Hi and welcome to the H+H Museum – my name is simon Christophers and I am a volunteer here with a specific interest in Hendrix, his music, associated art and life in London. In particular his relationship to visual art – as I have worked as a Art Director and designer for the past 30 years. Hendrix’s relationship with image and how this vision drove his art and reflected and projected himself and his position in pop culture.
As such today I will describe my favourite object on display at the Hendrix flat, which is the mirror in the main bed/siting room – the room where Jimi ate, slept, composed, entertained and was interviewed during his time at 23 Brook St.
The mirror it self is reasonably ordinary in appearance – oval with a dark frame, possibly late 19th or early 20th century – reminiscent of many mirrors to be found in Western Europe and particularly England at the time and to this date – its simplicity as charming as the everyday domestics acts it would have reflected in its past
And it is that past, that provenance that imbues its true value to me, as it was given to the museum by the property’s other resident at the time of Hendrix stay, Jimi’s then girlfriend – Kathy Ecthingham.
The history of the mirror and the faces of friends and associates of the couple, like members of the experience or even the Beatles who came to visit and who may have stolen a glance to check there was nothing stuck in the teeth or some gone in for some readjustment of a collar. The plain and simple act of a mirror doing its job – reflecting light – would have reflected some of the brightest lights of Swinging sixties London.
The mirror can be seen in the background of a few Hendrix portraits including those by Barrie Wentzell, whose January 69 shoot helped enormously in creating the authentic vibe visitors can enjoy today at the museum. Transporting us back to the time when Jimi was the highest grossing live act of the decade and leader of the counter culture movement.
As with many objects Jimi liked he would adorn them, customise them, mod them. Wether a guitar or item of clothing – this mirror got the same treatment. Clearly in one shot you can note a transformation of a kind has taken place – that a proto Lawrence Llewellyn-Bowen was in the house! The mirror has been embellish with mother of pearl buttons, sticky domed mini mirrors and most of all paste gems and crystals metamorphosing the mirror into a feathered, scaled portal. I can imagine Jimi and Kathy having some fun in creating this – possibly even minor squabbles over how much of the reflective surface be left for effective use. Surely Kathy – who was a hairdresser by day and DJ by night – needed to tease her own locks as much as the studiously bed-headed pop star?!
The addition of more reflective material to the mirror could be seen as having a deeper, meaning – and mirrors do feature in Hendrix poetry and lyrics. The author Peter Neal, in his book Starting at Zero notes that mirrors became an image that Hendrix obsessed over during the last two years of his life – and certainly that matches with his time at the flat. Neal goes on to explain that Hendrix’s Grandmother extended to a young and impressionable Jimi… of the Native American beliefs that a mirror can hold your self-reflection captive in a kind of purgatory where the only means of escaping to a realm of infinite possibility is to smash the mirror. And whilst this may go someway to dissecting the Hendrix composition Room Full Of Mirrors – there are other more rock and roll tales of Jimi freaking out in Ringo Starr’s floor to ceiling mirrored bathroom at the flat he first shared London.
Certainly with Kathys gypsy roots and Jimi’s other superstitions I can’t see smashing mirrors really being though of as anything but bad luck.
None the less mirrors have featured heavily in art and music and philosophy through time, from Plato’s theory of Idea and Forms onwards. So whatever inspiration struck Jimi – certainly the mirror here was something to decorate and something to twinkle – reflect the light in a thousand different ways and to create dancing patterns as the evening sun broke through the curtains .
Thanks for listening to why I appreciate this object the most and I hope you get to visit the museum soon. Check out the online shop where you can get some great Hendrix memorabilia as well as Peter Neals book Starting At Zero as the equally fascinating Hendrix in London, and also a Bluesman in Mayfair which are more specific to JH time at the flat.