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The Essential Boomer Album Collection - Part 5

Are You Experienced (1967)

This is the album that changed everything. Music was never the same after Jimi Hendrix’s debut album, Are You Experienced, hit record stores like a proverbial bombshell.

Nobody had sounded like this before. The first time you heard, it sounded loud, ugly, and discordant.  By the third or fourth listening, you were hooked.

If your parents thought the Beatles and Rolling Stones were “noise,” here was an album that would really piss them off! What a great reason to buy it and play it loud.

The band’s line-up was unique, too. Two Brits and one American. Two white guys and one black guy.

But the album you were listening to was not the same album listeners in other countries were hearing.

Two versions of Are You Experienced were released. One for the U.S. And another version for the U.K. and international markets. The two versions shared 8 of 11 tracks, but even those were placed in different order.

Here’s the American version of Are You Experienced:

SIDE ONE

  1. Purple Haze
  2. Manic Depression
  3. Hey Joe
  4. Love or Confusion
  5. May This Be Love
  6. I Don’t Live Today

SIDE TWO

  1. The Wind Cries Mary
  2. Fire
  3. Third Stone from the Sun
  4. Foxy Lady
  5. Are You Experienced?

Here’s the version the rest of the world heard:

SIDE ONE

  1. Foxy Lady
  2. Manic Depression
  3. Red House
  4. Can You See Me
  5. Love or Confusion
  6. I Don’t Live Today

SIDE TWO

  1. May This Be Love
  2. Fire
  3. Third Stone from the Sun
  4. Remember
  5. Are You Experienced?

The reason for the difference is that “Purple Haze,” “Hey Joe,” and “The Wind Cries Mary” had already been released in the U.K. as singles (and had done very well). At that time, singles were often omitted from albums in consideration for fans who had already purchased he 45’s.

Hard to believe but in 1966, Jimi Hendrix was struggling to find work as an R&B guitarist. Chas Chandler had just left the Animals and was looking to manage rock stars. He convinced Hendrix to come to London with the promise of assembling a group that would showcase Jimi’s unique blend of blues, R&B and hard rock. Once Hendrix arrived, Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell were quickly recruited to play bass and drums respectively. The Jimi Hendrix Experience was born!

The band failed their audition with Decca Records (the label infamous for also passing on the Beatles). But the group was picked up by a new label, Track Records, that was being launched by the Who’s management team, Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp.

Are You Experienced was recorded over a five month period at three different studios in London.

While the Jimi Hendrix Experience had solid success on the British Top 40, their early single releases in the states went nowhere. Nevertheless, when their debut album was released in August of 1967, it shot into the top 10 on Billboard’s Album charts, forcefully demonstrating the emerging power of FM “underground” radio stations. For several months, many of the country’s FM stations, previously the home of small audience classical and “elevator” music, had begun taking a chance of album rocks in an effort to attract larger audiences. Hendrix was one of the first artists to get wide exposure in this new format.

The success of Hendrix’s debut album ended the idea that you had to have a hit single on Top 40 to sell records to American kids. His style forever changed to the sound of rock and influenced a legion of young guitar players.

When Hendrix said, “never to hear surf music again” on “Third Stone from the Sun,” the Beach Boys didn’t realize they were about to enter 5 years of very tough going in America.

Are You Experienced has been ranked #15 on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time and it has been selected by the Library of Congress to be included on its National Recording Registry as one of the most significant contributions to our cultural history.

BTW if you buy the CD now, you’ll get all the songs included in both the U.S. and the U.K. versions.

It’s never too late to get experienced!

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