Starting at Zero is a must for Hendrix fans. Intricately weaving together his own words – taken from diaries, poems, interviews and lyrics – to tell the story of his whirlwind career. In our extract, Jimi talks about the creation of Electric Ladyland, and why the controversial English album cover was a shock even to him…
Jimi Hendrix © Michael Ochs
I’m kind of proud of Electric Ladyland because I really took the bulk of it through from beginning to end on my own, so I can’t deny that it represents exactly what I was feeling at the time of production. It was really expensive to produce, about sixty thousand dollars, I guess, because we were on tour at the same time, which is a whole lot of strain on you. It’s very hard jumping from the studio onto the plane, doing the gig and then jumping right back into the studio.
We were having to always go back in the studio again and redo what we might have done two nights ago. We wanted a particular sound. We produced it and mixed it and all that mess, but when it came time for them to press it, quite naturally they screwed up, because they didn’t know what we wanted.
There’s a 3-D sound being used on there that you can’t even appreciate because they didn’t want to cut it properly. They thought it was out of phase. See, when you cut the master, if you want a really deep sound, you must almost remix it again right there at the cutting place, and 99 percent don’t do this. They just say, “Oh yeah, turn it up there, make sure the needle doesn’t go over there, make sure it doesn’t go under.”
We didn’t get a chance to complete it because we were on tour again. When I heard the end result I thought some of the mix came out kind of muddy. Not exactly muddy, but kind of bassy. Then the engineers retaped the whole original tape before they pressed the record for Britain, so much of the sound that existed on the American album was lost. Now I’m learning more about this kind of thing so that I can handle it myself.
I care so much about my work. I record stuff I believe is great. The only time I get uneasy is when I know that the pop critics and writers are waiting for me to fail so they can jump all over me. This is how pop is. You have a hit record and, gee, they love you, but you have one failure and they kill you.
It’s like a tightrope.
Jimi Hendrix © Reg Innell
The new album, Electric Ladyland, seems to have got me into a bit more trouble with people. It seems that folks in Britain are kicking against the English cover. Man, I don’t blame them. I had no idea they had pictures of dozens of nude girls on it. I wouldn’t have put that picture on the sleeve myself, but it wasn’t my decision.
Over here there’s just a picture of me and the boys. First I wanted to get this beautiful woman, Veruschka. She’s about six-foot-seven, and so sexy you just want to, hmmm . . . We wanted to have her leading us across the desert and have these chains on us. But we couldn’t find a desert because we were working, and we couldn’t get hold of her because she was in Rome. Then we had this one photo of us sitting on Alice In Wonderland, a bronze statue in Central Park, and we got some kids and all.
I didn’t know a thing about the English sleeve. Still, you know me, I dug it anyway. Except I think it’s sad the way the photographer made the girls look ugly. Some of them are nice looking chicks, but the photographer distorted the photograph with a fish-eye lens or something. That’s mean. It made the girls look bad. But it’s not my fault. It’s the other folks, you know, the people who are dying off slowly but surely. Anybody as evil as that dies one day or another.
I’ve got a lot to offer pop, but pop has less to offer me back because it is run by people who only talk about what is commercial. All these record companies, they want singles, because they think they can make more money. But you don’t just sit there and say, “Let’s make a single.” We’re not going to do that. I consider us more musicians, more in the minds of musicians. You’ll have a whole planned-out LP, and all of a sudden they’ll make, for instance, Crosstown Traffic a single. See, Electric Ladyland was in a certain way of thinking, and the sides were played in order for certain reasons. It’s almost like a sin for them to take out something in the middle to represent us at that particular time. They always take out the wrong ones. It shows you how some people in America are still not where it’s at.
You don’t even have no friend scenes. I walked into a store and saw this record with my name on it. When I played it I discovered that it had been recorded during a jam session I did in New York when I was a backing musician with a group called Curtis Knighy and the Squires. We had only been practicing in the studio, and I had no idea it was being recorded.
That album was made from bits of tape, tiny little confetti bits of tape. Somebody has taken their scissors from Sears and Roebuck and spliced a few seconds of tape and put it on there. It’s a whole lot of hogwash. I’m only on about two tracks. I didn’t sing on Hush Now. That was dubbed on later by Knight trying to copy my voice. On the other, Flashing, all I do is play a couple of notes, and the guitar was out of tune, and I was stoned out of my mind.
Man, I was shocked when I heard it. It was just a jam session, and here they just try to connive and cheat and use. It’s a really bad scene. Somebody trying to capitalize on somebody’s name. They never told me they were going to release that crap. That cat and I used to be friends. That’s the real drag about it.
Taken from Starting At Zero: His Own Story
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