How Jimi Hendrix’s Opinion on Pink Floyd Evolved Over the Years

If you ever listen to (or read) his interviews, you know Jimi Hendrix didn’t go around trash-talking his contemporaries. Naturally, rock journalists wanted to know what he thought of the era’s big acts (Eric Clapton, Led Zeppelin, and The Beatles among them). And Hendrix almost always opted to tread lightly.

On the subject of Zeppelin (who’d only released their first two albums), Hendrix said he hadn’t thought much about the band. As for Clapton, Hendrix was usually complimentary, though he didn’t think highly of Clapton’s Delaney & Bonnie work. And Hendrix thought The Beatles had begun treading water a bit by The White Album.

Hendrix’s opinions on Pink Floyd might also interest fans of classic rock. Though Hendrix only lived to (theoretically) hear the first four Floyd albums, he fielded questions about the band several times during his run atop the rock scene. And his opinion of Floyd evolved quite a bit.

Jimi Hendrix sounded dismissive of Pink Floyd in the beginning

Pink Floyd band photo, 1969
Pink Floyd: David Gilmour, Roger Waters,Nick Mason, Richard Wright – Ende 1969 | ullstein bild via Getty Images

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If you want to hear Jimi at his most unfiltered, the Steve Roby-edited Hendrix on Hendrix (2012) ought to be in your book collection. Roby collected many of Hendrix’s interviews along the years. Many are obscure, and a few even border on superfluous.

Yet you always get the context behind many of Hendrix’s famous quotes you simply can’t get elsewhere. In an early (January ’67) interview with Unit, Steve Barker asked Hendrix about the burgeoning psychedelic scene. Hendrix didn’t think highly of what was being categorized as “psych” at the time.

“When these cats say, ‘Look at the band — they’re playing psychedelic music!’ and all they’re really doing is flashing lights and playing ‘Johnny B. Goode’ with the wrong chords … it’s terrible.” For whatever reason, Barker followed that by asking if Hendrix had seen Pink Floyd.

“I’ve heard they have beautiful lights but they don’t sound like nothing,” Hendrix replied. About 10 months later (November ’67), Barker again interviewed Hendrix for Unit. On that occasion, he asked Hendrix how he got “caught up in the hippie scene.” Hendrix answered by saying the Experience didn’t want to fall into categories like “hippie” and psychedelic.”

“It bothers us because ‘psychedelic’ only means mind-expansion anyway,” he said (via Hendrix on Hendrix). “I can’t hear one single word the Pink Floyd are saying,” he added, somewhat obliquely. “It happens to us, but that’s just anybody’s opinion.”

Hendrix later referred to Pink Floyd as ‘the mad scientists’ of the era

Jimi Hendrix smiles as he arrives at the Hamburg airport in 1969.
Jimi Hendrix arrives at the airport in Hamburg, January 1969. | Georg Spring/picture alliance via Getty Images

By August ’70, Hendrix only had a few weeks to live. He was preparing for his major appearance at the Isle of Wight Festival. Before he and his band (Billy Cox, Mitch Mitchell) took the stage on Aug. 31, Hendrix spoke with a number of reporters, including Roy Hollingworth of Melody Maker.

At that point, he considered the era The Beatles had kicked off as done. As for what direction his own music would take, Hendrix did his best to explain. “With the music, we will paint pictures of earth and space, so that the listener can be taken somewhere,” he told Hollingworth.

As he continued, Hendrix referenced the Floyd. “People like you to blow their minds,” Hendrix said. “But we are going to give them something that will blow their mind […]. It will be druggy music. I agree it could be something on similar lines to what Pink Floyd are tackling. They don’t know it, but people like Pink Floyd are the mad scientists of this day and age.”