ALL ALONG THE WATCHTOWER
On this day in 1968, Jimi Hendrix began recording Bob Dylan’s song “All Along the Watchtower.” It eventually appeared on his album Electric Ladyland in the fall of that year. Dylan had released his original understated version on the 1967 album John Wesley Harding, following his motorcycle accident in the summer of ’66.
The Hendrix session for “All Along the Watchtower” began at Olympic Studios in London with Rolling Stone Brain Jones and Dave Mason from Traffic playing acoustic guitar and Experience member Mitch Mitchell on drums. Hendrix played lead guitar and bass. Eddie Kramer and Chas Chandler mixed the first version on January 26th, but Hendrix decided to re-record it, overdubbing guitar parts at the Record Plant studio in New York and ultimately moving the master tape from a four-track to a twelve-track to a sixteen-track machine. The final version is an apocalyptic song cycle that climaxes strongly with a blistering lead guitar solo – a treatment that has become definitive over the years.
Dylan described his reaction to first hearing Hendrix’s version this way, “It overwhelmed me, really. He had such talent, he could find things inside a song and vigorously develop them. He found things that other people wouldn’t think of finding in there. He probably improved upon it by the spaces he was using. I took license with the song from his version, actually, and continue to do it to this day.”
Hendrix’s recording of “All Along the Watchtower” became a Top 10 single in 1968 and was #47 in Rolling Stone magazine’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone” was #1.