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Purple Haze
Song

Purple Haze

The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Album:
Purple Haze

Song Meaning and Background of Purple Haze by The Jimi Hendrix Experience


“Purple Haze” launched not one but two revolutions: late-Sixties psychedelia and the unprecedented genius of Hendrix.


The first chord of its main riff has come to be known among guitarists as the “Hendrix chord.”

The Experience recorded “Purple Haze” across a series of sessions in 1967, experimenting with recording techniques such as the blitzed-out distortion on Hendrix’s guitar — when the master tape was sent to their American record label, an enclosed note diligently pointed out that the distorted sound of the song was deliberate.


"Purple Haze" is a song written by Jimi Hendrix and released as the second single by the Jimi Hendrix Experience on March 17, 1967.


The song features his inventive guitar playing, which uses the signature Hendrix chord and a mix of blues and Eastern modalities, shaped by novel sound processing techniques.


Because of ambiguities in the lyrics, listeners often interpret the song as referring to a psychedelic experience, although Hendrix described it as a love song.


It was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame and is included on lists of the greatest guitar songs.

The song reached number 3 in the UK charts, and number 65 in the USA.

 

In the middle of December, producer Chas Chandler heard Hendrix toying around with a new guitar riff.


"I heard him playing it at the flat and was knocked out. I told him to keep working on that, saying, 'That's the next single!'" Chandler claimed that after some more urging, Hendrix wrote the rest of "Purple Haze" in the dressing room of a London club during the afternoon of December 26, 1966, before a gig.


The Experience began recording "Purple Haze" on January 11, 1967, at De Lane Lea Studios in London. According to drummer Mitch Mitchell, he and bassist Noel Redding learned the song in the studio: "Hendrix came in and kind of hummed us the riff and showed Noel the chords and the changes. I listened to it and we went, 'OK, let's do it.' We got it on the third take as I recall."


The basic track was recorded in four hours, according to Chandler. After the basic track was finished, Chandler explained that he and Hendrix developed the song:


With 'Purple Haze', Hendrix and I were striving for a sound and just kept going back in [to the studio], two hours at a time, trying to achieve it. It wasn't like we were there for days on end. We recorded it, and then Hendrix and I would be sitting at home saying, 'Let's try that.' Then we would go in for an hour or two. That's how it was in those days. However long it took to record one specific idea, that's how long we would book. We kept going in and out.


Redding and Mitchell were not included in the process because Chandler felt that it was more efficient for him and Hendrix to do it alone.


In interviews, Hendrix usually gave different answers about the development of the song's lyrics. Biographer Harry Shapiro points out that "Purple Haze" is most likely "a pot-pourri of ideas" which Hendrix developed over time. As a fan of science fiction, he frequently incorporated its imagery in his songwriting. Hendrix read Night of Light, a 1966 novel by Philip José Farmer, that expanded on a short story published in 1957. In the story set on a distant planet, sunspots produce a "purplish haze" which has a disorienting effect on the inhabitants.


An early handwritten draft by Hendrix, titled "Purple Haze – Jesus Saves", uses dream-like imagery where the sense of direction and time is distorted.


In an interview on January 28, 1967, before the song was completed, Hendrix was asked how he wrote songs; he responded, "I dream a lot and I put my dreams down as songs. I wrote one called 'First Look Around the Corner' and another called 'The Purple Haze,' which was about a dream I had that I was walking under the sea."


He later expressed frustration that he was unable to more fully develop his ideas for the song:

You know the song we had named 'Purple Haze'? [It] had about a thousand, thousand words ... I had it all written out. It was about going through, through this land. This mythical ... because that's what I like to do is write a lot of mythical scenes. You know, like the history of the wars on Neptune.


After its release, Hendrix offered another explanation: "He [the song's protagonist] likes this girl so much, that he doesn't know what [state] he's in, ya know. A sort of daze, I suppose. That's what the song is all about."


This draws on an experience Hendrix had while still in New York, where he felt that a girl was attempting to use voodoo to trap him and he became ill.


Many fans and the press interpret the song as referring to a psychedelic experience. However, Hendrix and those closest to him never discussed any connection between psychedelic drugs and the song.


Lyrics of Purple Haze by The Jimi Hendrix Experience


Purple haze all in my brain

Lately things, they don't seem the same

Acting funny, but I don't know why

'Scuse me while I kiss the sky

 

Purple haze all around

Don't know if I'm coming up or down

Am I happy or in misery?

Whatever it is, that girl put a spell on me

Help me! Help me!

Ah no, no

 

Yeah! Purple haze all in my eyes

Don't know if it's day or night

You got me blowing, blowing my mind

Is it tomorrow, or just the end of time?

 

No, help me

No, yeah purple haze

Oh no, no

Oh, help me

Tell me, tell me

Can't go on like this

You make me blow my mind

No, no, no

No, no, purple haze

Release Date

1967

Songwriter/s

Jimi Hendrix

Producer/s

Chas Chandler

Label/s

Track, Reprise

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