Linda McCartney’s image of the Jimi Hendrix Experience with some kids in Central Park was Jimi’s prefered image for the cover of ‘Electric Ladyland’
Although he was, during his brief and meteoric career, the highest paid live performer in the world, when it came to his album covers, Jimi Hendrix got no respect from his record labels.
First there was the dull UK cover for Are You Experienced designed by Chris Stamp, with a photo by Bruce Fleming and psychedelic lettering by Alan Aldridge. You’d think with a trio like that, and with a trio of such wild-looking subjects, for a stellar result, but no, the original UK album cover of Are You Experienced was a dud. Jimi didn’t like it at all, and for the US release, hired fashion photographer Karl Ferris (a close associate of The Fool) to shoot the band with a fisheye lens and infrared film for the iconic psychedelic cover most associated with the album.
UK vs. US art
And then there was the cover for Axis: Bold As Love. Roger Law made a painting of the band based on a photo-portrait from Karl Ferris and that image was superimposed over a mass-produced religious poster. Hendrix and the Experience were depicted as incarnations of Vishnu something many Hindus found insulting. Hendrix hated it, feeling that its appropriation of Hindu symbolism was “disrespectful” and questioning why his own Native American heritage did not supply the motif. An exasperated Jimi told the press that “the three of us have nothing to do with what’s on the Axis cover.” (It’s worth noting that this cover art is still banned in Malaysia.)
The ‘Axis’ cover Hendrix felt was “disrespectful.”
But the worst was yet to come. Around the time of his final masterpiece Electric Ladyland, Hendrix sent a very specific handwritten letter, with several drawings, to his American label Reprise Records describing EXACTLY what he wanted for its album cover. He requested a shot by his friend photographer Linda Eastman, who would marry Paul McCartney the following year. Eastman’s portrait was of the band with some children on José de Creeft’s famous Alice in Wonderland sculpture in New York’s Central Park.
Here are the pictures we would like for you to use anywhere on the L.P. cover - preferably inside and back, without the white frames around some of the B/W ones, and with most of them next to each other in different sizes and mixing the color prints at different points, for instance.
Please use cover picture with us and the kids on the statue for front or BACK COVER (OUTSIDE COVER) and the other back or front side, (outside cover) Please use three good pictures of us in B/W or color.
We would like to make an apology for taking so very long to send this but we have been working very hard indeed, doing shows AND recording.
And please send the pictures back to
Jimi Hendrix Personal & Private
c/o Jeffrey & Chandler
27 EAST 37th ST. N.Y. N.Y.
After you finish with them.
Please, if you can, find a nice place and lettering for the few words I wrote named… “Letter of the room full of mirrors.” on the L.P. cover.
The sketch on the other page is a rough idea of course…But please use ALL the pictures and the words - Any other drastic change from these directions would not be appropriate according to the music and our group’s present stage - And the music is most important. And we have enough personal problems without having to worry about this simple yet effective layout.
Reprise simply ignored these direct requests from the artist and used instead a solarized Karl Ferris photo taken in 1967. Track Records, Hendrix’s U.K. label, did even worse, using a David Montgomery photo depicting nineteen naked ladies!
The scandalous naked ladies UK cover image for ‘Electric Ladyland’ by David Montgomery
After expressing initial disgruntlement, Hendrix told Melody Maker in November 1968 that he hadn’t been informed about Track’s plans for the UK album cover:
“I didn’t know a thing about the English sleeve. Still, you know me, I dug it anyway. Except I think it’s sad the way the photographer made the girls look ugly. Some of them are nice looking chicks, but the photographer distorted the photograph with a fish-eye lens or something. That’s mean. It made the girls look bad. But it’s not my fault.”
Considering how very specific he had been, and the number of time that he’d seen his wishes brushed aside, that’s a pretty magnanimus reaction.
Which brings me to the brand new INSANE 5.1 remix of Electric Ladyland, which has Jimi’s preferred cover image restored to the cover. But first a slight digression…
Keep reading, after the jump…