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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Sunday, 30 May 2010

Tittenhurst: 1969 & 1977.


More from Thomas Rhyner's 1977 Tittenhurst expedition. I've tried to match this batch to photos from the final Beatles photo session, dated 22 August, 1969. (Incidentally, was that the last time all four were actually together? There is rumour of a further business meeting in 1970, but I haven't seen confirmation. It would somehow be fitting, and also somehow sad, if the final meeting of les Fabs was indeed...thus.)
Anyway. The path from the house down to the Diana statue - Thomas seems to have been playing it canny, off in the foliage to the right; a wise move, given a threatened impending (and potentially irate) Richie:


Said path leads to said Diana, and to starboard one of the tallest Incense cedars in Blighty:


It would seem that the path and surround to the Diana statue had been allowed to grow back in by 1977: I think the following matches:


Errrrr...


So the dinosaur wasn't a prop from Caveman after all. (That meisterwerk didn't spring forth until 1981, and I refuse to believe it had a gestation period of 4 years plus.) It looks like a t-rex. Ringo directed Born To Boogie, which I've never got round to actually watching (though I think part of it was filmed at Tittenhurst): So, something to do with Bolan, possibly. Or not.
Following a spot o' donkey business, and a memorable few minutes under Weeping Blue Atlas Cedars, the hirsute foursome (plus equally hairy entourage) made their way back towards the house. This area wasn't quite captured by Thomas...but near enough:


Grateful thanks are due not only once again to Thomas for so generously sharing his photos, but also to The Beatles' London, by the esteemed trio Schreuders, Lewisohn and Smith; their book documents the final photo session, and Tittenhurst topography, in exhaustive (and welcome) detail. (What about The Beatles' Britain?)

Saturday, 29 May 2010

Kenwood: a stone frog.


Journalist and biographer Ray Coleman was a frequent visitor at Kenwood.
In 1965 (or thereabouts), he asked John for a list of prized possessions (imagine that). Amazingly, John did manage to come up with a list, which included pictures by Stuart Sutcliffe, The Singing Postman's record, his (John's, not the Singing Postman's) attic studio (at that point only home to two tape recorders), books by Aldous Huxley (nuff said), and a "lump of stone" found on the doorstep of Kenwood. This last was initially evaluated as "prehistoric" (isn't all stone, at least in the resolutely non-volcanic UK?), but later re-evaluated as "a load of crap".
Also, pertinently, a stone frog: "I like to see this in the fireplace, near the TV set, looking at us all." Obviously, therefore, it sat, or squatted, or whatever it is that frogs do, in the big living room.
Anyway, Jon Warren has sent in the above photo; he bought a (and possibly the very) stone frog at auction 20 years ago, sold by Cynthia, and of Kenwood vintage; so there we go. Thanks to Jon.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Aldershot: corner of Queen's Rd & Perowne St.


And the award for most prosaic image on a blog about the mansions of rich men goes to...this. South-west of Weybridge lies the army town of Aldershot, and twas here they came on December 9, 1961, to the Palais Ballroom for a "Battle O' The Bands", a "Big Beat Session", if you will. In the event, the crowd comprised a grand total of 18 paying punters, due mainly to an advertising related balls-up.
The Palais Ballroom has long since burned to the ground, and what you see above is what's there now. What was there then, that night, looked like this (at right angles, comparatively speaking):


So, nothing now remains - except, just maybe, that wall on the left:


More pictures can be found on the always excellent Savage Young Beatles site (link to the right).
On a vaguely related "tip", it's worth acquiring one of the several naughty albums (freely available from certain sources) which document the complete rooftop concert, of January 30, 1969. Listening to the whole unedited thing is interesting, in that it shows them going out (in a live context) very much as they came in; there is a wonderful reek, redolent of the pre-Eppy era. John screams non sequiturs. Between song arsing about is much in evidence. In-jokes abound... that type of thing. It's all much closer to the Cavern than Candlestick.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Kingsley Hill: then & now.


Definitive proof that Kingsley Hill was indeed the venue for those evocative shots, showing assorted Beatles and entourage at repose in the summer of 1967. As can be seen, at least some of the images were captured in the garden adjacent to the road.
The house and grounds are virtually unchanged 40-odd years later - the only real difference being some savage topiary on the tree outside the door. The distinctive garden wall is still there too:


Brian bought Kingsley Hill in early 1967 as a country retreat, partly because of its Winston Churchill connections (it's said that the stogied-up PM met with Chiefs of Staff here immediately prior to D-Day).
After Brian's death, his brother Clive sold the abode on to (if not onto) a family (Macfarlane by name); apparently it still contained boxes of Brian's leftover possessions at that point, and these formed part of the sale.
Subsequently sold again in 1976 (and, as far as I know, the current owner has had it since then), Kingsley Hill's interior is seemingly also largely unmodified; several rooms still boast "psychedelic" paintwork on the walls, presumably of Beatle-related origin. (This was a trend in 1967 - Kenwood, Kinfauns, Sunny Heights and Kingsley Hill were all partially so decorated; it's remarkable that in two of these houses, some of that paintwork has survived to the present day.)
It was, of course, also the venue for a famous party in celebration of Sgt Pepper; Brian's secretary, Joanne Peterson, recalls "walking into the top room of the house and opening the door. There were the Beatles, sitting there cross-legged in their Sgt Pepper costumes".
The most famous picture of Brian outside Kingsley Hill was taken on the other side of the low "bungalow" bit of the house, visible to the left:


All in all, a fascinating place. (By the way, it was the subject of a British newspaper article a few years back, which may well have included shots of the interior paintwork described above. If anyone has this, be a "luv" and send us a copy.)

