Jimi Hendrix was an impulsive record buyer. Even his favourite albums are covered in marks and fingerprints, showing that he saw his LPs as the means of delivering music, not a collection of precious artefacts.
Part of the exhibition of Jimi Hendrix’s former home here at 23 Brook Street is a display dedicated to his extensive record collection.
By January 1969, Jimi and his girlfriend Kathy Etchingham had around 100 LPs in their flat in Mayfair, but interestingly very few singles, as Jimi disliked their sound which was usually compressed for radio play.
The records on show gives a unique insight into the tastes and influences of one of the greatest guitarists of all time and they cover blues, jazz, folk, rock, psychedelia and even a handful of classical LPs.
We also know that Jimi would listen to this on top-notch equipment: a Bang & Olufsen turntable connected to a Leak-70 amplifier and two 30-Watt Lowther speakers. This was a very expensive and powerful set-up for the time. Because Hendrix liked to listen to records very loud, he had to stick a coin with sellotape onto the turntable arm… Otherwise it would jump up and down the louder it got. The fact that even these capable speakers, specially reinforced by the manufacturers, occasionally blew during parties and had to be taken for repair shows how high the volume would get!
Here are our favourite stories behind some of the records in Jimi’s collection:
The Beatles – Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band
Of the Beatles albums in Hendrix’s collection, Sgt. Pepper is the most worn; he famously opened with a ‘killer’ arrangement of the title track at the Saville Theatre just three days after the album’s release and with the Beatles in the audience. Paul McCartney called the performance ‘one of the greatest honours of my career’.
Bob Dylan – Highway 61 Revisited
In 1965, as a struggling musician in New York, Hendrix was already enough of a Dylan fan to spend his last money on this album.
The Brook Street copy of this LP has Hendrix’s blood on its sleeve, after he cut his hand on a broken wine glass then picked up the album.
Ravi Shankar – Sound of the Sitar
Hendrix’s albums by Ravi Shankar were presents from Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones, a great supporter, who was a ‘World Music’ listener, and knew Hendrix would be open to the different scales and structures of Indian classical music.
Richie Havens – Mixed Bag
Richie Havens, an old friend from Hendrix’s Greenwich Village days, dropped by Hendrix’s flat in Brook Street to present Jimi with this record, his latest album. Havens then demonstrated his anti-war anthem Handsome Johnny to a small party in the flat on Hendrix’s Epiphone acoustic guitar.
Muddy Waters – Electric Mud
Electric Mud attempted to “modernise” Muddy Waters via the addition of wah wah and other voguish sounds. When he heard it in Mr Love, the café below his flat in Brook Street, Hendrix asked the waiter what it was. When told it was Muddy Waters’ latest, Hendrix at first refused to believe it, before smiling and saying “I used to follow him. Now he’s following me”.
Handel – Great Choruses from Handel’s Messiah
Hendrix owned two copies of Handel’s Messiah, both of which show signs of wear and tear. This rendition by the English Chamber Orchestra promised period sounds which would have been uncanny listening so near to where it was composed.
The Bee Gees – 1st
Kathy Etchingham describes this as “one of the first records in the collection. We used to listen to that quite a lot. Jimi thought their harmonies were really great.”
Otis Redding – The Immortal Otis Redding
During 1963 Hendrix toured with Solomon Burke in a five-act lineup which also included Otis Redding. Burke struggled with Hendrix’s flashy playing: “five dates would go beautifully, and then at the next show, he’d go into this wild stuff that wasn’t part of the song. I just couldn’t handle it anymore.” One night on the tour bus Burke traded Hendrix to Otis Redding, exchanging him for two horn players.
John Lennon and Yoko Ono – Unfinished Music No. 1: Two Virgins
Two Virgins had to be distributed in the UK by Track Records; EMI’s board declined to take the risk of an obscenity prosecution over the full frontal cover image. Even One Stop Records (Hendrix local record store when he lived at 23 Brook Street, Mayfair), where Jimi bought his copy, sold the album in a brown modesty bag. Kathy Etchingham remembers Hendrix bought it on a whim because of the cover.
Sam Gopal – Escalator
Released just as Hendrix left Brook Street, this LP features a young Lemmy on guitar (he also wrote several of the songs). Lemmy had roadied for the Jimi Hendrix Experience at their 1967 Royal Albert Hall show, getting the job from his flat mate, regular Jimi Hendrix Experience roadie Neville Chesters.
The Red Crayola – The Parable of Arable Land
Not all of Hendrix’s album selections imply significant musical influences; some were bought for very superficial reasons. For example, Kathy Etchingham believes that Hendrix picked up this album on an impulse because the cover artwork was similar in style to his own drawings.
Elmore James – Memorial Album
This album features Bleeding Heart, a track Hendrix first covered live in 1965 and which he popularised through recording multiple versions. It featured on the set list of Hendrix’s legendary Royal Albert Hall gig on the 24th February 1969 while he was living at 23 Brook Street.
Dr. John – Babylon
It’s possible that Hendrix’s ownership of this album has to do with the fact that he is name-checked in the final track, the bizarre The Lonesome Guitar Strangler, with Dr. John proclaiming how he’s going to murder Hendrix.
The Dream – Get Dreamy
Hendrix was gifted a copy of this rare album on tour; it was inscribed by Dream guitarist Terje Rypdal, who wrote “with all the respect we can give a fellow musician, we wrote “ Hey Jimi” as a tribute to you. We hope you like it and enjoy the rest of the LP too.”
Django Reinhardt – Django
Features the fast finger-picking style of a self -taught Romany master of the guitar. Hendrix named his group Band of Gypsys in Django’s honour.
