Over the gate...

Designed in 1913 by Victorian/Edwardian/other architect Theophilus A Allen; John Lennon's house between 1964 and 1968; sunroom, attic and prisco stripe hibernice; Mellotron and caravan; Babidji and Mimi; mortar and pestle; Wubbleyoo Dubbleyoo; curios and curiosity; remnants and residue; testimonials and traces; (Cavendish Avenue, Sunny Heights and Kinfauns); Montagu Square; mock Tudor: Brown House: *KENWOOD*.

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Wednesday, 30 September 2009

7 Leicester Place: Ad Lib (& lift thereof).

7 Leicester Place - the entrance to what was, for a relatively short period in the mid-60s, the Ad Lib club. The doorway didn't really look like that back then - the whole front "porch" section was added in the 1980s.

The club itself was up on the 4th floor, overlooking the adjacent Lisle Street. Though I've yet to track down any photos of the interior, it was, apparently, all panelled wood, low tables, chandeliers; dark, anonymous; musical policy - exclusively soul/blues/r&b. Strictly for the "movers" and the "shakers", the Beatles had their own table, and the Ad Lib was one of the relatively few places that John felt he could go without being unduly bothered.
This is probably why the participants in the Dental Experience (™) came here on that evening in 1965. One of the most told bits of one of the most told anecdotes centers round the lift, of course:
GEORGE: We went up into the nightclub and it felt as though the elevator was on fire and we were going into hell (and it was and we were), but at the same time we were all in hysterics and crazy. Eventually we got out at the Ad Lib, on the top floor, and sat there, probably for hours and hours.
JOHN: We finally got on the lift. We all thought there was a fire on the lift; it was just a little red light - we were all screaming...
RINGO: I was actually there in the club when John and George got there shouting, "The lift's on fire!"

The building (and the 4th floor) are now home to offices; blog reader Eric Nernie had an appointment there a few months back, and took these photos of the very elevator in question. (Apparently, it's the original...though it will, doubtless, have been subject to major renovation/replacement of fixtures and fittings etc in the interim.)

Strangely enough, accounts differ as to why the Ad Lib finally closed in 1966. Some say this was down to the fickle nature of fashion - newer clubs moved into the spotlight, pushing the Ad Lib out of favour. Others claim, however, that the reason it shut was due to...you guessed it - a fire.

*UPDATE*: Julian Carr has just sent me some fascinating information about the club; to wit...there was a fire there, but it happened on November 5, 1964, leading to its temporary closure for repair and renovation due to extensive damage. Now that's interesting, because the date generally ascribed to the Dental Shenanigans(™) is April 8, 1965. The club would not have been long re-opened at that point, and the Beatles would certainly have known about the fire, of course. Hence, coupled with their chemical intake, this was probably the source of red-light related paranoia!
And there's more - the club closed again in January 1966, due to a noise prevention order, before re-opening round the corner in Leicester Square, appended to the 400 Club. The old Ad Lib premises in Leicester Place sparked back into life in November 1970, when the club re-opened there under its old moniker. How long it lasted is unclear, but I believe the 4th floor wasn't converted to an office space before the early 1980s. Anyway, many thanks to Julian for the clarifications and new information.

Monday, 28 September 2009

Kenwood: attic layout, 1965-1968.

We have seen the photo of John with his outsize horn before - but, crucially, not uncropped - and it's the extra portion which, at long last, reveals how the attic was laid out, post-renovation, during the Lennon-era; something which has been a puzzle since the inception of this gibberish.
Pauline Lennon, who lived in this part of the house for at least a couple of months at the end of 1967, recalls staying in a bedroom which opened onto a living room. She also mentions the studio, and the upper attic itself, which was where John's felines were housed.
The shape of the window evident in the new photo means it can only have been taken in the attic, facing north - and the Partridge plan confirms this. John is, therefore, seen here with his back to the attic hall corridor, standing in the room next to the studio:

Thus, the layout of the attic would have been as follows:

One of the unmarked rooms above would have been the living room Pauline referred to - probably the room John is seen standing in. Compare with the 1964, pre-renovation layout:

The wall between the kitchen and bath no. 3 was knocked down to form a larger room, which became John's studio. (Incidentally, I also have a plan from 1995, showing Kenwood immediately before the huge round of renovation that occurred at that time, and the attic was still laid out as seen here - with the exception of a small W.C. and wardrobe against the south-east wall of what had been the studio. It's possible that this was part of the Lennon attic, too.)
As chance, a fine thing, would have it, Joe Baiardi's video captures the very spot where this photo was taken. Note that the attic was, of course, gutted at this point; the red lines indicate the position of the wall as seen in the photo of John:

Finally, the window as it looked from the outside in 2008. Notice there are two windows, which were bisected, internally, by a wall during the Lennon-era (and beyond, judging by the '95 plan):

So, there we have it; the layout of the attic, a mystery no more. Many thanks once again to Ron de Bruijn, and, as ever, to Joe Baiardi.

