The Jimi Hendrix Experience

TrackAlbum
Are You ExperiencedAre You Experienced
Love Or ConfusionAre You Experienced
3rd Stone From The SunAre You Experienced
If Six Was NineAxis: Bold As Love
Little WingAxis: Bold As Love
Bold As LoveAxis: Bold As Love
1983 (A Merman I Should Turn To Be)Electric Ladyland
Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)Electric Ladyland
Rainy Day, Dream Away Electric Ladyland
Have You Ever Been (To Electric Ladyland)Electric Ladyland

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Contributor: Dietmar Gasch

I have been a Jimi Hendrix fan from the moment I first heard him play in 1967. I saw him on six occasions on stage, including the two big festivals at the Isle of Wight and the Isle of Fehmarn in 1970 – this was his final live performance. Picking ten of his best is – generally speaking – impossible, without omitting many incredibly good songs. My selection is, therefore, focussing on the first three life time albums which can be considered the most influential on other musicians and music since.

I know that some of you will say: but what about Angel, Villanova Junction, My Friend, Machine Gun, Castles Made Of Sand, and so on, and so on … and some may say, where are the well known hits?

Well, starting with my parents’ generation until today, most people associate loudness, wild guitar solos, strange feedback, and weird cosmic lyrics with the name Jimi Hendrix. However, I believe Jimi’s real strength was his ability to write ear-pleasing melodies and perform them in an energetic way; his ability to hear exactly how a melody should be arranged and played. Then he came out with this bizarre quote:

“I think I’m a better guitarist than I was, but I have never been really good. The music I might hear I can’t get on the guitar… As a matter of fact, if you pick up your guitar and try to play, it spoils the whole thing.”

What a statement by the undisputed best guitar player since the invention of the instrument! I don’t want to use the word “ever” but I doubt there will be a better one, still who knows? Jimi’s answer was to seek out all kinds of musicians with different instrumental skills so that he could conduct the music in his head and make it available for us.

After this preamble, maybe my selection will be better understood since all of these ten songs fit into the musical style described earlier. Even today, after more than 45 years, I’m not getting tired of listening to Jimi’s music. Force me to hear it every day, and I will be glad to oblige, doubting that it would ever come to a point when I would say no …

If you want lively evidence of what The Jimi Hendrix Experience was like on stage, see them perform Foxy Lady from the Miami Pop Festival on the recently released DVD, Hear My Train A Comin’, with footage of this classic concert available for the first time. It’s not one of my favourite songs but the quality of the film, and the mood in which Jimi played, are outstanding.

“When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.” Jimi Hendrix

 

The Official Jimi Hendrix Site

The Pre-History of Jimi Hendrix

Toppermost recommends
Jimi Hendrix Lifelines

Jimi Hendrix biography (iTunes)

At last! Jimi is on toppermost. Thanks Dietmar, this will echo with many fans. So much posthumous material too (Dietmar has alluded to some of it) and Band of Gypsys, so please let us know about your favourites beyond these first three albums and the hit singles, and tell us what the man’s music means to you.

Later … in respect to our contributor’s feelings expressed eloquently in the Comments below, we are no longer looking for a subsequent Hendrix post.

TopperPost #129

16 Comments

  1. Peter Viney
    Nov 19, 2013

    As a daily reader of Toppermost, I envisage two (at least) kinds of reader. Some days I’m keen to comment because I know a lot or a bit about an artist and want to debate the choices in the list. Just as often I’m fascinated to read about someone I know only a little about (Parliament, Coldplay) or nothing at all (Blind Willie Johnson, Sammy Walker) about, and then I investigate. I don’t think everyone is an expert on Jimi, so the first five choices I’d make would all be singles: Hey Joe, Purple Haze, The Wind Cries Mary, All Along The Watchtower, Voodoo Child. I know Jimi dissed his own singles on the Lulu Show, but so often you can say as much in three minutes as in six.

    Hey Joe is a cover, and not of a rare song but it demonstrated that a new guitar player was in town. Purple Haze was startling in March 1967. There were no metaphors for LSD there. It was straight to the point, and a #3 hit too. It also had one of the best-known misheard lyrics (Scuse me while I kiss the sky / this guy). The Wind Cries Mary then showed the reflective Jimi … I was delighted to see Third Stone From The Sun in the list too. All Along The Watchtower took a Dylan classic, and rearranged it so radically that ever after Dylan performed the Hendrix version of his own song. Then Voodoo Chile was his biggest hit, and I saw Glenn Tilbrook cover it last week.

    So the album I’d take most from is the compilation “Smash Hits” from 1968, though the UK and US versions differ. The other singles like Burning of The Midnight Lamp (UK LP only), and Crosstown Traffic (US LP only) are there. Then I’d want the blues influence, so Red House from “Are You Experienced?” is also on the US Smash Hits.

