A visit to William Faulkner’s house once convinced me I’d seen his ghost. Millions of people commune with Elvis’s spirit at Graceland each year. Some lucky person will end up with Toni Morrison’s personal library, and maybe also her Tribeca condo. No matter how well we think we know a favorite artist, there’s nothing like connecting with the spaces and things they left behind. Since 2016, Jimi Hendrix devotees have been able to make a pilgrimage to the London apartment he shared with his girlfriend, Kathy Etchingham, between 1968 and 1969.
The flat on 23 Brook Street has been set up the way it was when Hendrix lived there, thanks to Handel & Hendrix in London, who also maintain the house of George Frideric Handel just next door. The only other connection between the two artists is Hendrix’s ownership of two copies of Handel’s Messiah, “both of which show signs of wear and tear,” the foundation notes, and “which would have been uncanny listening so near to where it was composed.” Jimi tastefully decorated the apartment to his tastes, and told Etchingham it was “my first real home of my own.”
Hendrix’s home was made complete by a 100-plus collection of LPs and a high-end audio system that has recently been recreated in collaboration with the makers of the original components: Bang & Olufsen, Lowther, and LEAK supply the same or similar models of turntable, speaker, and amplifier, respectively, on which Jimi listened to Handel next door to the ghost of Handel. Hearing those records in Jimi’s space, the way he heard them, says Nabihah Iqbal in a video that debuted on Hendrix’s birthday, November 27th, is “a time-traveling experience.”
Iqbal chooses her favorites from the collection—Bob Dylan, Ravi Shankar, Muddy Waters, Django Reinhardt—discussing them as they quietly play in the background. For the full Hendrix experience, we’d need to crank the vintage amplifier to 11. He liked to listen loud. Etchingham “recalled that they had to ‘stick a ha’penny with sellotape onto the turntable arm… otherwise it would jump up and down the louder it got.” He would occasionally blow the reinforced speakers during parties and have to take them in for repair.
The flat also functioned as a composition room, and Hendrix’s friends stopped by to jam. (Richie Havens debuted his “anti-war anthem ‘Handsome Johnny’ to a small party in the flat on Hendrix’s Epiphone acoustic guitar.”) Handel & Hendrix in London have revived the practice with their Hendrix Flat Sessions, inviting musicians to play in the space. Above, Marcus Machado talks about what Hendrix means to him and jams a version of “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” while sitting on Hendrix’s bed.
See several more Hendrix Flat Sessions here. The records in Hendrix’s collection “cover blues, jazz, folk, rock, psychedelia and even a handful of classical LPs.” See Iqbal’s selections, with annotations from Handel & Hendrix in London, here. The Hendrix Flat is currently open to the public on Saturdays.
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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness
The Jimi Hendrix legacy quietly lives on! Check out Jimi’s cousin Eddy Hall for free on SoundCloud. You won’t be disappointed. Songs titled Sadly Happy, The World’s Going Down, and Solution, include guitar shredding reminiscent of James Marshall Hendrix.