Monday, November 29, 2010

New Book Tells the Story of Rock Legend Jimi Hendrix in London

New Book Tells the Story of Rock Legend Jimi Hendrix in London

Oct 13, 2010
Mike Gerrard

London's swinging sixties music scene and the landmarks linked with guitarist Hendrix are mapped and described in this new title in the MusicPlace series.

When Jimi Hendrix first arrived in London in September 1966, there were few signs of the superstardom that was to follow. He was a relatively unknown guitarist whose name then was Jimmy James, he had just $40 to his name, and was carrying a guitar that had been stolen from Rolling Stone Keith Richards. His talent had been spotted, though, by Chas Chandler, the former bass guitarist with the Animals who was turning to pop music management as his own band broke up.

Life (and Death) before London

Hendrix deserved every moment of the rock music success that was about to come his way, even though it was so sadly short-lived. His mother had died in February 1958 from a ruptured spleen, brought on by a fall. She died alone in the hospital, aged just 32 but already suffering from hepatitis and cirrhosis of the liver. Jimi was 15. Twelve years later he would be dead himself, at the age of 27.

It was about the time of his mother's death that Jimi bought his first guitar, for $5. He was so wild in his first gig with a band that he managed to get fired between sets, though he lasted longer with later bands and was playing in Greenwich Village when Chas Chandler spotted him at the Cafe Wha? This was in August 1966, the month the Beatles released Revolver and the Doors recorded their first album.

Within weeks, Chandler and Hendrix were landing at London's Heathrow Airport.

18 September 2010

The real Jimi Hendrix experience

By Vincent Dowd
Arts reporter, BBC News

Those who knew Jimi Hendrix say he came across as a 'regular guy'

Forty years ago, one of the most admired of all rock guitarists died in London at the age of 27.

Since his death, Jimi Hendrix has become an icon of 1960s culture, both the music and the visual image known around the world.

Born in the US, Hendrix spent his final years mainly in London.

He died of an apparent overdose at what was then the Samarkand Hotel in Lansdowne Crescent, Notting Hill, on 18 September 1970.

Sound engineer Roger Mayer, who knew Hendrix well in London, believes Hendrix's drug-use has been exaggerated.

"When I knew him he wasn't stoned all the time, which is what people think," he says.

"You can't play guitar to that standard on stage or in the studio if you're stoned on drugs. I've seen other people try but it doesn't work.

"He was less outrageous than a lot of other people at the time," he adds.

'Immediate charisma'

Mr Mayer first approached Hendrix after a gig at the Bag O'Nails nightclub in London, organised to introduce him to journalists and the music industry.

He decided Hendrix ought to know about a pitch-shifting device he had been developing to give electric guitars a bigger range.

Hendrix loved the Octavia and used it on classic tracks such as Purple Haze and Fire.

As "sonic consultant", Mr Mayer went to many Hendrix concerts.

"He wasn't the typical guitar player who was just staring at his shoes, he had immediate stage presence and charisma.

"He'd do all kinds of tricks like playing the instrument behind his head," he says.

At other times, Mr Mayer just hung around with Hendrix and his girlfriend, Kathy Etchingham.

"Offstage Jimi was not at all like his stage persona. Jimi was very quiet and unassuming," Mr Mayer says.

"He was very generous about inviting people to jam with him - but he liked to play board games too."

What about maintaining his visual image, which remains so well-known?

"He used to dress pretty much the same every day. Though he didn't like anyone to see him in his curlers when he was getting his hair ready. His hair was processed and curled."

"It was all very avant garde and flamboyant," he says.

"Guys couldn't take their eyes off the way he played guitar and the girls were fantasising about him as well. It was a total package really."


Photographer Gered Mankowitz was also in his early 20s when he met Hendrix at the same try-out gigs as Mr Mayer.

"After that the music business embraced him completely.

"Brian Jones had taken him shopping for clothes at Granny Takes a Trip on King's Road.

"Pete Townsend helped him buy equipment. He took the business by storm."

Hendrix came to two photo sessions at Mr Mankowitz's studio in central London.

"He looked extraordinary and unlike any other black guy I'd ever seen.

"He wore the fashion of the day as though it were made for him. He was wearing silk and velvet and lace. And he had a cloak he liked very much.

"But when I look at my pictures now he's incredibly natural. There's no make-up, no grooming as such," he says.

Mr Mankowitz took one picture in particular which still defines the singer's image.

Hendrix, hands on hips, is staring straight into the camera, wearing his famous hussar's top.

"His innate coolness and sexuality comes through. It's a powerful experience," says Mr Mankowitz.

"You do sense the man - and he let me in for that brief moment.

"But he was very funny - he laughed a lot.

"A lot of the photographs I've got were of him smiling - but they were of no interest to anybody at the time because everyone wanted to see the mean, moody, sexy man," he says.

Mr Mankowitz has been going back through his 100 or so shots for a new book and exhibition.

"I think now as a visual icon he's as well known as for his music.

"I have 12-year-old boys coming to my exhibitions who know all about him. And you see him on t-shirts even more than Che Guevara!"

'Not a diva'

Swedish radio journalist Lennart Wretlind met Hendrix only once, before a concert in Stockholm in January 1969.

But it resulted in one of the few surviving interviews with him.

