As a rule, I’m not a huge Hendrix fan. I prefer twee sunshine pop ala the Bee Gees or Love, or the monotonous feedback chug-a-chug of the Velvet Underground, to any noodly guitar heroes. But Hendrix didn’t usually wallow in guitar hero blahdome or proggy pretension, like the worst excesses of Led Zeppelin or Ted Nugent. He knew how to rock and how to cover a song. And if you get far enough away from the long-haired frat boys who blared his stuff from their windows when you were at college, you can really find some good tunes and melodies and sentiments (excuse me, while I kiss this guy!) buried in the many sessions and live shows he recorded.
According to Shawn Levy’s brilliant book, Ready, Steady, Go: The Smashing Rise and Giddy Fall of Swinging London, Hendrix’s first performance of this song brought down the house because it was done the very week Sgt. Pepper debuted. Everyone had been at home listening to it, but no one (certainly not the Beatles) was out there performing it live, so everyone was stunned and surprised to hear it, and it took Hendrix’s career to the next level. Of course, I would have preferred to see his performance of “Wild Thing,” but I guess we in the YouTube era can have both!