Jimi Hendrix’s Photographer Recalls Linda McCartney’s Failed Album Cover For ‘Electric Ladyland’

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Jimi Hendrix’s photographer David Montgomery recently joined Louder Sound for an interview and reflected on how the record company rejected Linda McCartney’s original picture for ‘Electric Ladyland.’

The Jimi Hendrix Experience, featuring Jimi Hendrix, Mitch Mitchell, and Noel Redding, released their third and final studio album, ‘Electric Ladyland,’ on October 16, 1968, in the US and nine days later in the UK. It was also Hendrix’s last released album before his passing in 1970. While it was a huge commercial success, its album cover caused a splash in the 1960s music scene.

The cover art for the record featured a group of nude women on a black background in its UK release. Taken by the photographer David Montgomery, the cover made a tremendous impact due to its portrayal of provocative imagery. However, the backstory behind the cover was different since it wasn’t the initially intended photo.

Talking about how he ended up taking that album cover, David Montgomery explained that Linda McCartney shot the original photo in New York upon Jimi Hendrix’s wish. Linda took a picture of a white and black small child, reflecting peace and love. Yet, the record company in London rejected using the original photo for the cover since they thought it wouldn’t sell.

Then, David Montgomery got the job to take a new photo to replace Linda McCartney’s. When Montgomery shot the photo with nude women, art director David King made it darker and more gritty than the original picture since they didn’t want it to be that open and clean. It is known that Jimi Hendrix was displeased with the new cover, but Montgomery doesn’t believe it was true. For the photographer, the late guitarist was into being around women, so he didn’t understand his negative reaction to the cover.

David Montgomery speaking on Linda McCartney’s failed album cover:

Linda McCartney shot the original picture of ‘Electric Ladyland’ in New York. She took a picture of a little white kid and a little black kid playing together. It was peace, love, harmony – all that stuff. But the record company in London looked at it and said: ‘What the hell is this? This isn’t gonna sell records.’ So that’s when I got the job.”

He continued:

“I gave David all the film and made a couple of choices and that was the end of it. But when the album came out, it was really dark and murky. So I called them up and said: ‘I know it was a low budget, but jeez!’ They said: ‘There’s nothing wrong with that picture, that’s how we wanted it. Your correct exposure was too nice and open and clean. I wanted it a bit more gritty.’ So that’s what David King did. He was the art director so he was the genius. Evidently, Jimi Hendrix didn’t like it. But I don’t actually believe that, because Jimi was quite a ladies man. He was a promiscuous character, so I couldn’t see why he was being all puritanical.”

The controversial album cover caused a stir upon its release in the UK, and some stores even banned the record or chose to sell it turned inside out. Thus, the original idea wasn’t actualized, and they went in a different direction than what Hendrix intended at the beginning.