Jimi Hendrix’s Negative First Impression Of Pink Floyd
Jimi Hendrix is possibly the first name that comes to mind when thinking about the greatest guitarists of all time. Although his music career was short-lived, Hendrix rapidly rose to prominence after moving to England in late 1966. With Chas Chandler’s support as his manager, Hendrix created three top ten hits in the UK with Jimi Hendrix Experience within months.
As a talented guitar player and instrumentalist, Hendrix was hesitant about the limits of psychedelic rock. He blended various genres like blues, soul, British rock, R&B, jazz, folk, and 1950s rock and roll in his sound. While Hendrix was active in the music scene, Pink Floyd also started a professional music career. However, the guitarist’s first impressions of Pink Floyd were rather negative.
Pink Floyd Was A Prominent Psychedelic Act During Jimi Hendrix’s Era
Psychedelic rock developed as the representative of psychedelic culture, focusing on the experience of hallucinogenic substances. It originated in the mid-1960s among British and American musicians, and some of the earlier psychedelic bands were based on jazz, blues, and folk. Between 1967 and 1969, psychedelic rock reached its peak years with the help of milestone events like 1967’s Summer of Love and 1969’s Woodstock Rock Festival.
Jimi Hendrix’s move to London coincided with Pink Floyd’s earlier days. In 1965, Syd Barrett formed the band along with Nick Mason, Roger Waters, and Richard Wright. He then took a leadership role and helped shape the band’s sound. With their early shows, which showcased psychedelic elements like a screen showing changing colors behind them, Pink Floyd started gaining a following.
As the band was slowly getting into the music business, Syd Barrett attracted music critics and fans with his improvisations, enthusiasm, and experimental approach. In 1967, Pink Floyd started to step into the spotlight of the music industry and signed with EMI. EMI released their first two singles, ‘Arnold Layne’ and ‘See Emily Play.’ After the success of the two, Pink Floyd released their debut album ‘The Piper at the Gates of Dawn’ in August 1967.
At that time, Syd Barrett was struggling with severe addiction. So, the recording process of this album was challenging for him and his bandmates. Barrett’s depression was worsening, and this caused Pink Floyd to cancel some of their shows. During their US Tour in October, the musicians’ health condition wasn’t getting better. As a result, Pink Floyd ended their US Tour and returned to London. Soon after their return, they had a chance to perform with Jimi Hendrix as a supporting act.
What Were Jimi Hendrix’s Opinions On Pink Floyd?
In Steve Roby’s ‘Hendrix On Hendrix: Interviews And Encounters With Jimi Hendrix,’ the guitarist revealed his thoughts on Pink Floyd’s music in two separate interviews within the same year. Speaking to Unit’s Steve Barker on January 1967, Hendrix first talked about the newly-emerging psychedelic scene and then shared his sincere opinions on Pink Floyd.
Jimi Hendrix stated in the interview that there were bands in the scene which the fans thought were playing psychedelic music. However, according to the guitar icon, all those bands were only flashing lights and playing Chuck Berry’s ‘Johnny B. Goode’ with the wrong chords. After that, Hendrix said he had heard that Pink Floyd’s performances are nothing more than lighting shows.
Here is what Jimi Hendrix told Steve Barker:
“When these cats say, ‘Look at the band — they’re playing psychedelic music!’ and all they’re really doing is flashing lights and playing ‘Johnny B. Goode’ with the wrong chords. It’s terrible.”
Hendrix then said the following about Pink Floyd:
“I’ve heard they have beautiful lights, but they don’t sound like nothing.“
On November 1967, Steve Barker interviewed Hendrix again, and this interview also appeared in Steve Roby’s book. During the conversation, the guitarist revealed that the Experience might have gotten caught up in the hippie scene, but he didn’t want the band to be categorized as ‘hippie’ and ‘psychedelic.’
After that, Hendrix stated it bothered them that ‘psychedelic’s only meaning was mind-expansion. He then gave Pink Floyd as an example and said he couldn’t hear what they were saying in the songs. Moreover, Jimi added that this was simply their perception of the band, but people’s opinions could differ.
Saying that Jimi Hendrix Experience didn’t want to be labeled as ‘hippie’ and ‘psychedelic,’ Jimi Hendrix stated the following:
“It bothers us because ‘psychedelic’ only means mind-expansion anyway. I can’t hear one single word Pink Floyd are saying. It happens to us, but that’s just anybody’s opinion.”
Although Jimi Hendrix first thought that Pink Floyd was nothing but beautiful lightning shows, and they didn’t sound like anything, it seems like he changed his mind months later as the band opened for the guitar legend. So, it’s safe to say that Hendrix ultimately grasped Floyd’s artistic direction and even appreciated their contributions.