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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Friday, 27 November 2009

Duke Street: more you are here.

More you are here. The letter and badge that balloon finders and repliers received, together with another couple of shots of John and Yoko on or about the spiral staircase in the Robert Fraser Gallery in Duke Street, at the opening of the you are here show.

Kenwood: den tv etc.

Trivial, inconsequential, piddling etc this is, but the middle pic is apparently one of John's Kenwood tvs in situ, in situ being, as far as I can make out, the shelving in the den. That looks like the den sofa reflected, and said shelving fits, as do the books on top of the tv - the den also sometimes being referred to as the library.
The June '67 Beatles Book visit mentions John in the den putting stickers on this television whilst the piano got painted by Simon and Marijke, and stickers are indeed present and correct in the photo. (So there we go, though I'm not sure how much farther this nonsense can.)
Ringo, of course, took the family ensemble photos of the Lennons on the den couch, to be used as a giveaway with the Hunter Davies biography. There were also photos of the Starkeys in Sunny Heights, the Harrisons in Kinfauns (in front of the famous round window) and the Macca/Ashers in Cavendish Avenue. Thanks to Ian Drummond for sending copies of his originals (if that makes sense).

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Kenwood: more living room.

Another original 1913 feature which has survived is the external entrance to the ground floor living room. In 1968 it was out of use, being covered by a bench (or half a bench - or half a bed, or whatever it was). The other door that can be seen in the black and white pic leads through to the den:

The area was captured in the 1968 Austrian film, as well as Joe Baiardi's video from 2008:

As we have seen, when John & Yoko moved back into Kenwood at the end of November 1968, the living room was transformed into a storage space for their various art exhibits - including those from the Half-A-Wind Show at the Lisson Gallery in 1967. John's contribution to that had been the Air Bottles, in which the other halves of the exhibits were stored "conceptually". Paper labels bore the name of the half-a-whatever it happened to be:

The bottles sat on the window shelf/seat in the living room at Kenwood, again an area captured on film in '68 and '08:

Incidentally, not many of the exhibits from that particular show survived the moves from Surrey to Berkshire to the upper west side, though one that did is the following, if looking a little careworn these days:

Monday, 23 November 2009

More Knole Park: more Knole Park.

More Knole Park...and more manna for tache aficionados. As previously noted, it's hard to place the exact location of parts of the SFF shoot, due to the ravages of time (and golf) - but the golf course road is still there:

And just for the sake of it, the original press ad for the single, showing the relative positions of boyhood homes and inspirational locations:

Many thanks to Ian Drummond for the Knole photos.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Kenwood: glasshouse & potting shed.

Partly due to lysergic-induced laissez faire, and partly because of the fact that there was no point fighting it, John began to occasionally leave the gates at Kenwood open, allowing fans to wander in at will. A few knocked on his door, but most skulked in the nether regions, leaving graffitied messages of devotion (to Paul) on his potting shed door, and smashing the windows of his greenhouse.
These two structures, tucked away at the bottom of the garden by the foot of the north perimeter steps, survived to the mid-90s, though the greenhouse (or glasshouse) was in a state of complete disrepair by that point. This section of the grounds was also allowed to go its own way during the 1980s, being left largely untended and inevitably becoming wild and overgrown in the process. The major 90s renovation saw the whole area cleared, and at that point the greenhouse also went the way of the weeds.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Kenwood: more June 29, 1967.

...and as if on cue, a "new" June 29 shot appears; a particularly splendid example it is too. Though it's a mistake to read too much into these things, it does at least seem to encapsulate the sense of isolation reportedly felt by John at Kenwood. Either that, or he is "doing a guff".
At any rate, this pic allows the exact placing of those other photos of John sitting in the grounds. I'd thought these were taken right at the bottom of the garden, beyond the path, but in fact the garden chair was on the path itself. The bank behind him was much more overgrown in those days - the whole area was cleared in the mid-90s. Joe Baiardi's video captures the spot, and shows that the oak tree visible in one of the pics is still present and correct:

In other "news", Sara's blog has turned up another account of a fan visit to Kenwood, which is worth a look.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Kenwood: June 1968 - BBC footage.

