Axis: Bold as Love was first released in the United Kingdom by Track Records in December 1967, as the follow-up to the band’s successful debut Are You Experienced, which had been released months earlier in May. It was not sold in the United States until 1968 because of the record company’s fears that it might disturb the sales of the first album. Axis: Bold as Lovecharted at number five in the UK and number three in the US.
Hendrix expressed dismay regarding the album cover art, which depicts him and the Experience as various forms of Vishnu, incorporating a painting of them by Roger Law, from a photo-portrait by Karl Ferris. Hendrix stated that the cover would have been more appropriate had it highlighted his American Indian heritage. The painted image of the Experience was then superimposed on top of a copy of a mass-produced religious poster. Hendrix commented: “The three of us have nothing to do with what’s on the Axis cover.” Unlike the previous album’s cover art, both the UK and US editions featured the same image.Hindus have since expressed anger on the appropriation of the deity Vishnu for the album cover and poster. The Malaysian government’s Home Ministry instituted a ban on the artwork from June 2014 to protect religious sensitivities following complaints.
In November, a giant black and white blow-up of the Hapshash/Osiris poster featuring Hendrix dressed as a Native American, wearing a feathered War Bonnet, was used as a background to his appearance on Hoepla, a controversial Dutch TV show. The original poster featured fantastic day-glo pink, orange & blue offset lithographs printed on gold foil. This poster, although produced later in London and supposedly commissioned by Hendrix, had text along the top to make it appear as if it was an original poster advertising his 1967 Fillmore concerts. The original prints of this poster are presumed to all be in private collections, and later copies which have surfaced have fetched high prices at auction.
The original Track UK issue came in a gatefold sleeve with a large black and white portrait photo of the group by Donald Silverstein spread over the inside and an orange sheet insert with overprinted lyrics in red; the allegedly high cost of this packaging was a topic of note in the music press. The US issue had no insert and instead of the group photo inside, had the lyrics. In Europe, the Polydor issue had no lyrics but added a 1-inch-wide (25 mm) white border round the inside portrait, while the French dispensed with the original cover entirely and instead used a non-gatefold sleeve with a photo of the group taken from a recent French TV show on the front.
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