Jimi Hendrix's Are You Experienced Turns 50: Celebrate With Paste's Exclusive Live Recordings

We're digging into the Paste Cloud to find some of our best live Hendrix recordings.

Music Features The Jimi Hendrix Experience
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Jimi Hendrix's <i>Are You Experienced</i> Turns 50: Celebrate With Paste's Exclusive Live Recordings

It’s pretty well indisputable that Jimi Hendrix’s was the electric-guitar revolutionary, more than any who came before or after him, and the embodiment of 1960s counterculture and its psychedelic zenith. Incredibly, all it really took to establish all that was one album, Are You Experienced, Hendrix’s 1967 debut. He would go on to make two more studio records with the Jimi Hendrix Experience, as well as various live recordings and side projects. But 50 years later, as we mark the anniversary of its release, Are You Experienced remains the totem that it was when it came out—a turning point that changed the course of popular music and the people who play it.

While Brian Wilson and The Beatles were turning the studio into an instrument, Hendrix turned his instrument into its own studio, then shifted that ferocious creativity into the incendiary live performances that he’d deliver throughout his brief career, from Monterey Pop to Woodstock to his final days in September of 1970.

It was 50 years ago Friday that Hendrix, along with bassist Noel Redding and drummer Mitch Mitchell, introduced himself to the world with Are You Experienced, making May 12 a veritable international rock ‘n’ roll holiday. (The album is also one of 10 classic-rock monoliths that you really should own on vinyl.) To celebrate, we dug into the Paste Cloud world’s largest collection of live recordings—to find our best Hendrix performances of the songs on Are You Experienced. Here’s what we came out with:

“Red House” (Fillmore East, New York, N.Y.)
May 10, 1968 (late show)

“Red House” only made the cut on the U.K. and international versions of Are You Experienced, sacrificed in North America for the inclusion of more singles. Hendrix’s attempt at a straightforward 12-bar blues song has since become a standard in the genre, but none can really hold a candle to what he does with the tune, especially on this rendition. Already way beyond the standard blues licks, he could wring destructive amounts of raw, scorched soul out of his instrument that proved him to be every bit the bluesman as much as the psychedelic guitar god. Watch out for Mitch Mitchell’s drum solo too.

“Are You Experienced” (Winterland, San Francisco, Calif.)
Oct. 11, 1968 (early show)

Recorded in the midst of a three-night stand at Bill Graham’s Winterland on tour behind the Experience’s third and final album Electric Ladyland, this performance of their debut’s eponymous closing track sees Hendrix and co. making good on the experimental promise shown the studio version. Stretching it out over an improv-heavy 16 minutes with some help from flute player Virgil Gonsalves.

“Hey Joe” (Winterland, San Francisco, Calif.)
Oct. 11, 1968 (late show)

The song that initially broke Jimi in the U.K., though it was only included on the North American album, has never felt more raw and dangerous than it does here. Electric Flag’s Herbie Rich provides organ, which growls and swirls away underneath Hendrix’s riveting lead work, adding an interesting new dynamic to the trio’s heavy blues rock.

“Foxy Lady” (Winterland, San Francisco, Calif.)
Oct. 11, 1968 (late show)

Herbie Rich again spices up one of Hendrix’s biggest hits with his organ, giving Jimi, Noel and Mitch a new texture to play with on a song that made its way into nearly every set they were playing. While ‘68 was arguably the Experience’s finest year as a live outfit, “Foxy Lady” often seemed to bore the group and Hendrix in particular. That’s certainly not the case here, and the band approaches the signature tune with renewed vigor.

“Fire” (Winterland, San Francisco, Calif.)
Oct. 12, 1968 (early show)

A high-energy show-opening take on another Are You Experienced track that has since earned legendary status. Hendrix’s ability to balance room-filling noise and technical refinement is on full-display as he and the band come to life right out the gate, like a train barreling down the tracks with the brakes cut.

“Manic Depression (Winterland, San Francisco, Calif.)
Oct. 12, 1968 (late show)

The second song on Are You Experienced, “Manic Depression” was a different kind of rock song for the time, based around one of those riffs that burns into your brain, filled with Mitchell’s jazz-influenced drum sprawl. For some reason, the song rarely made its way into their live set, so for them to burst into it early into their final show of the Winterland run with this kind of energy is a real treat to have on tape.

“Purple Haze” (Winterland, San Francisco, Calif.)
Oct. 12, 1968 (late show)

How could we not include this song? The Jimi Hendrix Experience ended all of the Winterland shows with “Purple Haze,” (and all of those are available on Paste) but on the final evening Jimi absolutely tears it apart. The band’s intensity almost threatens to derail things, but instead they ride that line with dangerous zeal, combining Hendrix’s exploratory improv leanings at the time with one of his greatest songs.