Kenwood: Ken Partridge plans, 1964 - part 3.

The attic area - ca. October 1964; marked on the plan "Left As Existing". This, of course, was where John, Cynthia and Julian lived for 9 months whilst the rest of the house was being renovated (and, in the case of the sunroom and possibly the whole north-west extension, constructed). (Cynthia remembers a friend coming to stay with them during this time, and her being highly amused that they were living in such a huge house - but only occupying a tiny part of it.) The kitchen and bath no. 3 areas were, ultimately, the site of John's studio.
In any case, for those that are interested in this type of thing, the plan is a fascinating document, though it doesn't solve the great mystery of how the attic looked by 1967. According to every account of the matter, as soon as the rest of the house was complete John then ordered a thorough makeover of the attic suite too; how that was is anybody's guess...or so I thought.
But then, Ron de Bruijn sent me a photo that suddenly made the layout clear. The following post will witter on about that.

Kenwood: dressing area.

Cynthia, in her most recent autobiography, specifically remembers the "his and hers" basins in their bedroom suite - and sure enough, there they are on the '64 plan. Richard Hall, in his account of meeting John at Kenwood, recalled seeing John shaving through an upstairs window - so that must have been one of these:

In 2006, this part of the house was being used as a study:

It's also worth recalling that Joe Baiardi's video shows the dressing area, completely gutted, as it looked during renovation at the end of last year (around 07.27).

Friday, 25 September 2009

Kenwood: en-suite bathroom.

Moving on to the bathroom, the Partridge plan identifies the corresponding window, to the south of the house:

I think this also confirms that the December '68 shot of John and Yoko reclining in a bathtub was taken in this room.

Notice how the wall to the left of the tub, as we look at it, is angled - exactly as the plan predicts.

So, it's all, finally, beginning to fall into place. More on this to follow.

Kenwood: master bedroom.

The master bedroom during John's time at Kenwood was really a suite of three - the bedroom itself, a dressing room and a bathroom. Interesting as it is to see the layout, the thing I noticed immediately was the words "sliding doors". This could well (with the usual caveats re. conjecture) finally allow us to nail the position of the famous shot of John plus panda.
I've mentioned in the past that I felt the distinctive panelled "wall" behind John was probably a set of sliding doors - you can see handles, and in other photos taken in the same location, the doors appear to be open, revealing another room behind.

The panda photo must have been taken beside a corner, near a large window - due to the reflection of wall, curtain and window in the panels. (In fact, you can see a reflection from a second window beyond the larger first one too.)
This all fits...

I'd say, therefore, that's it's very likely that this photo was actually taken in the master bedroom, with John's back against the sliding doors detailed on the Partridge plan.

Kenwood: Ken Partridge plans, 1964 - part 2.

Much of what this blog concerns itself with is conjecture, guesswork and, frankly, jibber-jabber; I've been very wrong indeed at least as much as I've been right. So it is pleasing to find a piece of evidence which, for once, answers more questions than it raises. This is a definitive look at the layout of the first floor during the Lennon-era. It confirms the position of the master bedroom, dressing room and en-suite bathroom, and, I'd guess (I never learn) pins down the position of a couple of photos. (I'll get on to this in the following posts.)
Naturally it doesn't answer every question. Which of the other bedrooms was Julian's? Which one was the Blue Room (designated for Pete Shotton's exclusive use)? And which was the one Marijke referred to as being full of John's school mementos? Dunno.
But this is more than enough to be going on with. To wit...

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Kenwood: the Den - part 2.

Another fantastic "new" shot of the piano being decorated by Simon & Marijke, courtesy of Ron de Bruijn. This is the best view so far of that corner of the den, and reveals another odd Kenwood accoutrement - the triangular object to the right, which resembles a psychedelic dart board. (And any ideas what Velvet Picturesque refers to?)
More (and more revealing) Ron material to come...so, thanks once again to him.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Kenwood: the Den.

