A key element of the newly released 50th anniversary edition of the Jimi Hendrix Experience’s 1968 album “Electric Ladyland” is a disc that includes a recording of the group’s concert at the Hollywood Bowl that took place a few weeks before the original album’s release.
That show, barely a year after Hendrix had played the Bowl as opening act for the Mamas & the Papas, represented an important moment for the trio, which also included bassist Noel Redding and drummer Mitch Mitchell, as they continued their rise to becoming one of the music world’s top touring attractions.
The arrival of “Electric Ladyland” also took the group to new heights, becoming its first — and ultimately, only — album to reach No. 1 on the Billboard album chart during Hendrix’s lifetime.
In conjunction with the 50th anniversary set’s release, record company officials recently shot a promotional trailer, which The Times is premiering, in which two fans who attended the Bowl show on Sept. 14, 1968, reflect on the performance they took in as young rock fans. It also features comments from former Warner Bros. Records executive Bob Merlis, who continues representing Hendrix’s estate today.
Dan Zeff, who said he and his brothers learned about the show reading The Times’ Calendar section, notes that it was his first rock concert.
“It was a remarkable place to start,” he said. “What a night.” When dozens of fans jumped in the reflecting pool that used to occupy space immediately in front of the stage, Zeff figured it was typical behavior.
“Security had to get up there and stop the show,” he recalls. “They were concerned about possibly electrocuting someone…. I remember [elbowing] my brother and going, ‘Wow, concerts are really wild, aren’t they?’”
Hendrix can be heard cautioning the spontaneous swimmers to be careful, as many were splashing water perilously close to the band’s electric guitars, microphones and amplifiers. In an addendum characteristic of the experimental 1960s, Hendrix also reassures them, saying, “You can do anything you want.”
Another fan interviewed in the trailer, Jaeger Smith, confessed to climbing one of the hills behind the Bowl and sneaking into the show to find out what all the fuss over Hendrix was about. “He was right there, in the guitar — the guitar was a part of him when he played,” she said. “[That] was different from a lot of other musicians, who were equally talented and just as good, but there was just something different about him.”
In a new essay included in the set’s liner notes, Rolling Stone writer David Fricke describes “Electric Ladyland,” the final album Hendrix finished before his overdose death almost two years later, as “the most ambitious and confessional album of his supernova lifetime.”
The 16-track collection, originally issued as a double album, includes several of his most celebrated recordings, among them “Burning of the Midnight Lamp,” “House Burning Down,” “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” and his watershed rendition of Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower.”
The new edition includes a newly remastered version of the original album, a second disc with 20 demo recordings and studio outtakes of the material, and the third disc with the soundboard recording of the Hollywood Bowl concert.
“This 50th anniversary edition of ‘Electric Ladyland’ extends and deepens the story with previously unreleased home demos and a riotous live recording of the Experience … at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles,” Fricke writes. “But this has never changed: In its original form and mix, ‘Electric Ladyland’ is the guitarist at a visceral, pictorial peak in his playing and his exploration of the recording studio as an instrument of composition and narrative….
“‘Electric Ladyland,’ ” Fricke points out, “was supposed to be the new beginning. Fifty years later, it remains the triumph.”
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