23 Brook Street in Mayfair, central London: the place Jimi Hendrix reportedly once described as “the only home I ever had”. The ‘Purple Haze’ shredder moved into the flat in summer 1968 with then-girlfriend Kathy Etchingham and it’s now become a museum commemorating him. Etchingham oversaw the project to painstakingly return the place to its 1968 state, using a £1.2m Heritage Lottery grant. Handel & Hendrix London – so-named because Baroque composer George Frideric Handel lived in the flat next door, which is also now a museum – opens tomorrow (Wednesday 10th February 2016) and looks to be worth every penny, as we shall see.
This snap was taken for Melody Maker by Barrie Wentzell, who said of the shoot: "It must have been afternoon, because he was already up and dressed which wouldn’t have happened before about 2 pm, and it was dark outside when we finished.”
Kathy Etchingham sits in the flat that once cost her a weekly rent of £30, which wouldn't get you a small round of drinks in Mayfair nowadays.
Despite his hell-raising image, Hendrix was extremely neat and tidy, perhaps the result of his years in the army. Check out the military precision of those duvet corners!
In fact, photographer Barrie Wentzell, who snapped Hendrix for those Melody Maker photos in January 1969, said "it was very tidy, very homely, not a mess at all – unlike my place."
Hendrix reportedly spent £1000 in cash – a staggering amount in 1968 – on furnishing the place with stuff from nearby stores John Lewis and Liberty. He was mad for interiors and used to get celeb-spotted as he shopped for fabrics in John Lewis.
Another room in the flat boasts a wall of album covers, including Bob Dylan's Highway 61 Revisited, which was stained with blood when Hendrix cut his hand on a wine glass.
The original advert for the flat boasted a fancy pink bathroom and a fully fitted kitchen, the latter of which was barely used, as Hendrix would regularly order food from the Mr Love's, the restaurant downstairs. His favourite order: steak and chips, a bottle of Mateus rosé wine and 20 fags, which waiters would fetch up the poky stairway.
That room of record covers also contains a record by Handel, who lived next door from 1723 to his death in 1759. Hendrix, a fan of Handel's, and well chuffed to hear about the building's former resident – and even once claimed to have spotted his ghost.
Handel's blue plaque went up in 1952, while Hendrix was commemorated with his own in 1997.
When the Handel House Museum opened in 2001, Hendrix's former flat next door was simply used as its office – but punters started lining up to see the guitarist's old gaff. A 2010 exhibition of Hendrix paraphernalia, held at 23 Brook Street, proved such a success that the decision was made to make it into a museum.
Barrie Wentzell said that Hendrix had no handlers, no PR people, no make-up artists – none of that nonsense. The photographer simply called the musician, arranged the shoot and knocked on his front door. Now, at £7.50 a pop, you can get up close and personal with 23 Brook Street for yourself.