Deep in the bowels of inner London lies the recreated abode of one music’s great benevolent freaks. In the repurposed words of Hunter S. Thompson, Jimi Hendrix was “one of God’s own prototypes. A high-powered mutant of some kind never even considered for mass production. Too weird to live, and too rare to die.” Hendrix not only lives on via the musical legacy that his Mozart-esque skills imparted on the world but in a rather more curiously exacting sense. Now, his Mayfair living quarters have been meticulously recreated at the Handel & Hendrix museum in London.
The museum on the reverently musical Brook Street recreates the homes of two former residents; Jimi Hendrix and the German-born Baroque composer George Frideric Handel. Within this oddly kaleidoscopic snapshot of history is a recreation of Hendrix’s record collection, featuring a slew of bloodied and worn-out classics, offering a fascinating insight not only into his living habits but also the music that moved and inspired him.
One of Hendrix’s favourite records is even beaten up and bloodied in a literal sense. His love for Bob Dylan was something that the star was keen to share. He once poetically declared, “All those people who don’t like Bob Dylan’s songs should read his lyrics. They are filled with the joys and sadness of life.” Thus, on viewing his blood-splattered copy of Highway 61 Revisited, you might be lulled into thinking that the smear has some sort of demented mystical quality. Still, the truth is Hendrix cut his hand on a shattered wine glass and was too keen to get Dylan under his stylus to bother cleaning his thumb before grabbing the record.
Elsewhere, in the collection is a copy of The Beatles’ Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band looks about as well-thumbed as Sir David Attenborough’s passport. It is a record that shows such clear signs of endless plays that it would probably let out a little groan rather than the usual vinyl crack once the stylus touches that fateful first silent groove.
The star was so enamoured with the classic Beatles record that only three days after it was released, he opened his show the Saville Theatre with an interpretation of the titular track so masterfully delivered that Paul McCartney who was in attendance described it as being “one of the greatest honours of my career.” As McCartney once declared of his mutually admiring luminary, “He was very self-effacing about his music, but when he picked up that guitar, he was just a monster.”
Amidst the collection is also another artist that both The Beatles and Hendrix shared love for — the seminal psychedelic influence of Ravi Shankar. However, Brian Jones of The Rolling Stones gifted Hendrix the Ravi Shankar records in a fine example of how the collective creative melee of the sixties endlessly influenced each other to craft the artistic zeitgeist of the era. The psychedelic scales and song structures that Ravi Shankar races through on his Sitar can be heard in Hendrix’s scintillating guitar work echoes.
Another noteworthy couple of LP’s in the collection tie the museum together in a fated suture of history. Not only did both Hendrix and Handel live on the same street in their time, but Hendrix was also a lover of the late composers work. He wore out his first copy of Handel’s Great Choruses from Handel’s Messiah so much that he had to purchase a replacement, and even that has enough rotary miles under its belt to fail a record MOT. Whether or not Hendrix’s fascination was fuelled by the fact that the record was composed only a few yards down the road is a mystery lost to time, but there is no doubting that the Baroque syncopation had an influence on his guitar work thereafter.
Another surprising record that Hendrix seemingly played to death was the Bee Gees’ 1967 effort 1st. As Hendrix’s former partner, the writer Kathy Etchingham, who helped curate the recreation, declared: “[this was] one of the first records in the collection. We used to listen to that quite a lot. Jimi thought their harmonies were really great.”
Fascinatingly there is also a record in the collection that was once performed in Hendrix’s own flat. Richie Havens was a close personal friend of Jimi from back when the two were young wayfarers amidst the folk revival of the happening New York Green Village scene. One night Haven’s paid a visit to Hendrix’s London flat to bestow him with a pressing of his then-unreleased album Mixed Bag. An impromptu party then ensued during which Haven’s plucked up Jimi’s Epiphone acoustic guitar and rattled off a stirring rendition of his anti-war epic ‘Handsome Johnny’, which apparently rendered every eye in attendance a little on the dewy side.
All in all, this full collection offers up a mind-bending glimpse of the music that inspired a master and helped shaped his tastes. It is an assortment that is imbued with the mystic miasma of retrospect, giving the LP’s an eerie air of kismet imbued by the trappings of passing time and significance.