Bamiyan's Beatles Archive (link under Friends & Neighbours) has uncovered some more Kenwood footage from June 1968. Apparently, a crew from the BBC were also there on the day that the Smile and Two Virgins films were made. Above is a still showing John sitting in the sunroom - the same time/place as the home movie footage (incidentally, that clip is back up now: Is he playing the Ramirez acoustic?).
I've now given up thinking that the supply of Kenwood related material must be finite.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Kenwood etc: the Ramirez guitar.

In the period immediately following completion of the White Album, John was rarely to be seen without the above guitar. Henry The Horse comments that this was actually George's Ramirez, the very one he had played on several earlier Beatles songs such as And I Love Her:

He's made the interesting suggestion that John may have swapped this with George for the Fool-painted piano. There certainly seems to be a "my new favourite guitar" sniff (if I can put it like that) to the various photos of John with the instrument during the latter part of 1968 - and, as we have seen, the sunroom piano disappears around this time only to then turn up at George's house. It's a nice idea, Henry, and may even be true.
(Pure idle speculation, o' course...of exactly the type this blog tends to wallow in.)

Kenwood: sunroom - December, 1968.

Another fascinating image from December 1968 has surfaced. Although it's a variation on a theme, the most interesting thing is the presence of the den piano, occupying the space where the Fool painted keyboard used to be. Therein lies a tale...but I have no idea what it is. The last sighting of the Fool piano was in June of '68, where it can be seen in the home movie partially shot in the sunroom during the filming of Smile and Two Virgins. John and Yoko moved out of Kenwood shortly thereafter, of course, to allow Cynthia to move back in, before returning at the end of November (see posts passim).
What happened to the Fool piano in the interim? Did they take it with them to Montagu Square? How did it end up at George's country pile Friar Park? I dunno.
The den piano and the footstools that can be seen above, and in other shots taken in the sunroom in December 1968, were eventually moved to Tittenhurst, and presumably now reside in the Dakota:

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Kenwood: entrance hall - photo mural.

John went off on the Beatles' first U.S. tour having given Ken Partridge a free hand to renovate Kenwood as he saw fit. He arrived home to find the house over-run with builders, but one thing that had been accomplished in his absence was the re-styling of the entrance hall, which included a large blow-up of one of the illustrations from In His Own Write - a droll (and, discounting the "rampling", prescient) comment by Partridge on what he felt the average evening at Kenwood would probably resemble: "Puffing and globbering they drugged themselves rampling or dancing with wild abdomen, stubbing in wild postumes amongst themselves". The idea was Partridge's, and John, who was very surprised to see it, spent some time quizzing Partridge as to how exactly it had been accomplished. (The illustration was made by photographing the image, blowing it up and then transferring it to material which was then affixed to the wall.)
Now, the question, as ever, is...where exactly was the illustration situated? As we have seen, the main wall in the hall was taken up by shelving filled with old books, and looking at the plan, there doesn't seem to be another wall big enough to house it. Sure enough, though, looking closely at the unaltered Partridge plan, the words "photo mural" are there, pointing to the selfsame large wall. So, this means that originally no shelving was there:

John must have removed (or at least covered) the illustration for some reason - possibly because he realised that it was really a sly dig at him! The book laden shelving came later - and in fact, John and Cynthia made many other alterations to Partridge's interior designs upon his departure. (The other feature in the hall was a suit of armour, the helmet of which opened to reveal a sign reading "Harry - Gone For Lunch".)
By 2006, both illustration and shelving were long gone, but the wall, having been stripped back and painted white, again housed a piece of art (of some kind):

Friday, 13 November 2009

3 Savile Row: 1973.

As the original vision of Apple crumbled, so did the Apple building itself; by 1972, you had Neil Aspinall, a generous quota of accountants & the Apple Studio, but not a great deal more. Aspinall and bean counters moved to a new office in St James's Street. 3 Savile Row was ripped to pieces - a gift to essayists ever since (construct your own analogies).
These photos all date from 1973. As the above shows, the back of the building was completely demolished, and this area now, obviously, bears no resemblance to the "glory" days. The following give another view of the facade under scaffolding: "New Reduction Suite, Apple Corps Ltd", and, to the right of that, the entrance hall as it looked in 1973 - literal chaos. John and Yoko's Bag Productions office, or what was left of it, was immediately to the left.

