6 JULY 2006

TOM VAGUE’S HOLLYWOOD BABYLON W11


INTRO
1 NOTTING HILL IN BYGONE DAYS
2 NOTTING HELL/HEAVEN W11
3 SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVIL
4 HOUSES OF THE UNHOLY
5 ONE FOOT IN THE GROVE
6 MIDDLE EARTH W11
7 THINGS LOOK GREAT IN NOTTING HILL GATE, WE ALL SIT AROUND AND MEDITATE
8 HOUSES OF THE UNHOLY REVISITED


PART 5
ONE FOOT IN THE GROVE

The Jimi Hendrix Experience ‘In this sacred grove there grew a certain tree round which at any time of the day, and probably far into the night, a grim figure might be seen to prowl. In his hand he carried a drawn sword, and he kept peering warily about him as if at every instant he expected to be set upon by an enemy. He was a priest and a murderer; and the man for whom he looked was sooner or later to murder him and hold the priesthood in his stead. Such was the rule of the sanctuary.’ JG Frazer The Golden Bough 1890

“Hi,” said the newcomer. “I’m looking for Shakey Mo. We ought to be going.” The black man stepped across the others and knelt beside Mo, feeling his heart, taking his pulse. The chick stared stupidly at him. “Is he alright?” He’s Oded,” the newcomer said quietly, “he’s gone, d’you want to get a doctor or something, honey?” “Oh, Jesus,” she said. The black man got up and walked to the door. “Hey,” she said, “you look just like Jimi Hendrix, you know that?” “Sure.” “You can’t be – you’re not are you? I mean, Jimi’s dead.” Jimi shook his head and smiled his old smile. “Shit, lady. They can’t kill Jimi.” He laughed as he left.’ Michael Moorcock A Dead Singer (in memory, among others, of Smiling Mike and John the Bog) from Moorcock’s Book of Martyrs 1974

The Purple Haze House and Desolation Row In early 1967, as Erno Goldfinger said excuse me while I kiss the sky and began work on Trellick Tower, Jimi Hendrix was staying at 167 Westbourne Grove, when the property was painted purple. According to rock legend, returning from a UFO club trip one morning, the sight of the house inspired his second single. At the 1970 Isle of Wight festival, Hawkwind remember him being too depressed to jam on ‘Desolation Row’ but, they claim, he agreed to play Stonehenge with them.

Jimi’s last lost days at the Samarkand Hotel In the News of the World’s investigation into ‘Jimi’s last lost days’, back in London, he came to Notting Hill and ‘smoked pot at various pads.’ Jerry Hopkins has him ‘on a roll, careening from flat to flat, club to club’. The day after his last gig at Ronnie Scott’s, Hendrix went to Kensington Market on the High Street (when Freddie Mercury of Queen was a stallholder), and a party thrown by Mike Nesmith of the Monkees. Then he returned to Notting Hill, for the last time, with his German iceskater girlfriend, Monika Dannemann.

On September 18 1970, Hendrix ended up on Ladbroke Grove in the basement of 22 Lansdowne Crescent, which was then named the Samarkand Hotel after the Silk Road staging post in Uzbekistan. Lansdowne Crescent is at the top of the hill, in the centre of the Ladbroke Estate, probably on the site of a Roman villa. Having taken barbiturates earlier, he polished off a bottle of sleeping pills and was sick in his sleep. When Monika realised something was wrong she called round various rock personalities, and buried her dope in the garden, before calling an ambulance. According to the police report, he was alive when the ambulance arrived at Lansdowne Crescent but found to be DOA at St Mary Abbot’s hospital in South Kensington. Cause of death was ‘inhalation of vomit due to barbiturate intoxification’; a pharmaceutical miscalculation rather than, as the urban myth has it, an overdose.

‘The chick began to run after the black truck as it started up and rolled a little way before it had to stop on the red light at the Ladbroke Grove intersection. “Wait,” she shouted. “Jimi!” But the camper was moving before she could reach it. She saw it heading north towards Kilburn. She wiped the clammy sweat from her face. She must be freaking. She hoped when she got back to the basement flat that there wouldn’t really be a dead guy there. She didn’t need it.’

Monika Dannemann claimed that she lived with Hendrix in the rented flat for 3 weeks, talking about life, the universe and everything. According to everybody else, he would hardly have been there at all. With his hectic sex-and-drugs-and-rock’n’roll lifestyle, Hendrix couldn’t have spent more than a few weeks in Notting Hill, all told, and probably didn’t die here, but in the crosstown traffic south of Notting Hill Gate. Yet his local pop cultural legacy is second to none; apart from maybe Bob Marley, who would also spend more time in the south of the borough.

Moorcock’s Book of Martyrs While he was still alive, Hendrix was represented in Performance as Mick Jagger’s basement lodger ‘Noel’, and in poster form. Having fulfilled his “once you’re dead you’re made for life” prediction, Michael Moorcock resurrected him, or invoked his ghost haunting the street hippies of the Grove, in his 1974 shortstory A Dead Singer in Moorcock’s Book of Martyrs. Before ‘Shakey Mo’ becomes Hendrix’s roadie on the astral plane, he had ‘met pretty much every kind of freak... Sufis, Hare Krishnas, Jesus Freaks, Meditators, Processors, Divine Lighters…’ At one point, he sees Hendrix as a soul thief vampire, rather than a rock martyr. The ghost of Hendrix also appeared to a girl who broke into Jimmy Page’s tower house.

Michael Moorcock used to live on Colville Terrace, and his New Worlds sci-fi mag was designed at 307 Portobello Road by Barney Bubbles. The prolific author has written over 50 novels ranging from sword and sorcery epics to time travel sci-fantasy, often starring Hawkwind; including The Cornelius Chronicles featuring The Final Programme (the film of which was shown at last year’s festival), Hawkmoon: The History of the Runestaff and the Elric series. (See the 2006 film festival programme for more on the Hawklords of the manor.)

In Moorcock’s novelisation of The Great Rock’n’Roll Swindle Sex Pistols film, Jimi, Marc Bolan and Sid Vicious follow events from the celestial ‘Cafe Hendrix’. Before Hendrix, Joe Meek, who lived across Ladbroke Grove on Arundel Gardens, committed suicide in 1967, and the Hendrix associate Rolling Stone, Brian Jones, who was on Powis Square in the early 60s, died in 1969. Since Hendrix’s demise a steady stream of rock martyrs have echoed his fate in the Grove, or at least had local connections.

In 1974 Nick Drake made a last appearance on Cambridge Gardens before committing suicide; the same year Graham Bond went under a tube; Paul Kossoff of Free, who lived in Munro Mews off Golborne Road, ODed in 1976; the following year Marc Bolan, who lived on Blenheim Crescent, died in a car crash; Steve Peregrin Took died of drugs misadventure on Cambridge Gardens in 1980; Pete Farndon of the Pretenders ODed on Oxford Gardens in 1983; Sid Vicious worked on a Portobello market stall; Ian Curtis appeared at Acklam Hall; Kurt Cobain visited Rough Trade; and Richey Edwards of the Manic Street Preachers was last seen in Bayswater. On the 30th anniversary of Hendrix’s death, Paula Yates died of drugs misadventure in St Luke’s Mews.

6 MIDDLE EARTH W11

 

 

 






PFF report