Jimi Hendrix didn’t hand out praise lightly, and there was one legendary band that the guitarist took an immediate dislike to. Harshly, he even said the group sounded “like nothing”.
Hendrix made these comments at the beginning of 1967, just a few months after arriving in London from America, and initiated himself within the local scene. During this period, there was another new act garnering attention on a similar level, but Hendrix wasn’t convinced, even though everybody else in town was swept up in the hype.
The aforementioned group was Pink Floyd, who had formed in 1965 and had endured a dramatic transformation before Hendrix swung for them. During their early days, Floyd’s sets primarily consisted of R&B songs before they segued their way into psychedelia, and that’s when their reputation began to fly.
Hendrix was critical of the swathes of new bands who were suddenly wrongly deemed psychedelic by the musical press. He said in an interview with Unit: “When these cats say, ‘Look at the band — they’re playing psychedelic music!’ and all they’re really doing is flashing lights and playing ‘Johnny B. Goode’ with the wrong chords … it’s terrible.”
The interviewer then proceeded to ask if he had seen Pink Floyd live, and Hendrix wasn’t in the mood for niceties. “I’ve heard they have beautiful lights, but they don’t sound like nothing,” Hendrix replied.
He was interviewed again by the same journalist later that year, and Hendrix again spoke out against the psychedelic movement. After being asked about how he became “caught up in the hippie scene,” the guitarist explained that his band couldn’t be pigeon-holed as “hippie” or “psychedelic” like Pink Floyd.
Hendrix also explained his hesitance towards the tags and said: “It bothers us because ‘psychedelic’ only means mind-expansion anyway. I can’t hear one single word the Pink Floyd are saying. It happens to us, but that’s just anybody’s opinion.”
However, as the years went on, Hendrix’s stance on Pink Floyd softened, and he finally understood why they were rated so highly. By 1970, they had built up a spellbinding repertoire of records, and even Hendrix could no longer deny their brilliance.
“With the music, we will paint pictures of earth and space, so that the listener can be taken somewhere,” he revealed. “People like you to blow their minds. But we are going to give them something that will blow their mind. It will be druggy music. I agree it could be something on similar lines to what Pink Floyd are tackling. They don’t know it, but people like Pink Floyd are the mad scientists of this day and age.”
Although Pink Floyd had evolved significantly in the three years between Hendrix’s comments, he hadn’t seen them in the flesh with his own eyes when he said they sounded “like nothing” and was speaking anecdotally. As soon as he witnessed the authentic Pink Floyd experience, he finally understood their greatness.