Fifty years ago today, Jimi Hendrix exploded onto the rock scene with his debut album Are You Experienced? But the album never would have hit the shelves if Hendrix followed through with his threat to walk out of the recording session because he was frustrated with the negative feedback on his guitar feedback and the other strange sounds erupting from his amp.
Here's why making 'Are You Experienced?' was a constant fight against noise complaints.
'Do Not Correct'
Hendrix's debut album was the coming-of-age moment for distorted rock music. Bands like The Beatles had experimented with feedback and backward tracks before Hendrix came along. But nobody had pushed the limits of the recording studio like Hendrix and the 'Are You Experienced?' production crew, who elevated distortion into an art form.
And they were worried that the mixers might mistake their genius for clumsiness. So they added a special warning label to the tapes when they were sent away to be remastered. "Deliberate distortion. Do not correct," the warning read.
Of course, recording all that noise resulted in more than a few noise complaints -- even from the recording crew working with him in England.
"It was so loud you couldn't stand in the studio," engineer Mike Ross later said. "I'd never heard anything like it in my life."
And Jimi's musical vision wasn't always music to the crew's ears. Hendrix cranked his guitar so loud that the sound of the studio shaking was getting picked up on the tapes.
"Jimi threw a tantrum because I wouldn't let him play guitar loud enough," producer Chas Chandler later recalled. "He was playing a Marshall twin stack, and it was so loud in the studio that we were picking up various rattles and noises."
Hendrix responded to Chandler's criticism by threatening to not only walk out of the studio but to leave England if they wouldn't let him crank the amp to his heart's content. Chandler called his bluff by leaving Hendrix's passport and immigration papers on the mixing console and telling Hendrix to "piss off."
Hendrix laughed, admitted he was bluffing and went back to work.
But the noise complaints didn't stop there.
Jimi made amends with the production crew, but he still got lots of noise complaints from neighbors -- especially the bankers whose accounts were getting messed up by the vibrations coming from the studio downstairs.
"There was a bank above the studio," Chandler recalled, "And it was at the time when computers were just coming in...we would play so loud that it would foul up the computers upstairs."
'Are You Experienced?' received nearly universal acclaim from critics when it was released. But the album did have its detractors -- including Rolling Stone's Jon Landau, who felt the record was little more than musical violence.
"[T]he sum total of all this is pure violence," Landau wrote in 1967. "Above all this record is unrelentingly violent, and, lyrically, inartistically violent at that."
He added that Hendrix should go back to his roots. "Dig it [the new album] if you can, but as for me, I'd rather hear Jimi play the blues."
Guess he should've listened to the album's UK release, which included the bluesy tune Red House.