By John Armstrong, Columnist-Rock At Night Manchester
-The Side Panel Column-
Rock At Night visited 23/25 Brook Street, London–Handel & Hendrix Museum
To be invited into someone’s bedroom is an intimate thing. If that person died 46 years ago, it is intimate time travel. The newly restored and open to the public London flat, at 23/25 Brook Street (merely yards from the bustle of Oxford Street) occupied by Jimi Hendrix is indeed intimate time travel. To step into the bedroom is to enter a place instantly familiar from the many interviews given and photographs taken while this was the Hendrix home. The ludicrously huge speakers for the record player, the closed curtains, the rugs, the low bed, the mirror surrounded by huge feathers, the wall hangings and the flower-print tasselled shawl above the bed; they are all there–yet it is the detail beyond all this that reveals glimpses of private domesticity. Two telephones on the floor ring intermittently as they did then because of Hendrix’s habit of giving out his phone number. There is a stainless steel tray with teapot and tea strainer. One can observe the scallop shell used as an ashtray, the small box of Quality Street chocolates on the bookshelf near the Bob Dylan songbook, the now archaic carpet-sweeper, the wide brimmed hat on the table and the shoes behind the door. It is all as though Jimi has just nipped up the short flight of uneven 300 year old stairs to where his small kitchen and pink bathroom were, and will be back at any moment. The only difference between now and 1969 is the complete absence of cigarette smoke and that all the ashtrays are empty.
Another room houses an exhibition concentrating on Hendrix’s time in London and also functioning as an introduction to those unfamiliar with him. There is an interactive display of Hendrix’s vinyl record collection; LP sized printed cards are stacked at flicking-through height in simple ‘by Artist A-Z’; and a duplicate set parallel filed in ‘by genre A-Z’. And, yes, it’s a good feeling rummaging through them repeatedly thinking “I’ve got that one too”.
There are two blue plaques on the wall outside noting Jimi Hendrix and George Frideric Handel resided at the location. Handel House is located at 25 Brook Street and the flat is the top level of Floor 23. The museum rebranded as ‘Handel and Hendrix in London’ now celebrates two musicians born 20o-plus years apart–and both whom were ground-breaking and hugely influential foreign nationals who came to London to seek their fortune. They make a good pairing. The story goes Hendrix once saw Handel’s ghost walk through a wall in his flat and you can sense both of them as real physical presences here. Bearing in mind this is in London, there is an astoundingly low entrance fee of £10 for both (or £7.50 for either Handel or Hendrix only)– offering excellent value.
Before the restoration project, the bedroom was the office of the Handel House Museum and it can only be a matter of time before they have to move again as the stream of visitors ask to see his bathroom and kitchen as well.
Handel & Hendrix in London Website: http://handelhendrix.org/
**Rock At Night would like to thank Handel & Hendrix for use of the provided photos.