Thursday, April 12, 2018

Axis: Bold As Love



     In one way, Axis: Bold As Love is the "ultimate" Jimi Hendrix Experience album. By this time the band had gotten much more comfortable with each other, and Noel and Mitch were finally being taken seriously as contributors to the band's overall direction (to some extent, anyways). For this reason, Axis most effectively highlights the unique stylistic roles each member brought to the band:
  • Noel: British psychedelic rock guitarist/vocalist, forced to play bass.
  • Mitch: Jazz and session drummer, inspired by the hard-bop polyrhythmic stylings of Elvin Jones and Philly Joe Jones.
  • Jimi: Maverick American blues and soul guitar genius, interested in outer limits sonic experimentation.
     The creation of Axis began during the tail end of the Are You Experienced sessions, but most of the album was ultimately tracked after their return to Olympic Studios in England, under the engineering of Eddie Kramer. However, the JHE's intervening American tour most probably influenced the making of the latter half of the album.

The Burning of the Midnight Lamp & The Stars That Play With Laughing Sam's Dice
Released August 19, 1967

     The Experience's debut at the June 1967 Monterey International Pop Festival was a legend-making performance, climaxing with Jimi lighting his guitar on fire during the ending "Wild Thing" rave up. After some scattered follow up dates around California, Jimi and his crew landed in New York, where Jimi reunited with his old Harlem gang. The Experience performed a triumphant set at Central Park, but his old "mates" seemed a bit taken aback by the abrupt change in style from the kind of soul music Jimi was doing back in his Greenwich Village "Jimmy James" days. This was followed by a brief (and disastrous) tour opening for the Monkees. In order to get off the Monkees' circuit, a fake story was circulated, reporting that the "Daughters of the American Revolution" had found Jimi's music too "immoral" for young Monkees fans. Apparently this only added to the growing reputation of the JHE in America.

     A couple months into the American tour, Jimi's UK label released a new single, "The Burning of the Midnight Lamp", which was backed with "The Stars That Play With Laughing Sam's Dice" (with initials standing for drug terms STP and LSD).


     Prior to Monterey, a harpsichord demo for "Midnight Lamp" had been recorded at Olympic. Later while in America, the JHE tried to record a basic track in Los Angeles (Houston Studios), but were never fully satisfied with the results. Finally, in New York City's Mayfair Studios, basic tracks for "Midnight Lamp" were finally completed after 32 takes (this was engineered by Gary Kellgren, who had earlier contributed to the Velvet Underground's debut album, as well as Frank Zappa's Lumpy Gravy). Female backup vocals were provided by the Sweet Inspirations. The B-side track, "The Stars That Play With Laughing Sam's Dice", was also attempted in LA, but these takes were essentially redone/finished at Mayfair in NYC.

     "The Burning of the Midnight Lamp" has a fairly progressive/psychedelic feel, as it features a strange-sounding harpsichord doubled by a clean wah-wah guitar melody line. Additionally, the added choir and organ-like textures give it the air of a gospel concert (or an old-time revival tent rave up). Noel actually takes credit for the idea of using wah-wah on the guitar part, but Jimi created the harpsichord part while fooling around with studio inventory at Olympic. Naturally, the "faux-classical" texture of the harpsichord part gives it a post - "Sgt Pepper" psychedelic vibe. The mix for "Midnight Lamp" was also processed with healthy helpings of phasing/flanging and stereo panning effects. "The Stars That Play With Laughing Sam's Dice" opens as an uptempo British pop single, but a snarling wah-wah guitar break signals a transition into a "Hey Jude"-style psychedelic anthem, dominated by a thick collage of spoken word, free-form guitars and crowd noises (the Beatles' "Hey Jude" would actually be released only a week after this single).

     Unfortunately, when released, this single fared less successfully in the charts than its predecessors, causing Jimi to express some disappointment (especially since he was especially proud of  "The Burning Of The Midnight Lamp"). It's possible that the lukewarm reception to this particular thread of experimentation cooled Jimi's enthusiasm for the British sound previously explored on Are You Experienced...

Title Time Breakdown
The Burning Of The Midnight Lamp 3:36 0:00: Theme on harpsichord and wah guitar, joined by bass accents and hi-hat. Final chord uses fast wah vibrato.
0:27: Verse harmony accented by organ stabs, joined by choir and swirling harpsichord figure.
1:04: Intro theme, 2nd verse.
1:53: Wah guitar solo with choir backing.
2:24: Intro theme, 3rd verse, additional vocal flanging for outro.
The Stars That Play With Laughing Sam's Dice 4:17 0:00: Rising fanfare figure, pause.
0:06: Galloping pop groove.
0:35: Accented bridge leading to wah guitar solo.
0:54: Psychedelic anthem with fuzz guitar solo, spoken word, chanting, crowd noises.



Axis: Bold As Love
Released on December 1st, 1967.

     After returning to England, the Experience began recording additional tracks for Axis: Bold As Love, hoping to release it in time for the Christmas shopping season ("EXP", "If 6 Was 9" and "She's So Fine" had already been mostly completed during Are You Experienced sessions in May). Recording at Olympic resumed in early October, with additional UK and European tour dates interspersed in between.
     "In Axis there are more gentle things, more things for people to think about, if they want to...On our first LP we emphasized maybe the sustain notes and the really free scene, and then on this LP it's quieter as far as guitar. Maybe it might be dull to some people, but then we're emphasizing the words and the drums."
     As mentioned earlier, this album represents a more balanced amount of contributions from the three band members. Surprisingly, however, Jimi's more active role actually resulted in a "softening" of the band's dynamic. In contrast to the primal, lascivious, riff-based grinders found in Are You Experienced, Axis: Bold As Love saw Jimi reaching deeper into his R&B soul guitar bag. It's possible that the chart failure of "The Burning Of The Midnight Lamp" and the unenthusiastic reception of AYE from his Harlem gang nudged Jimi towards a sound closer to his "roots" style, rather than the British acid-rock direction explored while in London. However, Jimi's passion for sonic exploration in the studio through panning, effects and feedback was undimmed, to say the least. The result was a fusion of Dylan-esque vocals over smoking American soul guitar, backed by a British progressive rock rhythm section, all heard through a filter of "avant-garde" electronic effects. Jimi was playing more "recognizably soulful" in his rhythm guitar parts, but the sonic freak flag was still waving high.

     A satisfactory test pressing was completed November 7th (with a last minute mix tape misplacement causing at least one long night), and a week later the JHE embarked on another UK tour. The LP was released a few weeks later on December 1st, only a little over 7 months after Are You Experienced was released. Axis' Indian-themed LP cover was designed by David King and Roger Law. King had purchased the original poster from the Indica Gallery, and Roger Law incorporated the band members into its existing design. Jimi was impressed, but actually would have preferred an American Indian theme, as he had Cherokee ancestry, not Asian. 

 
     The album title itself is a bit more enigmatic, and Jimi has explained it's meaning this way:
     "It's love... Like the axis of the Earth, if it changes, it changes the whole face of the Earth, like every few thousand years, new civilizations come every time it changes, or another age comes about. And it's like love that a human being has. If he falls in love deep enough it will change him, might change his whole life, so both of them can really go together. In other words, the axis changes the face of the Earth and it only takes about a quarter of a day. The same with love: it can turn your world upside-down, it's that powerful, that bold. People kill themselves for love, but when you have it for somebody or something, an idea maybe, it can beat anger any time and move the sea and the mountains. That's the way it feels, that's what I'm trying to say - Axis: Bold As Love - 1-2-3, rock-around-the-clock. The way I can explain myself thoroughly is through songs."
The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Axis: Bold As Love

Recorded at Olympic Studios
Engineered by Eddie Kramer (assisted by George Chkiantz)
Produced by Chas Chandler
(Timings below based on the Experience Hendrix/Legacy release from 1997/2010)
Trk  Title Time
1 EXP 1:55      "We've tried to get most of the freaky tracks right into another dimension so you get that sky effect, like they're coming down out of the heavens... I want to have stereo where it goes up and behind and underneath... Musically, 'freak out' is almost like playing wrong notes. It's playing the opposite notes to what you think the notes should be. If you hit it with the right amount of feedback it's like playing wrong notes seriously, dig?"

