Electric Ladyland -- The Jimi Hendrix Experience, November 16, 1968
Producer: Jimi Hendrix
Track listing: ... And the Gods Made Love / Have You Ever Been (to Electric Ladyland) / Crosstown Traffic / Voodoo Chile / Little Miss Strange /Long Hot Summer Night Come On (Let the Good Times Roll) / Gypsy Eyes / Burning of the Midnight Lamp / Rainy Day, Dream Away / 1983...(A Merman I Should Turn to Be) / Moon, Turn the Tides ... gently gently away / Still Raining, Still Dreaming / House Burning Down / All Along the Watchtower / Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)
November 16, 1968
In December 1967, Jimi Hendrix began work on his most ambitious album to date. Hendrix had grown tired of being known for onstage antics like burning his guitars. He was a serious musician. To prove his point, he would need a double album to express his musical vision.
Hendrix began his career in the early '60s as a session guitarist with the Isley Brothers. By 1965, he formed his own band, Jimmy James and the Blues Flames. A year later, Chas Chandler of the Animals introduced him to bassist Noel Redding and drummer Mitch Mitchell. The trio was dubbed the Jimi Hendrix Experience.
The group's first album, Are You Experienced?, released in May 1967, reached number five. Axis: Bold as Love, released in January 1968, peaked at number three. Hendrix had earned a place next to Eric Clapton as one of rock's premiere guitarists.
"On Electric Ladyland Jimi was able to stretch out, expand and bring other musicians in," says Eddie Kramer, who engineered the album. Hendrix had opted to produce the album himself, instead of relying on Chandler, who walked out of the sessions early on.
The initial sessions were recorded on four-track at Olympic Studios in London. Later Hendrix moved to the Record Plant in New York, which had one of the few 12-track machines in the U.S.
"'Crosstown Traffic' and 'All Along the Watchtower' were recorded on four-track, but then eventually dubbed over, so Jimi had more tracks to play with," says Kramer. A few months later, a 16-track was used. "The more tracks that became available, the more complex the songs became," Kramer says.
Yet while Hendrix was in the midst of his studio experimentation, he was forced to hit the road. Hendrix had block-booked the Record Plant at a cost of $60,000. "He was definitely frustrated " says Kramer. "He was trying to establish himself as a producer, but he had to keep interrupting the recording to go out on the road and make money."
When Hendrix was able to get a stretch of time in the studio, the results were often mind-boggling. "When Jimi and I mixed '1983,' that was a performance in itself. We mixed it straight through without stopping as if we were performing the song live." The track ran nearly 14 minutes.
Hendrix would often break the sessions to go catch some live music in local clubs. Usually he would return in the wee hours of the morning with several others in tow, and work until the sun came up. Often these hangers-on would be a distraction, but other times, they added to the sessions. That was the case when Hendrix cut "Voodoo Chile." Says Kramer, "That back and forth musical conversation between Jimi and Steve Winwood was spine-tingling"
Material written by some of Hendrix's peers was also included. When Hendrix heard Bob Dylan's "All Along the Watchtower" in early 1968, he knew he had to record it. Says Kramer, "It started off as a fairly simple song, but by the time we were done it was recorded in 16-track and mixed a half-dozen times. Jimi had a great love for Dylan's material and he wanted to make sure he got it right."
Electric Ladyland was released in October 1968. Five weeks later, it hit the summit, with Are You Experienced? still in the top 10 after 65 weeks on the chart. It was Hendrix's first and only Number One album.
THE TOP FIVE
Week of November 16, 1968
1. Electric Ladyland, The Jimi Hendrix Experience
2. Cheap Thrills, Big Brother and the Holding Company
3. Time Peace/Greatest Hits, The Rascals
4. Feliciano!, Jose Feliciano
5. The Second, Stepenwolf
Here's the Jimi Hendrix Experience performing "Voodoo Chile" on the BBC's Happening for Lulu in 1969.