As the 1960s were turning more psychedelic by the day, there wasn’t an artist more cutting-edge than Jimi Hendrix. Outside of his insane guitar skills, people began paying attention to the new acts that Hendrix was listening to, exposing the world to all kinds of gems. Though Hendrix’s touch was the rock and roll equivalent of Jesus sanctifying the ground, he didn’t have the highest opinion on one of the originators of prog rock.
While Hendrix was breaking into the scene with his debut album, Are You Experienced?, Pink Floyd was hard at work making their version of psychedelia with their debut, The Piper At the Gates of Dawn. Though this version of Floyd was vastly different from what most people would think of as their classic era, the writing of Syd Barrett was unique for its time, penning some of the zaniest things that would come into his head.
As Hendrix started to find his feet as a celebrity, though, he began to judge some acts that he deemed more about the psychedelic visuals than the music, telling Steve Barker, “Here’s one thing I hate, man. When these cats say, ‘Look at the band. They’re playing psychedelic music!’ All they’re doing is flashing lights on them and playing ‘Johnny B. Goode’ with the wrong chords. It’s terrible.”
From Hendrix’s point of view, every one of these acts had fundamentally missed the point of most of his music. Though Hendrix was looking to make music that carried the listener to a better place, most of his contemporaries were trying to put on a huge light show, with the music being an afterthought. Hendrix ultimately put acts like Floyd in that company, later recalling, “I’ve heard they have beautiful lights, but they don’t sound like nothing.”
When Hendrix took the time to listen to Floyd a bit more intently, he started to hear more of what they were going for on albums like A Saucerful of Secrets, making tracks that sounded like they were coming from a different dimension. Hendrix would later change his tune about Floyd’s direction, explaining to The Narrative Art, “They’re doing like a different type of music. They’re doing more kind of a space thing. Technically, they are getting electronics and all this. They do like a space kind of thing, like an inner space. Sometimes you have to lay back by yourself and appreciate them.”
Unfortunately, any future in future space rock productions was to continue with Hendrix or the current version of Floyd. After preparing for a bold new direction, Hendrix was found dead in his home of an apparent overdose, with the hope of the ’60s movement abruptly dying with him. It didn’t take Floyd long to follow suit, with Barrett succumbing to his mental struggles and having to be ousted from the band, with Roger Waters steering the ship for the next few years.
Even though it was easy to write off Pink Floyd as a band that found a gimmick initially, Hendrix was starting to get more of the picture as the years went on. However, any chance of what a Hendrix and Floyd collaboration would sound like will only exist in the minds of rock fans everywhere.