Rock-and-Roll Adventures The Jimi Hendrix Experience Intensifies
by Tracy Falbe
With Are You Experienced? On the British charts, Jim Hendrix continued to tour Europe while his managers Chas Chandler and Mike Jeffery looked to America, where musicians could make fortunes. The wild stage performances developed during packed shows around Europe where Jimi Hendrix began his trademark burning of his guitar were more than enough to attract attention and controversy in the United States.
The United States was well-primed for the return of Jimi Hendrix. The band’s co-manager, Mike Jeffery, had landed a record deal with Warner Brothers that brought with it a phenomenal $150,000 advance. Although record executives no doubt harbored doubts that Jimi Hendrix would become a rock legend, the size of the deal shows that they knew that Jimi Hendrix had the most potential to be a guitar hero more than anyone else.
The first gig for the Jimi Hendrix Experience was at the Monterey International Pop Festival, an outdoor venue in California . The Experience was literally an explosive success after Hendrix burned his guitar at the end of his set in a ritual sacrifice. Music fans were enthralled by his music and theatrics. Much touring and the recording of great albums would ensue.
After the success of Monterery, Jimi Hendrix played sold-out shows in San Francisco and his managers rushed to line up more gigs.
In the early summer of 1967, Jimi Hendrix was signed to be the opening act for the wildly popular Monkees. The obviously disastrous combination of teenie bop and charging experimental rock-and-roll is laughable now, but it was a painful business commitment that all parties decided to put to a merciful death after only a few shows.
Free of the Monkees tour, Jimi Hendrix and his band toured around the United States wherever they could. In late summer 1967, they returned to Great Britain, wiser, not really any richer, but definitely on the charts on both sides of the pond.
In December 1967, the Jimi Hendrix Experience released its second album Axis Bold As Love that is one of my personal favorites. The songs on Axis Bold As Love touch on numerous emotions and usually tell sweet or inspirational stories. I find the entire album filled with gems of poetic wisdom.
With the arrival of 1968, Jimi Hendrix was undeniably a smash success. Both of his albums were selling, and his managers Chas Chandler and Mike Jeffery were about to cash in by setting up a relentless tour schedule. For example during the period of February to April 1968, the Jimi Hendrix Experience played 49 shows in 70 days. Such a hectic super-charged schedule brought the inevitable stresses infamously associated with rock-and-roll.
Noel Redding who initially had been accommodating when cast as the band’s bassist began to chafe under the enormous weight of Jimi Hendrix’s creative genius and popularity. The band was completely about Jimi Hendrix. Redding wanted to contribute more of his talent to the songwriting, and tensions began to rise because the focus of the creative process was always on Jimi.
To cope with the interpersonal stresses emerging among a band run ragged by the strong pull of an adoring and well-paying public, drug use accelerated. Partying and drug use including marijuana and pharmaceutical uppers and downers were well established as part of the 1960s rock-and-roll scene. The festive high of the performing lifestyle easily lends itself to drug use and abuse. Along with skyrocketing fame, Jimi Hendrix attracted increasing numbers of hangers-on and groupies, many hoping for the chance to “get high” with the world’s greatest guitarist.
Jimi Hendrix was reportedly frustrated with the forced march of his touring schedule because he felt he had no time to focus on writing new songs and organizing his creative ideas. As evidence of his perpetual need to express himself, Jimi Hendrix left behind a large legacy of handwritten notes of poems and stories as he drafted and sketched his song ideas. Many of these are written on hotel stationery, which reveals how he stole moments of quiet while on tour to work on his songs.
After a storm of touring, Jimi Hendrix and his band mates crash landed in New York City to begin recording their third album at the Manhattan studio called the Record Plant. Jimi Hendrix planned to carefully craft the multitude of songs burgeoning in his head and put out a distinctive album that improved upon his previous works.
Reportedly Jimi Hendrix asserted his creative control much more with the recording of his third album, which was to be the stunning Electric Ladyland. He needed a lot of expensive studio time however as he refined every detail of each song. The cost drove Chas Chandler into financial fits. He constantly tried to get the studio costs under control and rein in the creative genius of Jimi Hendrix which seems so petty in retrospect considering that Electric Ladyland is still selling 40 years later. But Chandler’s budget at the time might have been worrisome. Life is not always creative bliss for the one writing the checks.
Despite financial pressure, discontent among band mates, and the speeding swirl of the rock-and-roll lifestyle, Jimi Hendrix recorded a wonderful double album filled with passion, delicacy, and poetry. Every song on Electric Ladyland builds in intensity and creativity. Pure rock-and-roll is directed through Jimi Hendrix’s successful experiments with sound and musical composition. The song “Rainy day, dream away” teaches the listener how to find pleasure in a rainy day while Jimi Hendrix’s guitar skitters through the storytelling and you can almost see the little animals shaking the water from their fur and children splashing in puddles. Then “1983…(A Merman I Should Turn To Be)” reveals a dreamy landscape from Jimi Hendrix’s mind where one seeks rest from war and makes love upon the sand. His wondrous recording of “All Along the Watchtower” also appears on this album. The sparse yet charming poetry of Bob Dylan melds perfectly with the tone of epic adventure set by Jimi Hendrix’s guitar that vividly paints the scenes of wild cats prowling and barefoot servants.
When Electric Ladyland was complete, it added up to 17 songs that were produced as double LP records. It was costly to produce and did not seem to have the trappings of a hit, but once it was released in October 1968, music lovers rushed to buy it. Jimi Hendrix rounded out the year 1968 with his first number one record.
CONTINUE >> Jimi Hendrix - Making Love With the Gods
Page 1 - A Tribute to Jimi Hendrix
Page 2 - A Guitar Hero Is Born - Jimi Hendrix the Early Years
Page 3 - Marching to His Own Tune - Jimi Hendrix Gains Experience
Page 4 - Rock-and-Roll Adventure - The Jimi Hendrix Experience Intensifies
Page 5 - Jimi Hendrix - Making Love With the Gods