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A rather unique door spotted in Chelsea, November 2012

 

Jimi Hendrix’s London (Part Two)

Continuing our tour of Jimi Hendrix’s London (please click here to view part one)
Jimi Hendrix at Montagu Square, c. 1967

Jimi Hendrix, Montagu Square, c. 1967

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De Lane Lea Studios (now gone), 129 Kingsway WC2

Kingsway map

Now covered by a modern office block and a Boots chemist shop, 129 Kingsway was once home to a branch of Midland bank, the basement of which harboured a recording studio.

The location of 129 Kingsway today (image: Google)

Site of 129 Kingsway today (image: Google)

Originally established by advertising firm, SH Benson as a workshop for capturing voice overs and catchy jingles, the studio was acquired in the 1960s by Major Jacques De Lane Lea; a French intelligence attaché who ran a side-line dubbing English films into French.

Inside De Lane Lea's basement studio

Inside De Lane Lea’s basement studio

In 1965 De Lane Lea expanded his facilities considerably, installing a top of the range sound desk which soon began to attract some of the greatest names in music.

Jimi Hendrix’s manager, Chas Chandler was familiar with the subterranean studio having worked there during his time with The Animals, and on 23rd October 1966 he brought Jimi Hendrix, Mitch Mitchell and Noel Redding to De Lane Lea Studios for the Jimi Hendrix Experience’s very first recording.

Jimi Hendrix at De Lane Lea studio

Jimi Hendrix at De Lane Lea Studio

During the session, the tracks, Hey Joe and Stone Free were laid down.

'Hey Joe' single with 'Stone Free' B-side

‘Hey Joe’ single with ‘Stone Free’ B-side

Although the Kingsway facility has long since gone, De Lane Lea lives on at 75 Dean Street, Soho.

The current De Lane Lea studio, Dean Street

The current De Lane Lea Studio, Dean Street

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Wandering London

During the rare occasions when he wasn’t rehearsing and gigging, recording or partying, Jimi Hendrix took great pleasure in exploring London’s streets which he likened to a “storybook”, and took particular inspiration from the city’s parks, statues, churches and stained glass windows.

Jimi Hendrix, out and about in London, spring 1967

Jimi Hendrix, out and about in London, spring 1967

One of the things I liked most about London was seeing window boxes filled with pretty little flowers,” he once said. “I really enjoyed being alone and getting in touch with my imagination, my actual thoughts. Music can be such a night-time thing, and the way I grew up, I was used to being part of nature.

Flower display in London's Victoria Park

Flower display in London’s Victoria Park

Also fond of bookstalls, Jimi once picked up a worn copy of Charles Dickens’, David Copperfield; “I read it on a plane one time and started crying, it was so sad in parts…

1950s edition of David Copperfield

1950s edition of David Copperfield

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The Marquee Club, 90 Wardour Street (now Floridita Restaurant) W1

Marquee map

Once one of London’s (and arguably the world’s) most important music venues, The Marquee first opened at 165 Oxford Street in 1958 (the location where the Rolling Stones made their live debut in July 1962) and moved to nearby Wardour Street, Soho in March 1964. ­

The Marquee Club, Wardour Street in the 1960s (image: BBC)

The Marquee Club, Wardour Street in the 1960s (image: BBC)

The Jimi Hendrix Experience played four gigs at the club, the first of which took place on the 24th January 1967. By this point, Jimi had developed a cult following and the queue to see him stretched all the way along Wardour Street, out onto Shaftesbury Avenue and up towards Cambridge Circus.

The Jimi Hendrix Experience conducting a sound check at the Marquee (image: Ray Stevenson)

The Jimi Hendrix Experience conducting a sound check at the Marquee (image: Ray Stevenson)

1,400 lucky people managed to squeeze into the club that night; a record for the time. Naturally The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck were all on the guest list.

