This week in 1967, [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Jimi Hendrix[/lastfm] signed his first record deal in North America with Reprise Records. Just a few months later, Are You Experienced got its U.S. release and a legend was born.
In late 1966, Jimi recruited Noel Redding for bass and Mitch Mitchell for drums to form the Jimi Hendrix Experience.
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The band had already released the singles “Hay Joe” and “Purple Haze” in the U.K. before signing the deal with Reprise 44 years ago.
The Experience quickly became a huge hit in the U.K., their debut album selling the second-most only to The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. It wasn’t until Paul McCartney recommended them to American festival promoters that Jimi would get his big break in the U.S.
Paul’s persistence paid off, as Jimi appeared at the Monterey Pop Festival in Monterey, California in what became one of the defining live performances of his career and the 1960s. Watch as Jimi takes his fiery stage presence to literal levels by setting his guitar aflame:
According to Jimi’s Rock & Roll Hall of Fame biography, he lit his guitar on fire at the end of his set because of his deep affinity for it.
“It was like a sacrifice,” he explained. “You sacrifice the things you love. I love my guitar. I’d just finished painting it that day and was really into it.”
Two months after that performance, Are You Experienced finally got its North American release, with a new cover and revised track listing to include “Hey Joe” and “Purple Haze.” (More on next page…)
Jimi’s unique spiritual philosophy, along with the band’s overall image, made the Jimi Hendrix Experience one of the defining acts of the psychedelic rock boom of the late-1960s.
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The U.S. cover of Are You Experienced (pictured above) lent itself to that aesthetic with its eye-popping purple-on-yellow design by photographer Karl Ferris, who snapped the band photo for all three of their studio albums.
The story of the Jimi Hendrix Experience in 1967 shows how quickly a star can rise in music. And when it’s someone as transcendent as Jimi on the guitar, it’s no wonder that his debut album (and entire discography) remain legendary recordings and essential listening for all rock & roll fans.
Here’s a tough choice: What’s your favorite track off Are You Experienced? Let us know in the comments section!
“The Wind Cries Mary” (Live) Monterey Pop Festival, 1967
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