The flat on the upper floors of 23 Brook Street was found by Jimi’s girlfriend Kathy Etchingham from an advert in one of the London evening newspapers in June 1968 while he was in New York.
He moved in briefly in July before returning to the United States for an extensive tour. He spent some time decorating the flat to his own taste, including purchasing curtains and cushions from the nearby John Lewis department store, as well as ornaments and knickknacks from Portobello Road market and elsewhere. He told Kathy that this was ‘my first real home of my own’.
He returned to Brook Street in January 1969 and almost immediately launched into an exhaustive series of press and media interviews and photo shoots in the flat. On 4 January he made his infamous appearance on the BBC Happening for Lulu TV show, and gave his two Royal Albert Hall concerts in February. In March he was back in New York again and although Kathy remained at Brook Street for a while longer Jimi did not live there again.
Over the years the flat was used as office space until it was taken over in 2000 by the Handel House Trust. The intention of the Trust at the time was to restore the Hendrix flat alongside the restoration of Handel’s house next door at 25 Brook Street, but this proved to be unachievable at the time. Instead, the space became the administrative offices of the Handel House Museum. From 2006 to 2013 the rooms were opened to the public as part of the Open House Weekend, and in 2010 as part of the exhibition Hendrix in London they were open to visitors for 12 days.
In 2014 the Handel House Trust was awarded a Heritage Lottery Fund grant to restore the Hendrix Flat permanently, as well as creating a new studio space and improving visitor facilities. The Flat opened to the public on Wednesday 10 February 2016.
Brought to London by manager Chas Chandler in September 1966, Jimi Hendrix quickly established a reputation as a spectacular live performer, based on an intensive period of playing in London clubs, as well as venues across the UK, often delivering more than one set per night. The success of his first two single releases, Hey Joe (December 1966) and Purple Haze (March 1967), and his first album with the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Are You Experienced? (May 1967), coupled with the reputation established by his UK shows, led to fame; ensuring that when he returned to play shows in the USA, only nine months after he had arrived in London, he was already a European star.
After spending much of 1968 recording and touring in the USA, Hendrix returned to London, moving into an upstairs flat in 23 Brook Street which his then girlfriend Kathy Etchingham had rented for them that summer.
Kathy had completely furnished the flat with their joint possessions and new purchases, including curtains and carpets from John Lewis on Oxford Street.
For the next three months Hendrix used the flat as his base, giving interviews there, writing new songs, and preparing for his February concerts at the Royal Albert Hall. On learning that Handel used to live next door he went with Kathy to the One Stop Record Shop in South Molton Street and bought some classical albums – including Handel’s Messiah and Water Music.
For Hendrix, Brook Street was the doorstep to the London music scene of the late 60s. His flat was a short stroll from legendary venues like the Marquee, the Speakeasy and The Scotch of St James and he would spend many evenings wandering from club to club looking for a chance to play.
On 14 September 1997, 23 Brook Street was chosen for an English Heritage Blue Plaque commemorating his life and work. It is the only officially recognised Hendrix residence in the world.
CONNOISSEURS OF JIMI HENDRIX and his Swinging London milieu will be cast into a timewarp as the flat that the guitar god occupied at 23 Brook Street in London’s Mayfair is opened to the public from February 10.
Restored to its 1969 finery, the apartment will host a permanent Hendrix exhibition, including the Epiphone FT79 acoustic guitar on which he wrote many of his key songs for the Electric Ladyland album.