The Jimi Hendrix Experience

Third Stone From the Sun

Song Review by

There's no doubt that the virtually instrumental "Third Stone from the Sun" is a tour de force of psychedelic guitar, but the merits of it as a song still spark debate among Jimi Hendrix listeners. Undeniably, by the standards of 1967 rock, it sounded incredibly strange, like little or nothing that had preceded it. The nearly seven-minute song starts with a splendid chord that is much more jazz than rock, and the musicians play around with it in a very jazz-like fashion for the first few bars, albeit with much more rock power trio flash than you would hear on a standard jazz record. Fighting with the music for attention almost from the track's inception, however, is a strange, slowed-down garbled voice, which runs intermittently throughout the track. This sounds like a 33 1/3 RPM record playing at 16 RPM, and indeed it turns out that this was a slowed-down dialogue between Hendrix and Jimi Hendrix Experience producer and co-manager Chas Chandler. The jazz-like choppy rhythm -- the influence of Elvin Jones on Mitch Mitchell's drumming is especially apparent in this section -- quickly changes to a more conventional rock-funk midtempo chug, with a grand repeated riff by Hendrix that seems to trumpet a quest for space exploration. At times the distorted voices make wind-like effects; at times the voices lose their distortion to return to normal speed and timbre, and you can hear Hendrix delivering inscrutable cosmic philosophy (including the famous line "you'll never hear surf music again") in a normal voice. After a couple of minutes or so of this midtempo section, it returns to the angular, frenetic jazz rhythms, with Hendrix laying down all manner of roaring and squiggling distorted guitar, though these riffs are much more noise than they are melody. Some fans would argue this point, but "Third Stone from the Sun" suffers from too much electronic trickery, too much convoluted ambition in its freaky turns and twists, and not enough follow-through from the quite good guitar riffs that surface from time to time. Still, if only from a technological and electronic standpoint, it was quite an achievement for the time. Ted Nugent would quote "Third Stone from the Sun"'s most prominent guitar riff directly in the Amboy Dukes' version of "Baby Please Don't Go."

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Are You Experienced? 1967 MCA 6:44
No Image 1994 MCA