The #1 Albums: “Electric Ladyland” by the Jimi Hendrix Experience
Certain albums in this series present a challenge even to a professional gasbag such as I. What can one possibly say about the most legendary albums in the history of rock that hasn’t been said before? Here are some random-yet-hopefully-interesting facts about Electric Ladyland by the Jimi Hendrix Experience.
The most famous track on the album is “All Along the Watchtower,” which was also the most successful Hendrix single in the States. In the UK, however, “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” was a #1 single, but not until two years later, after Hendrix died. “Slight Return” was added to the title because the song is a reworking of a bit from “Voodoo Chile,” which appears earlier on the album. “Voodoo Chile” is a jam featuring Steve Winwood alongside Jack Casady from the Jefferson Airplane. Also on the album: Dave Mason, Brian Jones, and Al Kooper.
Some fans of Electric Ladyland are obsessed by the “banned” cover, which featured a number of nude women. It was never the cover Hendrix intended. He asked Reprise Records for a very specific shot of children around a statue, even going as far as to send a sketch and to request that Linda Eastman, the future Linda McCartney, take it. Instead, Reprise went with a head shot of Hendrix. It was his UK label that used the naked-lady cover. The reason you don’t see it now—and you didn’t see it a lot then—is not so much that the Virtue Police stepped in, but that Hendrix didn’t like it. His family has said that you won’t be seeing it again on future releases of Electric Ladyland, either.
Originally released as a double album, Electric Ladyland might be perplexing to young vinyl buyers picking up used copies today. Sides 1 and 4 are on one disc, while sides 2 and 3 are on the other. But the elderly know that this was done so that you could stack the discs on a record changer and listen to all four sides in order, having only to flip the stack once. According to Wikipedia, this led to some CDs being issued with tracks out of order.
Electric Ladyland hit #1 on the Billboard album chart on November 16, 1968, interrupting the run of Cheap Thrills by Big Brother and the Holding Company. It was the final Experience album, and to say that it inspires legions of guitar players to this day is an understatement. There are dozens, if not hundreds or thousands, of tribute videos at YouTube featuring random dudes doing their own versions of songs from it. None of them can touch the original, but I suppose that’s the point.
Fellow Popdose contributor Ken Shane wrote about Electric Ladyland in 2009. Read his essay here.