Even though Jimi Hendrix has been dead for decades, it hasn’t stopped a seemingly endless stream of previously unreleased recordings from hitting the market. Just Wednesday we got a preview of one of 12 previously unreleased tracks coming out next March. It’s prompted people to wonder where all this stuff keeps coming from.
Hendrix biographer Charles Cross says the Seattle native spent hundreds of hours in his Electric Lady Studios in New York working on ideas that were never finished during his last years.
“There’s an incredible amount of music that’s unreleased. Part of that is he was a perfectionist. He would have messed around with the stuff in the studio forever,” he says.
The recordings have surfaced all over the place. Some have been held by private collectors, studios, record labels, or friends. That includes the songs coming out next year. Hendrix had given the tapes to former drummer Mitch Mitchell just weeks before he died.
Whether it ultimately comes out is decided by Experience Hendrix LLC, the Seattle-based foundation run by Jimi’s sister that controls his estate.
And as long as there’s money to be made, the releases will keep coming.
“If you’re a fan and there’s a new Jimi Hendrix album, you’re in all likelihood going to purchase that. That’s just the way it works,” Cross says.
Cross has heard a lot of Hendrix recordings the rest of us haven’t. He says while fans continue to clamor for all of it, much of it is merely rough experiments or simply not very good.
“If there was another Purple Haze already in existence, they would have put that out and there isn’t. The stuff is more questionable that exists.”
It’s not just Hendrix. Older music fans keep buying previously unreleased or remastered music from bands like the Beatles, Rolling Stones, and Nirvana. They’ve become a last gasp for a music industry that continues to see sales plummet as younger listeners buy fewer releases and turn to streaming sources instead.
“What’s happened is the music industry has simply cratered the last five or ten years and no one is predicting that in four or five years things will be better,” Cross says.
Just because there’s plenty of unreleased material by some of the biggest bands doesn’t mean it will all ever see the light of day.
While there are hours of unreleased recordings from Nirvana and Kurt Cobain, his daughter, ex-wife Courtney Love and former band mates Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic, all have rights to some of it, making for a legal mess if one or more want to put any of it out.
Much like a lot of the Hendrix recordings, after hearing a lot of the unreleased Nirvana and Cobain music, Cross isn’t so sure it should be released even if fans want to hear it.
“I can assure you that some of the material that hasn’t come out is awful because it’s him just screwing around in the studio. He never ever would have wanted that to come out. Not someone that was as much of a perfectionist as Kurt.”
Awful or not, if people keep buying, you can count on that stream of unreleased music to keep flowing.