Jimi Hendrix’s favourite records:
- Mr. Acker Bilk and his Paramount Jazz Band – Mr Acker Bilk’s Lansdowne Folio
- Albert King – Live Wire/Blues Power
- J.S. Bach, E. Power Briggs – Bach on the Pedal Harpsichord
- The Band – Music from Big Pink
- The Beatles – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Magical Mystery Tour
- The Bee Gees – Bee Gees’ 1st’
- Bill Cosby – I Started Out as a Child, Revenge
- Blind Blake – 1926 – Bootleg Rum Dum Blues
- Bob Dylan – The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, Blonde On Blonde, John Wesley Harding, Greatest Hits, Highway 61 Revisited, Bringing It All Back Home, Nashville Skyline
- The Bonzo Dog Band – The Doughnut in Granny’s Greenhouse
- The Byrds – Fifth Dimension, Younger Than YesterdayCanned Heat – Canned Heat
- The Charles Lloyd Quartet – Journey Within
- Charley Musselwhite’s Southside Band – Stand Back! Here Comes Charley Musselwhite’s Southside Band
- Chris Barber and his Jazzband – Mob: The Chris Barber Convention – Hamburg 1968
- Clara Ward – Gospel Concert
- Cream – Fresh Cream
- Delaney & Bonnie – Home
- Django Reinhardt – Django
- The Dream – Get Dreamy
- Dr. John – Babylon
- The Electric Flag – The Trip: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
- Elmore James – Memorial Album, The Best Of
- Eric Burdon & the Animals – The Twain Shall Meet
- The Free Spirits – Out of Sight and Sound
- Friar Tuck – Friar Tuck and his Psychedelic Guitar
- George Harrison – Wonderwall Music
- Handel – Great Choruses from Handel’s Messiah, The Inspirational Majesty of Favourite Selections from Handel’s Messiah, Belshazzar
- The Hollies – The Hollies Sing Dylan
- Holst – The Planets Op. 32
- Howlin’ Wolf – More Real Folk Blues, The Howlin’ Wolf Album, Moanin’ In The Moonlight
- Jaki Byard – Freedom Together!
- Jaki Byard Trio – Sunshine of my Soul
- James Brown – Showtime
- The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Are You Experienced, Smash Hits, Electric Ladyland
- Jimmy Reed – The New Jimmy Reed Album
- Jimmy Smith & Wes Montgomery – The Dynamic Duo
- Joan Baez – Any Day Now
- John Lee Hooker – Drifting Blues, Live at Café Au-Go-Go
- John Lennon and Yoko Ono – Two Virgins
- John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers – Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton, Crusade, A Hard RoadJohnny Cash – At Folsom Prison
- Junior Wells – It’s My Life, Baby
- Leadbelly – Take This Hammer
- Lightnin’ Hopkins – Earth Blues, The Roots Of, Soul Blues, Something Blue, Lightnin’ Strikes
- Little Richard – Little Richard Volume 2
- Love – Da Capo
- Lowell Fulson – Lowell Fulson
- The Mothers of Invention – Freak Out!
- Muddy Waters – The Real Folk Blues, Down on Stovall’s Plantation, Electric Mud
- Nina Simone – Nuff Said!
- Otis Redding – The Immortal Otis Redding
- Pierre Henry – Le Voyage: D’Après Le Livre Des Morts Tibétian
- Ravi Shankar – Sound of the Sitar, Portrait of a Genius India’s Master Musician
- The Red Crayola with the Familiar Ugly – The Parable of Arable Land
- Richie Havens – Electric Havens, Mixed Bag
- Robert Johnson – King of the Delta Blues Singers
- The Roland Kirk Quartet – Rip, Rig and Panic
- The Rolling Stones – Their Satanic Majesties Request, Big Hits [High Tide and Green Grass]
- Roy Harper – Sophisticated Beggar
- Sam Gopal – Escalator
- Smokey Smothers – The Driving Blues of Smokey Smothers
- Sonny Boy Williamson – Blues Classics by Sonny Boy Williamson
- Sonny Boy Williamson II – Down and Out Blues, More Real Folk Blues
- The Spencer Davis Group – Autumn ’66
- Subbulakshmi – The Sounds of Subbulakshmi
- Tim Buckley – Goodbye and Hello
- Vanilla Fudge – Vanilla Fudge
- Various Artists – The Original American Folk Blues Festival, Blues Classics, American Folk Blues Festival ’66, Original Hits of the Great Blues Singers, Vol II, Chicago/The Blues/Today!, Vol 1, Heavy Heads, We Sing The Blues!
- Washboard Sam – Blues Classics by Washboard Sam
- Wes Montgomery – A Day in the Life
- The Zodiac – Cosmic Sounds