When Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Electric Ladyland’ Album Cover Got Banned
A handful of British record stores took the Jimi Hendrix Experience's new album from their shelves, just weeks after its Oct. 16, 1968 release. The unusual thing is, Hendrix probably hated the racy Electric Ladyland cover art more than those retailers did.
He said the image of 19 naked women, which you can see here in all its NSFW glory, had "nothing to do with him," making it clear that his U.K. label, Track Records, was behind the artwork. "Folks in Britain are kicking against the cover. Man, I don’t blame them," Hendrix said. "I wouldn’t have put this picture on the sleeve myself, but it wasn’t my decision. It’s mostly all bullshit."
Label boss Chris Stamp sent a photographer to a local speakeasy and offered the girls £5 to appear topless – or 10 to go fully nude – for the photo shoot, according to John Perry's Electric Ladyland book. Otherwise occupied overseas, Hendrix was completely unaware of the image.
Nobody involved seemed particularly impressed with the final results. "It makes us look like a load of old tarts. It’s rotten," Reine Sutcliffe, one of the models, later told Melody Maker. "Everyone looked great, but the picture makes us look old and tired. We were trying to look too sexy, but it didn’t work out."
See Jimi Hendrix's Album Cover Sketch
The idea, of course, was to generate publicity. Perry points out, however, the ban was limited to "a few provincial record ships in York, Hull and Bristol," and their decision sparked only minor coverage in the country's tabloid papers. Besides, Electric Ladyland was one of the most eagerly anticipated albums of the year, and needed no help selling in large numbers.
The incident prompted Hendrix to write an extremely passionate and detailed letter – complete with sketches like the one above – to his American record label, explaining exactly how he wanted the Electric Ladyland art to look when they released it. Reprise rejected his request, instead choosing the now famous red and yellow close-up of the guitarist's face for the cover, and relegating most of the photographs he sent them to the inside panels.
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