Jimi Hendrix died 50 years ago – but the beat goes on when you pop into Jimi’s pad
- Visitors can look around the Central London flat where rock guitarist Jimi Hendrix lived with his girlfriend
- The flat has been restored to look just as it did with overflowing ashtrays and his vinyl record collection
- ‘It gives a fascinating insight into the surprisingly domestic side to his personality,’ says Rob Crossan
How do bona fide rock legends spend their Saturday afternoons? Sleeping off last night’s binge? Flying down to their country estate in a private jet?
For Jimi Hendrix, the surprising answer was… go to John Lewis.
In the late 1960s, the greatest rock guitarist of his generation regularly visited the Oxford Street department store, dressed in his trademark psychedelic garb. He astonished other customers as he browsed for curtain material for his £30-a-week Mayfair flat, which he said was ‘the first real home of my own’.
House of rock: Visitors can look around Jimi Hendrix’s restored bedroom in Mayfair, complete with overflowing ashtrays and his vinyl record collection
Next week marks 50 years since Jimi’s death at just 27. The restoration of his Central London flat, which reopened to visitors only last month, gives a fascinating insight into the surprisingly domestic side to his personality.
The bedroom at 23 Brook Street has been restored to look just as it did during Jimi’s two-year tenure with girlfriend Kathy Etchingham, including overflowing ashtrays, ancient copies of the TV Times and his vinyl record collection.
The walls are covered with the written recollections of regular visitors to the flat, who noted the Seattle-born star’s love of quintessentially British delights: milky tea and Coronation Street.
But Hendrix wasn’t the only musical genius to live in the Mayfair street.
Thanks to the removal of internal walls, it’s possible to slip next door and travel from the late 1960s to the early 1700s and the main residence of George Frideric Handel.
Next week marks 50 years since Jimi’s death at just 27
No 25 was tenanted for 36 years by the Baroque composer. Its creaking floorboards and narrow stairs must have been a hazard for corpulent Handel, who entertained as well as composed at the address — paying £50 or so a year for the privilege.
Handel composed many of his greatest works here, including Messiah and Zadok The Priest, the anthem used for every Royal Coronation since that of George II in 1727.
On display are harpsichords, a clavichord and a chamber organ of the type Handel would have known; a replica of his oddly short four-poster bed (designed so he could sleep sitting up, to aid digestion); plus clues as to his character.
Famously hot-headed — he fought a duel with fellow composer Johann Mattheson in his youth — Handel had a somewhat mean streak, too.
When guests came to dinner, he would serve wine and food of average quality then, claiming that the muse had struck and he needed to write something down, would sneak into another room, where he would quietly consume finer vintages and delicacies.
Rents may have gone up ever so slightly since their time here, but this is one corner of London’s richest neighbourhood where —thanks to George and Jimi — time travel, with a superior soundtrack, is only a steep staircase away.
- Tickets for the Handel & Hendrix In London museum cost £10 for adults. Book at handelhendrix.org.