     Opening with a very similar harmonic/hammer-on lick to the one used for "Stone Free" (a kind of "radio jingle"), this "interview" features the speed-manipulated voices of Mitch and Jimi, followed by "flying saucer" sound effects by Jimi and Noel. Initially dubbed "Symphony of Experience", this track was engineered and mixed by Terry Brown when Kramer was unavailable (although Brown's mix had to be redone when the tape was later lost). Noel reports that he and Jimi were kicking the guitar and bass around on the floor, and others recall a 6-foot horn used with the amps. Another key factor was probably Roger Mayer's pedal modifications, as he experimented with "tuning up" the circuitry in Jimi's Arbiter Fuzz Face pedals (especially the earlier Germainium transistor models).
   
0:00: Open string harmonic "jingle", Mitch & Jimi "expose" interview.
0:34: Panned saucer effects from whammy guitar, bass, feedback (the feedback-saucer is supposed to be flying around the listener, but personally I hear it more like the saucer is flying in a counter-clockwise circle in front of me, with me on the southern edge). 
2 Up From The Skies 2:55      "It's a story of a guy who's been on Earth before but on a different turning of the axis. And now he's come back to find this scene happening."

     This song is like a futuristic jazz shuffle. Mitch uses brushes here (Noel's suggestion), and Jimi plays jazz chords in a straight, 1920's swing rhythm. However he also uses wah-wah on every beat to give it a "cosmic vibe". In America, the "Midnight Lamp" single was delayed, so this single was actually the first time that most American listeners were exposed to the wah filtering effect. Later released as a single with "One Rainy Wish", it ultimately didn't have a big impact on the charts and was rarely performed live (noted only at a January 1968 gig in Stockholm).

0:00: Drum break intro into 1st verse (swing shuffle groove with wah-wah sweep on every guitar strum).
1:11: Bridge with accented wah-wah power chords.
1:41: Wah-wah guitar solo over a 2 chord bridge vamp.
2:04: 2nd verse (wah-wah continues).
2:23: Outro wah-wah guitar solo over verse groove (panning).
3 Spanish Castle Magic 3:00      This song is reportedly a tribute to the '50s Seattle jazz club "Spanish Castle". The groove here is closer to the ones found on Are You Experienced, in that it's riff-based and uses stop-time rhythms (ala "Fire", "I Don't Live Today", etc). However, it's different in that the accents also develop new "asymmetrical" rhythms during these sections. Noel plays a Hagstrom 8-string bass with the treble turned up full (an 8-string bass has 4 octave strings paired with the usual 4 strings). On the basic track Jimi also played a Hagstrom 8-string through an Octavia, but this channel is mostly buried in the mix by the main guitar part. The riffing piano parts were overdubbed by Jimi, inspired by Kramer's piano jazz noodling.

0:00: Accented fanfare, theme A pedal riff groove with piano accents.
0:13: 1st verse: Stop time rhythm (asymmetrical sequence).
0:32: Theme A chorus (a modulating variation of the intro).
0:52: 2nd verse: Stop time rhythm (asymmetrical).
1:12: Theme A chorus.
1:31: Guitar solo over Theme A pedal groove supported by piano.
2:00: Theme A chorus.
2:26: Outro solo over Theme A pedal groove (panning).
4 Wait Until Tomorrow 3:00      This tune features the soulful virtuosity of Jimi's rhythm-guitar playing, as well as plenty of tasty Mitchell drum breaks. Kramer reports that Jimi had a lot of trouble with the opening soul guitar lick for some reason. Jimi doesn't play a lead solo here, but the evolving rhythm guitar part is essentially one long chordal funk solo (or musical commentary). Another live rarity, this was only performed once in December 1967 on a BBC session (possibly as a request from the show producer).

0:00: Funk-soul guitar intro with bass accents.
0:11: 1st verse with funk guitar comping, solo cadence.
0:31: Chorus (with falsetto backup vocals), drum break, intro.
0:52: 2nd verse, cadence.
1:12: Chorus, drum break, intro.
1:37: 3rd verse, cadence.
1:57: Chorus, drum break (repeat and fade).
5 Ain't No Telling 1:46      This guitar boogie highlights Mitch's drumming. It also features the funk-jazz "Hendrix chord" (7th #9), and during the song the key modulates from C# to A. There's no "guitar solo section" here either, but the lead guitar part plays melodic lines throughout the entire song.

0:00: Scattered guitar accents, diving harmonics, and a drum break lead into the 1st verse in an uptempo boogie. The rhythm guitar part features accented jazz chords, as the second guitar lead line adds unison wails and reinforces the vocal melody.
0:13: Accented transition.
0:19: 2nd verse, accented transition.
0:31: Bridge A: rhythm and lead guitar parts complement each other in modulating riff figures and ostinato trills.
0:48: Bridge B: Syncopated accents transition, followed by variation on verse rhythm, lead guitar break.
1:03: 3rd verse, interrupted by accented transitions, ending in a  reverbed fanfare. 
6 Little Wing 2:24      "A lot of them are ideas I've had from the Village, some of them. Like, we just got around to recording Little Wing, based on a very, very simple American Indian style. I got the idea when we was in Monterey and I was looking at everything around. I figured that I'd take everything around and put it maybe in the form of a girl, and call it Little Wing, and then it will just fly away. Everybody was really flying, and there was really a nice mood, the police and everything was really great out there. And so I just took all these things and put them in one very small little matchbox, into a girl, and then do it."

     "We put the guitar through the Leslie speaker of an organ and it sounds like jelly bread."

     Probably Jimi's first compositional masterpiece, this tune has often been covered by jazz musicians, as well as the more progressive-minded rockers, like Jeff Beck. As Jimi attests above, the guitar and vocal were fed through a Leslie organ speaker, which has a rotating baffle system (causing a kind of wobbly Doppler effect). Jimi also overdubbed the glockenspiel melody.

0:00: Opening verse on solo guitar (Leslie speaker effect) and glockenspiel accents, drum break.
0:35: 1st verse, drum break.
1:07: 2nd verse, drum break with whammy dive bomb.
1:40: Guitar solo over verse structure.
2:11: Outro solo continues over verse structure (joined by vocal adlib).
7 If 6 Was 9 5:32      "I don't say nothin' bad about nobody. It just says, man, let them go on and screw up theirs, just as long as they don't mess with me. Quite naturally, you try to help people out here and there if they can appreciate it. This means that it really doesn't matter if anything is upside down as long as it doesn't bother you, and you can cope with it."

     This psychedelic track was recorded on same day as "EXP" (something must have been "in the air" that day...). The guitar in this song has a tight delay, gives it a "noirish" blues flavor. Employing another stop time rhythm, the groove eventually changes to something more complex and somewhat reminiscent of "May This Be Live" (Noel reports that the polyrhythmic ideas in the ending were his idea). It's worth noting that Mitch really stretches out on this song (although he's all over this album, really). Later, Jimi added some improvised recorder overdubs (as a kind of "free folk Indian flute" element), and the echoed footsteps were contributed by Graham Nash and Gary Leeds. This tune was featured in the film "Easy Rider" (which later inspired the song "Ezy Rider").

0:00: Brittle guitar/bass accents answered by expanding hi-hat and whispers.
0:13: 1st verse: Bass continues accents, but guitar follows vocal line (a classic blues device).
0:41: Falling harmony transition, guitar break (blues lick).
0:55: 2nd verse: Guitar abandons vocal line and develops the previous accent figure as power chords.
1:22: Transition, silent pause.
1:32: Swampy vamp bridge.
1:48: Double-time walking bass with panned guitar textures/fills (footsteps sounds begin and continue from here on out to varying degrees).
2:32: Cadence vamp, echoed string noise guitar break.
2:51: 3rd verse, highlighting Mitch's drums (panned spoken word).
3:54: Cadence vamp variation, featuring panned guitar and Jimi's overdubbed recorder improv (and more footsteps).
8 You Got Me Floatin' 2:45      Here, Jimi delivers a heavy funk groove on guitar, while Mitch and Noel  employ a more British rock rhythm. The highlight is probably Noel's 8-string Hagstrom bass solo, followed by Jimi's overdubbed backwards guitar. The backup vocalists include members of The Move (Graham Nash, Trevor Burton and Roy Wood).

0:00: Backwards/panned guitar noise.
0:06: 1st verse: Funk groove, a guitar "swish" signals bass entry.
0:28: Chorus: same rhythm groove but guitar/bass add a connective walking line.
0:43: 2nd verse.
0:58: Chorus (some subtle backwards textures surface).
1:12: Bass solo over pedal vamp with various backwards/tremolo guitar textures (all panning around).
1:41: Chorus and 3rd verse with more backwards guitar creeping in.
2:03: Bass drops out, backwards tape/drums break.
2:15: Aggressive funk guitar over chorus groove with added guitar/tape effects.  
9 Castles Made Of Sand 2:46      In some ways a sequel to "The Wind Cries Mary", this song also features virtuosic, highly-embellished soul guitar, with the opening guitar lick acting as a developing melodic refrain. This track is also spiced up with a short backwards guitar solo.

0:00: Backwards guitar leads into sliding chordal guitar intro.
0:07: Solo guitar refrain (used in chorus).
0:19: 1st verse: pensive rhythm guitar comping with backwards guitar textures lurking in the background.
0:47: Chorus with guitar refrain.
0:58: 2nd verse.
1:25: Chorus with guitar refrain.
1:31: Backwards guitar solo over pedal chord, 3rd verse.
2:11: Chorus with guitar refrain (extended variation).
2:32: Reprise of opening sliding chords as reverb increases.
10 She's So Fine 2:37      Written and sung by Noel, this is a strong example of his British psychedelic rock tendencies, but also features skillfully-woven, double-tracked guitars from Jimi (Jimi also suggested the key modulation in the middle section). Some overdubs may have been added at Rye Muse Sound.

0:00: Drum intro, bass and guitar enter with accented verse groove figures.
0:11: Transitional guitar figures (2nd guitar enters).
0:14: 1st verse with fuzzed out psychedelic guitar.
0:35: Chorus (harmonized guitar lines).
0:46: 2nd verse, chorus.
1:14: Bridge ("doo-wop" backup vocals, Chuck Berry-style rhythm guitar).
1:30: Modulated interlude featuring tremolo-picked guitar figures.
1:46: 3rd verse.
2:03: Pedal vamp.
2:14: End jam on descending verse variation with panned guitar. 
11 One Rainy Wish 3:40      Sometimes referred to as "Golden Rose", this song has a similar meditative, pastoral vibe to "May This Be Love", although the middle section has a much more passionate dynamic. To be more specific, the verse features a triplet meter, but a straight groove in the interlude. This song also used Noel's 8-string Hagstrom bass, and the Octavia was used on Jimi's guitar to similarly add sustain and a higher octave texture. Jimi's lead line actually adds "commentary" throughout the song, just as it did in "Ain't No Telling". This track was also put on the back side of the 1968 "Up From the Skies" single.

0:00: Drum rolls, rumbling bass and swirling guitar figures.
0:31: 1st verse (rhythm and lead guitars) in 6/8.
1:16: Interlude: Heavy 4/4 groove with panned fuzz guitar lead line and solo.
1:50: Transition (solo continues).
2:01: 2nd verse (lead guitar more present).
2:45: Verse harmony modulates to a 2-chord vamp, as lead and rhythm guitars dance around each other. Drums build during final vocal adlibs.
12 Little Miss Lover 2:20      This heavy, propulsive funk workout is probably the funkiest the JHE ever got (in fact Jimi demonstrated the drum part he wanted to Mitch for this tune). This kind of monster groove would later be further explored in the Band of Gypsies and the Cry of Love bands. This song was also the first to feature Jimi's muffled/clipped wah-wah rhythm technique (later a major element to the opening of Voodoo Child (Slight Return)). Again, Noel plays the 8-string Hagstrom bass, and the guitar solo employs the Octavia pedal (Jimi's vocal was also filtered through some flanging). The only record of this tune ever being performed live was in 1969, Toronto, after his drug bust arrest, and during a BBC session.

0:00: Fat, funky drum groove intro.
0:11: 1st verse with muffled wah rhythm guitar.
0:30: Transition, back to verse groove.
0:40: 2nd verse, transition.
1:05: Bridge (descending figure).
1:19: Guitar solo (Octavia) over pedal vamp.
1:37: 3rd verse with groove variation (added backup chants, lead guitar line).
13 Bold As Love 4:09      "Some feelings make you think of different colors...Jealousy is purple; I'm purple with rage or purple with anger, and green is envy. Like you explain your different emotions in color towards this girl who has all the colors in the world. In other words you don't think you have to part with these emotions but you're willing to try."

     "...we don't want to use tapes of jet airplanes. We want the music itself warped."

     "Bold As Love" opens with a passionate declaration of "Anger", but by the end everything is essentially melting together into one great orgy of sound. The song is not only built on an inspired chordal guitar accompaniment, but also stands out for Jimi's passionate, soulful vocal delivery, his epic guitar solos and the display of cascading sonic wizardry in the outro section. In fact, "Bold As Love" features the first example of stereo phasing on record, inspired by earlier work pioneered by the BBC Radiophonic Workshop (Doctor Who) and George Martin with Beatles (Jimi has also cited "The Big Hurt" by Toni Fisher and the Small Faces' "Itchykoo Park" as sources of inspiration, production-wise). The flanging effect on Mitch's drums was a complicated procedure, but Mitch absolutely insisted on it (despite Chas' impatience). Jimi later replaced some of Noel's bass parts (especially for the outro section) and overdubbed a harpsichord part over the rhythm guitar in that section. Although the seams were probably starting to show behind the scenes, the band ends this second album triumphantly.

0:00: 1st verse begins with vocal on the opening accent, leading to a groove with bass and drums.
0:29: Chorus with added tremolo guitar textures ("mandolin-style"), chordal guitar break.
0:55: 2nd verse.
1:23: Chorus, break.
1:46: Guitar solo over verse harmony (tremolo rhythm guitar), modulating to minor modes.
2:35: Accented fanfare figures, flanged drum break.
2:54: Outro guitar solo with Jimi on harpsichord and bass. The entire mix is gradually flanged and processed (into infinity).
    

Next: Electric Ladyland

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Are You Experienced?


     After arriving in London on September 24th, 1966, Jimi almost immediately began touring and recording with his new band, the Jimi Hendrix Experience, which now included bassist Noel Redding and drummer Mitch Mitchell. Their first live performances (October 13-18, 1966) were for a brief European tour opening for Johnny Hallyday, where they played short, 15 minute sets comprised of cover tunes ("In The Midnight Hour", "Have Mercy On Me Baby", "Land of a Thousand Dances" and "Hey Joe"). This was soon followed by a heavy schedule of London "showcases", TV appearances and more European tour dates.

     In between live appearances, the trio made 16 trips to various studios (including De Lane Lea Studios (at their old 129 Kingsway address), CBS Studios, and Olympic Studios) and, under the strict guidance of producer Chas Chandler, produced 17 songs which would be released as a combination of singles and an LP (Are You Experienced). The working method behind most of these songs was fairly straight-forward:
  • Jimi comes up with riffs and lyrics while jamming at Chandler's apartment.
  • The band goes into a studio, rehearses, and then lays down basic tracks (drums, bass, guitar). 
  • A few songs have demos worked up during leftover studio time.
  • Some songs are rerecorded at different studios and dates.
  • Additional studio sessions are often used to add lead and backup vocals, guitar solos, overdubs and sound effects.
  • Finally, the songs are mixed for vinyl release.
     The actual dates of many studio sessions are somewhat fuzzy (different sources give different dates) so here I'll skip that level of detail. However, one notable event during this 6-month period was the entrance of Jimi's primary "sound team" in February, 1967 at Olympic Studios. As "Purple Haze" was being finished there, Jimi and Chas started working with engineer Eddie Kramer, whose studio fearlessness and innovative spirit was key to allowing Jimi the opportunity to experiment with his sonic palette, both through unheard-of recording and mixing techniques (although Dave Siddle and Mike Ross also engineered at other studios). Other members of Jimi's Olympic "launch crew" included George Chkiantz and inventor Roger Mayer, both of whom helped Jimi and Eddie develop many of the innovative "psychedelic effects" heard on Jimi's records (Andy Johns and Terry Brown also played a role in many mixing sessions). More details on the studio sessions can be found in John McDermott's various books on the subject ("Sessions", etc..).
     "The secret of my sound is largely the electronics genius of our tame boffin who is known to us as Roger the Valve...We're mostly working with the high-octaves scene..." - Jimi 
     "All the boxes I made for Jimi were called 'Octavia', but they were each optimized for different specific sounds. The one that was used on 'Purple Haze' gives you an octave above. But it's more than that, because the technique we used is actually the equivalent of putting something in between two mirrors, so you get an infinite mirror image, the doubling goes way out." - Roger Mayer.


"Hey Joe" and "Stone Free"
Released December 16th (May 1st, 1967 in the US)
   


"Hey Joe is a blues arrangement of a cowboy song that's about a hundred years old....Lots of people have different arrangements of it and Tim Rose was the first to do it slowly."

     "Hey Joe" is a cover of Tim Rose's slow arrangement of the song (published under Billy Roberts' name). It was Jimi's performance of this tune that cemented Chas Chandler's signing of Jimi in New York. Jimi adhered to Rose's arrangement but added an original guitar intro (the chiming chordal lick tagged onto the beginning of the song) which has a similar style to his intros for a couple pre-Experience singles such as "Can't Stay Away" (Don Covay) and "My Diary" (Rosa Lee Brooks). This unison open-string harmony helps to create a signature "ka-ching" sound which immediately gets one's attention. His chordal comping and guitar solo are of course completely his own construction as well.

     In the studio, Jimi had originally wanted to record his guitar at high volume (probably to get a beefier tone) but Chas wouldn't allow it. There are two guitar tracks, one clean (undistorted) rhythm track and another "heavier" track which provides support through clipped accents on the downbeats, various verse fills and the lead solo. The basic track was recorded at one of their earliest studio sessions at De Lane Lea, while lead vocals and female background vocals (by the Breakaways), were added later at different studios (Pye, CBS, De Lane Lea). In the ending sequence, where the accented chromatic riffs come in, one can really sense the band straining to burst free of the ballad-groove (especially Mitch). This power is nicely balanced by the female background singers, who give it a fairly commercial production sheen. Another "live" take (ie - with live lead vocals and guitar solo) was later attempted at Regent Studios, but they chose to work up and release the earlier take from DLL.

     As the JHE's debut single, "Hey Joe" had a huge impact on the London scene. Apparently John Lennon even brought a tape of "Hey Joe" to a dinner at a high end restaurant, and played it for all of his friends. It's an interesting choice as a debut single, as it only barely hints at the innovations to come. However, to an un-"Experienced" public I can imagine this being fairly outrageous for its lyrical content and unusual harmony progression. "Hey Joe" didn't make as big a splash in the US, however, and at that time Jimi suggested that it may have been due to the bleak lyrics (which are pretty dark for a gestating "Summer of Love").

"Stone Free has city sounds and sounds of the establishment. It should mean a whole lot in itself."

     The B-side to "Hey Joe" featured "Stone Free". Originally Jimi wanted to try a cover of "Land of A Thousand Dances" (or possibly Howlin' Wolf's "Killing Floor"), but Chandler forced him to write his first original composition for the JHE. Also recorded at DLL, the basic track includes guitar, vocal and percussion overdubs. It's not a bad song, but it's probably most notable for Noel's bum note in the 2nd verse, Jimi's fuzz-drenched, off-the-fingerboard guitar solo and the sudden-ending segue to "Third Stone From the Sun". Jimi would later rerecord this tune a few times, but the refurbished versions were never released in his lifetime.
 
The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Title Time
Hey Joe 3:34 0:00: Guitar intro, band comes in on transition to verse.
0:08: 1st verse backed by 2 guitar tracks and female bkup vocals.
1:40: Guitar solo.
2:03: Accented chromatic riff leads to 2nd verse.
2:48: Accented chromatic riff resurfaces more and more often.
Stone Free 3:39 0:00: Opening based on guitar open string harmonics and bass grace notes.
0:04: 1st verse: Cowbell-driven boogie with accented funk chords on every other downbeat.
0:40: Bridge vamp.
0:54: Chorus, based on a 2-note see-saw riff.
1:14: 2nd verse (Noel flubs a chord at 1:28).
1:50: Bridge, chorus.
2:24: Fuzz guitar solo over a vamp (Note the tremolo/string slide figure at 2:36. This is a jazz device pioneered by the great gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt.)
2:52: Chorus with new syncopated accents.
3:26: Hard cut to a vamp groove (which will be slowed down and reused in "Third Stone From the Sun"), fuzz guitar fade out.


"Purple Haze" and "51st Anniversary"
Released March 17th, 1967



"(It's) about a dream I had that I was walking under the sea...I had linked upon a story I read in a science-fiction magazine about a purple death ray...It's about...this girl turned this cat on and he doesn't know if it's tomorrow or just the end of time.."

     For most Americans, "Purple Haze" is the "1st" Hendrix tune (as we usually first pick up Are You Experienced), and probably his most famous. If "Hey Joe" was restrained, then "Purple Haze" was Jimi cut loose. The level of sonic experimentation here is almost as outlandish as anything Jimi ever recorded. In fact, when Stevie Ray Vaughan first heard "Purple Haze", he couldn't believe it was an actual guitar.

     Compositionally, it opens with a signature "dirge" which gets its vibe from the extreme dissonance created from a tritone harmony created by guitar and bass accents. This leads to the signature guitar riff which outlines a fuzzed-out jazz chord (Em7). The verse alters the jazz chord a little to make it more "R&B" (Em7#9, the so-called "Hendrix chord"). After a couple verses (complete with vocal breaks, another jazz device), the song modulates through power chords into the solo, which although essentially in E minor, also modulates through some major key harmonies. They way Jimi navigates this solo break is simply stunning, and in my opinion one of the best solos of his entire career. I think he must have felt pretty good about it, since he duplicated most of it note-for-note in live performances. One thing that often gets overlooked is the rhythm guitar part during the solo. There, Jimi hits power chords and uses his whammy bar to sustain moaning, howling feedback. This device of course would soon be featured in "Third Stone From the Sun", "I Don't Live Today" and "EXP".   

     The basic tracks were recorded in three takes at De Lane Lea, followed by short, scattered overdub sessions in the following days. Eventually the song was finished at Olympic Studios with Eddie Kramer at the controls. A new take was attempted at Olympic, but they eventually chose to just add new vocals and lead guitar to the DLL tape. Noel later suggested that Jimi might have played a Telecaster for the solo guitar part.

     Jimi used "tame boffin" Roger "the Valve" Mayer's Octavia pedal in the solo (4th measure on), and for the ending Kramer was reportedly the one who suggested adding in a sped-up tape of an Octavia guitar sequence. Noel contributed background vocals/groans, and additional background ambiance was achieved by playing the song back through headphones and then recording the sound of the tiny headphone speakers from various distances. Lyric-wise, the book Electric Gypsy connects Jimi's lyrics with Philip Jose Farmer's story "Night of Flight" in Fantasy & Science Fiction, June 1957.

     Even with dozens of Hendrix releases out there, the production behind the guitar tones here is so bizarre, it's really hard to figure out what's going on unless one hears the basic tracks. Fortunately, through things like the "Rock Band" games, individual Hendrix tracks can be somewhat accessed, and using these "secret tracks" one can hear that the verse guitar part has a second guitar part which is just rhythmic pick scraping noise - this is what gives it that strange attack. Additionally, the primitive nature of fuzz pedals at this time and the lo-fi recording techniques add to the iconic "fuzz" of the rhythm guitar track. As mentioned above, the solo and ending "swirling" textures are enhanced by the use of Roger Mayer's Octavia pedal, which adds a higher octave tone to every note.

"Marriage is OK for some people, but it's not for me. I don't like anything to tie me down. You'd have to work a whole lot of Voodoo on me to get me married."

     "51st Anniversary" was recorded on Jan 11, 1967 at De Lane Lea, with a completed guitar track reportedly assembled from 5 punched-in takes. Lyrically, this song has a dim view of marriage, possibly prompted by Jimi's own broken-home experiences. Compositionally, the highlight here is the way Jimi develops the "response" lick in each verse. In each of the three verses, the "answer" lick evolves to reflect a souring outlook on marriage ("here come the bad side").

Purple Haze 2:550:00: Dissonant dirge opening.
0:05: Intro riff: Bass continues dirge pulse (actually two basses playing criss-cross figures) as guitar plays lead line.
0:23: 1st verse (2 fuzz guitars), vocal break, accented transition.
0:52: 2nd verse, break, transition.
1:12: Modulating bridge with lead line.
1:19: Guitar solo processed with Octavia (rhythm section based on verse harmony but solo plays more exotic scales) with background chanting.
1:35: Intro riff (variation).
1:53: 3rd verse, break, transition, bridge with extended lead line.
2:20: Verse harmony with vocal chanting and panned guitar (sped up and processed with Octavia).
51st Anniversary 3:18 0:00: Pulsed accents, guitar melody line, echoed by bass.
0:11: 1st verse over accented groove embellished by R&B soul guitar fills, transition.
1:00: Pulsed accents with vocal melody line, vocal break/transition.
1:18: 2nd verse: the guitar fills evolve into stuttering wails, transition.
2:07: Pulsed accents sequence with melody line in vocal and guitar, vocal break/transition.
2:40: Coda based on verse groove and leading to a 2-note see-saw ending vamp. 


"The Wind Cries Mary" and "Highway Chile"
Released May 5th, 1967


"We don't play all the songs loud...It's nothing but a story about a break-up.."

      "The Wind Cries Mary" is basically an R&B ballad, but it couches the standard chord progression in between unusual chromatic riffs, played in stop-time rhythm. This gives it a strange "floating" feeling. The solo is not overly-fuzzed out, but is still brimming with attitude. On top of this, Jimi's lyrics and vocal delivery are several leaps up from "Hey Joe" and "Purple Haze". Entirely created at De Lane Lea, this song was learned, rehearsed, and then recorded in about 20 minutes (using 2 takes, and a few guitar overdubs). New versions were recorded at a later session but the initial tracks were ultimately chosen for the single release.

"I wish I could travel all the time, it's nice to get experience."

     "Highway Chile" was quickly recorded at Olympic. It's a nice boogie and a good contrast with "Mary", although not nearly as innovative. The solo is a stunner, though, and is amazingly built on variations of essentially just one guitar lick. He does this by taking the phrase apart and playing with the rhythmic elements individually.

The Wind Cries Mary 3:25 0:00: Chromatic rising figure, repeated with and without drums in different registers.
0:14: 1st verse: Chordal guitar based on R&B comping.
0:35: Chromatic figure variation as a bridge.
0:47: 2nd verse, bridge (additional chordal accents).
1:21: Guitar solo (overdubbed) based on verse harmony and ending in key modulations.
1:52: 3rd verse, bridge.
2:26: 4th verse, bridge with added guitar embellishments in ending phases. 
Highway Chile 3:35 0:00: Intro based on falling guitar wails (unison bends) answered by accents.
0:14: 1st verse: Sauntering blues boogie with a see-saw chordal cadence.
0:49: Intro wails, 2nd verse, intro wails.
1:49: Guitar solo (high-powered blues licks) over verse harmony (1st half).
2:12: 3rd verse (2nd half), ending based on modulating guitar wails over a stable bass harmony.


Are You Experienced
Released May 12, 1967

      The Are You Experienced LP was released a week after the "Mary" single hit. At this point the JHE were clearly the "new big thing" in the UK. Very shortly, Paul McCartney would arrange for them to perform at the Monterey International Pop Festival in California, which would break them wide open in the US. Later, while in New York City, he played the new LP for his old Harlem friends and they were almost taken aback by the dramatic evolution that Jimi had undergone from his "Jimmy James" days.

     Out of all three studio albums released in Jimi's lifetime, this one had the most influence from Chas Chandler and the psychedelic London scene. In fact, in my opinion the impact that 60's English rock culture had on the making of Are You Experienced simply can't be overstated. Jimi was a guitar genius with phenomenal raw talent, but the explosive brilliance of his debut LP was due in large part to his willingness to visit other shores on his musical journey.


The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Are You Experienced
Trk Title Time
1 Foxey Lady 3:22      Chas only brought the group into CBS studios for one brief string of sessions in late 1966. "Foxey Lady" basic tracks and overdubs were all recorded there, with Jimi playing through 4 Marshall cabinets (miked from 8 feet away with a Neuman U-67 condenser mike). The groove on this tune is ballsy as hell, but it's also extremely rewarding to pay attention to all of the various overdub fills Jimi adds and develops around every 3rd beat of a measure. Noel takes credit for ending the song on a B power chord ("should've gotten 5 percent..."). An unedited version can be found on the JHE box set.

0:00: Volume swell on heavy vibrato note, upbeat falling slide.
0:09: 1st verse: Monster groove based on a fuzzed-out jazz chord with fragments bounced between low and high strings. Every 3rd quarter note has an overdubbed wail/unison bend which later alternates with a high trill or other fills. "Foxey" is whispered in stereo, and the second guitar plays grace-note fills higher up the neck.
0:40: Bridge, vocal break, "catcall" guitar motif.
0:59: 2nd verse, bridge, vocal break, catcall guitar motif.
1:48: Guitar solo over verse groove (and more whispers).
2:08: Bridge, vocal break, volume swell feedback (hangs over into next section).
2:31: Outro based on verse groove, ending in an slow, overdubbed, descending pick slide. 
2 Manic Depression 3:47      An unusual hard blues based on triplet 8th notes, this was recorded at De Lane Lea (using a sunburst Strat replacing a white one recently stolen) and mixed at Olympic. Even now, it's fairly uncommon to have a hard rock song based on 3's (as opposed to 4's). Mitch's drums shine in the many breaks.

0:00: Intro figure (derived from verse cadence).
0:04: 1st verse, cadence.
0:39: 2nd verse with added guitar wails, cadence.
1:18: Wailing guitar bridge (with vocal crooning) becomes a fuzz guitar solo (over a static vamp harmony).
2:00: 3rd verse with wailing fills. Riff continues with more and more wailing.
3:13: Wailing/crooning bridge leads to ending feedback (toggling guitar pickups).
3 Red House 3:54      "...Everybody was scared to release it in America, they said, 'Man, America don't like blues, man!' Blues is a part of America, it means Elmore James and Howlin' Wolf and Robert Johnson, it means Muddy Waters and Bo Diddley...you can have your own blues."

     Mono version, probably from a CBS session. There are a couple versions of "Red House", but three different books will present three different background histories, so who knows which was recorded where? On one version, Noel Redding played the bass line on a second guitar. An alternate stereo take (probably De Lane Lea) can be found on some versions of Smash Hits. The latest Experience Hendrix 1997 release of AYE uses the stereo version, but the original LP used this mono version.

0:00: Blues chord arpeggios with wide vibrato, eventually leading into a lead over the back end of a 12-bar blues progression.
0:44: 1st verse (blues progression) with generous guitar fills.
1:27: 2nd verse.
2:10: Guitar solo.
2:54: 3rd verse (includes a vocal break at the end).
4 Can You See Me 2:36      An early demo was reportedly recorded at De Lane Lea, but this track was created at CBS. This track features a clean rhythm guitar and a heavier lead guitar line overdub. It stands out for its stereo panning/reverb during the 1-note guitar breaks. Jimi also skillfully and patiently develops the second guitar lead line over the 2nd, 3rd and 4th verses.

