Baroque 'n' roll: Jimi hendrix and the Handel connection

Forty years after the guitarist's death, a new exhibition reveals how he found unlikely inspiration in the life and works of England's master composer. Jonathan Brown reports

One was the psychedelic king of the electric guitar; the other the harpsichord virtuoso whose choral works thrilled the court of George I. And for just a few months at the height of the swinging 60s their lives – separated by more than two centuries in time – became briefly linked in the unassuming environs of a top- floor flat above a Chinese restaurant in London's Mayfair.

When Jimi Hendrix moved into 23 Brook Street in 1968 with his girlfriend Kathy Etchingham one of the first things he noticed was the blue English Heritage plaque marking the house next door as the former abode of composer George Frideric Handel. So intrigued was Hendrix by the historical connection with the late German genius of baroque that he set out to discover his works, buying them at local record shops.

Today Hendrix's old flat, which now boasts its own blue plaque, is the administrative headquarters of the Handel House Museum and for 12 days in September office staff will vacate their desks to turn over the premises to a unique exhibition celebrating the life of the guitarist in Britain and his unlikely association with Handel.

Hendrix was first brought to the UK by Chas Chandler after the former Animal helped him form the Experience the famous line-up of drums and bass. It was on this side of the Atlantic that the guitarist was to emerge as a successful talent in his own right, rather than the jobbing sideman that he had been since leaving the US military in the Sixties.

While he was to achieve success in his homeland, most notably at the Monterey and Woodstock festivals, it was here that he was to thrive and feel most at home – just as Handel did before him, explained Martin Wyatt, deputy director of the Handel House Museum who has spent the last three years working in Hendrix's spare bedroom. "There is an interesting double story here. These are two songwriters. Both are virtuoso musicians in their own worlds. Both are foreign and come to London at a time when it is becoming the centre of world music," he said.

When he died in 1970, aged just 27, works including Water Music and Music for the Royal Fireworks, were found in Hendrix's record collection. Hendrixologists have long sought to track down a lost outtake from Abbey Road featuring the guitarist jamming on harpsichord left around from the recording of the Beatles' Magical Mystery Tour, in apparent homage to his long dead neighbour.

Like Hendrix, Handel was also a showman, said Mr Wyatt. The German had once famously staged a keyboard show down with the Italian Domenico Scarlatti. Hendrix was best known for setting fire to his Fender Stratocaster and playing it behind his head. Both men were also prolific, with Hendrix completing a punishing schedule of performances.

But in one aspect of their lives they fundamentally differed. Handel, who lived at 25 Brook Street for 36 years where he wrote Messiah, never married and never spoke of his relationships keeping his private life to himself. The American was one of the summer of love's most energetic lotharios, readily availing himself to the easy temptations of sex and drugs that surrounded him.

Yet despite his wild man image, Hendrix's life at the flat was homely – a place to relax away from the pressures of stardom. He had been forced to move from nearby Montagu Square amid complaints over noise and because locals there did not appreciate the presence of a black man in their wealthy neighbourhood. Hendrix paid the then-princely sum of £30 a month for the new flat. "It is the only place after his family that he ever considered home. Everywhere else he lived he was just crashing on the floor," said Mr Wyatt. "They would go shopping as a couple up to Oxford Street to buy soft furnishings. This was his attempt to settle down."

In Kathy Etchingham's book Through Gypsy Eyes, she recalls happy times they spent together in the four-room flat surrounded by drapes and Indian hippy rugs.

Most of the domestic items were eventually sold at an auction in 2004. The location of the flat was also important to Hendrix as it was close to many of the venues which he helped make famous, clubs such as the Speakeasy, the Bag O'Nails and the Marquee.

Hendrix in Britain, timed to coincide with the 40th anniversary of his death this year will feature images, film and music taken from his time in this country. It will include handwritten lyrics and the distinctive westerner hat he wore. Another intriguing exhibit will be scrawled directions to the Isle of Wight Festival where he made one of his last and most revered performances. Fans will also be able to visit the flat on 18 September anniversary of his death as part of the Open House Weekend. The Handel House Museum, which will host Hendrix in Britain from 25 August to 7 November, is also hosting a series of workshops exploring his musical legacy.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Feeling all at sea: Barbara's 18-year-old son came under the influence of a Canadian libertarian preacher – and she had to fight to win him back
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Living the high life: Anne Robinson enjoys some skip-surfed soup
TV review
Arts and Entertainment

Great British Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
Doctor Who and Missy in the Doctor Who series 8 finale

TV
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chvrches lead singer Lauren Mayberry in the band's new video 'Leave a Trace'

music
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Home on the raunch: George Bisset (Aneurin Barnard), Lady Seymour Worsley (Natalie Dormer) and Richard Worsley (Shaun Evans)

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton

film
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
New book 'The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep' by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin

books
Arts and Entertainment
Calvi is not afraid of exploring the deep stuff: loneliness, anxiety, identity, reinvention
music
Arts and Entertainment
Edinburgh solo performers Neil James and Jessica Sherr
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
If a deal to buy tBeats, founded by hip-hop star Dr Dre (pictured) and music producer Jimmy Iovine went through, it would be Apple’s biggest ever acquisition

album review
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith is joining The Voice as a new coach

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Dowton Abbey has been pulling in 'telly tourists', who are visiting Highclere House in Berkshire

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Patriot games: Vic Reeves featured in ‘Very British Problems’
TV review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

    Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

    Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones