25 March 2016

London 15 - Handel and Hendrix

The Brook Street Brothers

I am in the heart of London's Mayfair.  I hear the sound of a guitar coming from an upstairs window. 

It explodes on the pavement a few feet from me. 

A door is open.  

Creaky stairs take me up, flights of fantasy, a stairway to heaven.....

A party is in full swing. Not conservative....  A sixties theme.....

Music by the greats......

Ostrich feathers, and a room full of mirrors.....

I used to live in a room full of mirrors

All I could see was me

Well I take my spirit and I smash my mirrors 
Now the whole world is here for me to see.....

Broken glass was all in my brain

Fall in my dreams cut me in my bed
Fall in my dreams cut me in my bed 
I said A makin' love was strange in my bed 
Yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah!!!

The bar is in the kitchen, looking out on a forlorn London, chimney pots and grey buildings. But the bar is well stocked, and guests feel free....

Mine host is majestic.  Lord, the willows weep and moan for him......

There is some confusion.  I need to go downstairs.  And sideways.  The tenant is unhappy.  I remember entering a flat once, in search of a party, and finding nothing, then discovering the party was upstairs....

I have to say that there is a certain spooky quietness about this place....

The man downstairs is a trifle grumpy.  His sleep has been so disturbed that his bed isn't....

I cannot help but see a resemblance to my friend upstairs.  Could there have been some exchange of molecules, I think (without thinking of Brian O'Nolan)?

I hear deft fingers on the keyboard....

But then I don't. There is no one here.... Or is it me that is deft?

Time to tell a story.  

I love music.  Of all kinds.  (Pretty much.)

At the right moment, George Frideric Handel's Chaconne in G Major will take my mind off the complications of daily life.....

At other times, James Marshall Hendrix playing his C# Blues at the Albert Hall on February 18th, 1969 will set cations a-jiggling through my plasma.... (which, in due course, will take my mind off the complications of daily life....)

Anyway.  A story.  True as it can be....

The velvet jacket above was worn by Jimi for a show at The Kirk (aka The Kirklevington Country Club, once a filling station and garage on the old A19) in Yarm, North Yorkshire, on January 15th, 1967.

[The Kirk, by the way, was a venue that hosted the famous, before they were famous.... Stars-to-be such as Cream, Joe Cocker, Dire Straits, Rod Stewart, Yes, Thin Lizzy, The Moody Blues, Traffic, Brian Auger, Geno Washington, and so on, and so forth.... ]

After the show B J (Chas) Chandler, bassist of The Animals and Hendrix's manager, got into into a fight with a bouncer who had apparently made racist remarks about Hendrix. Jimi intervened, catching the jacket on a nail, ripping it below the left pocket.

The wife of the owner of The Kirk, John McCoy (of The Crawdaddies), offered to stitch up the tear and return it to Jimi when McCoy was next in London, but by the time that happened, Jimi had replaced it with the double-breasted jacket familiar from many pictures.

John McCoy was given the jacket, and he kept it hanging on a nail in his garage and then later on display in Martha's Vineyard Club and Bar (as The Kirk was renamed in the 1980s), along with Chris Rea's guitar, until John sold the premises in 1989.  In 2011, it became a feature of memorabilia to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Jimi's death. The Kirk went through several changes before 'burning down' and being redeveloped as a row of four cottage-style houses.

The Jimi Hendrix Experience were paid £50 for their appearance at the club, and afterwards stayed up all night drinking at Chas Chandler's Newcastle home.

Such were the Sixties....

Awwww shucks!

1967-01-15 Kirklevington

In 2014, John McCoy played a reunion gig for The Kirk at The Crathorne Arms (where Eugene and Barbara McCoy live and work), from which a version of Kansas City can be seen on YouTube.....

In Brook Street, today, you may visit the Handel House, at number 25, and, via the same entrance, the Hendrix Flat, at number 23, or you can crane your neck up to read the blue plaques that commemorate the musicians who once lived here.  

Jimi Hendrix died on September 18th, 1970.  I was staying with my brother in Sheffield at the time, and when the news broke people were stunned and struggled to accept the fact. Within hours of his being taken, unconscious, to hospital in London, Hendrix Lives! was scrawled across the walls....

I am not sure that such shock and grief followed the announcement of the death of George Frideric Handel on April 19th, 1759. He was 74 and had been blind for years, following botched cataract operations.  

He had no immediate family, but he was given full state honours, was buried in Westminster Abbey, and more than three thousand mourners attended his funeral (not a bad turn out at all, though the population of London was 750,000....)  

[And think, he, like Jimi (and King George II, the reigning monarch at the time) was an immigrant - whatever next?]

Jimi was buried on October 1st, 1970, in Greenwood Cemetery in Renton, after a private family funeral in Seattle.

After a chorus of When the Saints Go Marching in, Jimi's coffin was lowered into the earth. His gravestone reads:

Forever in our hearts, 
James M. 'Jimi' Hendrix, 

To visit these two apartments is to climb those stairs to heaven, to mix with dreams.  There's nothing there, but then all your past presents itself somehow, if, like me, you can remember what it was to be young....

Purple haze all in my eyes
Don't know if it's day or night
You got me blowin', blowin' my mind
Is it tomorrow, or just the end of time?

I am on London's Brook Street, in Mayfair.  I hear the sound of a harpsichord coming from an upper window. 

[With no thought of Kenneth Horne] I deftly sidestep the threat, and carry on, regardless..... 

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