0:00: Accented (syncopated) power chords gives way to a panned guitar bend (break).
0:11: 1st verse based on heavy groove alternating with accented intro motif.
0:33: Transition and vocal break, panned guitar break.
0:44: 2nd verse (added guitar overdubs), transition, vocal break.
1:15: Guitar solo over essentially a 1-chord vamp which also plays with an "exotic" minor 2nd harmony. Panned guitar break.
1:31: 3rd verse with developed guitar overdubs, transition, vocal break, panned guitar break.
2:05: 4th verse (with overdubbed guitar lead), final accented chords.
5 Love Or Confusion 3:17      Basic tracks were recorded at CBS, with overdubs later added at Olympic (featuring Roger Mayer's fuzz pedals and possibly pedals borrowed from the Fugs if Jimi wasn't BS-ing). The only time the JHE ever played this song live was on a February 1967 BBC session.

0:00: Intro based on fanfare chord, bass slides and pickup toggle noise (?), leading to drum break.
0:07: Rhythm guitar plays rubbery, psychedelic chordal solo over power chords.
0:16: 1st verse: Power chords play harmony progression, as a separate feedback guitar sounds pedal tones manipulated with whammy bar.
0:34: Bridge with 2 separate lead guitar figures eventually coming together in a chromatic figure and whammy bar dive bomb.
0:50: 2nd verse, bridge.
1:26: Guitar solo over modulating power chords and a staccato bass arpeggio figure.
2:00: 3rd verse, bridge (developed).
2:34: Coda based on repeated bridge cadence with "feedback breaks".
6 I Don't Live Today 3:58      "I Don't Live Today is dedicated to the American Indian and all minority oppressed groups... I was thinking back about two or three hundred years...Your home isn't America, it's the Earth."

     Basic tracks were recorded at DLL. A hand-controlled wah-wah filter (and probably some Octavia) was applied to some of the guitar tracks (three overlapping guitar tracks were recorded). The lead vocal was added later at Olympic.

0:00: Tribal drum break is joined by jagged chordal guitar riffs.
0:09: Main "stop time" riff, modulating in a blues progression and shadowed by a whammy-feedback guitar track.
1:01: Bridge, based on accented (screaming) fuzz-funk chords.
1:18: Guitar solo (with some subtle wah-wah post-processing) over octave riffing.
1:52: Bridge variation.
2:08: Feedback interlude (often extended in live concerts).
2:22: Main riff in a frenzied variation resumes leading to 2nd guitar solo and psychedelic feedback rave up (using at least 3 distinct guitar parts).

     "There ain't no life nowhere...get experienced..are you experienced?"
7 May This Be Love 3:14      "There are only two songs on my album that would give anybody the horrors if they were on a trip: "Are You Experienced?" and "May This Be Love". But they are actually peace-of-mind songs...meditational shades. As long as you can get your mind together while you are listening to them, they've made it with you, man".

     Initially titled "Waterfall", this song was recorded at Olympic. Jimi's exquisite chord-work here contrasts with echoed slide guitar and pick noise effects. The guitar solo is extremely unusual as, by merely sliding his finger around on just one string, he produces one of his most lyrical solos ever. The rotating cross-panning of the drums and guitar during the solo is also notably psychedelic.

0:00: A floor tom roll is joined by a chromatic descending slide guitar texture.
0:15: 1st verse over gently-comping soul guitar and tight snare rolls, cadencing on an echoed guitar slide.
0:36: 2nd verse cadencing in muffled pick noise and page-turning noise.
0:59: Bridge based on chunky funk riffing, ending on a modulating cadence and drum roll.
1:33: 3rd verse.
1:52: Guitar solo over verse harmony (lead guitar and drums are panned around in opposite stereo directions). Some background noises may be backwards guitar/cymbals?
8 Fire 2:48      Basic tracks were initially recorded at DLL (with an improvised solo rather than the later more melodic unison lead). These were essentially scrapped and an entirely new take was created at Olympic. Jimi recorded a 2nd rhythm guitar take but the final mix only employs a second guitar during the melodic lead break sections (with one guitar filtered with a Mayer Octavia). Noel thinks a Telecaster might have been used this session.

0:00: Main guitar riff leads to Jimi's taunt over a drum break.
0:13: 1st verse based on stop-time riffing over a churning drum groove.
0:24: Chorus with uptempo groove, leading to drum break.
0:44: 2nd verse, chorus.
1:09: Bridge, melodic guitar lead (2 simultaneous tracks of a wailing melody motif, with one guitar processed with Octavia)
1:34: Intro sequence, 3rd verse, chorus.
2:11: Key briefly modulates with re-entrance of melodic guitar lead.
9 3rd Stone From The Sun 6:51      "It's about these cats coming down and taking over, but they find they don't really see anything here that's worth taking (laughs). They observe Earth for awhile and they think that the smartest animal on the whole Earth is chickens...they don't like the people too much so they just blow it up at the end."

     Initial takes were recorded at DLL and CBS, but were mostly discarded. These leftovers have never been released, but the ending of "Stone Free" may give an idea of the grooves they were going for. The eventually-released version was essentially created at Olympic, with some Mayer Fuzz Face generously employed at the end. Some vocal parts were recorded with the basic track playing at double speed, so that when played back at normal speed the voices would come out slower (at half-speed). The lyrics follow the breakdown (some spoken word sequences can only be heard by manipulating the Rock Band multi-tracks).

0:00: Floating jazz chords over a bass arpeggio, joined by slowed down vocals.
0:09: Guitar shadows bass arpeggios.
0:17: Theme A (based on chiming chordal figure).
0:26: Floating chords, arpeggios.
0:34: Chordal break.
0:43: Theme B in octaves over a loping bass groove.
1:20: Theme A into funk guitar solo over Theme B groove variation.
1:39: Spoken word over Theme B variation groove, then back to Theme B with lead guitar melody.
2:27: Dive-bomb guitar leads to a simmering jazz-shuffle vamp and generous amounts of whammy-bar guitar feedback, slowed-down spoken word, etc.
5:12: Heavy Theme B reprise, leading to layers of guitar cacophony and slowed down tape effects.

Lyrics:
(Slow)
Jimi: Star fleet to scout ship, please give your position, Over.
Chas: I am in orbit around the third planet from the star called the sun, Over.

Jimi: You mean it's the Earth? Over
Chas: Positive. It is known to have some form of intelligent species. Over.
Jimi: I think we should take a look. Dzhhh...wshhh (etc)


(Normal)
Strange beautiful grass of green
With your majestic silver seas
Your mysterious mountains I'd wish to see closer
May I land my kinky machine?

(Slow)
Strange beautiful (jazz shuffle begins) grass of green
With your majestic silver seas
Your mysterious mountains I'd  wish to see closer
May I land my kinky machine? 


(muted)

Jimi: Something just doesn't seem right with these, um..people...Over. Yeah?
Chas: Trying to suppress your urge...
Jimi: I think we're going to have to, uh, kinda check this out (laughter) - Like, there's a lotta acid-heads around here..heh heh heh...

(Normal)
Although your world wonders me
With your majestic and superior cackling hen
Your people I do not understand
So to you I shall put an end?
Then you'll never hear surf music again...

(Slow)
Jimi: Just try and, uhh.. be a acid drop that make people fly 
shhhhh...dzhhh..has dropped.. 
wait a sec, I'm trying to time this right...hmmm.
10 Remember 2:54      After a demo was recorded at DLL, the track was created at Olympic. The bass line was written by Noel. The groove is fairly reminiscent of Jimi's earlier work back in America with Curtis Knight, etc...