Site of the former Marquee club today- now occupied by 'Floridita' restaurant (image: Google)

Site of the former Marquee club- now occupied by ‘Floridita’ restaurant (image: Google)

A clip of the Jimi Hendrix Experience performing a private gig at the Marquee in March 1967 for the German television show, Beat Club can be viewed below:

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The Finsbury Astoria (now the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God), 232 Seven Sisters Road, N4

Astoria map

When it opened in 1930, the Finsbury Astoria was one of the largest cinemas on the planet.

The Finsbury Astoria, 1936

The Finsbury Astoria, 1936

As well as offering films, the north London venue was also staging major concerts by the 1960s.

The former Astoria today (now a religious centre)

The former Astoria today- now a religious centre

The Jimi Hendrix Experience wowed the crowd here on the 31st March 1967, and at the end of the set Jimi carried out the ritual of setting fire to his guitar on stage for the first time.

It was like a sacrifice,” he later explained, “You sacrifice the things you love. I love my guitar.

Poster advertising Jimi Hendrix's 1967 appearance at the Astoria

Poster advertising the infamous 1967 gig

Although scorched, the guitar (a 1965 Fender Stratocaster) wasn’t completely destroyed that night and was salvaged by press officer, Tony Garland who stashed the instrument away in the garage of his parents’ Sussex home…where it was quickly forgotten.

Rediscovered forty years later by Tony’s nephew, Jimi’s old guitar was auctioned at a Shoreditch gallery in 2008 where it fetched the handsome sum of £280,000… not bad for a piece displaying signs of fire damage!

Jimi's burnt guitar... now a prized collector's item (image: Telegraph)

Jimi’s burnt guitar… now a prized collector’s item (image: Telegraph)

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Regent Sounds Studio, 4 Denmark Street WC2

Denmark St map

With its numerous music shops and bohemian hangouts, Denmark Street- or ‘Tin Pan Alley’ as it’s also known- has been closely associated with the entertainment biz since the 1900s.

Denmark Street as seen from Charing Cross Road

Denmark Street as seen from Charing Cross Road

One of Denmark street’s stalwarts is Regent Sounds Studio which was established in the 1950s by Ralph Elman and taken on in 1961 by James Baring, an eccentric old Etonian and enthusiastic supporter of emerging pop acts.

James Baring

James Baring… in his pilot gear!

Conditions in the early days were cramped and makeshift. When The Rolling Stones recorded their first album here in 1964 for example, the studio was sound-proofed with cardboard egg-boxes stuck to the walls!

Regent Sounds Studio

Regent Sounds Studio

Jimi Hendrix, Mitch Mitchell and Noel Redding attended Regent Sounds over several days in October 1967 to rehearse and lay down some demo tracks.

Although Regent Sounds had accommodated many bands and musicians, it had never handled the likes of the Jimi Hendrix Experience before and on the 26th October staff at the neighbouring Labour Exchange lodged a complaint, stating that Jimi’s guitar riffs were so loud they could no longer hear themselves speak!

The group took the incident in good spirit and Jimi wound up the session with the words, “OK guys we’ve had a good rehearsal, we’d better find somewhere else to make our noise!

Denmark Place off of Denmark Street... an alley plastered with band adverts and musician requests

Denmark Place off of Denmark Street… an alleyway plastered with adverts and notices from aspiring musicians

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Olympic Sound Studios, 117 Church Road Barnes, SW13

Olympic map

Olympic Studios in leafy south-west London was originally opened as a theatre in 1906 and later switched to a cinema.

Olympic Studios

Olympic Studios

In the 1950s the building was converted into a recording studio which, along with Abbey Road Studios, became one of the UK’s most important in the 1960s.

The Jimi Hendrix Experience worked on all three of their studio albums- Are You Experienced (recorded between October 1966 and April 1967), Axis: Bold as Love (between May and October 1967) and Electric Ladyland (December 1967 to August 1968) at the Barnes-based studio.