Blog reader Ron de Bruijn has very kindly sent me some scans of Dutch periodical PEP 41, dated October 14, 1967, which has a fascinating two page spread featuring some very rare June '67 Bryce variations. (I'll be posting the highlights in due course.) So, first up we have a new variant on the piano painting session. Have a look at the wider perspective evident above: what this does, in one fell swoop, is confirm where several photos were actually taken. Focus your brain, if ye will, on the Ken Partridge plan from the other day - specifically the den area. The circled portion corresponds to the area seen in the photos of the piano being painted - and also the photo from 1965 showing Julian playing that self-same keyboard.

The clue is the radiator, which is on the wall at right angles to the piano; both walls can now be seen thanks to the new piano pic, thus confirming that these photos were taken by the entrance to the den.

It's now also clear that the following two photos were taken in this room too, at the same time as the above, on the opposite side. Note the small seat to the right of the armchair below. In the first pic, John is in the armchair, in the second he has moved on to that very seat. A sheet covers the furniture and floor because...the piano is being painted. Of course.

And the January '68 family get together was, as we've seen in posts passim, taken against the southern window wall. So, to sum up...

Well, I call it fun, anyway. The other portions of the Partridge plan have more secrets to reveal too, as do Ron de Bruijn's wonderous scans, and it's all on the way.
Many thanks to Ron for his generosity in sharing this stuff.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Kenwood: more autographs - 22nd April, 1968.

Presumably secured at Kenwood, the date on these is interesting - 22nd April, 1968: ie a week after John and Cynthia's return from India, and just under a month before the Two Virgins night. Also unusual in that they feature, apparently, a pawprint from Bernard the dog (good grief), who was a late addition to the menagerie at Kenwood. Named in ironic tribute to Dot Jarlett's husband, the poor beast succumbed to something or other after little more than a year - just long enough for him to put in one further "public" appearance, sitting on John's lap at Apple as part of the promo films produced ca. spring 1968...

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Kenwood: more pool, June 1967.

The uncropped version of this pic, which I hadn't seen before, provides a good view of the original pool area. This was moved, of course, during the mid-90s renovation which saw the whole north-west portion of Kenwood demolished and rebuilt. I believe that it is about to be on its travels once more, being relocated to a covered structure right at the bottom of the garden. The current pool area is set to become an ornamental pond.

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Kenwood: Monterey bumper sticker - part etc.

We have seen both of these many times before...and yet...I've comped the two widest perspective shots to give the "best" view thus far, and this is also a better quality scan of the Monterey bumper sticker, and so worthy of another post. Or not. I still reckon Derek Taylor was the source of this and the Safe As Milk sticker. It's possible John never actually heard the Beefheart rekkid in question - which he would have liked, I also reckon. (That's enough rekkenin' for one evenen'.)

Regent's Park Outer Circle, London: 13 April, 1967 & 2009 - part 2.

I've already explained why this is one of my favourite photos, and so I couldn't resist going into it a little more (and possibly a little too) deeply when I found myself in the vicinity of Regent's Park the other day. The location is virtually unchanged since 1967 (give or take a sheepdog/highly psychedelicised songwriter/Aston Martin or two), as can be seen above, and via the Beatle-eye view below...

Assuming they weren't visiting someone, John and Paul would have been taking Martha for a stroll in the park, going in and out via this entrance. Or exit...

... and a tug o' the forelock to the Beatles' London guidebook for originally tracking this location down.

Friday, 18 September 2009

Kenwood: Ken Partridge plans, 1964 - part 1.

Regulars will be familiar with my generally tortuous and laboured attempts to make sense of the layout at Kenwood during the Lennon-era, based, as they have been, upon various plans from long before/after the good ol' Schwingin' Shikshtiesh. Well, one of the "holy grails" (if that's not too ridiculous a way of putting it) has just fallen into my lap (not literally); namely the original "Lennon" plans (click on the above for a better look), dated 23rd October 1964, with Ken Partridge's notes indicating specific renovations...and though it does answer several questions, inevitably it throws up several more.

To start with what is there - we can now see that what was referred to as the den was indeed that room to the left of the living room. The split level nature of the kitchen is now clear as well; I found it hard to visualise what that would have looked like - but there it is. So that window to the right of the entrance was actually the kitchen window during John's time. What's also interesting is how close the ground floor was to the original 1913 layout.

