It’s a curious thing that two musicians as essentially different as George Frideric Handel and Jimi Hendrix lived in the same building on Brook Street in London. Handel’s Zadok the Priest has been played at every English coronation since 1727 whereas Jimi Hendrix is famous for playing electric guitars with his teeth.
The twin blue plaques for Handel and Hendrix give a false impression of equality for both the classical legend and the rock god all under one roof. Until recently Hendrix’s flat was being used by the staff of the Handel House museum as an office. After a £2.4 million, two-year redevelopment of the museum, Hendrix’s home has finally been restored to the public.
Using photographs to ‘painstakingly’ recreate Hendrix’s 1960’s bedroom, Handel & Hendrix in London has created the first permanent ‘Hendrix home’ in the world.
Unfortunately, it is just Hendrix’s bedroom which has been restored and not the whole flat. Two attendant rooms have instead been turned into rather bare exhibition spaces with lots to read and very little to see.
The bedroom itself is colourful and crooked but in truth has more in common with a vintage furniture shop than it does rock and roll history. Most of the items used to create the bedroom are sourced from eBay and have no direct connection to Hendrix.
The few authentic touches like Hendrix’s mirror which was recovered from Australia and his guitar which has been loaned by a private owner in America, are not enough to complete the illusion that this is Hendrix’s flat in any meaningful way.
To get the most out of your Hendrix pilgrimage, you should explore the Soho establishments which most influenced his London years. Visit 48 Margaret Street, formerly the Speakeasy Club where he, Eric Clapton, The Who and many, many other rock legends used to meet up and play. Alternatively, drop in for a drink at the Bag o’ Nails, or Ronnie Scott’s and enjoy some of the live blues and jazz which influenced him most.
Handel & Hendrix in London opens to the public on 10th February 2016. Tickets to the joint house are £10 for adults or individual house tickets cost £7.50 per adult. Last admission is at 5 pm.