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Where Hendrix & Handel Were Neighbours

March 23, 2019
by the gentle author

Jimi Hendrix’ bedroom in Brook St

Did you know that George Frideric Handel once lived at 25 Brook St in Mayfair and James Marshall (Jimi) Hendrix lived next door at number 23? – thus rendering it irresistible not to speculate how these two musical legends might have co-existed.

On moving into a new home, no-one can know if it will be their ultimate address – as Brook St was for both Handel & Hendrix. Handel was thirty-eight years old when he moved into number 25 in 1723, the same year that he was appointed Composer of Music to the Chapel Royal. He visited London twice in his twenties, but it was when his patron Queen Anne died and George I became King of Great Britain that Handel came to London for good.

Hendrix was twenty-six years old in January 1969 when he moved into the top flat at number 23 rented by his girlfriend Kathy Etchingham, at the time he was giving his final performances with The Jimi Hendrix Experience. Seeing the blue plaque for Handel encouraging Hendrix to go out and buy ‘Music for the Royal Fireworks’ and ‘Messiah’ on LP.

Handel lived thirty-six years in his house, growing in success and producing an entire repertoire of opera and oratorio, but Hendrix died within two years of moving in. In what proved to be his final months, the flat at number 23 offered Hendrix a peaceful enclave to socialise in private and focus on his songwriting.

Those of a literal-minded disposition might assume Handel was much tidier that Hendrix, preferring an austere minimalist interior by contrast to the lush textiles chosen by Hendrix & Etchingham, and purchased nearby at John Lewis in Oxford St. Yet the truth is that Hendrix’ flat has been reconstructed from photographs while very little is known of Handel’s domestic arrangements. We may observe that Handel & Hendrix shared a foppish love of long velvet coats and big curly hair.

It is too obvious to imagine Handel taking a sturdy broom handle to clout his bedroom ceiling when he grew sick of the sound of Hendrix’s record player in the early hours, although it is equally conceivable to envisage Handel waking from his slumbers in delighted surprise to hear his own music emanating – as if by magic – from above, when Hendrix gave his copy of ‘Messiah’ a night-time spin upon the turntable.

Handel & Hendrix both presented large public personalities, but their neighbouring residences in Brook St offered them the opportunity to retreat and pursue their devotion to the craft and struggle of innovative musical composition in private in the middle of London. On the eve of his death on 18th September 1970 at the Samarkand Hotel in Notting Hill, Jimi Hendrix wrote a lyric entitled ‘The Story of Life’ - ‘The story of life is quicker than the wink of an eye. The story of love is hello and goodbye. Until we meet again.’

Disregarding the two hundred years which separate them, I shall now cherish the fancy of old Handel paying a visit upon young Hendrix and the two pals sitting crossed-legged together upon scatter cushions in their curls and velvet finery, while alternating puffs upon a shared roll-up and quaffing red wine as Hendrix extemporises on his guitar and blind Handel conducts in approval by twirling a drunken finger in the smoke that curls in the air.

In George Frideric Handel’s bedroom at 25 Brook St

Hendrix in his bedroom at 23 Brook St, 1969 © Barrie Wentzell

In Hendrix’ bedroom

Handel – ‘Handel & Hendrix shared a foppish love of long velvet coats and big curly hair’

In Handel’s bedroom

In Hendrix’ bedroom

In Handel’s bedroom (Portrait bust courtesy of The Royal Collection)

Jimi Hendrix’ windows were on the top floor at the left and Handel’s were on the first floor at the right

Visit Handel & Hendrix in London, 25 Brook St, Mayfair, W1K 4HB

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7 Responses leave one →
  1. Jo Mazelis permalink
    March 23, 2019

    Their other neighbour was the ill fated young poet Thomas Chatterton, who lived and died at number 39.

  2. March 23, 2019

    When I was first a tour guide in 1997, I was told the Handel Society had objected to a blue plaque for Jimi Hendrix being placed on the building. If this is true (and the source was a knowledgeable and respected person), that is a combination of the utmost snobbishness and churlishness on their part……glad to say sense prevailed.

  3. March 23, 2019

    How wondergful to learn that two great musicians lived in the same building, albeit two hundred years apart. And I totally agree with Charlie’s comment. Utmost snobishness. Thank you, G.A.

  4. Laura Williamson permalink
    March 23, 2019

    I love your pen picture of the two musical giants jam session!

    There is an interesting account by Mary Delany, Handel’s neighbour in Brook Street, of a party she gave (she’s a very interesting and talented woman in her own right)

    “…Lord Shaftesbury begged of Mr. Percival to bring him, and being a profess’d friend of Mr. Handel (who was here also) was admitted; I never was so well entertained at an opera! Mr. Handel was in the best humour in the world, and played lessons and accompanied Strada and all the ladies that sang from seven o’clock till eleven. I gave them tea and coffee, and about half an hour after nine had a salver brought in of chocolate, mulled white wine and biscuits. Everybody was easy and seemed pleased”

    I believe that Handel and Hendrix would be happy that their homes are now regularly again used as places for making music.

  5. Helen Breen permalink
    March 23, 2019

    Greetings from Boston,

    GA, thanks for this piece about the Handel and Hendrix abodes on Brook Street, another “small museum” that I have missed in London. Great pics too.

    I recall a reference in Sherlock Holmes to Brook Street as being a very posh address. Glad that the legacies of these two great musicians are being preserved…

  6. Debra Matheney permalink
    March 23, 2019

    When I visited the Handel Museum, I was touched by a letter written by one of his friends who was at Handel’s death bed to another friend. I have searched and searched for the letter as it was so beautifully written, but cannot find it. If any reader know it, please email it to me. Handel had a rich network of friends as documented in a lovely book by Helen Harris titled George Frederic Handel: A Life with Friends.

  7. Jill Wilson permalink
    March 24, 2019

    My mother and I always go to the Messiah at the Royal Albert Hall every Good Friday and so are massive fans of Handel and have visited his house in Brook Street to pay our respects.
    The Foundling Hospital is another place worth a visit to see how the generosity of people like Handel and William Hogarth helped so many destitute and abandoned children.

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