Jimi Hendrix is the most influential guitarist of all time. Without him, then the future of the instrument would live a distinctly different existence today. The same could be said for The Beatles when it comes to songwriting. Together, the two artists sit alongside one another in the pantheon of all-time greats.
For the most part, Hendrix respected The Beatles. However, there was one album by the group that he despised and believed to signal a decline in their talent. This comment was a significant shift in tone from Hendrix, who, some years earlier, exhibited his appreciation for ‘The Fab Four’ during a headline show at the Saville Theatre in London. It was here that the now-iconic guitarist delivered a mind-blowing rendition of the title track from Sgt. Pepper with the knowledge that Paul McCartney and George Harrison were in attendance.
“Jimi was a sweetie, a very nice guy. I remember him opening at the Saville on a Sunday night, 4th June 1967,” McCartney once compellingly recalled. “Brian Epstein used to rent it when it was usually dark on the Sunday. Jimi opened, the curtains flew back and he came walking forward, playing ‘Sgt. Pepper’, and it had only been released on the Thursday so that was like the ultimate compliment.”
Macca added: “It’s still obviously a shining memory for me, because I admired him so much anyway, he was so accomplished. To think that that album had meant so much to him as to actually do it by the Sunday night, three days after the release. He must have been so into it, because normally it might take a day for rehearsal and then you might wonder whether you’d put it in, but he just opened with it.”
In that very same year, Hendrix publically expressed his appreciation for the group, noting: “They’re one group that you can’t really put down because they’re just too much”. However, the guitarist later changed his stance on the topic and found room to attack.
It was only two years later when he lined up his killer blow and revealed that he no longer felt The Beatles were the powerhouse they once were. With ‘The Fab Four’ retired from touring, Hendrix had arguably taken their place at the top of the mountain pile, and he thought they were taking their sound backwards.
“People are starting to get a little more hep to music nowadays,” he told the International Times (via Cheat Sheet). “I think The Beatles are going toward the past a little more.”
He wasn’t finished there, either. Hendrix went on to describe The White Album as “an inventory of the past ten years, rock music you know. There’s a lot of people waiting for something else to happen now, anyway”.
Hendrix went on to say he considered The White Album an inventory of the past ten years: “Rock music you know. There’s a lot of people waiting for something else to happen now, anyway,” he added.
The guitarist then singled out ‘Happiness Is a Warm Gun’ as an example of their declining talent. Although Hendrix did make it clear that he still respected them as a band, the way he did this was rather cutting. “The Beatles are part of the establishment. They’re starting to melt that way too,” he added.
The White Album is an unequivocal masterpiece; however, perhaps Hendrix believed The Beatles had stopped pushing the boundaries as vigorously as they did during other career stages. For Hendrix, perhaps he didn’t feel as inspired by that record as he did after the first time he listened to Sgt. Pepper.
McCartney’s doting comments about his contemporary show that there was never any bad blood between them personally, but artistically, Hendrix had moved on and was now operating in his own universe.