Story of the song: Purple Haze, Jimi Hendrix Experience (1967)

Robert Webb
Friday 18 December 2009 01:00

Like those other emblems of Sixties pop, "Yesterday" and "Satisfaction", "Purple Haze" was nurtured during sleep. Jimi Hendrix awoke after dreaming that he was "walking under the sea".

Inspired, he penned an epic narrative. It's likely that a magazine extract from Philip José Farmer's sci-fi story Night of Light, which included a passage about the "purplish haze" of the night sky, provided the title. Hendrix worked out the music on his ever-present Fender Stratocaster in the flat he shared with his manager Chas Chandler, in December 1966.

On Boxing Day he attended a press function at East London's Upper Cut Club, run by the former boxer Billy Walker. In the club's tiny dressing room he launched into the blistering riff and every head turned. "I said, write the rest of that," said Chandler. "That's the next single!" It was given a psychedelic twist not by its composer's copious ingestion of acid, as is commonly assumed (in fact Hendrix had not taken LSD yet), but by Chandler and his engineer.

When the recording was dispatched to Hendrix's American label, a note said, "deliberate distortion, do not correct". The track was premiered live on 8 January 1967, in Sheffield, and was the penultimate song Hendrix played in concert, on 6 September 1970, days before his death.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

View comments