4.38-MANIC DEPRESSION (Jimi Hendrix Experience)

Jimi Hendrix
Jimi Hendrix


Manic depression is searching my soul.
I know what I want
But I just don't know
How to go about getting it.
Feeling, sweet feeling
drops from my fingers, fingers.
Manic depression's captured my soul.

Woman so weary, the sweet cause in vain.
You make love,
you break love,
It's all the same when it's over.
Music sweet music
I wish I could caress, caress, caress.
Manic depression is a frustrating mess!


Well, I think I'll go turn myself off
And go on down.
     (All the way down.)
Really ain't no use in me
Hanging around.
     (In your kind of scene.)
Music sweet music,
I wish I could caress, and kiss, kiss.
Manic depression is a frustrating mess!

[Coda: Music sweet music; Depression]

Manic Depression, was the second cut of the Are You Experienced album in America, which was introduced with Purple Haze, and continued the hard rock impression of the Jimi Hendrix Experience, but the sound of Manic Depression was more extreme than the pop single that led the album. Here we are introduced to the kind of feedback that Jimi Hendrix would use during his live concerts, and it seems a song written for the stage. At least half of the song is instrumental, with a half minute break and a more than minute coda. In these instrumentals, as well as the plodding three quarter time of the verse laid bare in a heavy instrumental arrangement, the rhythm bounces more like a pogo stick than a waltz. In the break and coda, rising vibrato chords of noise are featured along with Mitch Mitchell’s rolling thunderous drums. At the end of the song these rising chords are allowed to descend into more feedback as the rolling thunder clatters to conclusion.

The musical demonstration of manic depression in the song, with its waves of escalating scales lifting the song up while at other times dissonance wears the song down, is more than adequate to the ugliness of the psychological dysfunction now known as bipolar disease. Presently bipolar disease is believed to be caused by chemical imbalance. At the time of the song, however, manic depression was a Freudian term for a mental illness that upon being understood through the symbols of one’s emotional history could be relieved through sublimation. It was Freud’s theory that culture and art arose from frustrated and sublimated sexual impulses, and thus society benefited by keeping sexual expression in check.

The Hendrix lyric accepts the Freudian explanation for his mental condition, and he claims the song that we are hearing is the sublimation of a failed love affair. What the woman he desires cannot give Hendrix, his guitar can, or at least almost can. He wishes he could caress and kiss his music. Because he can’t, the singer has to “turn himself off and go on down” to depression again once the music is through. Though a song lasts longer than a love affair as a recorded art product, it fails to grant the lingering ongoing sweet experience of a woman. Manic Depression, in its appeal to psychoanalysis, has a kinship to the Bee Gees’ Please Read Me, except Hendrix is doing his own analysis here, without seeking outside help.