Yes, We Are Experienced

Music would never be the same after May 12, 1967. Indeed, it’s not an overstatement to say that May 12, 1967, was as essential to our generation’s music as Elvis recording That’s All Right on July 5, 1954, or The Beatles first performance on Ed Sullivan’s show on February 9, 1964.   

On this date 56 years ago, the Jimi Hendrix Experience released their debut, Are You Experienced? The album that both invented and set the standard for guitar heroes ever after it still is, to this day, the most influential debut for rock’s main instrument in history (apologies to Jimmy and Eddie, but Jimi got there first). Nothing, absolutely nothing, sounded like this before: soulful, hard rock riffs followed by solos bathed in feedback and controlled distortion, with a healthy dose of psychedelia sprinkled in.
Several guitarists, most famously Jeff Beck in The Yardbirds, had toyed with feedback and distortion, but Jimi created an entire guitar vocabulary with it. Yes, an argument can be made that Cream’s Disraeli Gears was as influential as AYE. But it was released six months later and Eric admitted he was just trying to follow Jimi’s lead (no pun intended). 

On top of being groundbreaking to the point of a seismic shift in music, Are You Experienced was an embarrassment of riches; it would be a greatest hits album for almost any other band. Foxy Lady, Hey Joe, Manic Depression, The Wind Cries Mary, Fire, I Don’t Live Today, Purple Haze, Third Stone From The Sun.  All classics and all containing techniques that guitarists are still trying to emulate. 
It is only the most elite of musicians whose unconventional approach becomes convention and this album is the blueprint for every guitar-based rock band ever since. Which means this single album contains the threads to almost every musical tapestry I’ve enjoyed these past 50+ years. 

(And how apt the phrase, “Lately things, they don’t seem the same.”)

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