HENDRIX, Jimi (1942-1970)
Plaque erected in 1997 by English Heritage at 23 Brook Street, Mayfair, London W1K 4HA, City of Westminster
Music and Dance
JIMI HENDRIX 1942-1970 Guitarist and Songwriter lived here 1968-1969
The guitarist and songwriter Jimi Hendrix became an overnight sensation with the release of his band’s first single, ‘Hey Joe’, in 1966. His innovative fusion of blues and experimental rock – coupled with his extraordinary live performances – has continued to have a profound influence on popular music long after his death.
HENDRIX IN LONDON
Born in Seattle, Washington, USA, James Marshall Hendrix spent the most successful years of his working life in London. He first arrived in the capital in September 1966, three months after having been ‘discovered’ by the British musician Chas Chandler, who had been impressed by Hendrix’s innovative guitar style and dynamic stage presence. By October, the Jimi Hendrix Experience had been created – with Noel Redding on bass and Mitch Mitchell on drums.
The band’s first single, ‘Hey Joe’, was met with acclaim, while the second, ‘Purple Haze’, became Jimi’s signature tune. 1967 saw virtually constant touring in Britain, Europe and America and the release of the Experience’s first albums, Are You Experienced and Axis: Bold as Love. With these records Hendrix explored and then broke all previous boundaries of the electric guitar. It was his innovative twist on rock ’n’ roll that paved the way for many acts of the 1970s and onwards.
In 1968 Hendrix joined his girlfriend, Kathy Etchingham (b. 1946), at the flat she had taken in June on the top two floors of number 23 Brook Street. Jimi lived in the flat for some months – helping to decorate and furnish it to his own taste – before leaving to tour the USA in March 1969.
He was to return to London for only brief spells in 1970, spending his last night at the Samarkand Hotel, 22 Lansdowne Crescent in Notting Hill, where he died of a drug overdose at the age of just 27.
Hendrix’s plaque at 23 Brook Street is next door to that to George Frideric Handel, creating one of the most famous pairings of blue plaques in London. Several journalists interviewed Hendrix in Brook Street while he was living there, and many commented on the neighbouring plaque to Handel. To one Jimi confessed, ‘I didn’t even know this was Handel’s pad. And, to tell you the God’s honest truth, I haven’t heard much of the fella’s stuff.’
The unveiling of Hendrix’s plaque was one of the most impressive events of its kind. The traffic was stopped while the curtain’s cord was pulled by Noel Redding and The Who’s Pete Townshend in the presence of a huge crowd. The onlookers included Jimi’s father, James Al Hendrix, and the musicians Jimmy Page and Ray Davies.
The flat now forms part of the Handel House Museum, and Hendrix’s bedroom/living room has recently been restored by the Handel House Trust to look as it did when he lived there. It opened to the public on 10 February 2016.