The Jimi Hendrix Experience's three celebrated studio albums

The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s three celebrated studio albums

Senior engineer at Olympic, Eddie Kramer worked closely with Jimi Hendrix and had some fond memories, describing the guitarist as a surprisingly, “very, very shy guy…. Jimi was so focused. He had the most unbelievable amount of concentration on one idea.

Jimi Hendrix at Olympic Studio's mix desk

Jimi Hendrix at Olympic Studio’s mix desk

The Experience made a wealth of other recordings at Olympic, many of which have yet to see an official release. One batch, collected under the title, The Valleys of Neptune was finally made public in 2010.

The Valleys of Neptune

The Valleys of Neptune; a recent compilation of previously unreleased material,much of which was recorded in south-west London

Today, Olympic Studios has returned to its former role as a cinema and also boasts a fine café and dining room.

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The Saville Theatre (now the Odeon, Covent Garden), 135 Shaftesbury Avenue, WC2

Savilles Map

When it opened in 1931 the Saville Theatre was one of London’s plushest venues and boasted seating for over 1,400 people.

The former Saville Theatre today- now an Odeon cinema

The former Saville Theatre today- now an Odeon cinema

One of the theatre’s original features- a grand frieze entitled ‘Drama Through the Ages’ by Gilbert Bayes- can still be viewed high up on the venue’s facade.

Section of 'Drama Through the Ages'

Section of ‘Drama Through the Ages’

In the mid-1960s, Beatle’s manager, Brian Epstein initiated ‘Sunday Night at the Saville’; a weekly event in which the theatre was handed over for the showcasing of popular music acts.

Flyer for 'Sunday Night at the Saville'

Flyer for ‘Sunday Night at the Saville’

Many of the concerts became pretty rowdy- when Chuck Berry (one of Jimi Hendrix’s idols) appeared for example, the excited audience stormed the stage and police had to be called to restore order.

Pink Floyd, The Move, Procol Harum, Fairport Convention,The Who,The Bee Gees and many more all appeared at the theatre, whilst The Beatles used the stage for filming their promo to ‘Hello, Goodbye‘.

The Jimi Hendrix Experience treated audiences to a number of electrifying performances at the Saville throughout 1967.

Left: Poster advertising the Jimi Hendrix Experience at the Saville Theatre. Right: Jimi Hendrix and Noel Redding backstage at the theatre

Left: Poster advertising the Jimi Hendrix Experience at the Saville Theatre. Right: Jimi Hendrix and Noel Redding backstage at the theatre

A concert programme from the time describes the Experience as having an “incredible gyrating dynamism that is both exciting and extraordinary. With fine lyrics, talented and professional musicians, a fresh original approach, and with you the audience, one lives the Jimi Hendrix Experience…

Image of the Jimi Hendrix Experience from a Saville Theatre programme

The Jimi Hendrix Experience as portrayed in a Saville Theatre programme

On the 4th June 1967 and with The Beatles in attendance, Jimi paid tribute to his friends with a cover of Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band- an extraordinary gesture considering the track and album of the same name had only been released three days previously.

Please click below to view a clip:

After the performance, the Experience headed to America where they went on to take California’s Monterey Festival by storm.

Swinging London had blessed Jimi Hendrix,and the USA was now eager to embrace one of Seattle’s most famous sons.

Jimi Hendrix backstage at the Saville Theatre, 1967

Jimi Hendrix backstage at the Saville Theatre, 1967

But Jimi’s association with London wasn’t over yet…

To be continued

Jimi Hendrix’s London (Part One)

Incredibly, it is almost fifty years since legendary musician, Jimi Hendrix’s sublime guitar skills became known to the world.

Jimi Hendrix

Jimi Hendrix

Born in Seattle, Washington on November 27th 1942, Jimi Hendrix obtained his first guitar- an acoustic model costing a mere $5- when he was fifteen years old.

