October 1968: Jimi Hendrix Travels to 'Electric Ladyland'

Jimi Hendrix in 1968
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Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

With the release of Electric Ladyland on Oct. 16, 1968 - the last studio album the guitar legend issued in his short but influential career - Jimi Hendrix may have saved the best for last.

In just over a year, Hendrix had transformed from prodigious unknown to one of the most gripping figures in rock music. His first two albums with The Jimi Hendrix Experience, 1967's Are You Experienced and Axis: Bold As Love, radically reinvented guitar-based rock and roll, captivating audiences on both sides of the Atlantic and plunging Hendrix into a whirlwind of touring.

Read More: May 1967: The Jimi Hendrix Experience Reinvent Rock with 'Are You Experienced'

But the always-active Hendrix was already thinking ahead, deliberately crafting a more expressive, considerably longer album for The Experience’s third go-round. This time, he did so largely by himself: producer Chas Chandler parted ways with Hendrix over musical direction, and bassist Noel Redding would start drifting from the group as well. (Hendrix ultimately played much of the bass on the final album, which bore the credit “Produced and Directed by Jimi Hendrix.”)

Drawing from a diverse mix of styles, from the formative jump blues of his youth to the R&B he played as a sideman in the early ‘60s and beyond, Electric Ladyland is arguably Hendrix’s most authentic and personal work, a realization of music as what he deemed at the time as “my personal diary - a release of all my inner feelings, aggression, tenderness, sympathy, everything.”

Highlights include the bluesy album closer "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)," hailed by no less a guitar aficionado than Joe Satriani as "just the greatest piece of electric guitar work ever recorded." The album also featured Hendrix's radical reinvention of Bob Dylan's "All Along the Watchtower," which became his only Top 20 pop hit. "I liked Jimi Hendrix's record of this and ever since he died I've been doing it that way," Dylan wrote in the liner notes to Biograph. "Strange how when I sing it, I always feel it's a tribute to him in some kind of way."

Electric Ladyland remains Hendrix’s bestselling album, topping the Billboard 200 on Nov. 16, 1968 and staying there for two weeks straight. Since Hendrix’s untimely passing in 1970, the album’s influence has only grown, cited as one of the greatest albums of all time by Rolling Stone, Q, Classic Rock and others.

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