi Hendrix: The Jazz Connection.” Down Beat 49 (October, 1982). Examines Hendrix’s influence on jazz. Includes a number of interviews with jazz musicians who discuss the effect his work had on their music and that of their peers.
  • Murray, Charles Shaar. Crosstown Traffic: Jimi Hendrix and Post-War Pop. New ed. London: Faber, 2001. By far the best book examining the stylistic currents Hendrix absorbed and influenced. Murray devotes one chapter to Hendrix’s biography and one chapter each to the musical currents with which he was involved: blues, soul, and jazz. Other chapters examine where Hendrix fit into the 1960’s as a cultural movement and look at the contradictions in being a black artist performing for a mostly white audience.
  • Sampson, Victor. Hendrix. New York: Proteus Books, 1984. A brief biography that skips quickly over Hendrix’s childhood, mostly covering the essential events of his career. Contains a large selection of black-and-white and color photographs. Also includes a thorough discography.
  • Smith, Richard R. Fender: The Sound Heard ’Round the World. Milwaukee, Wis.: H. Leonard, 2003. Comprehensive, illustrated study of Fender electric guitars, used by Hendrix and others. Examines the guitars’ design, history, and effects on popular music. Index.
  • Waksman, Steve. “Black Sound, Black Body: Jimi Hendrix, the Electric Guitar, and the Meaning of Blackness.” In the Popular Music Studies Reader, edited by Andy Bennett, Barry Shank, and Jason Toynbee. New York: Routledge, 2006. Part of a comprehensive collection of essays analyzing the culture of popular music, Waksman’s essay looks at the intersections of Hendrix’s music, his musicianship, and the experience of blackness in the context of this “new” kind of music.

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