Astonishing (and fitting) it may be, but in the midst of all this, the basement studio staggered on as a going concern: It didn't close until 1975. Apple sold the lease towards the end of the following year. Further reconstruction, inevitably, ensued.
Thanks again to Julian Carr, and to the City of London: London Metropolitan Archives for kind permission to use these fascinating images.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Kenwood: Cynthia Lennon Fanclub.

A rare example (and possibly the only example) of Cynthia fanclub ephemera. In terms of the minutiae of Lennon-era Kenwood, this is fairly...errr, minute, but it also provides another look at the writing paper favoured there at that time. The lines evident on the copy are because the paper was rough - John called it a "drag to write on" in a letter to his father, dated spring 1968. It's also vaguely interesting that the letter includes the address - by that point, they had clearly given up on any attempts to keep the location of John's house secret.
I'm not sure when the above dates from (I'd guess 1967), or what the symbol at the top represents (though again, I'd guess maybe something to do with TM). If anyone out there knows, then leave a comment.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

3 Savile Row: 1962 - 2009.

Above, 3 images of 3 Savile Row's exterior. On the left is how the building looked in the years before housing Apple. At that point (the picture is ca.1962), the building was known as Hylton House, Jack Hylton being a hugely successful bandleader and theatrical impresario who had number 3 as his headquarters. The Beatles bought the lease from his estate in June, 1968.
The middle picture dates from 1976; the building, though still owned by Apple, lies empty, having just undergone extensive renovation and reconstruction (more on this soon). The final image is from this year - and the exterior looks remarkably similar.
Below, 3 images of 3 Savile Row's interior. Today, thanks to multiple subsequent makeovers, much of the indoor area would be unrecognisable to the various waifs, strays, loonies and chancers (your Stockys and "Adolf Hitlers") who flocked to, and in some cases actually lived in 3 Savile Row at the height of the Apple era. However, there are exceptions; the following conference room looks much the same in 2009 as it did in June 1968, when it was the venue for a couple of the earliest interior Apple building photos; John, Yoko, Paul, Derek et al lounge on the floor, pre-furniture, and pre-"fear":

Thanks to Julian Carr. The black and white exterior shots are reproduced by kind permission of the City of London: London Metropolitan Archives.

Monday, 9 November 2009

Kenwood: 1913 - part 4.

The final part of T A Allen's 1913 plan for Kenwood (click on it) is a cross-section of the house, which shows the two-level design. Kenwood is built on the crest of a hill, and the split-level approach was also used on the first floor. In the attic, the raised section to the right corresponds to the tank room, where John's cats were housed. This is actually behind the top floor room with the large window, where, of course, the studio was situated.
I've done a bit more digging on Mr Allen. The Kenwood (or Brown House) job was relatively local, as at that time he was living in Surrey, in the village of Normandy, occupying a house called Lynethorpe. Allen was actually the son of another architect, also called Theophilus Allen. There are records of him being employed by Norman H Johnson (who originally commissioned the plans for Kenwood) prior to 1913, so it's quite likely there is another house in the area designed by Allen for Mr Johnson.
There are a few other buildings that are known to be Allen designed, eg the Worthing Dome, and, most interestingly to those of a Kenwood bent, Oak Hall in Haslemere which dates, according to the plans I've seen, from 1911. You can read a potted history and see interior photos HERE, and if one of these pics in particular doesn't immediately make you think "living room at Kenwood", then you haven't been paying attention at the back. Allen clearly had a thing for panelling.
In the register of Architects at RIBA, he is listed close to another such, who happened to live on Merseyside...somewhere called Mendips. (True! But not that Mendips.)

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Kenwood: living/drawing room, part 1 - world o' shelving.

