Meaning of Purple Haze by Jimi Hendrix & The Story Behind

The song “Purple Haze” became one of the most famous works of the legendary Jimi Hendrix, which clearly manifested his talent as a virtuoso and innovative guitarist. Due to the ambiguous lyrics, this psychedelic composition is considered to be “addict”, although both the author of the track and its producer claimed that “Purple Haze” had nothing to do with illegal drugs.

Why did the listeners perceive it in this way? Read more about it.

Purple Haze song story

In the autumn of 1966, Jimi Hendrix arrived in the UK with his new manager Chas Chandler, a former member of The Animals, who helped him put together The Jimi Hendrix Experience and produced their first top 10 single “Hey Joe” in the UK.

Chandler’s second single was “Purple Haze”, which began on December 26, 1966 in the dressing room of London’s Upper Cut Club. Chas overheard Jimi playing some new riff and offered to create a song based on it. According to the widespread version, Hendrix composed the text from scratch that same evening and set it to music. However, Jimi himself said that he used an abridged version of a previously written poem “Purple Haze – Jesus Saves” .

Purple Haze text meaning

Of particular interest to Hendrix fans is the meaning of the song “Purple Haze”. Most music lovers believe that Jimi described in it a personal experience of using LSD. Admittedly, the text can lead to such thoughts. Moreover, the Sandoz company produced LSD in purple tablets, which were called Delysid (delicide). This is also the name of the purple-leaf marijuana variety.

Naturally, Hendrix himself denied this version. He claimed that the key phrase of the song “Purple Haze” is the line about the girl who bewitched him, and said that he embodied his fantasies in the text:

I often dream, and I express many of my dreams in songs. I wrote one called “First Around the Corner” and another called “The Purple Haze” which is all about my dream where I was walking underwater.

New Musical Express, 1969

In that dream, he was allegedly surrounded by a purple haze, due to which he was completely lost, and only faith in Jesus helped him to be saved (hence the title of the original poem “Purple Haze – Jesus Saves”).

In another interview, he explained the meaning of the song “Purple Haze” like this:

It’s just a fantasy. The hero likes the girl so much that he no longer understands what world he is in. I think it’s some form of insanity.

It is possible that the image of a purple haze came to Hendrix after reading the fantastic work of Philip José Farmer “Night of Light”. Its action takes place on a planet where the sky sometimes turned purple, causing the local inhabitants to go crazy. Connoisseurs of classical literature may also recall that the expression “purple haze” occurs in Charles Dickens’ novel Great Expectations. Whether Jimi read it is hard to say.

Purple Haze single release

Hendrix first played “Purple Haze” on January 8, 1967 in Sheffield. In the UK, the song was released as a single in March, and in the US it was released in June of the same year. The song was later included on the album “Are You Experienced” by The Jimi Hendrix Experience.

Q magazine ranked “Purple Haze” number one on their list of the 100 Greatest Guitar Tracks. Rolling Stone included it in their list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time (#17) and the 100 Greatest Guitar Songs (#2).

The list of “Purple Haze” cover artists is too long to list in full in this article about the history of the song. Let’s just say that more than forty such versions are known.

Interesting Facts

  • At first, many misheard the last line of the first verse: “Excuse me while I kiss this guy” (“Do not be offended while I kiss this guy”). They say that Jimi, having learned about this, sometimes deliberately sang it that way, while pointing to the bass player Noel Redding.
  • Hendrix performed “Purple Haze” at the Monterey Rock Festival (1967) and at Woodstock (1969).
  • The song uses the famous Hendrix chord.

Purple Haze lyrics by Jimi Hendrix

purple haze was in my brain,
lately things don’t seem the same,
actin’ funny but I don’t know why
‘scuse me while I kiss the sky
Things haven’t seemed the same lately
I’ve been acting strange but I don’t know why
Don’t be offended while I kiss the sky Purple Haze all around
don’t know if I’m coming up or down.
Am I happy or in misery?
Whatever it is, that girl put a spell on me
I don’t know if I’m going up or down
Am I happy or sad?
Anyway, that girl put a spell on me Purple Haze was in my eyes,
don’t know if it’s day or night,
you’ve got me blowing, blowing my mind
is it tomorrow or just the end of time? There was a purple haze in my eyes
I don’t know if it’s day or night
You blow up, blow up my brain
Tomorrow or just the end of time?

Song quote

I remember the first song that really hooked me was “Purple Haze”. I remember how I was struck on the spot by her wild and extravagant energy.

James Ford, New Musical Express

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