JIMI HENDRIX THE MAN WHO CHANGED MUSIC.
JIMI HENDRIX THE MAN WHO CHANGED MUSIC.
On the 4th of July 1970, Jimi Hendrix journeyed 100 miles south of Atlanta. His destination was the second Atlanta International Pop Festival, which was being billed as the second Woodstock. That was where The Jimi Hendrix Experience were about play a starring role.
When The Jimi Hendrix Experience arrived at the Atlanta International Pop Festival, they were greeted by a crowd estimated to be between 300,000-400,000. What is now remembered as the “last great rock festival” was an unlikely event for Jimi Hendrix to appear at.
Byron, in Atlanta was in the heart of old the Deep South. This was Klan country. Racial tensions were always threatening to bubble over. The organisers of the 1970 Atlanta Pop Festival were well aware of this. So they made the conscious decision that the star of the show should be someone who appealed to everyone. This wasn’t going to be easy.
So the organisers set about thinking of an artist or band who would appeal to both sides of the racial, cultural and socio political divide. This wasn’t going be easy.
The organisers had to think how the audience would respond to certain artists, bands or situations. How would a rural audience in the Deep South feel about the so called long haired, hippie bands? Or how would they respond to black and white artists on the same bill? That could inflame an already volatile situation. While some promoters would’ve avoided this situation, the organisers of the Atlanta Pop Festival wanted to challenge the beliefs held by many of their potential audience. So, they booked a man who would unite the audience with the his music and his message of universal love, Jimi Hendrix.
It wasn’t just Jimi Hendrix that would star at the second Atlanta Pop Festival. No. On 4th of July 1970, the Jimi Hendrix Experience had reformed, and would playing a supporting role as Jimi Hendrix delivered a musical masterclass.
Accompanied by bassist Billy Cox and drummer Mitch Mitchell, Jimi Hendrix showman extraordinaire and guitar virtuoso had the huge audience spellbound as he worked his way through classics like Foxy Lady, Hey Joe and Purple Haze, plus a cover version of Bob Dylan’s All Along The Watchtower. Jimi even showcased songs from his next album, which was going to feature Room Full Of Mirrors, Freedom, Hear My Train A-Comin’ and Hey Baby (New Rising Sun) were heard by many for the first time. Then as fireworks exploded, Jimi launched into a rendition of The Star Spangled Banner. He wasn’t finished yet, and returned for an encore of Straight Ahead. When he left the stage that night, nobody realised that the second Atlanta Pop Festival would be the last major American concert Jimi Hendrix would play at. Ten weeks later on 18th September 1970, Jimi Hendrix was pronounced dead. He was just twenty-seven.
For Jimi Hendrix the last three years had been a whirlwind. He took music by storm when The Jimi Hendrix released their debut album Are You Experienced? in 1967. Music was never the same after the release of Are You Experienced?
Are You Experienced?
That was apparent from The Jimi Hendrix’s 1967 explosive debut album Are You Experienced. It featured the debut of the legendary power trio of drummer Mitch Mitchell, bassist Noel Redding and guitarist Jimi Hendrix. They fused rock and psychedelia on eleven tracks penned by Jimi Hendrix.
The eleven tracks that became Are You Experienced, were recorded between October and April 1966. Three London studios were used, De Lane Lea Studios, CBS, and Olympic Studios. That’s where The Jimi Hendrix Experience recorded their debut album Are You Experienced, which was produced by Chas Chandler. Once it was completed, it was released in Britain in May 1967.
When Are You Experienced was released, it was hailed as one of the greatest debut rock albums. It showcased an innovative fusion of rock and psychedelia. At the heart of the Are You Experienced’s sound was the freewheeling sound of Jimi Hendrix’s guitar. He could do things other guitarists could only dream of. Add to the equation Jimi’s languid, charismatic vocal and it’s no surprise that Are You Experienced was such a huge commercial success.
When Are You Experienced was released in Britain, in May 1967, it reached number two. This resulted in a gold disc for the Jimi Hendrix Experience. No wonder. Are You Experienced featured future Jimi Hendrix classics like Foxy Lady, Third Stone from the Sun and Are You Experienced? Three months later, in August 1967, Are You Experienced was released in the US. It reached number five, and was certified platinum five times over. For Jimi, this was the start of a three year period where he could do no wrong.
Axis: Bold As Love.
