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Are You Experienced? Paperback – 4 Jun 1998
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For anyone with the slightest curiosity about travelling, or even if you've been, William Sutcliffe's tremendously funny Are You Experienced? will have you in stitches. The protagonist is Dave, a 19-year-old Londoner on a gap year before starting university. He had no intention of leaving Europe, until his best mate James, who's about to go on a trek through the Himalayas, challenges him. "Do you want to learn Fwench David? Something pwactical for your CV?" he taunts when he hears Dave is going to be a waiter at a Swiss ski resort.
Admitting his fears, ("Suffering, danger and poverty are all fine by me, but dirt and disease are two things I happen to hate") Dave is determined to prove he's not a coward and accepts an invitation to go to India with James's girlfriend Liz (in anticipation of consummating their burgeoning relationship). But by the time they get on the plane it all goes downhill. Bickering constantly, their adaption to India couldn't be more different. Liz embraces it--hugging beggars and wearing saris, while Dave's dry-humoured rants, scepticism and fear of the unknown eventually drive her away in search of her "centre".
The characters the pair meet along the way draw upon all the old hippy-traveller stereotypes, but there's also a few new ones in keeping with the times. There's Ranj--a British-born Indian who hates Indians; Jez--a public-school-educated undergraduate whose travels are being funded by daddy; and Caz and Fee who experience the side-effects of "Intimate Yoga".
While this story is ultimately a funny piece of fiction, it also addresses more serious considerations, such as cultural stereotypes, peer pressures and making life-changing decisions.
This book is irresistible and seasoned travellers will empathise with the situations Dave finds himself in, (his graphic description of a bout of Dehli-belly is guaranteed to make you feel sorry for him, and nauseous too). Be prepared to laugh out loud. --Angela Boodoo
This is a devastatingly funny satire on the whole idea of student travel, and particularly the India back-pack trail. Dave travels to India with Liz because he thinks he might be able to get her into bed. Liz travels to India with Dave because she wants a companion for her voyage of spiritual discovery. She loves it. He dreams of frosty mornings, pints of lager and restaurants where vegetable curry is only a side-dish...See all Product description
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In comparison to a lot of the bands at the time, Are You Experienced is an extremely heavy album. The album is a heavily distorted mix of rock, psychedelic rock and some very soulful blues. For every song with a heavy riff like Foxy Lady you get a more laid back number like Red House. You can't miss the anthemic Fire, a rock classic that has been covered by so many bands over time. Of course depending which vinyl edition you had and if you have the CD album, you will get the likes of Highway Chile, Purple Haze and Hey Joe. Three power house songs that no rock fan should go without. I do feel that the tracks that reach for the more psychedelic acid rock were the albums only weakness. I also do not mean weakness as in they're bad songs. They are charming in their own little way and still demonstrate the great vocal/guitar talents of the bands main man as he plays on top of one of rocks most underrated rhythm sections.
Talking of the music abilities of the band, they are just out of this world. Of course people will praise the loud in your face guitar playing of Jimi Hendrix. But there is never enough praise for his softer moments. His blues playing on Red House for example is up there with some of the best, period. The man clearly feels every note he plays and has no shame in letting everyone know about it. He is also a very capable singer, something he definitely doesn't get a lot of praise for. Even though his voice does not come out into full force until the follow up albums Axis: Bold As Love and Electric Ladyland. He still puts it to a good use with a lot of power and a lot of feeling.
When you look at all the key elements to Are You Experienced its not just the electric guitar playing that sets the bar so high but the phenomenal rhythm section Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell. I know that these guys are rock royalty but I think they deserve a little bit more praise for simply being different. They don't play the groove straight up like most bands (Rolling Stones, The Beatles), instead they use a little creativity chopping between funky jazz rhythms (Eg. Fire), a bit of blues boogie and some hard driving rock. It is some nice variety that a lot of musicians should be studying, which sadly they don't.
Are You Experienced is not a perfect album, it has little things here and there that keep it from being the best. That doesn't mean it isn't damn close though. The Jimi Hendrix Experience might just have the greatest début album in the history of modern music and I dare anyone to say otherwise. These guys went to places that not a lot of bands were going to at the time and places that bands have never been able to get to. It is interesting to see where the band went with the follow up albums, especially considering one is that perfect album I just mentioned.
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