I heard this song fade into earshot on the tv the other night, The Jimi Hendrix Experience's Burning Of The Midnight Lamp, the grungy fat guitar note followed by Jimi's instantly recognisable harpsichord notes. A proper ears pricking up moment. The riff circles round twice, there's a burst of wah wah and Mitch and Noel pile in before Jimi starts singing. The whole song sounds overloaded, the needle in the red, parts muffled and jostling with each other but it sounds alive, the backing vocals like a heavenly choir, a mess of controlled noise and confusion. The harpsichord- nothing says 1967 like a harpsichord- surfaces again to kick into the second half of the song and inevitably there's a stinging, dirty guitar solo. Hendrix sounds like he's singing in a dream, examining his mind in the aftermath of a messy trip, the band pounding away behind him. Noisy, psychedelic, melancholia.
Hendrix wrote the lyrics on a flight between New York and Los Angeles in 1967. This was after a recording session in London that hadn't delivered the goods for the song (although the trio had laid down Axis: Bold As Love so it wasn't a total write off). They set off on a European tour, then to the States and then when back in New York at Mayfair Studio they nailed it, with the Sweet Inspirations coming in the next day to do the backing vocals (Whitney Houston's mum being one of the three Sweet Inspirations). In the UK it was a single, released in August '67 at the height of the summer of love, with The Stars That Play With Laughing Sam's Dice on the B-side. A year later in the USA it was the B-side to his cover of All Along The Watchtower and then as part of that year's Electric Ladyland album. Two years later he was gone.