A high school pal sat me down with Are You Experienced. I had been somewhat intrigued by the raggedly textured bouncy-ball of "Purple Haze" as it briefly flitted across the AM airwaves when I was in junior high, no doubt within the context of the reputation of the mysterious Jimi Hendrix and my burgeoning fascination with underground counterculture. Hearing the whole album really opened up Hendrix for me once and for all, and it was songs like "The Wind Cries Mary" and this that did it for me. "Third Stone From the Sun" is at once so blown-open and so gentle, a weird mix of the lush and the inhuman, the harsh and daffy, making a conceit out of the god-like perspective of the title and never shrinking from going as big as it can. Wonder of wonders, that's pretty big—bigger than anyone could have imagined for a little pop song. I use "little pop song" figuratively because this song is mostly instrumental and all of 6:44 and it is actually epic, big as worlds as they say, a vast vision, encompassing and superseding the solar system and/or galaxy itself, and finally an end-of-the-world story. The words are fragmentary, with many long patches obscured and virtually indecipherable from the production, but the story is about aliens coming to visit the earth (in a "kinky machine"), disapproving of what they find, and destroying us. It's also very funny: "Although your world wonders me, / With your majestic and superior cackling hen / Your people I do not understand, / So to you I shall put an end / And you'll / Never hear / Surf music again." Dick Dale wept. When the end comes it is strange and desolate and elegiac and moving, a song once heard never forgotten. Anybody still not sure about Hendrix, start here.