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John McDermott on the Jimi Hendrix mono reissues

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2013 was a great year for fans of Jimi Hendrix on vinyl. The “People, Hell & Angels” collection, released last March, appeared both vinyl and CD, as have most Hendrix releases since Experience Hendrix, the family-managed company that oversees all official Hendrix projects, won back rights to the catalogue in the mid-‘90s. There were special Record Store Day singles, the “Hey Joe”/“Stone Free” and “Fire”/“Foxey Lady” (both mono 7-inchers). There was also a new twist of some old favorites: the reissue of “Are You Experienced” (in both its US and UK incarnations) and “Axis: Bold As Love” in vinyl-only mono editions.

All of which would seem to be evidence of vinyl’s enduring popularity. “I went to a record show in early 2013 and was very surprised at the amount of people there interested in vinyl — not just vintage vinyl but new vinyl,” says John McDermott, director of the Hendrix catalogue, who wrote liner notes for the mono reissues, and is credited, along with Janie Hendrix and longtime Hendrix engineer/producer Eddie Kramer with “remastering supervision” of the new albums. “I do think that there is a marketplace out there that values analog sound, on vinyl. That’s not to mean it’s going to displace digital downloads or CDs. I just think that the death of any of these formats is greatly exaggerated.” He notes that the “Valleys of Neptune” Hendrix album, was highest selling vinyl release in 2010; “I think in the United States it had sold over 50,000 copies alone on vinyl, as a two LP set.”

Both “Are You Experienced” and “Axis” were released on mono as well as stereo on their initial release in 1967 (1968 for the US “Axis”). “Chas Chandler [Hendrix’s manager] always felt that mono on certain songs had more power and were much more direct,” says McDermott. “Like ‘Highway Chile’; he said that song was always going to be mono because the mix they did had all of the energy. I can see what he’s talking about, where sometimes that force kind of channels directly to the listener; it really does pay off.”

But the late ‘60s was also a period when mono began to phased out in favor of stereo, and over the years mono editions of these two Hendrix albums have become highly prized. The Classic Records’ mono edition of “Axis,” released in 2000 proved to be very popular. “People loved it,” says McDermott. “I think we probably sold five or six thousand copies right away in the United States. It was a fan favorite.” Plans were made for a mono release of “Are You Experienced,” but the project never got off the ground. Then, when the Hendrix catalogue moved to Sony Legacy in 2010, the idea was floated again.

“We knew that Sony had issued the Bob Dylan box in mono [“The Original Mono Recordings,” released in 2010], and so it wasn’t going to be a fight to try and convince them that there was a market for this with Hendrix fans,” McDermott explains. And on their initial release in March 2013, the mono albums “flew out right away — the response has really just been amazing.”

Coming up: John McDermott talks about how the mono editions came together.

And the future of the Hendrix archives.

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