In 1961 he enlisted in the army where he trained to be a paratrooper.

Jimi Hendrix during his army days

Jimi Hendrix during his army days

Military life wasn’t for Private Hendrix- perhaps most clearly demonstrated when he was caught dozing whilst on duty!

He was discharged in 1962 and, eager to forge a career in music, began touring clubs across the United States.

Over the next few years Jimi perfected his craft but despite his talent, he struggled to make a wage, remaining undiscovered and creatively stifled.

His luck changed in May 1966 whilst playing at the Cheetah club in New York.

Here he was spotted by Linda Keith- girlfriend of the Rolling Stones Keith Richards- who recommended the dazzling guitarist to Chas Chandler- former bassist for The Animals who was looking to establish himself as a manager.

Linda Keith and Chas Chandler who helped Jimi get his big break

Linda Keith and Chas Chandler

Like Linda, Chas Chandler could see that Jimi Hendrix was indeed a very rare talent… and so decided to whisk him to London which, during the swinging 60s, was the place where Jimi Hendrix would flourish and make his name.

Tragically, it was also the city in which he would lose his life.

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In tribute to Jimi Hendrix and to celebrate the exciting announcement that one of his former London homes will soon be opening to the public as a museum, I have compiled a list of some of the most notable London locations associated with the late, great performer…

The Jimi Hendrix Experience posing on Westminster Bridge

The Jimi Hendrix Experience posing on Westminster Bridge

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11 Gunterstone Road, W14

Gunterstone Road Map

Jimi Hendrix first arrived in London on 24th September 1966, flying into London Airport (which officially changed its name to ‘Heathrow’ that same year).

Jimi Hendrix pretending to thumb a lift at Heathrow, 1970

Jimi Hendrix pretending to thumb a lift at Heathrow, 1970

After several years as a struggling musician, Jimi Hendrix had very little to his name. When he boarded the plane in New York his only possessions were a change of clothes, a set of hair curlers, $40 (which he’d borrowed) and of course his beloved guitar.

Upon his arrival in London, Jimi was taken straight from the airport to 11 Gunterstone Road, West Kensington which was the home of British musician, Zoot Money, a major figure on the Soho scene at the time.

11 Gunterstone Road (inset: Zoot Money)

11 Gunterstone Road today (inset: Zoot Money)

Whilst at the house, Jimi took part in a jamming session with Zoot’s friend, Andy Summers- who would later go on to play with The Police.

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Scotch of St James Club, 13 Mason’s Yard W1

Scotch of St James Map

On the evening of 24th September 1966, Jimi Hendrix played his first ever UK solo gig at the exclusive Scotch of St James club in Mason’s Yard; a peaceful courtyard which is now dominated by the White Cube modern art gallery.

Mason's Yard today

Mason’s Yard today

A stone’s throw from Buckingham Palace, the club was popular with The Rolling Stones and The Beatles, both of whom enjoyed the luxury of their own private tables. The Who and Stevie Wonder also spent time here.

Immediately after his set, Jimi met Kathy Etchingham and the pair embarked upon a two year relationship.

Jimi Hendrix and Kathy Etchingham

Jimi Hendrix and Kathy Etchingham

The following month, Hendrix returned to Scotch of St James with musicians Mitch Mitchell and Noel Redding, who together formed The Jimi Hendrix Experience and thus it was here that the trio performed their UK debut.

The Jimi Hendrix Experience

Jimi, Mitch and Noel…The Jimi Hendrix Experience

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Les Cousins Club (now Club 49), 49 Greek Street W1

Les Cousins Map

Originally opened in the 1950s as the ‘Skiffle Cellar’, Les Cousins (tucked away beneath the Soho Grill) was at the heart of London’s folk scene by the 1960s

The Soho Grill, beneath which Les Cousins was located (image: John Martyn.com)

The Soho Grill, beneath which Les Cousins was located (image: John Martyn.com)

After just a few days in London, Jimi Hendrix and Chas Chandler paid a visit to the club as regular guests, paying their own entry fee.

