“I came to England, picked out the two best musicians, the best equipment, and all we are trying to do now is create, create, create, music, our own personal sound, our own personal being…”
Are You Experienced was released 50 years ago today! Say WHAAAAT? 50??? Far out, man. This album has been called the greatest and most influential debut album of all time. Music critic Dave Marsh writes, “Are You Experienced is sort of the musical equivalent of the Big Bang that scientists believed originated the universe. In both cases, many generations later, the world is still trying to absorb, organize and make sense of what that initiating event spewed forth.”
I can’t claim to remember when this album came out as I was one year old at the time. But I did listen to it and much more Jimi in my teens and twenties, and had the album spinning on my turntable less than a couple of decades after its release. Four or five songs off of Experienced were standards on the rock stations I grew up listening to. And if you were into rock music at all (and I was definitely into it), Hendrix was THE Guitar God, second to none, the golden standard, the Wayne Gretzky of freaky-haired ax wielders.
Are You Experienced sounds and feels like nothing else. It is so hard to believe it is 50 years old because it sounds so fresh. On this celebration of the Birth of the Other Big Bang, here are some of my random thoughts on this scorching, far out, explosive album:
- “Purple Haze” opens the album. This song alone must have blown people’s minds in 1967. Can you imagine turning on the radio and hearing hits like Lulu’s “To Sir with Love” or the Monkees “I’m a Believer” and then the DJ puts on this track that sounds like the beginning of an alien invasion?! Bom, BAM, Bom, BAM, Bom, BAM, Bom, BAM!!! Holy Hannah Banana
- I said the album sounds fresh but that doesn’t mean it is without its dated elements. My favorite is “Foxey Lady”. That term sounds so quaint 50 years later. It’s hard to imagine that hip dudes in the ’60s actually referred to good-looking women this way. It remains a blistering track but was mined for comic gold in “Wayne’s World” as Garth lip-syncs it for the woman he adores.
- I always listened to Hendrix to hear Hendrix, the guitar work that seemed to be produced by someone returned from some alternative future world. But years later, when I started playing the drums, I began to listen to music to hear what the drummers were doing. “Manic Depression”, the second track on this album, just about sent me into fits of aural pleasure: Mitch Mitchell absolutely kills it. Undoubtedly one of the greatest rock drummers of all time who often gets eclipsed by the fact that he backed Jimi.
- Love the hair on these guys on the album jacket photos. If you thought Jimi’s afro was wild, check out Mitchell’s. That is an epic white guy ‘fro, there.
- “The Wind Cries Mary” is a GREAT song. It really and truly is a GREAT song. Reading the lyrics I can’t help but think Jimi was trying to write like Dylan, especially 1966 Blonde on Blonde Dylan: “Will the wind every remember/ The names it has blown in the past?/ And with its crutch, its old age and its wisdom/ It whispers, ‘No, this will be the last’/ And the wind cries Mary”.
- If you want to own a Hendrix album and are wondering which one, well, he only released three in his young life (he was dead at 27) but Experienced is the one. Buy it, download it, whatever – Add it to your collection if you truly consider yourself a lover of rock and of music that matters. Experience it, all you hip dudes and foxey ladies.