Rock History Jimi Hendrix

All Along the Watchtower by the Jimi Hendrix Experience

“All Along the Watchtower” was released in the United States by the Jimi Hendrix Experience on September 21, 1968.

Though the poetic, image-rich song was originally written by lyrical god Bob Dylan, it was guitar god Jimi Hendrix that catapulted the song into one of the all-time greats of the American rock songbook. Hendrix was a huge fan of Dylan and was blown away the evocative poetry of Watchtower. So he decided to cut a version of his own.

The Experience began recording their cover of the tune on January 21, 1968 in London. The recording sessions were frustrating and tumultuous. Noel Redding left the recording sessions altogether and wasn’t on the final track. Jimi, in addition to the lead vocals, handled lead guitar, acoustic guitar, and bass parts. Traffic’s Dave Mason also added guitar: electric and 12-string acoustic. Rounding out the rhythm were Mitch Mitchell on drums and The Rolling Stones’ Brian Jones on percussion.

When the song was finally released as a single in September, it became a top 20 Billboard hit and climbed all the way to #5 in the UK. Dylan loved Hendrix’s version so much that he adopted Jimi’s arrangement in his own performances. And the song, now legendary, has been used in iconic films like Forrest Gump and covered by other heavy hitters like Neil Young, U2, The Grateful Dead, Dave Matthews Band, Eric Clapton, and Pearl Jam. Watchtower, like so much of Jimi’s music, is pure magic.

Here’s the rest of what happened this week in rock culture:

Born This Week in Rock History:

B.B. King: September 16, 1925 (blues singer and guitarist)

Hank Williams: September 17, 1923 (country singer-songwriter)

Brian Epstein: September 19, 1934 (Manager, The Beatles)

Cass Elliot: September 19, 1941 (singer, The Mamas and the Papas)

Don Felder: September 21, 1947 (guitar, The Eagles)

Joan Jett: September 22, 1958 (guitar and vocals, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts)

Died This Week in Rock History

Marc Bolan: September 16, 1977 (guitar and vocals, T. Rex)

Jimi Hendrix: September 18, 1970 (greatest guitarist ever)

Jim Croce: September 20, 1973 (singer-songwriter)

New Releases & Top of the Charts

The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s LP Are You Experienced? enters the charts: September 16, 1967

Boston, “More Than A Feeling” was released: September 18, 1976

The Doors’ LP Greatest Hits is certified platinum: September 18. 1981

Diana Ross’ “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” hits #1: September 19, 1970

David Bowie’s “Fame” hits #1: September 20, 1975

The Who’s LP Who Are You is certified gold: September 20, 1978

Jimi Hendrix, “All Along The Watchtower” was released: September 21, 1968

The Band’s The Band was released: September 22, 1969

This Week in Rock History

– The Beatles topped the Melody Maker fan poll of the top rock acts every single year for 8 straight years in the mid to late 1960’s. In 1970, however, they were knocked from the top spot by none other than Led Zeppelin. Blues-rock, hard rock, and future heavy metal fans rejoiced: September 16, 1970

 

– The Doors appear on CBS-TV’s Ed Sullivan Show. Not wanting to offend their viewers, the network asks The Doors to change one of their lyrics from “Girl we couldn’t get much higher” to something more sanitary in their hit song “Light My Fire”. Jim Morrison agrees to the lyric change. Then, he goes and sings the original offending line anyway. They are banned from the show for life: September 17, 1967

 

– The Who perform “My Generation” on the CBS-TV show the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. Ever the prankster, Keith Moon enlists a stagehand to help him rig his drum kit to explode at the end of the performance. The stagehand was a little overzealous in the amount of fireworks that he decided to use. The resulting explosion injured Keith Moon’s leg and caused Pete Townshend to suffer permanent hearing loss. It’s all fun and games ‘til someone loses an ear, Keith: September 17, 1967

– Switzerland’s Montreux music festival, previously dedicated to classical music, is “crashed” by a rock band – Pink Floyd: September 18, 1971

 

– KISS appears for the first time ever publicly without their iconic makeup. The occasion was a promotional event on MTV for KISS’ new album Lick It Up: September 18, 1983

 

– The Roxy club in Los Angeles’ Sunset Strip opens. The inaugural act is Neil Young and Crazy Horse. Hey hey, my my, the Roxy club will never die: September 20, 1973

 

– The first ARMS (Action into Research for Multiple Sclerosis) concert is held in London. The show is a benefit for former Faces guitarist Ronnie Lane, who was suffering from Multiple Sclerosis. The impressive lineup included Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, Steve Winwood, Eric Clapton, Charlie Watts, John Paul Jones and Kenney Jones: September 20, 1983

 

– Janis Joplin announces her upcoming split from her band Big Brother and the Holding Company. While she would go on to make incredible music without them, many people have felt that Big Brother was Joplin’s best backing band: September 21, 1968

 

– America: A Tribute to Heroes is a benefit concert that airs on television with the mission of raising funds for victims of 9/11. Included in the concert were performances by Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel, Tom Petty, Willie Nelson, and Paul Simon: September 21, 2001

 

– Bob Dylan makes his Carnegie Hall debut. He’s part of an all-star folk concert: September 22, 1962

 

– The Great Society, a band featuring vocalist Grace Slick of future Jefferson Airplane fame, play their first show at a venue called The Coffee Gallery in San Francisco: September 22, 1965

 

– David Bowie debuts his Ziggy Stardust tour in America with a show in Cleveland: September 22, 1972

 

– The first ever Farm Aid concert is produced in Champaign, IL. The show features performances by organizer Willie Nelson, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Billy Joel, Loretta Lynn, Roy Orbison, and more. $7 million is raised for struggling American family farmers, and the benefit concert is held every year since. This year’s lineup features the core four organizers – Willie Nelson, Neil Young, John Mellencamp and Dave Matthews plus blues rockers Alabama Shakes, alt-country crooner Sturgill Simpson, retro-soul band Nathaniel Rateliff and the Nightsweats and more: September 22, 1985

 

And that’s all she wrote, folks. Rock on.

– Brian M. Reiser,
Tribut Apparel / The Joe Bonamassa Official Blog

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