Rock guitar legend Jimi Hendrix and his girlfriend, Kathy Etchingham, lived in the top-floor flat of an 18th-century house in London’s Mayfair neighborhood in 1968 and 1969. The apartment has now been faithfully restored to show what life was like for Hendrix at the height of his career.
Persian rugs are on the floor, a Victorian shawl hangs above the bed, and a clamshell ashtray sits next to it. Another room has a wall of album covers — including Hendrix’s “Are You Experienced?,” his first album with drummer Mitch Mitchell and bass player Noel Redding. Some of Hendrix’s own album collection, including a copy of Bob Dylan’s “Highway 61 Revisited,” are on display.
Christian Lloyd, a professor at Queen’s University and author of Hendrix at Home: A Bluesman in Mayfair, said Hendrix had the advantage of having no neighbors when he rented the flat, so he could make music at high volume if he wanted to.
“I think it was the kind of place where, after they’d been to ‘The Speakeasy’ — one of the music clubs just five or 10 minutes’ walk away — they’d come back here later and hang out and so on,” Lloyd said. “So, yeah, Jimi was 25 when he was here, so they had some fun, yeah.”
The display also features Hendrix’s acoustic guitar — an Epiphone FT-79 — which was always within arm’s reach.
“That guitar was always leaned up against the bed there,” Lloyd said. “It was always within hand’s reach. He composed many of his most famous songs on that guitar, not on an electric guitar, actually. And she [Etchingham] said he’d play and play and play. People think of Hendrix as a genius, [but] he’s also someone who worked really, really hard on his music.”
The apartment at 23 Brook Street is next to the former house of composer George Frideric Handel. It was originally office space for the Handel House Museum.
So many people visited Hendrix’s old apartment that a temporary exhibition was mounted five years ago. It was such a success that museum directors decided to open a permanent museum in the flat.
Some images from Barrie Wentzell, a former photographer for Melody Maker magazine who photographed Hendrix in the flat in the 1960s, are on display in the exhibit. He said Jimi would be pleased with the restoration.
“Every time I hear that ‘Hey Joe’ on the radio, I’m back in the darkroom again,” Wentzell said. “The music and the pictures are a mnemonic to bring you back into that.
“And I think it’s very important for the younger generation who don’t know that world of freedom and hippieness and money wasn’t an issue and, hey, you walk down the street and there’s Jimmy Page or Ritchie Blackmore or you go to The Speakeasy and there’s Keith Moon destroying somebody’s drum kit and drinking somebody to the floor in the bar.”
The Jimi Hendrix House museum opens to the public February 10.