Jimi Hendrix's London flat to open to public in new museum at home where Handel lived 240 years earlier

By Ben Miller Published: 27 October 2015

Handel and Hendrix London to open flats where visionary musicians lived and worked 240 years apart

A black and white photo of a bohemian male musician sitting on a chair inside a flat
Jimi Hendrix at 23 Brook Street (1969)© Barrie Wentzell
Jimi Hendrix’s bedroom has been carefully restored to its look when the rock star made it part of “the first real home of my own” following a £2.4 million, two-year restoration turning 23 Brook Street into the only one of the rock star’s former residences open to the public.

Hendrix moved into the top floor flat on July 4 1968, shortly before the scheduled release of his revered Electric Ladyland album. His life inside the flat, two numbers up from where composer George Frideric Handel once lived for 36 years, is said to have thrived, witnessing many hours of writing, visits by his peers, jam sessions and hours of records played at high volume on his Bang and Olufsen turntable.

A photo of the outside of a tall brown brick flat where Jimi Hendrix once lived
© Handel House Museum
Tickets for the museum, which will turn the upper floor buildings into a thrilling place of pilgrimage for music fans, will go on sale next week ahead of its permanent opening next February. “It is hard to think of another home in the world with such a concentration of musical genius,” says Alistair Stranack, the Chair of the Handel House Trust.

“While it has been a pleasure to have been working in Jimi’s bedroom for the past few years, it is even more pleasing to be able to throw it open to everybody else.

A photo of the outside of a tall brown brick flat where Jimi Hendrix once lived
© Handel House Museum
“Our research into the building and Hendrix’s circle of friends and acquaintances has enabled us to present an image of what life was like in his time at Brook Street.

“We hope that the opening of Hendrix’s flat will give people an added insight into the life and work of a figure whose actions have been examined no end since his death in 1970.”

A photo of the outside of a tall brown brick flat where Jimi Hendrix once lived
© Handel House Museum
Organisers say Handel House, the elegant Georgian townhouse at number 25, represents a “genuinely unique” venue. Handel wrote Messiah and held the first rehearsals of his new compositions there before his death in his second-floor bedroom in 1759.

Hendrix recuperated at number 23 following his celebrated Royal Albert Hall shows on February 18 and 24 1969. He had moved there in search of a settled domestic life with Kathy Etchingham, who found the small flat, set above a ground floor restaurant, advertised at a rental price of £30 a week in the classifieds section of a London newspaper.

A photo of a commemorative flat on the wall of a flat where Jimi Hendrix once lived
© Handel House Museum
The pair chose curtains and carpets in John Lewis, bought vinyl at One-Stop Records, in South Molton Street, and enjoyed picking up “bits and pieces” at second-hand shops, furnishing a flat where the curtains stayed closed most of the time, earning Hendrix the nickname of The Bat.

Hendrix and Etchingham would often begin their evenings in the restaurant, Mr Love, before heading to the Speakeasy club for a jam session, rounded off with friends, musicians, journalists and photographers accompanying them back to the flat.

A black and white photo of a bohemian male musician sitting on a chair inside a flat
Hendrix at the flat on January 7 1969© Richard Keith Wolff
The exhibition includes The Studio – a 40-seat, climate-controlled space with an interactive screen and “special acoustic detail”, designed as a teaching area during the day and a “luxurious” gig venue for baroque and contemporary performances by night. A resident Bruce Kennedy harpsichord, made in 1998, will match an instrument owned by Handel, and curators hope to create elements of time travel between the work of Handel and Hendrix, with the parallels strengthened by Hendrix’s ownership of a copy of Messiah, performed by the English Chamber Orchestra, in his collection.

Hendrix is thought to have spent hours listening to the piece, evidenced by his performance of a loose version of the Hallelujah Chorus during a show at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco a few months after he moved into Brook Street.

A photo of a commemorative flat on the wall of a flat where George Frideric Handel once lived
© Handel House Museum
One of the key original exhibits will be Hendrix’s Epiphone FT79 acoustic guitar, bought in New York at the end of his first US tour with the Experience. Etchingham said he used it for all of his compositions in London, including a version of Bob Dylan’s All Along the Watchtower. Visitors to the flat during the period – whose interviews form an important part of the displays – have said the guitar always remained within his reach, often standing by his bed.

Staff at the building had previously been using Hendrix’s bedroom as an office.

  • Handel and Hendrix in London opens on February 10 2016. Tickets go on sale on November 2 2015. Visit handelhendrix.org.

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Three museums to discover musical history in

Museum of Asian Music, London
Opened by the Prince of Wales in 2008, the museum offers an interactive way to discover the diversity of Asian music in a hands-on environment. Permanent exhibits of musical instruments from across the continent are accompanied by touch-screen displays featuring music and video clips, and digital access to an extensive AV archive.

Music Museum, Coventry
Based in the promisingly-named 2-Tone Village on Coventry’s Ball Hill, the venue’s success means organisers are now planning to expand into a neighbouring building, creating three galleries dedicated to local music in response to 4,500 visitors from 44 countries.

Elgar Birthplace Museum, Worcestershire
The Elgar Birthplace Museum gives a fascinating insight in to the life and music, family and friends, development and inspirations of Sir Edward Elgar, one of England's greatest composers. Visit the country cottage where he was born on 2nd June 1857 and the newly redeveloped Elgar Centre and Jubilee Family Garden.
More on the venues and organisations we've mentioned: