The Jimi Hendrix Experience's Are You Experienced turns 45
When he came storming onto the scene, Jimi Hendrix made weepy children out of the world's best guitar players, bringing a primal sexuality and grace to his playing that only a true master of the craft could muster. Guitarists like Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Pete Townshend had spent nearly the whole of their young lives attempting to be the most impressive, most proficient guitar players anyone in England had ever seen, and then along comes this shy Yankee to plug in and make them all look like rank amateurs.
The Jimi Hendrix Experience's Are You Experienced, released on May 12, 1967, turned 45 over the weekend.
"Jimi threatened us both, in a way," Townshend has said of himself and Clapton, who were both in awe of him, and that awe undermined their own ambitions. "He was at one with his instrument," Neil Young said while inducting Hendrix into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. "There was no technique that you could take note of. No chords that I could recognize. I didn't know what any of it was. I just heard it, felt it and I wanted to do it."
Long before Hendrix was confounding the greats, he was barely getting by as a session musician, fulfilling the Gladwellian rule of 10,000 hours to become a master of your craft. The Isley Brothers, Little Richard, Ike & Tina Turner, Curtis Knight, Sam Cooke, Jackie Wilson...throughout the young history of rock and roll, there is the guitar playing of Jimi Hendrix, punctuating the sentences and seasoning the music that came before him.
Going solo with the name Jimmy James with his own band, the Blue Flame, Hendrix was befriended by Keith Richards's girlfriend, Linda Keith (the two would become an item, inspiring Richards to pen the song "Ruby Tuesday"), who introduced Hendrix to Animals bassist Chas Chandler. One of the first to notice Hendrix's wild talent, Chandler brought Hendrix overseas to London, where his abilities might be more appreciated. "I'd never been to England before; that's the only reason, 'cause I'd never been," Hendrix said in a 1967 interview. "I could play louder over there; I could really get myself together over there."
Hendrix got together with English musicians Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell, and the Jimi Hendrix Experience was formed. Blowing away Paul McCartney, Clapton, Townshend -- basically the whole of the 1966 London music scene -- Hendrix was nearly an overnight sensation. He'd only been with his new band two weeks before they began recording Are You Experienced.