Hallelujah! Itís Hendrix in Handelís Old House

ĎSaturday Sceneí by Don Short

Daily Mirror, Saturday January 11th, 1969

Another musician has moved into the London house where the great composer Handel lived and died more than two centuries ago.

Not that Jimi Hendrix pretends to know much about the old tenant.

"I didnít even know this was his pad, man, until after I got in," he said, "and to tell you the Godís honest truth I havenít heard much of the fellaís stuff. But I dig a bit of Bach now and again."

Luckily, Jimiís words didnít fall on the ears of some students who had come to gaze at the blue-coloured plaque in memory of the old master.

Hendrix, fuzzy-haired, wild man of pop, 1969, in scarlet trousers and yellow shirt, may not meet with the approval of classical students. But millions of pop fans across the world hail him as the worldís No. 1 musician.

It is in this house in fashionable Brook street that Handel is said to have composed "Messiah" and the "Water Music"."

Hendrix promises not to let tradition down and says he, too, will compose here. Music he defines as "twenty-first century" and "that sort of scene."

Hendrix is 23, an electric man with a 240 volt electric guitar. When he plays it on stage, he may set it on fire, smash it or play it with his teeth, depending on his mood.

His music seems an uninhibited collection of jarring sounds without melody.

The grandson of a pure Cherokee Indian, he looks a rebel and a man many could hate without meetingósomeone youíre sure smokes pot, has a lust for birds and likes his hooch.

Values

Hendrix pleads guilty on all countsóor to the experience of those happenings.

He laughs: "Thatís how I got the name of my group, The Jimi Hendrix Experience."

Thatís what I like about Hendrix. Not his music, but the man. His honesty. His sense of values may be wrong, but he creates his own values which, he feels, reflect the way young people want to live without suppression today.

The attic of the house, which has become Hendrixís favourite room, contains an assortment of bric-a-brac and a bed with a Victorian shawl pinned to the ceiling as a canopy.

At two in the afternoon Hendrix is making the bed, neatly folding back the black sheets and straightening the colourful Persian bedspread. Then he grins and calls Cathy to open a bottle of wine.

Cathy Etchingham is a 22-year-old redhead from the North who shares the flat. Jimi explains her presence: "My girl friend and probably my next girl friend. My mother and my sister and all that bit. My Yoko Ono from Chester.

"We wonít marry. Marriage isnít my scene; we just live together. Those bits of paper you call marriage certificates are only for people who feel insecure."

There is no alarm in the face of Cathy, who was once a hairdresser and met Jimi by chance on his first day in England three years ago.

Groovy

"There is no shame in living in sin", she says quietly and without defiance. "My mother knows and she thinks that Jimi is groovy."

"One day I wanna become a parent," Jimi announces. "Now that is what the world is all about. Having kids. Like planting flowers . . ."

We move on to Jimiís music. "I would describe my music as electric church music," he explains, "íChurchí meaning religion and not meaning God, that is.

"I know," he adds, with a long stare at me, "that many people are blocked out but I hope they will come to understand my music soon. In fact Iím gonna write a new album which will simplify it all and bridge the gap between teenagers and parents.

Naked

"Iím moving away from what Iíve done so far. I donít want to play the guitar with my teeth any more or clown around, but I did I because fans, having seen me do it once, expected me to do it always and I came to do it out of self-satisfaction."

Jimi, from the cluttered mantelpiece, took a copy of his new album, "Electric Ladyland," the sleeve of which shows twenty-one naked girls. Many record shops wonít display it.

"Man, I donít blame them," said Jimi. "I wouldnít have put this picture on the sleeve myself, but it wasnít my decision. They messed about with the picture and although the girls were pretty they came out disfigured."

Jimi grew up in Seattle and was expelled from school; more recently he was given the freedom of the city.

He admits he has been in jail: "Spent seven days in the cooler for taking a ride in a stolen car. But I never knew it was."

He admits, too, that he was fined £250 for smashing a hotel room in Gothenburg when he got drunk. And once an American moral society got him banned because his act was "too erotic."

But a wild man? "No, Iím just natural all the time. What others think or say doesnít worry me man."

Jimi says: "People still mourn when people die. Thatís self-sympathy. The person who is dead ainít cryiní.

"When I die I want people to play my music, go wild and freak out aní do anything they wanna do . . ."

Obviously, Jimi Hendrix wonít need a plaque for any of us to remember him by.

(This text also appears in full in David Hendersonís íScuse Me While I Kiss the Sky: The Life of Jimi Hendrix; New York: Bantam Books, 1981)

Postscript 1997

On the 14th of September 1997 an English Heritage Blue Plaque was unveiled on Handelís old house, commemorating Jimi Hendrixís time and success in London.