“Separated by a wall and 200 years are the homes of two musicians who chose London and changed music.”
An unassuming Georgian town house at 23-25 Brook Street blends in with the rest of the relatively quiet block off London’s Oxford Circus. Look up and you’ll find two historic plaques, one for each artist: George Frideric Handel and Jimi Hendrix.
Without stepping foot inside, it’s the only way to know that in this building, both Handel and Hendrix once lived, albeit 240 years apart.
During Handel’s occupancy, there was no electricity, central heating, plumbing or bathrooms. Hendrix had a record player, lamps, telephones and running water. For the last 36 years of his life, Handel wrote music in this very house.
So what brought these two musical opposites together for an exhibition anyway?
Handel House opened in 2001, showing off several rooms including the composer’s bedroom, dressing room and composition room. Hendrix’s former bedroom on the top floor served as Handel House offices.
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.
Fans who knew that Jimi spent a year living in London were keen to see the space. Handel & Hendrix in London opened in February as a result of a recreation of the bedroom via old black and white photos. Many items were given to the guitarist over the years by fans; replicas of those are included as well.
The mirror is the only original remaining object from the time he occupied the space. Etchingham campaigned to get Jimi his own plaque. As a result, he’s the first contemporary musician in the UK to have had one made (in 1997).
There are also similarities between the two musicians. Neither became famous until they arrived in London. For Hendrix, it was racism in the US; for Handel, lack of recognition for his talent until leaving homeland Germany.
Hendrix claims to have seen Handel’s ghost in the upstairs bathroom (a permanently closed off area; only a portion of the original staircase remains).
Handel & Hendrix in London is located at 25 Brook Street. Visit the website for opening hours, ticket prices and special events.