Seven months later, on 1st December 1967, the Jimi Hendrix Experience returned with their sophomore album Axis: Bold As Love in the UK. It featured thirteen tracks. Twelve were penned by Jimi. These tracks showed Jimi evolving as a songwriter. He may have just been twenty-five, but he was a talented songwriter. Proof of this were tracks like Spanish Castle Magic, Wait Until Tomorrow, Castles Made of Sand and Bold As Love. They featured Jimi coming of age as a songwriter. These songs were recorded at Olympic Studios, London.
Recording of Axis: Bold As Love took place at Olympic Studios, London. The sessions took place during May, June and October 1967. Axis: Bold As Love had to be released during 1967. The contract that the Jimi Hendrix Experience had signed stipulated this. Ironically, the album was nearly lost. However, Axis: Bold As Love was only released in Britain in December 1967.
One night, Jimi Hendrix took the master tapes to side one home. Unfortunately, Jimi left them in a taxi. The master tapes were never found. This resulted in side one being mixed again. This didn’t delay the release of Axis: Bold As Love.
Axis: Bold As Love, was released in Britain, on 1st December 1967. It was released to the same critical acclaim as Are You Experienced. Critics ran out of superlatives in an attempt to describe Axis: Bold As Love. Jimi was described as some sort of musical messiah, who had music’s future in his hands. Record buyers agreed with the critics description of Axis: Bold As Love.
When Axis: Bold As Love was released in Britain, it reached number five and was certified silver. Then on January 15th 1968, Axis: Bold As Love was released in America. However, Axis: Bold As Love hadn’t been released in America during 1967.
There was a reason for this. The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s record company were scared this would affect sales of Are You Experienced. So Axis: Bold As Love wasn’t released in America until January 1968. When it was released, it reached number three in the US Billboard 200 and was certified platinum. Although not as successful as Are You Experienced, Jimi Hendrix was riding the crest of a musical wave.
By October 1968, when The Jimi Hendrix Experience released Electric Ladyland, Jimi Hendrix was one of the most successful musicians in the world. His albums sold by the million, and when The Jimi Hendrix Experience played live, they were one of the hottest live acts. This showed when Electric Ladyland was released.
Unlike The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s two previous albums, Electric Ladyland was an ambitious double album. It featured sixteen songs. Thirteen songs were penned by Jimi. Two of the covers were Bob Dylan’s All Around The Watchtower and Earl King’s Come On (Let the Good Times Roll. These tracks, and the rest of Electric Ladyland were recorded at three recording studios.
Recording sessions took place between July and December 1967, then between January and April 1968. Three different studios in London and New York were used. This included Olympic Studios in London and Record Plant Studios and Mayfair Studios, New York. Once the sixteen tracks were recorded, Electric Ladyland was released in October 1968.
As soon as critics heard Electric Ladyland, they realised that this was The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s. It oozed quality. Tracks like Crosstown Traffic, Voodoo Chile, Voodoo Child (Slight Return), All Along the Watchtower and Gypsy resulted in what was the greatest album of The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s career. Critics hailed Electric Ladyland a career high for The Jimi Hendrix Experience. Record buyers agreed.
When Electric Ladyland was released in Britain, on 16th October 1968, it reached number six and was certified gold. Nine days, later, on 25th October 1968 Electric Ladyland was released in America. It reached number one on the US Billboard 200 and was certified double platinum. The rise and rise of The Jimi Hendrix Experience continued.
Just like their previous two albums, their third album Electric Ladyland became a classic. Electric Ladyland was the album that The Jimi Hendrix Experience were always capable of making. It was a coming of age for The Jimi Hendrix Experience. They’d released the finest album of their three album career. Sadly, there was a twist in the tale. Electric Ladyland would be The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s final album. However, it was a fitting swan-song from a legendary power trio.
Eight months after the release of Electric Ladyland, The Jimi Hendrix Experience played their last concert on June 29th 1969. This took place at Barry Fey’s Denver Pop Festival. This was a three day event. Little did anyone know The Jimi Hendrix Experience would only play one further concert. They reunited in 1970, to allow Jimi to spread his message of universal love. However, before that, Jimi’s new trio, Band Of Gypsys, recorded their only album.
Band of Gypsys.
After The Jimi Hendrix Experience split-up, Jimi formed another trio, The Band Of Gypsys. The lineup featured drummer Buddy Miles, bassist Billy Cox and Jimi on guitar. The Band of Gypsys recorded their only live album on 1st January 1970.
