Handel & Hendrix in London review
Handel and Jimi Hendrix. Imagine having to live next door to those two -- you'd have Handel blasting his music at you by day and Jimi shaking the walls at night. You'd be forever banging on the adjoining wall with your fist trying to get a bit of kip.
The tour begins at the top of No.23. That's where Jimi lived. Or rather, that's where he slept -- because he seems to have spent most of his time in bed. You will immediately know it's Jimi's house when you step through the door because they start blasting his music at you. It would be nice if you could walk through his front door and into his hall, but it doesn't really feel like a flat anymore. The doors have gone and some of the walls have been knocked through and plastered with pictures and snippets of info. It's not unlike walking through the pages of a music magazine. You can't see his kitchen, his bathroom, or any of that other stuff. It is literally just his messy bedroom and a two-room museum -- that's it.
Whatever he spent his money on, it certainly wasn't the decor. The bedroom looks like the back room of a jumble sale -- the stock room where they stash all the stuff for sale. There is no luxury at all. They've got his red bed in there (basically just a mattress on the floor), rugs on the walls, rugs on the floor, big feathers on the fireplece, granny lampshades, a Bakelite-style dial phone and stale old fag butts in the ashtray. It's pretty easy to picture him sitting on the bed strumming his guitar and annoying the hell out of his neighbours. If you listen carefully then you can even hear him sparking up a cigarette. (They're playing some domestic sound effects out of the speakers, which is a nice touch.)
That's pretty much it for the Jimi Hendrix house. It's just his bedroom and a few museum rooms plastered with pictures. His fans will be happy that they've seen it, and the decor might kindle a few memories if you lived through the sixties, but for everyone else it's just twenty minutes of listening to his tunes.
When you've had your fill of Hendrix you can cross over into No.25 where Handel lived. If you're hoping to see his house as he saw it in the 1750s then you're going to go home disappointed, because it's not a time capsule. It's not how he left it. It's really just the walls and creaky floorboards that survive from his day, padded out with some old tables and chairs and portraits on the walls. They've saved a couple of music rooms and a bedroom upstairs, but the parlour and kitchens at street level have been replaced by a leather handbag shop.
The last time I came to the Handel House Museum (that's what it was called back then) it was quieter than a library, but happily they're piping his jaunty Georgian tunes through the rooms today -- good! It's much better with his music. Handel was probably the cheeriest composer of all time and you need to trumpet his tunes through the rooms to get the best of them. It's sunshine music -- happy music.
There's plenty of history about his career and lots of old letters and music manuscripts on display, but if you're looking for a snapshot of life in the 18th-century then you're going to be disappointed, because you never really get the impression that he 'lived here'. There's no kitchen or dining room -- nothing with a sink or a tin tub in it. They've got a bed in his bedroom but the rest of the rooms are more like exhibition spaces. If you want to see how the Georgians lived then you're out of luck. But if you want to hear his tunes bouncing off the wooden walls then you're definitely in luck -- because that's where all the enjoyment comes from.
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