Name one of the first songs you learned to play on guitar or if you can’t remember, one of your favorite tunes to play. Chances are, the great riffy blues tune “Purple Haze” by the incredible Jimi Hendrix came up. If you don’t play guitar, I’m sure the majority of us have at least heard this gem.
Purple Haze was written as a single in 1966 and recording began in 67’ at De Lane Lea Studios in London and the track was later taken to Olympic Studios for additional parts and overdubbing. The tune was released in the US on June 19, 1967 and took the world by storm shortly after.
This track is considered to be the majority of Hendrix fan’s first glimpse of his iconic psychedelic rock sound. It features the standout “Hendrix chord” or the dominant 7 #9 chord that has been synonymous with Hendrix.
Producer Chas Chandler first heard Jimi jamming on the main hook for “Purple Haze” and was immediately entranced by the tune. “That’s the new single!” he remembers thinking, and urged Hendrix to finish the rest of the song as soon as he could. He completed writing it on December 26, 1966 in his dressing room at a local London Club.
Whenever he was asked about the lyrics of “Purple Haze” he usually gave varying answers about their origin. Many critics and reporters assumed it was just a collection of various ideas in his head. Chandler had to slim the original song down because Hendrix had about 10 verses to work with and had varying chord changes as well. Chandler insisted that with more of a hook and simpler structure, the song would sell at a larger rate.
The song is perhaps the most iconic Hendrix song he ever wrote and is on the top of many “Greatest Song lists” as well as Rolling Stone’s “100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time” as well as being added to Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 songs That Shaped Rock and Roll.” Throughout the years, there have been many cover versions of “Purple Haze” but none will ever compare to the original!