0:00: Chordal R&B/soul intro.
0:05: 1st verse (Wilson Pickett-style groove).
0:31: 2nd verse.
0:59: Bridge.
1:08: Minor key blues guitar solo overdubbed over verse harmony.
1:35: 3rd verse (w added lead guitar overdubs).
2:01: Verse with key modulation, bridge developed/faded. 
11 Are You Experienced? 4:16      This song was entirely created at Olympic with Kramer, Chkiantz, Mayer, etc... This song ultimately consisted of essentially 2 tracks of normal instruments (guitar/drums), 3 tracks of backwards instruments (guitar/bass/drums), 1 lead vocal track, 1 guitar overdub track and 1 final track for an out-of-tune piano part based on octaves. This is a truly incredible song and much more can be said about it, but I'll just cut to the breakdown...

0:00: Backwards drums and clipped guitar accents.
0:12: 1st verse main harmony over a march snare groove with added bell-like piano accents and backwards bass/drums.
0:41: Vocal over backwards tape solo break, cadence.
0:58: 2nd verse, backwards tape solo break with added guitar noise, cadence.
1:39: Backwards guitar solo over forwards rhythm guitar but backwards rhythm tracks (static vamp harmony).
2:50: 3rd verse resurfaces, break, backwards tape, clipped guitar elements.
3:47: Chordal comping, ending on fade out and brief return swell.



     Are You Experienced has been released hundreds of times, but the most current official release (from Experience Hendrix/Legacy) was released in 1997. The sequencing in that edition is a bit different than what I have above. However, that edition features a fresh remaster by Eddie Kramer and liner notes by noted rock critic Dave Marsh. The 1993 MCA edition, on the other hand, features liner notes by Michael Fairchild which are a bit more detailed about the actual making of the music on the CD. The sequencing there also follows the release sequence above.

     Finally, below is a studio timeline I initially tried to compile from published (and online) sources, but some of these sources ended up conflicting, so I basically gave up. Even if the dates are not precise, it gives some sense of the studio process behind the making of Are You Experienced...

Date Recording/Release
10.23
DeLane Lea Studios
"Hey Joe"
11.02
DeLane Lea
"Stone Free"
"Can You See Me" (demo)
12.16 "Hey Joe" b/w "Stone Free" released.
12.13-15
CBS Studios
"Foxey Lady" (basic tracks)
"Can You See Me"
"Love or Confusion" (basic tracks)
"Third Stone From the Sun" (not used)
"Red House" (LP version)
12.21
DeLane Lea
"Red House" (2 unused takes)
"Remember" (demo)
1967.01.11
DeLane Lea
"Purple Haze" (basic tracks)
"51st Anniversary"
"The Wind Cries Mary"
"Third Stone From the Sun" (not used)
"Fire" (only bass line retained)
2.03, 07, 08
Olympic Studios
"Purple Haze" (overdubs)
"Foxey Lady" (overdubs)
"Fire"
2.20
DeLane Lea
"Red House" (2nd ver on Smash Hits)
"Remember" (demo)
"I Don't Live Today"
3.01
DeLane Lea
"Like A Rolling Stone" (scrapped)
3.17 "Purple Haze" b/w "51st Anniversary" released.
3.29
DeLane Lea
"Manic Depression"
4.03
Olympic
"Highway Chile" (basic tracks)
"Are You Experienced" (basic tracks)
"Remember"
"May This Be Love"
4.04
Olympic
"Third Stone From the Sun"
"Highway Chile" (overdubs)
"Are You Experienced" (overdubs)
"Love or Confusion" (overdubs)
5.05 "The Wind Cries Mary" b/w "Highway Chile" released.
5.12 Are You Experienced? LP released.

Next: Axis: Bold As Love

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Prelude: Journeyman Days

     The focus of this project is to take a close look at Jimi Hendrix's releases under his own name, but a familiarity with his earlier sideman work reveals some fundamental stylistic devices which he would further develop for the rest of his all-too-brief career (especially on Axis: Bold As Love). Jimi's first recorded studio sessions were for R&B singles under band leaders such as Little Richard, Curtis Knight, the Isley Brothers and saxophonist King Curtis, and this "Prelude" will cover all of the currently available tracks found on releases from Jimi's official label, Experience Hendrix.

     Although some important events of Jimi's early career include forming a band with future bassist-collaborator Billy Cox in 1961 (the King Kasuals, unrecorded) and meeting guitarist Larry Lee in 1963 (who would later provide rhythm guitar backing for a few post-Experience projects), his recording career mainly begins in early 1964 with the Isley Brothers' "Testify, Pts 1 & 2". This session was followed by two years of bouncing around the States, playing and recording with several different R&B "chitlin circuit" bands. However, by July of 1966, Jimi is "discovered" by Chas Chandler at the Cafe Wha? in New York City (although a couple friendly sessions with Curtis Knight would extend into his Experience years).

     Jimi's session work ended up on a few dozen (!) R&B singles (some of them essentially different vocalists overdubbed onto his rhythm tracks from previous singles), but the easiest way to find the best of them is on the 2010 West Coast Seattle Boy anthology, which includes an entire disc comprised entirely of pre-Experience singles.

The Isley Brothers:
  • "Testify, Pts 1 & 2" (March (?) 1964): This propulsive, funky tune is driven by bass and organ. Jimi adds guitar licks in between the vocal verses, and contributes to some nice, accented cadences. His solo starts at 1:12 and anticipates some of the lead work on Electric Ladyland's "Come On". "Pt 2" starts at 2:55 (the record flip), and it's likely just an edit of "Pt 1", since the solo there is exactly the same as in "Part 1".
  • "Move Over and Let Me Dance" (65.08.05): Chronologically recorded much later than the above track, this Motown dance groove has some nice clean guitar with a Steve Cropper-ish Stax accompaniment (which would be further developed in Experience songs like "The Wind Cries Mary" and "Wait Until Tomorrow"). Several parts seems to be faded out on this mix (for example, brass). Jimi doesn't get a solo, but his loose comping here is always interesting and dynamic.
  • "Have You Ever Been Disappointed" (65.08.05): From the same session (the last with the Isleys), this soulful B-side ballad in waltz time (also with faded-out keys, brass, etc) features largely-arpeggiated chordal accompaniment with amp tremolo effects (pulsed dynamics). The bridge at 4:07 features some nice guitar comping which would come in handy in future ballads like "Little Wing". The outro section from 4:53 also has some nice comping embellishments enhanced by backup vocals (see "Purple Rain"-era Prince). At 5:48 it sounds like he changes his tone for a second by picking near the bridge. 
Don Covay:
  • "Mercy Mercy" (March or May 1964): This tune is another cheerful, swaying dance number which uses clean chordal Stax licks in the same style as those later found in "Wait Until Tomorrow" (and dialed down for "The Wind Cries Mary"). Jimi has a brief chordal lead break at 1:44. From 2:08 there are some additional lead embellishments, although these are fairly forgettable.
  • "Can't Stay Away" (March or May 1964): From the same session, this slow shuffle has rhythm guitar elements which will somewhat resurface in the Experience's cover of the Bob Dylan song, "Like A Rolling Stone". The guitar intro anticipates the beginning of "Hey Joe" as well. Jimi's dialogues with the bar-stool piano part is pretty cool. The bridge has some melodic lead material but, like "Mercy, Mercy", again sounds fairly generic (and could in fact be someone else on guitar).
Rosa Lee Brooks:
  • "My Diary" (circa Feb-Apr 1964, Los Angeles): Like Covay's "Can't Stay Away", this song also has a chiming opening guitar break, an idea later perfected in "Hey Joe" (and "Remember"). The comping style featured here would come in handy for Axis' "Castles Made of Sand". Essentially a feature for Rosa Lee Brooks, there is no guitar solo here (although backup vocals include Arthur Lee from Love).
  • "Utee" (circa Feb-Apr 1964): From the same session, this uptempo "Supremes"-like hip-shaker has some nice accented cadences and a rock and roll solo at 1:10.
Little Richard:
  • "I Don't Know What You Got But It's Got Me" (1964/65): This waltz-time ballad features a gentle guitar intro followed by arpeggiated chordal accompaniment, but no solo.
  • "Dancing All Around The World" (1964/65): This tune is like a slower "Tutti Frutti", and features fairly nondescript rock 'n roll rhythm guitar (but does include a sax solo).
Others:
  • Frank Howard & The Commanders, "I'm So Glad" (65, Summer): Jimi's first session with Billy Cox on bass, this Motown-inflected dance tune has no guitar solo, but does include some moments of biting guitar riffage in line with the fuzzier sounds used on contemporaneous rock records by the Rolling Stones, the Who, etc... The original single was backed by "I'm Sorry For You" (not included on West Coast Seattle Boy).
  • Ray Sharpe (with King Curtis Band), "Help Me (Get The Feeling) Pt. 1" (66.01.21): This song uses the same classic groove as Van Morrison's 1964 hit "Gloria", enhanced by a nice brass arrangement. From a guitar standpoint there's not much of note here, except that it fades out just as a single-note lead line begins to surface. 
  • The Icemen, "(My Girl) She's A Fox" (1966): Another waltz, the opening here possibly anticipates Jimi's later "Villanova Junction". The bridge at 1:10 uses some sliding chordal licks which would later be refined for "Little Wing". The original single was backed by "(I Wonder) What It Takes (Win Your Love)" (not included on West Coast Seattle Boy).
  • Jimmy Norman, "That Little Old Groove Maker" (1966): This rowdy rocker starts off with a honking guitar break in a nice, muscular tone (the opening accent "slam" will resurface in "Bold As Love"). The song eventually ends up in a Stax groove (see Steve Cropper's "In The Midnight Hour") and this kind of electric blues rocker would soon lead to others such as Howlin' Wolf's "Killing Floor" and Earl King's "Come On". Jimi would be recording Are You Experienced? within the year, and one can hear how he's here becoming more assertive with his tone. The ending features a nice embellishment on the main guitar groove. The original single was backed by "You're Only Hurting Yourself" (not included on West Coast Seattle Boy). An alternate take of this song with a different intro break also exists as a single.
  • Billy Lamont, "Sweet Thang" (1966): Jimi's tone here is also pretty close to his "mature" sound, and the see-saw octave harmony in the very beginning precedes a similar device later perfected/mutated in "Purple Haze". The intro is followed by a cool, loose electric boogie with lots of nice Hendrix-ey double-stop riffage. The break at 1:47 also anticipates the signature cadence figure in "Fire" ("Alright-tuh! Now dig this, baby!"). In any case, a great showcase for Jimi's guitar just before the Experience.
  • King Curtis, "Instant Groove": This is a 66.04.28 remix of Ray Sharpe's "Help Me", featuring new vocals, a slippery sax solo and a cool bass break (no additional guitar parts). 