"You could just turn up and there'd be no guards and no ID needed - there was a friendly atmosphere," says Mr Wretlind.

"It was very different in those days. Jimi didn't need any time to warm up: he was not a diva. He sounded totally relaxed and he came across as a nice person. He was a regular guy," he adds.

Listening to the radio interview now, Jimi Hendrix sounds the gentle, polite man recalled too by Mr Mayer and Mr Mankowitz.

All three men say they saw little connection between the performer on stage and the private man.

Aside from the sheer quality of his music, that enigmatic quality is surely why people remain fascinated by Jimi Hendrix today.

Singer Janis Joplin was to die only a few weeks after him, and Jim Morrison the next summer.

But of the three rock stars who died at the start of the 1970s, it is Jimi Hendrix whose music became the most potent shorthand for the new youth culture of the age.

UK hotels

The Jimi Hendrix experience at London's Cumberland Hotel

Mick Brown gets a taste of the guitar hero's lifestyle at one of his favourite London haunts, the Cumberland Hotel.

By Mick Brown 8:00AM BST 11 Sep 2010

On September 6 1970, Jimi Hendrix checked into a suite at The Cumberland Hotel in London's West End.

A week earlier, Hendrix had played what would turn out to be his last-ever concert in Britain, at the Isle of Wight festival, going on to a tour of Scandinavia and Europe that would be abruptly curtailed when one of his band, the bass player Billy Cox, drank a punch that – in an occupational hazard of the day – somebody had spiked with LSD.

Exhausted from the rigours of touring, besieged by hangers-on, worn down by his own drug use and unsure of where his career was going next, Hendrix was in need of sanctuary.

In the four years that Hendrix lived in London, he would stay in any number of hotel rooms, furnished flats and boltholes.

He lived with his girlfriend Kathy Etchingham in a flat at 23 Brook Street – next door to the house where Handel had lived and where he composed Messiah – and once described it as "the only home I ever had".

But the Cumberland was his private redoubt – a place to which he would often retreat to find privacy – and to conduct his hectic and often complicated love-life.

As Keith Altham, a music journalist who became Hendrix's friend and confidante, puts it, the Cumberland was where Hendrix would go "for the purpose of meeting various young ladies when he wanted to keep away from the various other young ladies that he was seeing".

The hotel is also named on Hendrix's death certificate as his place of residence. He died on the morning of September 18 1970 from an overdose of barbiturates in the room of a girlfriend at the Hotel Samarkand in Lansdowne Crescent, Notting Hill.

Nowadays, the Cumberland is a luxury hotel, its reception area a huge expanse of marble and glass, bathed in lime-coloured light, with a Gary Rhodes restaurant attached. In Hendrix's day it was somewhat more louche, a favourite with rock musicians passing through London, with "running hot and cold hookers" in the bar, as Altham remembers.

To mark the 40th anniversary of Hendrix's death, the Cumberland Hotel has styled a special "Jimi Hendrix suite", on the same floor, the fifth – if not the same room – where the musician stayed.

An accurate reproduction of Hendrix's suite would probably be furnished with G-Plan furniture and a candlewick bedspread. Instead, the designers Mary Gannon and Cynthia Garcia have fashioned a contemporary version of the psychedelic Sixties, as they put it, to "capture the ethos of Hendrix, and ultimately be a sanctuary where Hendrix himself would enjoy spending time".

Primary-coloured op-art lines swirl across the ceiling; there are zebra-skin throws, fibre-optic lights, framed pages from the music papers of the period, and a huge mural of Hendrix by the artist Andie Airfix dominates one wall. It is a fun experience, if not exactly an authentic one, lent a particular poignancy by the film of Hendrix flickering on the large plasma television screen – "a little big to throw out of the window", as Garcia puts it, and by a tape of Hendrix's last-ever interview, which was conducted by Altham in the musician's suite on the afternoon of September 11, and which is available for guests to play.

Hendrix's voice echoes across the years – rambling, gnomic, amused. At the end of the interview, Altham asks whether he has now amassed enough money to be able to live exactly as he would like to.

"Ah, I don't think so," Hendrix replies. "Because, like, I want to get up in the morning and just roll over in my bed into an indoor swimming pool and then swim to the breakfast table, you know, come up for air and get maybe a drink of orange juice or something like that. Then just flop over from the chair into the swimming pool, swim into the bathroom, and you know, go and shave and whatever…"

You want to live luxuriously? Altham asks.

"No! Is that luxurious? I was thinking about a tent, maybe," Hendrix laughs, "overhanging a mountain stream."

A week later, he was dead.

Hendrix essentials

Jimi Hendrix paid £17 a night for his suite at The Cumberland (0871 376 9014; A night in the Jimi Hendrix Suite at the hotel, available from September 20, costs £399. The price is based on two people sharing and includes bed, breakfast, and a bottle of Smokehead Scotch.

To commemorate the 40th anniversary of Hendrix’s death, the Handel House Museum staged its own exhibition of memorabilia and artefacts, Hendrix in Britain. This includes an interesting collection of photographs, letters and clothing, and the Flying-V guitar he played at the Isle of Wight Festival. The exhibition ran until November 7. Handel House Museum, 25 Brook Street, London W1K 4HB (020 7495 1685; Admission £5.

No comments: