Electric Ladyland is the most interesting album in the Hendrix discography. The third and last album with the Experience, Electric Ladyland finds our hero in virtually complete creative control and at the top of his game. Jimi is hitting on all cylinders here as writer, performer, interpreter (Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower”) and producer. His use of the studio as an instrument here is right up there with George Martin and The Beatles.
So what’s with this “virtual complete creative control” statement then?
The story goes that for the album cover Hendrix wanted the future Mrs. Paul McCartney, Linda Eastman, to photograph the Experience — Jimi, Mitch Mitchell, and Noel Redding — seated on an Alice In Wonderland sculpture and surrounded by children. The concept suits Jimi’s psychedelia quite well.
But as always record labels know better than artists, so Reprise (Jimi’s American label) went instead with the photograph at the head of this article. Here in the U.S. this is the cover that most of us had in our childhood stacks, and the saturated image of Jimi carries its own psychedelic weight.
Over in the Europe, though, Track Records and Polydor went with the immediately controversial cover depicting nineteen nude women, or as Hendrix may have called it, Tuesday. Although quite a fetching cover, it’s a long way from Hendrix’s original vision.
Lesser known at least in America are the two covers that Track Records produced when they split Hendrix’s two record masterpiece into two separate products. Electric Ladyland Part 1 is still a long way from Alice in Wonderland, but of the official covers this one probably comes closest to capturing at least the feeling of a strange, psychedelic place:
Apparently by the time they got to Part 2 the Track Records art department grew tired of cutting and pasting and instead used the portrait that graced the inner gatefold of the double album release. I don’t own a copy of Part 2, so the following is a photo from the gatefold. Add a Track Records logo and “The Jimi Hendrix Experience Electric Ladyland Part 2” in Gothic font along the brim of his hat and you have the album cover:
The odd thing about the single album releases is that they are opposite of the running order of the double album. In other words, Part 1 is sides three and four of the double album set. Go figure.
The 1993 CD release brought yet another cover design into the mix. I think of this era of reissues as the “uniform covers era,” and it made me nuts because they changed the cover art on Jimi’s albums for no historical reason. Still, it’s a pretty cool photo of Hendrix:
The Hendrix estate claims that they won’t reissue Electric Ladyland again with the nude cover because that wasn’t Jimi’s original vision. That’s admirable, but a bit misguided. None of the above were the great man’s choice for his magnum opus, so what difference does it make?
I’m not even going into values on this one because there are so many factors. The important thing here is that you should have Jimi’s greatest record in your stacks in some format, but if you really want to collect Electric Ladyland you can spend anywhere from a few bucks to a few hundred on the above examples.
And hey, since you’re here anyway, why not jump over and listen to five reasons that Hendrix is for everyone.