    Little Wing is essential. But Jimi was a live player (hence the interminable posthumous albums which I’d also avoid) and you’d need to show how far out he could go. So Star Spangled Banner from “Woodstock”. Monterey Pop was where Jimi stunned the USA, and the album to choose is the earlier issue with a side of Jimi and a side of Otis Redding rather than the longer one. It’s between two covers: Like A Rolling Stone and Wild Thing. That’s ten … and I’d have to have If Six Was Nine because it’s on the “Easy Rider” OST.

  2. Merric Davidson
    Nov 19, 2013

    I have to say that Dietmar’s Jimi listing fits the toppermost criteria all but perfectly, “music fans selecting favourite tracks by favourite artists; not necessarily the most popular songs or the biggest sellers, but a mixture of the undeniable classics or those hidden away on albums”. He’s been a Hendrix “superfan” right from the start and he’s really picked out a superb playlist which I’ve thoroughly enjoyed listening to this morning. Sure, the hits will always be there, and they’re overly familiar to folk of my generation, but for someone coming new to the man, apart from what they may have heard on soundtrack or radio or whatever, his topperlist takes some beating.

  3. Peter Viney
    Nov 19, 2013

    Still thinking Hendrix. Technically, neither Band of Gypsys (sic) nor Cry of Love are ‘The Jimi Hendrix Experience’ but Jimi Hendrix. The Band of Gypsys has the solid rhythm section of Billy Cox and Buddy Miles, great playing, but lacks in the quality of the material to me. I would have to have something from Cry of Love, probably Angel, because as the first posthumous album it really did have the pick of the unreleased stuff. It was replaced by the eventual issue of First Rays of The New Rising Sun, which has it all. This year there has been a confusing flurry of reappearing albums, all on vinyl too, but I was bitten too often by “later” Jimi albums, except “Radio One” which is great stuff from BBC sessions. Day Tripper?

  4. Ian Ashleigh
    Nov 19, 2013

    Thanks Dietmar for a great list and essay. I shouldn’t disagree with the choices but I would have to make room for Crosstown Traffic simply because I love the song and All Along the Watchtower because who else has made a cover version so much their own that it has caused debates and disputes in the pub as to who actually wrote the song. We had to get a copy of the record to prove that the composer was Bob Dylan and not Hendrix himself. Which two to remove? Voodoo Chile perhaps and Rainy Day Dream Away – but why!

    • Dietmar Gasch
      Nov 19, 2013

      Ian, Crosstown Traffic was on my mind as well. Simply the fact the Jimi played the main “humming” melody with a comb and paper makes this an outstanding song which shows his genius. But as you said – why leave others out. I would have preferred to write down my top 25 🙂

  5. Merric Davidson
    Nov 19, 2013

    The ‘editorial comment’ above, i.e. “so much posthumous material too (Dietmar has alluded to some of it) and Band of Gypsys, so please let us know about your favourites beyond these first three albums and the hit singles” was intended to convey that a “Jimi Hendrix” post, in addition to this “Jimi Hendrix Experience” post, would be welcome. There were only the three Experience albums which Dietmar has lovingly remembered here and, after all, several of the tracks that were released following his death would have appeared on future Hendrix studio albums. It would be great if one of the contributors to the “Toppermost Recommends” website listed above – Jimi Hendrix Lifelines – felt like sifting through the masses of material to deliver an ultimate Jimi Hendrix toppermost to the site.

  6. Peter Viney
    Nov 19, 2013

    I had a car journey after posting earlier so took the “Cornerstones 1967-70” compilation. The one I pressed replay on three times was Have You Ever Been to (Electric Ladyland) because I do like Jimi doing his best Impressions / Curtis Mayfield and it’s said he was especially proud of the singing. But it also reminded me that Foxy Lady was everyone’s favourite live track. Wonderful.

    “Cornerstones” is an Alan Douglas production, so perhaps unsurprisingly it leans heavily in his “Best of” selection to what he calls “The Cry of Love Band.” That brings two points. First it’s very hard to clearly differentiate it from The JH Experience (JHE) as both feature Jimi and Mitch Mitchell. The difference is Billy Cox on bass instead of Noel Redding, but then Jimi Hendrix played bass guitar himself on some JHE studio tracks, including All Along The Watchtower and Have You Ever Been to (Electric Ladyland). There is a famous concert where for fun, Noel Redding played 6-string guitar on “Red House” and Jimi played bass.

    The other thing is only two songs, Have You Ever Been to (Electric Ladyland) and Voodoo Chile are on both “Cornerstones” and Dieter’s list. Dieter’s list gives me food for thought, and I will pull it into a playlist and savour it in order, but I still respectfully feel that the selection on “Cornerstones” is much closer to what I would play to someone asking simply about Hendrix, or if you prefer, the JHE. On my travels today I asked four people aged 30-35 AND keen on music to name Jimi Hendrix tracks, and no one got past three.

