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Carlos Alomar: How Jimi Hendrix's 'Are You Experienced' changed my life

"I couldn’t believe it," says David Bowie guitarist of first hearing Hendrix's 1967 debut
Carlos Alomar

Carlos Alomar

The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s 1967 album Are You Experienced is one of the greatest and most influential debuts in all of rock and roll history. Led by Hendrix’s innovative, otherworldly guitar playing and locked down by the killer rhythm section of bassist Noel Redding and drummer Mitch Mitchell, the album was a critical and commercial success thanks to its now iconic songs including “Foxey Lady,” “Purple Haze,” “Manic Depression,” “Fire” and more.

Are You Experienced was a total game-changer that became a late-‘60s cultural touchstone and expanded people’s ideas of what could be achieved with just six strings, a bass and drums. Its impact cannot be calculated; countless artists consider the album to be a key influence on their own musical expressions, including David Bowie’s longtime guitarist Carlos Alomar.

When we talked to Alomar about the 10 albums that have shaped him as an artist, Are You Experienced made the cut. Below, he reveals the profound impact that Jimi Hendrix’s debut made on him.

“A friend of mine introduced me to Jimi Hendrix Are You Experienced … as a guitarist I went crazy. First of all, it was coupled with the advent of the stereophonic, hi-fi system. Remember, even with some of the Beatles and some of those other tracks, we had kind of the pseudo-mono. It hadn’t really evolved the way it should have. So Jimi Hendrix came out and it was so influential as a guitarist. 

"I’d like to put it this way, during that same '60s period … with not only the Beatles but you had Herman’s Hermits — you had all these other bands that were playing at that time and I had just gotten influenced by them. But the guitarist wasn’t the main force. He was interesting as some component and every once in a while a guitarist would step out to play a little lead. But the issue of a power trio was unheard of. And when [Hendrix] stepped in front with a Marshall and a Strat, I couldn’t believe it. First of all I had to listen to the record a few times when I first heard it with the friend that said ‘what’s wrong with you?’ And then I bought the record and that was it, the record got scratched up immediately because I had to learn every note. And I did, I learned that whole album!”