When Jimi Hendrix lived in the apartment at 23 Brook Street in London’s Mayfair neighborhood, he swore he saw the ghost of composer George Handel, who’d lived next door.
Hendrix claimed the ghost stepped right through the wall and described him as “an old guy in a night shirt and grey pigtail.”
Forty-five years later, that apartment is now a museum. Jimi’s vinyl record of Handel, as well as Johnny Cash, The Beatles, Bach, and Bob Dylan, have returned to the flat where he lived in the late 60s, along with his gaudy decorations and furniture, as part of a unique museum dedicated to Hendrix and his music.
The bedroom and living room of the apartment where Hendrix and his then-girlfriend Kathy Etchingham lived have been renovated. Using Kathy’s own memories and details provided by photographs and journalist’s accounts, the apartment’s rugs, wall hangings, newspapers, “hippyish” colors, and its scattering of eccentric ornaments are back where they belong, the Guardian reported.
For Kathy, it’s like stepping back in time to when she was 22-years-old, she told Reuters when she visited the apartment, which opened to the public Wednesday.
“Well it’s quite strange… 45 years on to be sitting in the same room you were sitting in when you were 22 years old but it’s very much as it was. I don’t feel emotional about it, I just feel… it’s a job well done and it’s something that people wouldn’t normally have got to see, they can now see it.”
Here, Hendrix wrote music, rehearsed, and gave interviews. He called the apartment his “first real home of my own” and decorated the place with bright curtains, cushions, and knick knacks. He died a couple years after his time here at 27.
Next door, 240 years earlier, Handel wrote songs in his own apartment, among them “Messiah”; he died in 1759. His home had already been a museum, and parts of Jimi’s next door apartment were turned into office space for Handel House.
But now, the two musicians’ homes have become a joint museum called the “Handel & Hendrix in London” after a two-year investment of $3.5 million.
Despite the detailed recreation, it isn’t quite the same as when Jimi and Kathy lived there. She recalled late nights, raucous parties, and plenty of music. The rent cost $40 a week, and Hendrix spent $700 to decorate it. They never used the kitchen but ate room service from a restaurant called Mr. Love’s downstairs; they carried steak and chips, Mateus rosé, and 20 cigarettes up narrow stairs to the flat regularly.
“A typical day for us here probably started at 3pm or later – we weren’t early risers. In the evening we’d get something to eat from the restaurant downstairs, listen to music, watch the black-and-white TV: very ordinary things,” she told BBC News. “Jimi would play his guitar but he didn’t plug it in. Often we didn’t go to bed until 5am. He worked a lot here but I always disappoint people by admitting I’m not sure exactly which songs he wrote where.”
Kathy and Jimi often went out to music clubs, the musicians coming back to the flat with them, and stayed up all hours playing music. By the afternoon, though, the apartment was tidy again. Jimi was a military man, Etchingham recalled, and very neat.
Although the apartment was garish and colorful, the bed was made up with hospital corners, she said. Kathy actually objected to the museum’s slightly tousled and dusty look, calling it “All wrong, far too untidy.”
Hendrix and Etchingham broke up as his career blossomed. She didn’t like the drugged music scene and the crowds and moved on with her life. Jimi died in 1970, and Kathy sometimes wondered what he would’ve been like as an old man; he’d now be 73.
“I think he would have married, had children and had a happy life. I don’t know how he would have developed as a musician, but he had a real talent and it would have developed… Coming back reminds me of so many happy memories. We were young and it’s always good being young.”
[Photo By Evening Standard/Getty Images]