  7. Merric Davidson
    Nov 19, 2013

    The power of toppermost. You did market research Peter! Extraordinary. “No one got past three” sounds like a positive to me. But the fact remains that what you may play to someone to let them know about what made Hendrix a star, is not the same thing as a toppermost listing at all. I refer to my earlier comment about the criteria on the “About Us” page on this site. OK throw in Hey Joe and/or Purple Haze if you must, and they’re two of my all-time favourite singles by the way, but unless you also list some of the album tracks that our contributor has revealed, a list of Hendrix hits would be for another site.

    PS: We used to play a pretty mean acoustic version of Foxy Lady in the folk clubs of Essex in the 60s. Far out!!

  8. Peter Viney
    Nov 19, 2013

    Foxy Lady also has a “virtual single” halo which so often opening tracks of great albums acquire. I hope there is a recording of Foxy Lady (Acoustic) “Live in Essex” which can be revealed! Incidentally, the later (current) CD versions of “Are You Experienced” add in both sides of the first three singles as bonus tracks, which reminded me of “Stone Free.”

  9. Merric Davidson
    Nov 19, 2013

    There should be an acetate somewhere. Would have also included our finger-in-the-ear a cappella versions of Massachusetts and Pictures of Matchstick Men. We could empty a room in just a few minutes!

  10. Carl Burnett
    Nov 19, 2013

    Great piece Dietmar.
    What I would have given to have seen him live! Unlike some (many, even) I think Jimi was producing some of his best work later in his career. Band Of Gypsys is a stunning album and I rate Machine Gun as his best ever live performance.
    Another track I would make room for in a top ten would be Ezy Rider from First Rays Of The New Rising Sun. One of his most exciting studio cuts.

  11. Rob Millis
    Nov 20, 2013

    Great piece but I don’t see enough distinction between the Jimi Hendrix Experience and later stuff to warrant further articles: this is a good one, and we should accept the ten choices as they are. After all the collaborations with Gil Evans etc never bore official fruit at the time and effectively the band of Gypsies and beyond were merely an excuse to find a more inspiring bassist! I believe that once Buddy Miles was out the picture, Mitch M was back but Billy Cox was still around, some gigs were even billed as the JHE again. I vote we accept Dietmar’s ten choices in the spirit they were offered and via these comments suggest examples beyond the original JHE triumvirate of releases. Do we really need a blow by blow account of what was generally always a guitar-bass-drums three piece? I don’t recall Larry Lee and Juma Sultan even being audible during their brief tenure….

    • Dietmar Gasch
      Nov 20, 2013

      Thank you, Rob, your comment is pretty much in the sense I wrote this article. I want to focus again on a couple of things:
      1. There can be no discussion about taste, so everybody should have her/his own top 10.
      2. This article was not written with the intention to introduce Jimi to people that didn’t know him before.
      3. I will not comment on posts that disagree with my selection when the poster has the intention to prove that her/his opinion is right and mine is wrong.
      4. I fully agree that there should be no split of Jimi’s oeuvre into Experience and post Experience. The reason is simple: Jimi himself called the last formation with Mitch and Billy (which I also would consider the best ever formation) The New Experience.

      And one tip to all: if you want to get a first hand insight into Jimi’s life and intention I can recommend this facebook group, Jimi Hendrix – The electric guru (slight return).

      There are many people that knew Jimi personally (like my friends Billy Cox, Juma Sultan, Leon Hendrix to name a few), that have written books about Jimi or that have made documentaries. Tons of information for the real Jimi lover…

  12. Merric Davidson
    Nov 20, 2013

    In the light of Dietmar’s comments above – and in keeping with Rob’s expressed view above that – toppermost editorial options have now been reviewed and revised (see postscript to Dietmar’s post).

    Let the debate continue!

  13. Keith Shackleton
    Nov 30, 2013

    I popped up a bit late for this excellent discussion and list… thanks, Dietmar, for compiling it. My favourite Jimi instrumental (a cover but no less powerful because of that) is Driving South, found on the BBC Sessions album, from Top Gear, 13/10/67 (disc 1, track 17). Have a chuckle as you imagine the engineers scrabbling to pull the faders down as Jimi takes off into the stratosphere after the opening few bars, and the ending is truly explosive. Great playing from all the trio.

    • Dietmar Gasch
      Nov 30, 2013

      Yep, Keith, a good one like soooo many others. One of the other interesting parts in Jimi’s music is by the way the fact that so many different styles have bcome favourites for someone. From the 12string version of Hear my train coming to the wildest space music. It is an amazingly broad band for a man who was producing music over just 3 years…

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