A Double Delight

Back in February, just before the full extent of the Covid Crisis became obvious to all, I was in London and managed to visit the ‘Handel & Hendrix in London’ museum. It had been on my wish list for some while.

Portrait of George Frederick Handel (1685-1759) circa 1756-60.
After Thomas Hudson. Oil on canvas. 80.6 x 72.1 cm. On loan from the The Royal Collection.

It was truly a double delight for me. To be in the space, to walk the rooms and to experience the ambience of an 18th-century London house (annual rent in 1742 was £50) with such music credentials was very special. I am a fan both of the grand, ornate choral works of Handel and the explosive and intricate guitar solos of Hendrix. And, I prefer to visit the past homes of the exceptionally talented and able rather than residences simply gifted down to generation after generation of the same family.

Royal Music – Zadok the Priest. ‘Handel Coronation Anthems’, Arnold Edition published around 1760, part of the Gerard Byrne Collection.

We were lucky with the timing of our visit as in one room a volunteer was sat at the Kirckman harpsichord playing Handel’s ‘Air and Variations’ (The Harmonious Blacksmith). To hear Handel’s music played in his house was a breathtaking treat, sublime.

Kirckman Harpsichord made in 1745 being played by a volunteer. (Sadly I didn’t get his name.)

After experiencing the elegant Georgian rooms, it was, as you would guess, an utter change of gear as you step across from 25 Brook Street to the upper floors of 23 Brook Street and the Swinging Sixties of Jimi Hendrix.

The bedroom decoration has been reconstructed from surviving photographs of Hendrix when he lived at 23, Brook Street.
Original 1960s pieces have been sourced and some surviving originals such as this mirror recreate the classic 60s vibe.

Apart from the decorated bedroom there is a room of Hendrix memorabilia. The first guitar Jimi Hendrix ever played on British soil was Zoot Money’s Wandre ‘Blue Jean’ Model Guitar. It is still strung with the same strings that Jimi played on the day he made London his home in 1966.

Jimi arrived in London for the very first time when he stepped off a plane at Heathrow Airport with Chas Chandler on the morning of 24 September 1966. Jimi was taken straight from the airport to the West London Home of bandleader and keyboardist George Bruno ‘Zoot’ Money, a major figure on the Soho scene at the time. While looking for a guitar to play that evening, Jimi picked this instrument up and started playing it (apparently remarking it had a “nice easy action”), before Chas and Zoot managed to track down something more suitable for Jimi’s first public performance in London.

From the ‘Handel & Hendrix in London’ display.
The Wandre ‘Blue Jean’ Model Guitar

It is sad to note that it will be 50 years next month since Jimi Hendrix died at his Notting Hill home at the young age of 27. What a terrible loss to the world of music.

There is a little good news though, the ‘Handel & Hendrix in London’ museum is re-opening this Saturday, 22nd August 2020 – but, of course, now you have to book timed-tickets in advance.