When the Band Of Gypsys took to the stage at Filmore East, in New York, on 1st January 1970, they had been busy. They’d written six new songs. Jimi penned four tracks, including Who Knows and the funky, anti Vietnam War song Machine Gun. These two tracks comprise side one of Band Of Gypsys, He also wrote Power To Love and Message Of Love. Jazz drummer Buddy Miles, wrote Changes and We Gotta Live Together. These six tracks found the Band Of Gypsys moving in a different direction from The Jimi Hendrix Experience.
Elements of funk, R&B and soul shine through on Band Of Gypsys. This isn’t surprising, given Jimi’s bandmates’ past. However, Jimi’s trademark fusion rock and psychedelia is still present. What’s obvious, is that Jimi was keen to explore different musical directions. He wasn’t going to be tied to the one musical genre. Instead, he was willing to experiment musically. Band Of Gypsys was just the start.
When critics heard Band Of Gypsys, they were won over by the genre melting album. They realised that Band Of Gypsys was an ambitious album. Machine Gun, they felt, was the best track on Band Of Gypsys. It was the album’s centrepiece, and showed what Jimi Hendrix, musical maverick was capable of, even without The Jimi Hendrix Experience. Just like The Jimi Hendrix Experience, the Band Of Gypsys was the perfect vehicle for Jimi.
Band Of Gypsys was released in Britain on 25th March 1970. It reached number six. Nearly three months later, on June 12th 1970, Band Of Gypsys was released in America, reaching number five in the US Billboard 200. This resulted in Band Of Gypsys being certified double platinum. Jimi Hendrix it seemed could do no wrong. Everyone waited with baited breath to see what direction his career headed.
After the release of Band Of Gypsys, Jimi returned the studio, where he began work on his next album. Jimi was a prolific artist, and recorded many tracks over a relatively short space of time. So much so, that by the time he headed to the second Atlanta Pop Festival, which was held on the 4th of July 1970, there were many tracks in various states of completion. This was more than enough for several album’s worth of material. Some of the new songs newly reformed lineup of The Jimi Hendrix Experience planned to showcase at the Atlanta Pop Festival, which sadly would prove to be Jimi Hendrix’s swan-song.
Lesser musicians than Jimi Hendrix would’ve been nervous about playing at the heart of the Deep South. Not Jimi Hendrix. He relished the challenge of uniting a region divided. He planned to do so with the newly reformed lineup of The Jimi Hendrix Experience.
Sadly, bassist Noel Redding wasn’t going to take to the stage. Taking his place would be Band Of Gypsys bassist Billy Cox. At least Noel Redding The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s original drummer was by Jimi’s side as they took to the stage. What had been a legendary power trio were about to try to unite a region divided.
That’s what The Jimi Hendrix Experience went on to do. In the process, they wrote their place into music history by playing a starring role in what’s now remembered as the “last great rock festival.” Jimi Hendrix had united a region that had been divided. His message of unity, universal love and Freedom had him friends on both sides of the racial divide. Now Jimi Hendrix could concentrate on completing his next album. However, that never happened
On 18th September 1970, music was in mourning. Jimi Hendrix, it was announced, was dead.
Jimi Hendrix had been found around 11a.m. on the 18th September 1970, that Jimi Hendrix was found unresponsive at an apartment in the Samarkand Hotel, in Notting Hill, London. He was rushed to the St. Mary’s Abbot’s Hospital, but pronounced dead at 12.45p.m. Jimi Hendrix was just twenty-seven. However, music had lost one of the most influential and innovative guitarists of his generation.
That’s despite Jimi’s solo career beginning just four years earlier. Since then, Jimi had released a trio of studio album and one live album. During that period, Jimi Hendrix took music by storm, and vied for the title of rock’s greatest guitarist. Throughout his solo career, Jimi was a flamboyant showman, who growing up, modelled himself on T-Bone Walker.
It was T-Bone who Jimi saw playing his guitar with his teeth. When Jimi saw this, he took it as a challenge. This became part of Jimi’s routine. In years to come, Jimi played his guitar as if his life depended upon it. Jimi, on form, was like a man possessed. Some nights, Jimi played his guitar behind his back, played it with his teeth and as if trying to exercise some inner demons, set his guitar on fire. All this made Jimi one of the most exiting guitarists ever. However, Jimi was also a technically brilliant guitarists of his generation. That’s apparent on the trio of studio albums and live album that The Jimi Hendrix Experience released between 1967-1970. These albums feature musical maverick Jimi Hendrix at the peak of his powers, as he pushes musical boundaries to their limits, and sometimes, way beyond; and in the process, produces groundbreaking and timeless music that changed music forevermore.
JIMI HENDRIX THE MAN WHO CHANGED MUSIC.