Friday, 17 September 2010

Jimi Hendrix: Are You Experienced?

At 23/25 Brook Street in the heart of Mayfair, is the house George Frideric Handel lived in for thirty-six years, when he was at the height of his success composing Messiah, Zadok the Priest, and Music for the Royal Fireworks. The upper floors are now the Handel House Museum, a combination of historic house, art gallery, museum and small performance venue, all built around Handel’s world and music.

He died there in 1759, aged seventy four, and is buried in Westminster Abbey.

Two hundred and nine years later a young American musician, Jimi Hendrix, largely unknown in his own country but hoping to establish his name in England, moved in with his girlfriend Kathy Etchingham. This was his home for the rest of his short life; he died on 18th September 1970 aged twenty-seven.

To commemorate the 40th anniversary of Hendrix’s death, Handel House is presenting a new exhibition: Hendrix in Britain. With some rarely seen memorabilia, images and music, the exhibition covers his rapid rise to fame in London and his lasting impact on rock music. In the exhibition's visitor comment book yesterday I saw this: I hate all these loud young people making a noise. Signed G F Handel. That’s nice

Some things that stand out for me:

Hendrix was left handed, but played right handed instruments.

The flamboyance of his clothes, hair, furnishings.

The man could play guitar with his teeth, would set fire to the guitar, could sometimes appear aggressive on stage, and yet was so calm, gentle, and lucid in his interviews.

Rock musicians renting property in Mayfair: unheard of nowadays. In the last couple of decades they would be in Camden, Hackney, or further east;

How quickly Hendrix became recognised and idolized by other artists such as Eric Clapton and Pete Townsend;

His guitar version of "The Star-Spangled Banner" at Woodstock became famous as a statement of those times and attitudes.

The typical UK tour venues, how different from today. Hendrix’s 1967 tour included: Ricky Tick Club, Hounslow; Dorothy's Ballroom, Cambridge; Skyline Hotel, Hull; Club A Go Go, Newcastle-upon-Tyne; International Club, Leeds;At the Gyro Club, Ilkley, the show was stopped due to overcrowding.

I saw the Jimi Hendrix Experience play at the Odeon, Manchester on April 22nd 1967.

There is a mass of good material on the internet: videos on YouTube, audio tracks, excellent photographs, and some good writing by Richard Williams, then a young music journalist and now chief sportswriter for the Guardian.
There is an interview with Kathy Etchingham in the Standard.

Handel is the greatest composer who ever lived. I would bare my head and kneel at his grave - Ludwig van Beethoven

I didn't have an affair with him - it's my only lasting regret in life - Marianne Faithfull

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