Listen to our playlist of some of the best tracks from Jimi’s collection:
For all of you collectors out there, here is the full list of records that we know Jimi had in his collection when he lived in Mayfair:
|Acker Bilk||Lansdowne Folio|
|Albert King||Live Wire/Blues Power|
|Bach, E. Power Biggs||Bach on the Pedal Harpsichord|
|The Band||Music from Big Pink|
|The Beatles||Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band|
|The Beatles||Magical Mystery Tour|
|The Bee Gees||1st|
|Bill Cosby||I Started Out as a Child|
|Blind Blake||Bootleg Rum Dum Blues|
|Bob Dylan||The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan|
|Bob Dylan||Blonde on Blonde|
|Bob Dylan||John Wesley Harding|
|Bob Dylan||Greatest Hits|
|Bob Dylan||Highway 61 Revisited|
|Bob Dylan||Bringing It All Back Home|
|Bob Dylan||Nashville Skyline|
|The Bonzo Dog Band||The Doughnut in Granny’s Greenhouse|
|The Byrds||Fifth Dimension|
|The Byrds||Younger Than Yesterday|
|Canned Heat||Canned Heat|
|The Charles Lloyd Quartet||Journey Within|
|Charley Musselwhite’s South Side Band||Stand Back! Here Comes Charley Musselwhite’s South Side Band|
|Chris Barber and his Jazzband||Mob – the Chris Barber Convention – Hamburg 1968|
|Clara Ward||Gospel Concert|
|Delaney and Bonnie||Home|
|The Dream||Get Dreamy|
|The Electric Flag||The Trip: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack|
|Elmore James||Memorial Album|
|Elmore James||The Best Of|
|Eric Burdon & the Animals||The Twain Shall Meet|
|The Free Spirits||Out of Sight and Sound|
|Friar Tuck||And His Psychedelic Guitar|
|Handel, the Ambrosian Singers, English Chamber Orchestra||Great Choruses from Handel’s Messiah|
|Handel, the London Philharmonic Choir, the London Philharmonic Festival Orchestra||The Inspirational Majesty of Favourite Selections from Handel’s Messiah|
|The Hollies||The Hollies Sing Dylan|
|Holst, Sir Malcolm Sargent, BBC Symphony Orchestra, BBC Women’s Chorus||The Planets Op. 32|
|Howlin’ Wolf||More Real Folk Blues|
|Howlin’ Wolf||The Howlin’ Wolf Album|
|Howlin’ Wolf||Moanin’ in the Moonlight|
|Jaki Byard||Freedom Together|
|Jaki Byard Trio||Sunshine of my Soul|
|The Jimi Hendrix Experience||Are You Experienced? (UK version)|
|The Jimi Hendrix Experience||Are You Experienced? (French version)|
|The Jimi Hendrix Experience||Smash Hits|
|The Jimi Hendrix Experience||Electric Ladyland|
|Jimmy Reed||The New Jimmy Reed Album|
|Jimmy Smith & Wes Montgomery||The Dynamic Duo|
|Joan Baez||Any Day Now|
|John Lee Hooker||Drifting Blues|
|John Lee Hooker||Live at Café Au-Go-Go|
|John Lennon and Yoko Ono||Two Virgins|
|John Mayall with Eric Clapton||Blues Breakers|
|John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers||Crusade|
|John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers||A Hard Road|
|Johnny Cash||At Folsom Prison|
|Junior Wells||It’s My Life Baby|
|Leadbelly||Take This Hammer|
|Lightnin’ Hopkins||Earth Blues|
|Lightnin’ Hopkins||The Roots Of|
|Lightnin’ Hopkins||Soul Blues|
|Lightnin’ Hopkins||Something Blue|
|Lightnin’ Hopkins||Lightnin’ Strikes|
|Little Richard||Little Richard Volume 2|
|Lowell Fulson||Lowell Fulson|
|The Mothers of Invention||Freak Out!|
|Muddy Waters||The Real Folk Blues|
|Muddy Waters||Down on Stovall’s Plantation|
|Muddy Waters||Electric Mud|
|Nina Simone||Nuff Said!|
|Otis Redding||The Immortal Otis Redding|
|Pierre Henry||Le Voyage: D’apres le Livre des Morts Tibetian|
|Ravi Shankar||Sound of the Sitar|
|Ravi Shankar||Portrait of a Genius|
|Ravi Shankar||India’s Master Musician|
|The Red Crayola with the Familiar Ugly||The Parable of Arable Land|
|Richie Havens||Electric Havens|
|Richie Havens||Mixed Bag|
|Robert Johnson||King of the Delta Blues Singers|
|The Roland Kirk Quartet||Rip, Rig and Panic|
|The Rolling Stones||Their Satanic Majesties Request|
|The Rolling Stones||Big Hits [High Tide and Green Grass]|
|Roy Harper||Sophisticated Beggar|
|Smokey Smothers||The Driving Blues of Smokey Smothers|
|Sonny Boy Williamson||Blues Classics by Sonny Boy Williamson|
|Sonny Boy Williamson II||Down and Out Blues|
|Sonny Boy Williamson II||More Real Folk Blues|
|The Spencer Davis Group||Autumn ’66|
|Subbulakshmi||The Sounds of Subbulakshmi|
|Tim Buckley||Goodbye and Hello|
|Vanilla Fudge||Vanilla Fudge|
|Various Artists||The Original American Folk Blues Festival|
|Various Artists||Blues Classics|
|Various Artists||American Folk Blues Festival ’66|
|Various Artists||Original Hits of the Great Blues Singers, Vol II|
|Various Artists||Chicago/The Blues/Today!, Vol 1|
|Various Artists||Heavy Heads|
|Various Artists||We Sing The Blues!|
|Washboard Sam||Blues Classics by Washboard Sam|
|Wes Montgomery||A Day In The Life|
|The Zodiac||Cosmic Sounds|