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*4.40-ARE YOU EXPERIENCED? (Jimi Hendrix Experience)

Jimi Hendrix Experience
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[Intro]

If you can just get your mind together
Then come across to me.
We'll hold hands and then we'll watch the sun rise
From the bottom of the sea.

     But first are you experienced?
     Have you ever been experienced?
     Well, I have.

I know, I know, you'll probably scream & cry
That your little world won't let go.
But to who in your measly little world are trying to prove that
You're made out of gold and can't be sold?

     [Chorus]

Ah, let me prove it to you…

[Break]

Ten thousand violins I can hear in the distance:
I think they're calling our names.
Maybe now you can't hear them, but you will
If you just take hold of my hand.

     But are you experienced?
     Have you ever been experienced?

[Coda: Not necessarily stoned, but beautiful]


Are You Experienced?, being the finale song and the title of the album, plays with the name of the group so that in one sense Have you been experienced? is asking Did you enjoy the album? It is the jewel of Jimi Hendrix’s first album. Sean Egan (Jimi Hendrix and the Making of Are You Experienced 2013, p. 186) points out that the use of “scratching” in the song’s intro anticipates the hip hop technique by about a decade. The technology on the song is more detailed than on the other cuts, and features the best adaptation of backwards tapes since the Beatles’ Strawberry Fields Forever. An extensive reverse drum segment pulls more weight than the Beatles saw fit to give Ringo Starr, and the reverse lead guitar in the break is also more extensive than any before heard. The coda, however, reiterates the closing sounds of Strawberry Fields, the same high pitched piano marking time with a chord while the drums pick up a martial beat. The effect had also been used by Simon & Garfunkel in Faking It, but here the Jimi Hendrix Experience isn’t so much quoting the Beatles as using a soundscape they appropriated for their own purposes. The song ends with double feedback, at fadeout and at brief return, when one expects the song to be over.

The lyric simultaneously asks the listener if he or she is “experienced” in sex (given the lascivious way in which the song is sung), has had a new “experience” with the album, or lastly, seems to ask if the listener has experienced altered states of consciousness through drugs. Jimi Hendrix makes the point, however, that drugs are not necessary to the “experience” but that an aroused sense of beauty is. He sings in the role of tempter, especially when it comes to sex, mocking the listener’s sense of self-worth with the point of view that everyone has a price. A sense of danger and illicitness is evoked, as if one was making a deal with a devil. I am reminded of the American Metaphysical Circus, in which the United States of America sings “the price of one admission is your mind.” I note here that the vision in the song is looking up from underwater (or the unconscious), not looking down from outer space (from an enlightened state of mind).

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