Whilst it is true that John spent much of his time at Kenwood in either the sunroom, the attic studio, or the bedroom, the impression given by many Beatles books is that the other rooms were never used; which is not true. Cynthia was often to be found in the den, the dining room would be used when the Lennons were entertaining guests - and so would the main living/drawing room. This room is well documented, but the corner to the left of the large fireplace has been a bit of a mystery up to now. What was to be found there? The answer, and I am sure you are going to be astonished by this, was...shelving.
The Beatles Book reports that in June 1967, "on one side of the fireplace were three turntables. On the shelves near the record player were arranged several of John's gold discs". Sure enough, blog reader Eric Nernie has sent in a small picture of the shelves, taken at the end of 1968.
By that point, the living room looked (superficially, at any rate) very different from the John & Cynthia era. When finally vacating the house, Cynthia and her mother emptied the room of all furnishings and decoration. John & Yoko then moved back in, and used the space to house various items previously exhibited by one, other or both of them. The large white disc from the "you are here" exhibition obscured the grand fireplace, which might suggest that Cynthia had also appropriated the colour television previously housed there. The shelving and the "you are here" disc can be glimpsed in the December '68 footage from the living room, on either side of Yoko's white chess set.
The living room dates, of course, from the original construction ca. 1913, and retains a lot of original features - the wooden floor, the roof beams and side panelling were all there in the beginning, and are still there now. The one major bit of renovation occurred, inevitably, in the mid-90s, when the shelving area was demolished and knocked through to construct a parallel entrance, with steps leading up to the front hall:

With the shelving gone, and the fireplace exposed, it is almost impossible to relate the December '68 images of this area to the '06 shots, but nevertheless this is where it was:

Friday, 6 November 2009

Duke Street: Robert Fraser Gallery, 1 July - 3 August 1968; you are here.

Having just moved out (and not for the last time) of Kenwood, John and Yoko held one of their first media events at the Robert Fraser Gallery, then situated at 69 Duke Street. The newly public (not to mention pubic) pair marked the opening of John's exhibition, titled "you are here", by releasing, in the spirit of "Happening", 365 helium-filled balloons with the words, "I declare these balloons high":

Tags with the name of the exhibition were attached to the balloons. These also invited finders to write c/o the gallery, and any who did so got a letter and a badge from John. (Apparently replies from "ballooners" ranged from all good wishes to racist abuse directed at Yoko). John got the idea for the balloons from a childhood memory - he had found something similar as a boy:

The exhibition itself fitted right in with much of John's artistic endeavour that summer, being whimsy tinged with a hint of something sinister; a large white disc inscribed in the centre with a tiny "you are here", and a collection of charity boxes, seeking money for victims of polio, homeless canines etc. Jars of free badges with the name of the exhibition were also laid out.
The gallery was on two levels, with a small spiral staircase beside the front door leading down to the basement. For John's exhibition, the upper floor was (apparently) largely empty, with the exhibits displayed on the lower level.
However, the real point of the exhibition was hidden: Secret cameras filmed the reaction of attendees, with the resulting footage intended to form a film (never completed, though John had clearly viewed the footage when, on the Frost show in August, he humorously discussed the covert grabbing of as many badges as possible by certain exhibition-goers).
John also put out a hat, looking for a little personal charity:

Some students from Hornsey Art College donated a rusty bicycle, with a sarcastic note stating that John had clearly forgotten to include it; naturally, out on display the bike went, together with an example of John's footwear and the words "I take my shoes off to you":

A media frenzy ensued on opening day. Journalists were more interested in John's new paramour than any art. Kenneth Anger, the underground film maker, occultist and associate of Manson family member Bobby Beausoleil, appeared with sparklers and used them to pop as many balloons as he could.
Other more sympathetic souls were also in attendance, including the man who had introduced John and Yoko in the first place, John Dunbar, seen here on the right. He and Robert Fraser were, of course, frequent visitors at Kenwood.

The building and space which housed the gallery are still there, though now, inevitably, being used for something much more prosaic.
It's probably also worth remembering that at this point, according to the orthodox view, John & Yoko had only been together for little over a month. In that time they had produced Two Virgins (film & album), Film No 5 (Smile), collated the Four Thoughts and you are here exhibitions, done (for want of a better word) the Acorn Event at Coventry Cathedral, and completed Revolution 9. John had also worked on other White Album tracks (most notably the recently "released" (and utterly wonderful) long-form Revolution 1), and contributed to the theatrical adaptation of In His Own Write.
Plus they moved house.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Ad Lib: Leicester Place - 1964 & 2009.