Blues musician, Alexis Korner was on stage that night and Chas Chandler asked if Jimi could join him on stage for a jamming session… needless to say the crowd were gobsmacked by the young American’s flair!

The site today- now known as Club 49

The site today- now known as Club 49 (image: Google)

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Westminster Polytechnic (now Westminster University, Regent Campus), Little Titchfield Street

Regent Campus map

On the evening of 1st October 1966, Cream were playing at this London Polytechnic campus when Jimi Hendrix rather audaciously asked if he could get up and jam with Eric Clapton, the UK’s undisputed guitar king.

The site today- now part of the University of Westminster

The site today- now part of the University of Westminster

Jimi’s skill and flamboyant style knocked Eric Clapton for six and, once back stage the Cream guitarist had to ask Chas Chandler if the American was ‘always that good?’!

Despite their guitar duel, Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix became firm friends.

Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton, 1967

Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton, 1967

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Cromwellian Club (now gone), 3 Cromwell Road, SW7

Cromwellian Map

Situated directly opposite the Natural History Museum, the Cromwellian Club was rumoured to have started life as an illegal gambling den.

The Cromwellian Club

The Cromwellian Club

By the 1960s, ‘The Crom’ as it was nicknamed had established itself as a popular casino and music venue, witnessing performances from the likes of Georgie Fame, Eric Clapton and a very young Elton John.

Jimi Hendrix played one of his earliest gigs here in October 1966.

Site of the Cromwellian Club today

Site of the Cromwellian Club today

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Bag O’ Nails Club, 9 Kingly Street W1

Bag O Nails Map

The Jimi Hendrix Experience played a gig at the Bag O’Nails club on 25th November 1966, after which, Jimi remarked, “Britain is really groovy”- not a surprising observation considering the club backs onto the ultra-hip Carnaby Street.

Bag O Nails Club

The Bag O’ Nails Club today

At another Bag O’Nails gig on 11th January 1967, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr were in the audience… it was the first time they’d seen Jimi play live and, naturally, they were entranced.

Later that year, Paul McCartney met his future wife, Linda at the club.

Plaque commemorating the Jimi Hendrix Experience's Bag O'Nails gig

Plaque commemorating the Jimi Hendrix Experience’s Bag O’Nails gig

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Blaises Club (now gone) 121 Queen’s Gate SW7

Blaises Map

Located in the basement of the now demolished Imperial Hotel, Blaises (named after the cartoon character, Modesty Blaise) was a cramped, sweaty club which, according to Melody Maker journalist, Chris Welch, was a venue, “where musicians, agents, managers and writers allowed themselves to be deafened whilst imbibing quantities of alcohol.

The forlorn site of the former hotel and club in 2014

The forlorn site of the former hotel and club in 2014

Jimi Hendrix appeared here on 21st December 1966 which led to one of first rave reviews: “Jimi has great stage presence and an exceptional guitar technique which involved playing with teeth on occasions and no hands at all on others!” (tricks which he’d learnt from old timers whilst on the US circuit).

Jimi Hendrix playing with his teeth

Jimi Hendrix playing with his teeth

Pink Floyd were another big name to appear at Blaises and the club can be seen in the cult 1967 film, The Sorcerers (in which Boris Karloff uses hypnosis to seriously mess up one cool cat’s mind!)

Please click below to view a clip of the Blaises club in its heyday:

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34 Montague Square, W1

Montagu Map

During the 1960s, the basement of this rather grand address was leased by Ringo Starr.

34 Montagu Square today

34 Montagu Square today

Consequently, the home has numerous connections with The Beatles- the song, ‘Eleanor Rigby was developed here for example and in 1968 the racy cover for John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s, Two Virgins album was snapped on the premises.

