Here’s an excerpt from Part 10 of Mark S. Tucker‘s essays on Progressive Rock with observations of Jimi Hendrix’ explosive emergence in 1967.
…one of the most landmark rock LPs of all time, the Jimi Hendrix Experience’s Are You Experienced?, featuring rock music’s #1 eternal mainman, the inimitable Hendrix. Having been a much-suppressed sideman for ensembles fronted by Curtis Knight, Little Richard, and others, Hendrix burst onto the late 60s scene like an atomic bomb.
In that maiden effort, Hendrix hit every archetype in the still-young rock canon, twisting them to suit his voracious appetite for innovation….“Purple Haze” and “Are You Experienced?” were hedonistic penseés on the pleasures of drug consumption (in which he still stands as the guy to top, lo!, these several decades later), particularly LSD. “Manic Depression” explored that notorious mental state without reverting to the sort of Kasenetz-Katz sugary avoidances so common then. “I Don’t Live Today” was an existentialist expostulation, but, all reading material to the side, what hit everyone between the ears was the guitarist’s ultra-spacy approach, best codified in “Third Stone from the Sun”.
This tune demonstrated most vividly the new mindset. Throughout the disc, Hendrix had been embroidering bars and measures with florid exotica, throwing in instrumental asides and extrapolations, pointing to a rich new mindset for pushing back convention and expanding territory. It was as much an impulsive urge as a disciplined one. Jimi was one of those fanatics who lived for his instrument, practicing constantly, injecting his experiences – magnified by a vivid imagination – into gifted fingers.
…It was obvious, no matter how you cut it, that he was not your average workaday humanoid, transcending norms in more ways than one. That pronounced sense of otherworldliness came pouring out in “Third Stone”, ineradicably putting the stamp of approval on forthcoming space and jam styles. Improv, variations, and extensions had been around, though not prolifically, but Hendrix set the mold all others had been reaching for and now people like Clapton and a legion of admirative players would jump in with wild abandon.