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Undoubtedly, one of the most iconic misheard lyrics in music history stems from the Jimi Hendrix Experience’s “Purple Haze,” where Jimi seemingly sings, ‘scuse me while I kiss this guy.’ However, the actual lyrics are ‘scuse me while I kiss the sky’! Kissing the sky might be an abstract notion, but it’s far from ‘kissing this guy.’

During live performances, Jimi Hendrix, renowned for his dynamic stage presence and playful sense of humor, would occasionally improvise and substitute lyrics for a comedic effect. The iconic line “‘scuse me while I kiss the sky” took on a lighthearted twist, becoming “‘scuse me while I kiss this guy,” often accompanied by a playful gesture directed towards his bandmates Mitch Mitchell or Noel Redding. In some instances, Jimi Hendrix went even further, surprising the audience with lines like “‘scuse me while I kiss that policeman,” a bold move that occurred during a near riot in Los Angeles.

Jimi Hendrix incorporated this humorous interplay into his live performances, injecting an element of unpredictability into his shows. This comic line became a staple, and he would gleefully include it for the sheer enjoyment of both himself and the audience. Jimi’s playful antics extended to engaging with his band members, notably pointing at Bob Dylan’s grandmother (Noel) or Queen Bee (Mitch) during these improvised moments. In response to these playful gestures, Noel would humorously retort with “Jimi Hen-pecked,” adding another layer of camaraderie and amusement to the performances.

Jimi Hendrix’s penchant for pushing boundaries extended beyond his stage antics. In “Astro Man,” he introduces the character of Astro Man, depicted as flying higher than Superman. The choice of the term “faggot” about Superman challenges traditional notions of heroism and defies societal expectations. This provocative choice of words can be interpreted as a comment on the limitations of conventional heroes and the imperative to break free from the constraints of normative thinking.

 

This revolutionary spirit, both in his lyrics and on stage, made Jimi Hendrix an emblematic figure of the counterculture movement. Jimi Hendrix dared to challenge societal norms and expectations, using his platform to convey messages of freedom and individuality.

It’s crucial to understand this playful subversion within the broader context of Hendrix’s approach to music. He wasn’t merely a guitar virtuoso; he was an artist who pushed boundaries. In tracks like “Crosstown Traffic” and “Purple Haze,” Jimi Hendrix showcased not only his musical prowess but also his willingness to challenge established norms.

Recently, while listening to the new album from The Jimi Hendrix Experience, “Live at the Hollywood Bowl, 1967,” the sense of humor and friendship within the band became evident. Jimi Hendrix’s first words to the applause of the audience are: ‘I don’t mind if you laugh, as long as you laugh in key, you know…‘ This is followed by an explosive cover of The Beatles “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.”

 

Mondegreens on Jimi Hendrix’s “Scuse Me While I Kissed The Sky”

The term “mondegreen” refers to the mishearing or misinterpretation of a phrase in a way that gives it a new meaning. Coined by Sylvia Wright in the 1950s, the term originated from her mishearing of a Scottish ballad. In the context of music, mondegreens often lead to amusing or even profound reinterpretations of lyrics. Jimi Hendrix’s “Purple Haze” is a prime example, where a simple misheard line turned into a cultural touchstone.

Jimi Hendrix’s influence on music is immeasurable, and even a simple mondegreen in his lyrics became an integral part of the legendary rock era. So, next time you hear “Purple Haze,” remember, that Hendrix wasn’t just kissing the sky; he was playfully toying with the lyrics, adding a touch of humor and unpredictability to his electrifying performances.

 

The Story and Impact of “Purple Haze”

Jimi Hendrix came straight out and denied that “Purple Haze” was about drugs, despite the possible obvious references. Jimi Hendrix once linked the song to a dream he once had. The song was about the effects Jimi Hendrix felt when he was falling in love with a girl. He felt entranced by her, to the point where he had dreams about her.

The misinterpreted lyric became a cultural phenomenon, embodying the free-spirited and experimental vibe of the 1960s. Fans, enthralled by the mesmerizing sounds of the era, often found themselves swept away by the allure of Jimi Hendrix’s lyrics. The phrase ‘scuse me while I kiss the sky’ transcended its literal meaning, evolving into a symbol of the counterculture’s embrace of freedom and self-expression.

This legendary track is part of the Jimi Hendrix Experience’s debut album, “Are You Experienced,” released in the pivotal year of 1967. This album was a game-changer, showcasing Jimi Hendrix’s unparalleled guitar skills and innovative take on rock and blues. Despite apparent associations with drugs, Jimi Hendrix insisted that “Purple Haze” wasn’t about substances but a reference to a dream. In this dream, Jimi Hendrix claimed to have an out-of-body experience, witnessing himself transforming into Mama Cass.

 

What’s the Influence and Legacy of “Purple Haze”?

Q magazine, in March 2005, ranked “Purple Haze” as the greatest guitar track ever, and Rolling Stone listed it as the second greatest guitar song of all time. Positioned at number 17 on the “500 Greatest Songs of All Time” list in 2004, the song catalyzed revolutions in late-sixties psychedelia and the innovative genius of Jimi Hendrix. It secured its place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s “500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll” in 1995 and was deemed one of the “100 Most Important American Musical Works of the 20th Century” by NPR in 2000.

The accolades continued with a Grammy Hall of Fame Award in 2000, honoring its lasting qualitative and historical significance. The song’s allure extends beyond awards; it is one of the most covered Jimi Hendrix tracks. Dion DiMucci, in 1969, released a version that outperformed Hendrix’s original on the Billboard Hot 100, reaching number 63. The Cure reimagined it for Stone Free: A Tribute to Jimi Hendrix in 1993, hitting number two on Billboard’s Modern Rock Tracks chart. Even classical musicians, including the Meridian Arts Ensemble, Hampton String Quartet, and Nigel Kennedy, have interpreted the song, with the Kronos Quartet often featuring it as an encore.

 

What is the Best Cover of Jimi Hendrix’s “Purple Haze?”

Guitarist Eric Gales accomplishes the near-impossible task of making a Hendrix song his own, and he does it exceptionally well in his cover of “Purple Haze.” Gales, known for his prowess on the guitar, takes creative liberties with the song, subtly altering the intro, delivering multiple impressive solos, and making slight adjustments to the lyrics. Despite these variations, Gales remains true to the essence of Jimi Hendrix’s style, capturing the revolutionary spirit of Jimi Hendrix’s playing.

Playing his guitar left-handed like Jimi Hendrix, Gales even resurrects some of Jimi’s classic maneuvers, such as playing the guitar behind his head. In a nod to authenticity, he opts for a Stratocaster and chooses to play a right-handed guitar upside down, mirroring Jimi’s unconventional approach.

The result is a remarkable transformation of the full-blown rock track into a captivating blend of rock and blues. Gales’s voice, reminiscent of Jimi Hendrix’s, adds an extra layer of authenticity to the performance. For those fortunate enough to witness this rendition, it’s a glimpse into what it might have been like to experience the magic of Hendrix’s live performances back in the day.

 

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”PURPLE HAZE” – Eric Gales
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The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Purple Haze (1967) – Beat Club

 

 

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