A fascinating black and white image showing Leicester Place, home of the Ad Lib club, as the Beatles et al would have known it in 1964, and the same vantage point, virtually unchanged in 2009. The club was housed on the top floor of the building on the right at the end of the street - home also to the Prince Charles Theatre (as it was in '64 - now the Prince Charles Cinema).
The sterling research of Julian Carr has shown that there were clubs under various guises located in the same space right up until the end of the 1970s. Still no picture of the interior, however, though the fact of subsequent incarnations make it much more likely that photos exist somewhere, of one era or another.
According to contemporary newspaper reports concerning complaints by local residents about noise, the walls of the Ad Lib were "fur lined". (Good God!) Several books have Ad Lib anecdotes about John, the general theme, pre-dentist, being muchos scotch and coke, followed by a spot of snarling at people. Traditional fun, in other words.
Many thanks to Julian for the new information and the 2009 pic. The 1964 image is reproduced by kind permission of the City of London: London Metropolitan Archives.

Monday, 2 November 2009

Kenwood: a little light reading, part 3 - IT.

If you are anything like me, you'll long have wondered just what John was reading that day in June, 1967: a copy of the International Times, obviously, but what were the contents? Well, here they are (if you click on the images they are more or less readable).

This is the first edition of IT that I've actually read. Though back issues are easy to find on UK eBay, this particular copy is a rarity - I've only seen it for sale once, and then at a greatly inflated price. So I was very pleased when Chip Madinger kindly emailed me these scans. The cover states that it is the 14 Hour Technicolour Dream Read-In issue - and I'd naturally assumed that there would be material on the similarly named event at the Alexandra Palace in London, which John had attended. However, beyond the cover, there is no mention of it. What there is, though, is an unparalleled snapshot of the counter-culture at that time, which shows how closely connected John was with it all. On these pages, there are mentions and profiles of such people as pirate radio supremo Ronan O' Rahilly, whom John took to visit Dorinish in 1968 in order to discuss his becoming business manager at Apple, and Dick Gregory who became friends with John and Yoko during their bed-ins. Financial contributions towards the founding of the Arts Lab are invited - and it's quite possible that John did give some money. (He and Yoko were to hold an exhibition there between June 2 and June 9, 1968, entitled Four Thoughts. Interestingly, Yoko's name crops up again and again in the pages of IT from its inception in 1966, through 1967 and beyond, and John would have seen the various ads and listings for her events).
There is also a guide to some more or less obscure hallucinogens, including toadskin snuff(!), and possibly dubious advice regarding which orifices are to be used for its ingestion (clue - the mouth isn't one of them):

There is another extremely druggy profile of Tangier, which John was to visit at the end of the year in the company of Cynthia and Victor Spinetti:

Finally, amongst other things, there is a fairly amusing small ads section, which features the hopelessly optimistic "Wanted - two dollies, twentyish, to look after two undomesticated blokes. Call after 6. Flat 1, 185 North End Road, W14":

Many thanks to Chip for sharing his copy with the rest of us.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Kenwood: December 26, 1967.

As adults, John and his father (the "ignoble Alf", though I reckon he has probably been unfairly maligned over the years) only had one Christmas together - at Kenwood, in 1967.
Christmas Day had been spent in the traditional fashion, exchanging gifts (Alf got a lighter from Julian, who was apparently fascinated by Alf's single) and getting drunk on "ales". John was, by all accounts, in a good frame of mind the following day, understandably pleased to be able to quiz his errant father over family history, and also looking forward to the evening, when Magical Mystery Tour, sandwiched between Frost Over Christmas/the News and a Norman Wisdom film, was to receive its premiere on BBC1.
In the afternoon came a knock at the door...some fans, looking to meet himself. Here's what one of them remembers:
"I went to John Lennon’s house in St. Georges Hills, Weybridge on 26 December 1967 with my brothers and sister. My older brother had discovered its location and had spoken to John Lennon’s gardener, he bored us all silly telling us about it time and time again. We decided to check out the veracity of his tale. When we arrived I was dared to knock on the door, which, with great trepidation, I did. To my amazement John Lennon answered the door, he was VERY charming and, after a 15 minute chat, gave me his autograph."
John signed a diary page, reproduced above. Incidentally, at the time of writing this very autograph is for sale from the good folk at TRACKS. Asking price? £1400.