Curtis Knight
     Jimi's sessions with Curtis Knight ("& The Squires") have circulated in various less-than-stellar presentations over the years, but the only "official" collection is 2015's You Can’t Use My Name: Curtis Knight & The Squires (featuring Jimi Hendrix) The RSVP/PPX Sessions.
  • "How Would You Feel" (65.10.06): This tune includes a high register arpeggio figure which Jimi would use on the similar chorus to his cover of Bob Dylan's "Like A Rolling Stone". There are two guitar tracks, one clean and one fuzzed out (left side). Sadly, the song fades out just as it sounds as if Jimi is about to start a fuzz guitar solo...
  • "Gotta Have A New Dress": This uptempo rock and roller features a clean, slick guitar solo at 1:21. The ending coda also features Jimi stretching out a bit.
  • "Don’t Accuse Me": Similar in groove to Bo Diddley "I'm A Man", this track features a slinky solo at 1:44, but is otherwise fairly straight-forward. This kind of modal blues would eventually be perfected in Jimi's "Hear My Train A Comin'".
  • "Fool For You Baby": This is a fairly psychedelic tune with some interesting production choices. Jimi comps imaginatively, mixing accents and heavier figures (but no guitar solo).  
  • "No Such Animal": This instrumental jam opens with a T-Rex groove, leading to soul jazz with organ, and book-ended by rock and roll cadences. Jimi gets two meaty solos at 1:18 and 3:17 and essentially owns this tune.
  • "Welcome Home" (October 1965): B-side to "How Would You Feel", this cheerful, mid-tempo, blues-progression-based tune features two rhythm guitar tracks spitting out accented "walking" chords, leading to a fuzz-twang solo at 1:35. Jimi develops the left speaker guitar part during the ending jam section.
  • "Knock Yourself Out [Flying On Instruments]" (June 1966): Instrumental B-side (composed by Hendrix) to "Hornet’s Nest" (see below), the "Miserlou" opening figure leads to a blues-based riff groove (somewhat like a primal "Day Tripper"), leading to a snarling solo at 1:14 featuring a variety of tasty licks, sliding double-stops and free-meter shredding. At 2:43 is a stop-time drum solo, eventually leading to an (unintended?) increase in tempo. At about 4:00, Jimi breaks from the main riff and stretches out into some freer rhythm guitar, leading to some loose lead playing with octaves - and ending on a massive tremolo bar dive bomb!
  • "Simon Says": This is a rock and roll dance tune featuring Knight as the dance "caller". The chorus harmony is somewhat similar to the Rolling Stones' "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" riff. No solo. 
  • "Station Break": Another mid-tempo instrumental, the opening accent figure will resurface in the opening to "If 6 Was 9". The bulk of the song features tasty, slightly-over-driven comping, similar to that later heard in "Wait Until Tomorrow".
  • "Strange Things": An "exotica"-tinged bongo-and-fuzz-guitar intro leads to a tropical "I'm A Man" groove with two rhythm guitars. This kind of loose, free-wheeling groove would be useful in future live renditions of "Voodoo Chile".  At 1:28, Jimi takes a cheerfully-frenzied solo, opening with some tremolo-picking.
  • "Hornet’s Nest" (June 1966): This instrumental "I-IV-V" rocker (somewhere in between "Batman" and "Peter Gunn", but credited to Hendrix) apparently gets its name from the heavily-fuzzed out main guitar riff and the swirling keyboard figure (somewhat evocative of "Flight of the Bumblebee", I guess). Jimi employs some fairly noisy sonic mayhem during the breaks, and takes one of his most distorted solos ever at 0:39 (although the tone is very unrefined compared to his mature work). His second solo at 2:11 takes on a straight rockabilly tone, but a third lead break at 4:03 fuzzes out again.
  • "You Don’t Want Me": This uptempo Motown groove has some tasty, clipped rhythm guitar and a brief 'rock and roll' lead break at 0:56. Some strange panning seems to be at work in this mix as well...probably unintended? The ending features an added heavy fuzz riff line.  
  • "You Can’t Use My Name" (1967): This is basically studio talk, not an actual song.
  • "Gloomy Monday" (Aug 1967): This is a nicely-mixed funk workout featuring a more- matured Hendrix comping style (it was recorded during the Experience years). At 1:19 the song suddenly takes a "psychedelic pop" detour (a la early Pink Floyd).  

     Experience Hendrix's sub-label, Dagger Records, has also released a live album, Curtis Knight [featuring Jimi Hendrix]: Live At George’s Club 20 1965 & 1966 (which I'll probably cover in a later chapter). A few notable singles not yet released under the Experience Hendrix label banner include Jimi's cuts with Lonnie Youngblood ("Go Go Shoes/Go Go Place", "Soul Food", and "Goodbye, Bessie May"), and a couple B-sides mentioned above. The earliest video of Jimi Hendrix can be seen in this 1965 clip of "Shotgun", where he backs up Buddy & Stacy. Finally, the best online resource for pre-Experience Hendrix is indisputably EarlyHendrix.com.

     As an addendum, it might be interesting to note that Jimi's first band, The Rocking Kings included these songs in their set (from Jas Obrecht's great article):
  • Ritchie Valens: La Bamba
  • Boots Randolph: Yakety Sax 
  • Bobby Freeman: Do You Want to Dance
  • Danny & The Juniors: At the Hop
  • The Coasters: Poison Ivy, Charlie Brown
  • Ray Anthony: Peter Gunn
  • Shirley & Lee: Let the Good Times Roll