By Frank Daniels
Although Jimi Hendrix only released three American studio albums and eight singles during his lifetime that were credited solely to his band, his impact as a guitar impresario is undeniable. If Chuck Berry’s guitar was an extension of his own hands, then Jimi’s guitar was an extension of his own mind. After Jimi went from being one of the best kept secrets in rock ‘n’ roll (in 1966) to being a star of both the Monterey International Pop Festival (1967) and the legendary Woodstock concert (1969), he went on to influence two generations of guitar players..
When someone comes along who is that important to modern music history, some of their records sold so well originally that they are not highly valuable today; but instead their more obscure records are highly prized as “holy grails” of a collection. That is exactly the case with Jimi Hendrix.
Although most of his singles usually sell in the $30 to $60 range in NM condition, his first American single came out before he was popular. That single, “Hey Joe” (Reprise 0572) was released with a picture sleeve as well — adding to its value. In this case both the commercial single and its white-label, promotional counterpart are prized; with the picture sleeve in NM condition being the most interesting of Jimi’s singles offerings.
One of his most famous recordings, Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower,” came out in the familiar vinyl single format and in the experimental Pocket Disc format. Pocket Discs were portable flexi discs that you could carry around in your pocket. The Pocket Disc was manufactured by Americom, Inc. from 1966 to 1969. Americom pioneered the format, marketing it to the record companies as an alternative single. “All Along the Watchtower” (Reprise/Americom M-220) is the only known Pocket Disc single of Hendrix music.
Collectors are just starting to get into the tape formats. Concerning Jimi Hendrix, original reel-to-reel tapes are the most valuable, going for $200 to $300 each in NM condition. The short-lived Playtape format have collectors paying $80 for some open copies and more if the labels and tapes are truly in NM condition.
Still, Jimi is best-known as an album artist, and his most-valued records are LPs. The second canonical Hendrix album, “Axis: Bold as Love,” came out in 1968 when the Reprise label was eliminating mono records. Commercial copies exist only in stereo, but there are two varieties of the mono album that are both very valuable. When Reprise first released the album, they promoted it to AM radio with a mono album whose front cover has no stereo markings. (Expect to pay as much as $3,000 for a top copy.) Later in the year, the RCA Record Club obtained permission from Warner/Reprise to press copies of the album in mono for their subscribers. These copies are marked MONO on the front cover and are even more rare.
Collectors also go for promotional copies of “Are You Experienced,” paying big prices for that first album as well. Being somewhat of a completist myself, at the very least I would want original pressings of every record that Jimi released during his lifetime. For example, “Historic Performances,” with Otis Redding on one side, has two covers. Both covers were available at different times, across more than one label variation, so it seems unlike that one was “banned,” but Reprise may have tried to market the album differently. Still, a collector should want to find both covers.
A few reported records may not exist. If you have copies of these, please scan them and send those scans to me c/o Goldmine. I would appreciate them. One record that appears nowhere online is a mono release of “Flashing,” one of Jimi’s albums with Curtis Knight. Capitol had stopped releasing albums in both mono and stereo, but they were releasing mono albums as unmarked promotional copies — so these may exist. Another is the reputed mono promo of “Electric Ladyland.” There have been several discussions online about the album in different forums, but no one is able to produce a copy, and no copies have appeared for sale online in the past 10 years. In theory, this “Ladyland” is such a legendary album that if you own one, you might be able to “name your price” at auction.
Finally, “Ladyland” has a scarce label variation that we should mention. When Reprise prepared promotional copies of the album, the promotional labels for Side B included additional information indicating the song times. The first commercial copies of the album accidentally show the numbers 1, 2, and 3 where they had been on the promotional copy. So far, these copies have not established a value of their own, but in theory they should.
Although Hendrix died young, his music will continue to surprise, delight, influence and shock people in the coming generations. Comparing prices from earlier years shows a steady increase in value for his hard-to-find records. Anyone who is interested in intricate or experimental guitar work can explain easily this fascination with Jimi Hendrix. He was simply amazing, and his records remain a testament to his great skill.