Jimi Hendrix At 23 Brook Street

Jimi Hendrix and his girlfriend, Kathy Etchingham, moved into a top floor flat of an 18th century house in London’s Mayfair neighbourhood in 1968. The flat was next door to the former home of the German-born composer, George Frideric Handel, who lived at 25 Brook Street for 26 years and wrote many of his greatest works there. Hendrix, who was delighted to find out that Handel had once lived next door, told sources that he had seen the composer’s ghost step through the wall, “an old guy in a night shirt and grey pigtail” said Hendrix. He became fascinated by the fact that Handel had lived so close and went on to buy many records of the composer's works, the most notable of which is a copy of the Messiah performed by the English Chamber Orchestra. One of them is regarded as the greatest rock musician of all time and the other is one of the leading composers of the Baroque era. While their eminent careers were separated by two centuries and immensely different musical genres, Jimi Hendrix and George Frideric Handel were in some way, neighbours. 

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   This article has only a small collection of Barrie Wentzell’s intimate black and white photographs he took for Melody Maker in January 1969.        Photography by Barrie Wentzell

This article has only a small collection of Barrie Wentzell’s intimate black and white photographs he took for Melody Maker in January 1969.     Photography by Barrie Wentzell

The 23 Brook Street home was the stepping-stone to some of Hendrix’s greatest works and fuelled countless hours of writing music and jam sessions with other musicians. It was the summer after the purchase of this flat that he released his Electric Lady LP.  Hendrix referred to the flat, which he rented for £30 a week, as “the first real home of my own”. His girlfriend at the time Kathy Etchingham, found the apartment in a newspaper advertisement boasting that the flat came with a fully fitted kitchen and a modish pink bathroom suite. Together they decorated it with curtains and carpets from John Lewis, Liberty and Stalwart of the middle classes. Etchingham recently expressed to sources that Hendrix took a keen interest in the interiors; occasionally shoppers would recognize him in the fabric department of John Lewis. Though the musician was at the forefront of 1960s alternative culture, his selections of store bought interiors were one of the few reflections of conformity in Jimi Hendrix life. The bed may have been draped in hippy-style fabrics under a canopy made from an embroidered silk shawl, but it was meticulously made with hospital corners and the pillows and cushions squared up. Something Jimi had taken away from his time in the army.

Dave Tiger Taylor (left with dog) and eire apparent with Jimi Hendrix, in the bedroom of the 23 Brook Street flat.  Photography by Barrie Wentzell

Dave Tiger Taylor (left with dog) and eire apparent with Jimi Hendrix, in the bedroom of the 23 Brook Street flat. Photography by Barrie Wentzell

Hendrix had two telephones – one old-school black Bakelite, one modishly angular – on the floor and the scallop shell ashtray on the bedside table. A Bang & Olufsen turntable in the living room and his own record collection including records by Acker Bilk, the Beatles, the Band, Ravi Shankar and Bob Dylan – whose track, Like a Rolling Stone, Hendrix said “made me feel that I wasn’t the only one who’d ever felt so low”. As well as a copy of Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited stained with Hendrix’s blood from cutting his hand on a broken wine glass. 

Jimi Hendrix and girlfriend, Kathy Etchingham

Jimi Hendrix and girlfriend, Kathy Etchingham

The kitchen was rarely used, with room service supplied by Mr Love’s, the restaurant downstairs, whose waiters often carried his ‘regular’ order of steak and chips, a bottle of Mateus rosé and 20 cigarettes, up the narrow stairs. Nights were loud and went late in the flat. It was the constant druggy music scene that eventually broke up Hendrix and Etchingham’s relationship; apparently she was expecting a more domestic life-style with the rockstar musician. 

Jimi Hendrix died in London in September 1970, at the age of 27, of a drug overdose. Though he spent most of his last years touring and only lived there in-between his trips abroad, he would always return to this monumental home. The Brook Street flat is in fact, his only surviving home.

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Jimi’s home has recently been restored to the state that Jimi had left it in by the Handel House Trust, and put on exhibition at Handel House Museum, 23 & 25 Brook Street, London. Kathy Etchingham (70) was advised during the restoration and the final voice of the result of the exhibition.

 

You can book your visit online here: https://handelhendrix.org/

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