Jimi Hendrix’s iconic single ‘Purple Haze’ is one of the most influential songs of all time, and also one of the most mystifying. A blend of psychedelia and hard rock, it contains some of Hendrix’s most important guitar moves and remains one of the most iconic countercultural anthems, stemming from a seminal era of hedonistic abandon.
A bonafide stoner classic, since its release, the track has always enjoyed a close connection with our weed smoking peers, given the psychedelic music and title that explicitly pertains to a strain of the magical green plant — or so many believe. “Oh, ooh, you should hear the real ‘Purple Haze’,” Hendrix once said in an interview. “It has about 10 verses. But it goes into different changes. You know, it isn’t just ‘Purple haze, all in my’ – you know, blah, blah, blah,” he added.
It is well known that Hendrix was a huge fan of science fiction, and that Philip José Farmer’s 1966 novel, Night of Light, played a huge role in informing the song’s title. The material directly referenced a key plot point, rather than a strain of weed, as is the common misconception.
The book’s synopsis reads: “Once every seven years, a world in orbit around a binary star is bathed in a bizarre radiance that rearranges physical reality”. This bizarre radiance is described in the book as a “purplish haze”.
Of the song, Hendrix is quoted as saying: “You know the song we had named ‘Purple Haze’? (It) had about a thousand, thousand words… I had it all written out. It was about going through, through this land. This mythical… because that’s what I like to do is write a lot of mythical scenes. You know, like the history of the wars on Neptune”.
It is speculated that the idea for the song came after a bizarre dream Hendrix had experienced after reading Night of Light. However, it seems that this is not the whole story. Fans and critics alike have been transfixed by the quest to uncover the ‘true’ meaning of the song, and many have been hung up on one line in particular: “Never happy or in misery / Whatever it is, that girl put a spell on me”.
Per a report in Oddballdaily, the song does contain a reference to drugs, but not in the way you might think. The report claims that Hendrix was inspired by a newspaper article about a waitress who had an unhealthy obsession with one of the regular customers at the café she worked in.
The story goes that one day the woman slipped some LSD into the man’s coffee and lead him to her apartment, where she held him as her captive for days on end. Hendrix wanted to concentrate on the man’s perspective, and if it is true, it gives the famous line a much deeper meaning than you’d ever have imagined.
A melting pot of ideas, matched by some of the most pioneering guitar playing of all time, there’s no real surprise that ‘Purple Haze’ remains one of the most captivating songs Jimi Hendrix ever released. A classic containing a genuine density, it trumps what Hendrix’s contemporaries were doing in almost every department, even The Beatles.
Listen to ‘Purple Haze’ below.