The US tends to make the weather when it comes to popular culture but there have been a few exceptions in music history, one such notable incidence occuring in 1967 when it found itself behind the curve on the electric guitar magic of Jimi Hendrix.
The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s revolutionary debut album, Are You Experienced, was released in May 1967 in the UK, peaking at number two in the charts before receiving a wider release in the States in August, and in the interim it became the kind of record that only those in the know had familiarised themselves with.
Billy Gibbons, then of the Moving Sidewalks, was one. He had an English girlfriend who turned him onto Hendrix, and would even have the chutzpah – and the talent – to put some covers from Are You Experienced in the set when he toured in support of Hendrix. Game recognises game; Hendrix approved.
But consider this: even the family hadn’t heard the record, and when they did, not all recognised him right way. As Jimi’s younger sister and president and CEO of Experience Hendrix, Janie Hendrix, revealed to Nate Goyer on The Vinyl Guide podcast, the family’s first experience of Are You Experienced was when they heard it coming through the walls at their Seattle home. And they had the hippies to thank for the introduction.
“Right, so we lived in a triplex, and there were the hippy girls – that’s what my parents called them – two girls who lived next door,” she recalled. “It’s like a house that is divided by three. The walls were thin, and we hear music. I remember dad saying, ‘That’s Jimi playing. I don’t know who’s singing, but that’s Jimi playing.’ Because in my dad’s mind, he didn’t think Jimi could sing. [Laughs]
“My mom goes next door, she knocks on the door and says, ‘Can we ask you what record you’re playing?’ And she shows here, and it was the Are You Experienced record, and that’s how we acquired our first Are You Experienced album, because our mom said, ‘That’s our son!’ And the hippy girl said, ‘Oh my god! Here! Take it! We’ll go buy another one.’ I think he relied on his management to send us records but they never did.”
Goyer and Hendrix’s conversation covered a wide range of topics, from the archive process, and how Experience Hendrix acquires audio materials to be restored, ephemera to be preserved, to Jimi’s evolution as an artist, working with Eddie Kramer, and the pivotal moments in his career.
Tantalisingly, she hinted that there will be more archive materials to be shared, and that more unheard recordings that are ripe for restoration.
“Jimi worked really hard,” she said. “My dad had a really great work ethic, which he passed on to Jimi and myself. [Jimi] was constantly working on his music, whether it was in his apartment on a four-track, or if he was in the studio, or just if he was on the road in a hotel room.
“Also, there were a lot of shows, a lot of live shows, and not all were recorded but we have put the word out, ‘If you were at this concert, even if you recorded it from your hand-held tape recorder or whatever, we would like to have that.’”
Such are the advances in technology, even beat-up old recordings might yield some gold, and Experience Hendrix has Hendrix’s engineer, Eddie Kramer, on hand to help fix them up.
“Eddie [Kramer] is a master in the studio as far as cleaning things up,” she said. “I think technology has finally caught up with Jimi, so cleaning up tape has become much better than it was decades ago. Whatever we can get our hands on.
“There is a lot out there still that we don’t have that we would love to have in our collection and be able to clean it up and present it to the fans the way it should be heard and enjoyed.”
But might we see knew deluxe reissues of currently released albums? Janie Hendrix did not elaborate, but when conversation turned to her brother’s friendship with Frank Zappa, she mentioned that work on converting Hendrix material to Dolby Atmos.
Most recently, Experience Hendrix celebrated Jimi Hendrix at 80 with the release of Jimi Hendrix Experience – Los Angeles Forum April 26, 1969, through Legacy Recordings, and Jimi, a special edition illustrated hardcover authored by Janie Hendrix and John McDermott.
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