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Where Handel & Hendrix Were Neighbours

February 29, 2016
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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8 Responses leave one →
  1. February 29, 2016

    What a whimsical and fun post today! Valerie

  2. Peter Holford permalink
    February 29, 2016

    I got dragged along to the Marquee on Wardour Street in 1967 by a friend who was raving about a new singer. It was a good decision to let myself be dragged – Hendrix was one of the great onstage presences. But there were more than a few that I saw in that era some of whom are now nearly forgotten (Arthur Brown, Keith Emerson, Country Joe & the Fish). Like Hendrix I stuck to listening to Handel on record.

    On the list of must-go places! Too many and you keep adding to them, GA. Not that I’m complaining.

  3. February 29, 2016

    Two Geniuses at one place.

    Love & Peace

  4. pauline taylor permalink
    February 29, 2016

    Thank you GA, I am very interested in Handel’s House as it is more than likely that a grandson of my 7 x great grandparents would have visited him here. John Beard 7xGG was a bricklayer at Hampton and it is thought, by me and other genealogists, that he was the grandfather of John Beard who was engaged by Handel as his leading tenor. Handel discovered John Beard singing in the Chapel Royal and there are lots of other clues as to his origins so I am particularly interested in any other things which may come to light as I would love to prove the connection once and for all. John Beard also became the manager of the Covent Garden Theatre.

  5. Debra Matheney permalink
    February 29, 2016

    Lovely! I recommend Handel:A Life with Friends by Ellen Harris for an interesting take on Handel’s life and music as well as a romp through 18th century life. Thanks for the post.

  6. February 29, 2016

    Beautiful. A perfect post.

  7. StephenH permalink
    March 2, 2016

    Fascinating post. The final paragraph made me chuckle with delight as your description evoked an immediate mental image. Thanks for the enjoyable read – and for many others as well!

  8. Elizabeth Neill permalink
    March 3, 2016

    Does anyone know if these houses would have had retail on the first floor in the 18th century?

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