However, and glaringly obviously, where is the sunroom?!? In October '64, it is clear from this plan that it had yet to be built. There don't appear to be records of any further planning applications (I've looked), so the exact date of the construction of the sunroom remains unclear - but it has to be late '64 or early '65. And what about the north-west extension? Well, it's just possible that it was there, but it's not on this plan for a reason - which I'll come onto in a future post. Still, fantastic to have a major piece of the puzzle finally in place.

Knole Park: 1967 & 2009.

On the edge of Sevenoaks lies Knole Park. During a day of torrential rain, I decided to take the train down from London to see what remains of the locations familiar from the SFF/Penny Lane promos. The park is huge and rambling and home to the titular 15th century stately home, many deer, and an 18-hole golf course. Flying golf balls are a hazard, as are irate golfers, because the locale used by the boys over 3 days in late January/early February 1967 happens to be directly adjacent to hole number 7. Deer, sheltering under the trees, seemed to be thinking "What is this poor fool doing stumbling around in the rain?" I must confess there were points where I wondered myself. However...

Firstly the ruined wall; easy enough to find, though it is now fenced off.

The dead oak tree which served as the focus for the SFF film is long gone. Nevertheless, armed with the definitive Beatles' London (Schreuders, Lewisohn & Smith) guide, which states that the ground is scarred where the tree once stood, I managed to find a couple of possible locations. This is certainly the right area, though which of these is the actual bruise (and possibly neither are) I'm not too sure.

The ponds beside which the Beatles "dined" are now completely surrounded by ferns and bracken, which, as is their wont, have also overgrown the entire area, thus obscuring the view.

All the Knole locations encircle a house (the Birdhouse), not too far from the stately home itself. Again, these may well not be an exact, or even a partial match. But there we were, and are.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Kenwood: recollections.

As part of the current 09/09/09 frenzy, there have been some more or less interesting programmes on tv and radio here recently. One such, concerning the "Jesus" furore, featured recollections of Kenwood from Cynthia Lennon and journalist Maureen Cleave. (Thanks to Joe Baiardi for the great new shots of the sunroom/dining room and west sides, and to Sara for the Julian pic).

CL: The house was at the top of the hill, and John was thrilled to bits that it was at the top of a hill so we would have a little bit of protection, because at that point the fans were going mad & camping out etc etc. Actually we lived in the top flat - the servants' quarters, as it were, for one year virtually when we moved in while the rest of the place was being totally gutted & changed & redesigned & everything else. We couldn't believe it - we'd sit and look at everything: I mean, it was dead posh, in our terms. Once the builders had gone, and the great gates had been put up, the electric gates, then we had some peace & tranquility.

MC: (St George's Hill) is very woody, and inhabited by rich stockbrokers & the Beatles - a very odd place for them to end up, really. They used to call in on each other all the time, at any hour of the day or night, & they would listen to music, or play tapes & then they'd go off again. And then at about 2.30 in the morning they might decide to go to a nightclub in London, & they'd all get in the car & off they'd go. They were having quite a nice time. They had swimming pools & that kind of thing. And then John bought this gorilla suit, and he was really keen that they should all have gorilla suits and travel round behind the steering wheels of these various cars & visit each other. If you rang him up, he'd always ask what day of the week it was - he was genuinely interested to know...if you're completely marooned in Weybridge, it's quite nice to to have a bit of news of the outside world.

MC(cont.): His sitting room had yellow, tartan wallpaper. It had been done over by somebody, & it was panelled & very mock absolutely everything you can think of, & filled with the most extraordinary objects, like there was a suit of armour called Sydney, there were little boxes of flashing lights, and there was a huge compendium of games from Asprey's that John could open but not shut, & endless recording equipment & lots of books in costly leather covers. The possessions had sort of got the better of him. You just felt somehow that he was being smothered in all these purchases that he couldn't really understand the point of himself.

CL: When he was home (after a big tour) it usually took him about 2 or 3 days to actually come down to earth. It was very hard for all of us, really, because I was on one wavelength and he was on another. I was running a home, taking Julian to school and bringing him home and feeding him - I was doing the normal motherly things, let's put it that way.

(Julian leaving Heath House Infant's School in Weybridge ca. 1967).

CL(cont.): I know that (John) was feeling trapped after the Jesus Christ comments, & he needed to find space in his own mind & imagination. After having LSD put in our coffee when we went out for dinner, John tried it & found it fascinating, so he started taking it virtually daily. It's like living with an alcoholic - when they're sober they're great, but when they're drunk it's very hard to communicate with them.