21 Sep Jimi Hendrix Releases His Version of “All Along the Watchtower”
On this day in 1968, Jimi Hendrix released his version of “All Along the Watchtower”
Originally penned by Bob Dylan, the song is renowned for it’s bizarre lyrics and whirling guitars. Dylan wrote the song while recuperating from a motorcycle accident and settling into family life and recorded it in 1967 at the same studio he had recorded “Blonde on Blonde” at, with the same producer. An early tape of these recordings was given to Hendrix in late 1967 and on January 21st, suitably impressed, he set about recording his own version in London.
Apparently, Hendrix’s recording of the song was less than straightforward, as his engineer recounts the guitarists large number of takes that day, and his shouted orders to the rest of the band. This led to bass player Noel Redding walking out on the session and having to be replaced, before Hendrix took over to complete the final bass section. Rolling Stones legend Brian Jones was also present at the session, taking control of the various percussion instruments, including new technology like the ‘vibraslap’. After the initial mixing, Hendrix became further dissatisfied with the result and went on to re-record and overdub sections of the song throughout the following three months.
The song was finally completed and released on September 21st, a month prior to the album version on Electric Ladyland, and quickly became Hendrix’s most successful US single, charting at number 20 and being named as one of the best cover versions of all time. Bob Dylan himself described his reaction to Hendrix’s version as overwhelming, due to the immense talent and dedicated development of the song. Dylan went on to say that “I liked Jimi Hendrix’s record of this and ever since he died I’ve been doing it that way… Strange how when I sing it, I always feel it’s a tribute to him in some kind of way”.