Jimi Hendrix rented the basement from Ringo between December 1966 and March 1967, moving in with his girlfriend, Kathy Etchingham. Whilst at the address, Jimi composed ‘The Wind Cries Mary’.

Wind Cries Mary

Unfortunately Ringo had no option but to evict Jimi Hendrix when the guitarist, whilst under the influence of LSD, splashed paint all over the walls…

Jimi Hendrix on the steps of 34 Montagu Square

Jimi Hendrix on the steps of 34 Montagu Square

One of the most iconic photographs of Jimi was taken just across the road on Montagu Place outside the Swedish embassy. Sadly, the original street sign has since been removed.

Jimi Hendrix posing on Montagu Place

Jimi Hendrix posing on Montagu Place

Montagu Place today... with the sign sadly gone

The spot where Jimi stood. Montagu Place today… with Jimi’s sign sadly gone

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Lime Grove Studios (now gone), W12

Lime Grove Map

Between 1940 and 1991, Lime Grove in Shepherd’s bush was home to a BBC studio where many classic shows including Top of the Pops, Blue Peter, Doctor Who and a 1954 adaptation of George Orwell’s, 1984 (performed live and starring Peter Cushing) were filmed.

Lime Grove's studio floor (image: BBC)

Lime Grove’s studio floor (image: BBC)

The Jimi Hendrix Experience filmed their first appearance for Top of the Pops here on 29th December 1966 with a performance of ‘Hey Joe. Their next shoot took place on 30th March 1967- and can be viewed below.

Sadly, Lime Grove studios were demolished in 1993 and a modern housing development now occupies the site.

Site of the former Lime Grove studios today (image: Google)

Site of the former Lime Grove studios today (image: Google)

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The Upper Cut Club (now gone), 1-39 Woodgrange Road, E7

Upper Cut Map

Out beyond Stratford and past the former 2012 Olympic Park, this is probably the furthest east Jimi Hendrix ever ventured whilst in London!

The former Upper Cut club as it appeared in 1991 (image: E7 Then and Now)

The former Upper Cut club as it appeared in 1991 (image: E7 Then and Now)

Based in Forest Gate, the Upper Cut Club was in business for just one year between 1966 and 1967. Despite its short span, the club shone bright playing host to such greats as The Who, Otis Redding, Sam and Dave, Prince Buster, Ben. E. King and Nina Simone.

Otis Redding at the Upper Cut club, 1967

Otis Redding at the Upper Cut club, 1967

The Jimi Hendrix Experience appeared at the Upper Cut on Boxing Day, 1966…and it was here, whilst resting in the club’s dressing room, that Jimi penned Purple Haze, one of his most definitive hits.

Purple Haze cover

A simple plaque now marks the site.

Plaque installed by Newham Council (image: E7 Then and Now)

Plaque installed by Newham Council (image: E7 Then and Now)

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The Speakeasy Club (now gone), 48 Margaret Street, W1

Speakeasy Map

Opened in 1966 a short distance from the bustle of Oxford Circus, the Speakeasy modelled itself on the illegal drinking dens which flourished during the era of American prohibition.

Visitors entered and signed in via a fake undertaker’s parlour… and were then permitted to enter the main club through a false wardrobe door! Inside, a menacing portrait of Al Capone loomed over the patrons.

The Speakeasy's unique entrance... (images: New Musical Express)

Coffins and fake wardrobes… the Speakeasy’s unique entrance… (images: New Musical Express)

This was one of Jimi Hendrix’s favourite London clubs and he could often be spotted hanging out with friends here.

Site of the former Speakeasy club today

Site of the former Speakeasy club today

Jimi’s first Speakeasy gig took place in February 1967… and it was here that he cheekily tried to chat up Mick Jagger’s then girlfriend, Marianne Faithful!

Jimi Hendrix hanging out at the Speakeasy, 1967

Jimi Hendrix hanging out at the Speakeasy, 1967

To be continued

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