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Kenwood: upgrades.


Both of these have been on before in cropped/crappy form; here are uncropped/uncrappy upgrades. As regular "readers" will know, the black and white one dates June 29, 1967, and has John in the den, keeping an eye on Simone and Marijke painting his piano across the room. The orange cardied "vision" is from a bit later in the same year, on or about the driveway. There's another one here, and I daresay others as yet unseen elsewhere.
Thanks to Bruno Dupont for the better colour version.

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Pop Think In: July, 1966.


Help film? Crap! Russia? He likes! Reeperbahn? Yeah! Etc.

Thanks yet again to Ian Drummond.

Friday, 21 May 2010

St Sophia's Church, London: July 11, 1968.


This magnificent church, of Greek Orthodox persuasion, served as the venue for "Magic" Alex's wedding, at lunchtime on July 11, 1968. The previous day, Alex had gone round the Apple office informing all and sundry of "imminent nuptials" - but no-one believed it. Thus, it took some frantic early morning phone calls to round up guests.
His two best men were Donovan and Winston, whose duties included crowning the bride with a double tiara of forest flowers, as you do. Also in attendance were Yoko, George and Pattie, amongst forty others.
Admirers of minutiae may well note that later this day, John went on to Abbey Road, where he oversaw the electric piano stylings of Nicky Hopkins on the single version of Revolution.


Thanks again go to Ian Drummond for sharing his archive.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Kenwood: kitchen & interview, 1969.


John in the kitchen at Kenwood, circa late 1968/early 1969. This comes from an interview in the Daily Express, published on the day of Paul's wedding - March 12, 1969. It's the first glimpse of the Lennon-era cooking area (ripped out in the mid-1990s, and now a connecting hall). The central raised hobs can be seen, as in the 1964 Partridge plan:


The interview also mentions a portrait of Queen Victoria, thus confirming this pic as being from the breakfast terrace after all:


And the interview itself; "John Lennon hates his superbly ponderous Tudor house in Weybridge. He and Yoko plan to move to a contemporary glass job nearby." Not Tittenhurst, obviously.
The clipping further contains yet more evidence that Cynthia and her mother stripped the place bare:



Many thanks to Ian Drummond for sending this in.

Friday, 14 May 2010

Poole: Bournemouth ferry - then & now.


"Then" being 1967 era-o'-tache-era, "now" being...now. And it must be said, the fash has gone way downhill since them halcyon days. But there we go.
Having, needs must, said that, the kiosk endures. Expect to see it at Sotheby's in the not too distant future:


Many thanks to Andrew Downing for the contemporary pics, and for his not inconsiderable trouble.

Tittenhurst: more relics o' Kenwood & Sunny Heights.


Combined statuary of Kenwood and Sunny Heights, captured together at Tittenhurst in the summer of 1977; the lions last seen on the back terrace round Ringo's gaff, and the figure famous from the Sgt Pepper sleeve, if not the front door at Kenwood:


Of course, it's no surprise that John's Kenwood statues were there; in 1969, they were sitting behind the main house, outside the Assembly Hall:


By 1977, Ringo had moved them round the front:


All, familiar from St George's Hill, present and correct:


The whos, whats, whys and (these days) wheres of John's "busts" remain unclear. Where did he get them? Where are they now? What am I talking about? Who are they? The impressively tached-up one may be Lord Kitchener. Phillip Norman's recent biography of John pontificates thusly: "In the book lined front hall (at Kenwood) hung a Great War recruiting poster, with Lord Kitchener pointing a stern forefinger above the famous slogan "Your Country Needs You". John positioned it so that anyone approaching the front door was greeted by Kitchener's baleful, mustachioed stare through an adjacent window."
Baleful, mustachioed stares to one side, it may be that, in fact, it was this statue that spent a period inside Kenwood, looking out the window by the front door. Or not.
In any case, that most certainly is a baleful, mustachioed stare, if ever I've seen one:


Thanks again to Thomas Rhyner for generously sharing his pics.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Tittenhurst: relics o' Kenwood, 1977.


As Stuart Sutcliffe might have said: Can you tell what it is yet?
The last mention of the Kenwood caravan on these pages placed it at the bottom of the sea, having sunk on its way back from John's island, Dorinish.
So much for rumour.
In fact, the caravan arrived safely at Tittenhurst, and was left standing near what was then the main gate. Exposure to the elements has taken its toll; the paintwork wrecked, the Sgt Pepper motif long since washed away.
This photo, and others to follow, were taken by Thomas Rhyner in the summer of 1977. Chutzpah is all; having spotted the open gates, he walked through, camera in hand. Upon being challenged, Thomas asked if he could take some photos, and, amazingly enough, was told he could, provided he was gone in half an hour, because "Ringo is due back then, and if he sees you wandering about, he'll get medieval on yo' ass with peace and love." (Or words to that effect.)
Luckily, Thomas had a keen eye, and captured a number of interesting photos in his allotted survival time. He also happened to be standing in roughly the same spot as the photographer in this shot from the Beatles' final photo session:


The freshly painted caravan, for comparative purposes:


Wandering farther into the grounds, he noticed this:


...the distinctive round seat from the acorn installation at Coventry Cathedral in 1968, last seen at Kenwood outside the den window:


What has since become of these "items"? Ringo moved out of Tittenhurst in 1988, and it's quite possible they went with him; if so, the caravan and seat may be sitting still somewhere in the grounds of his Surrey pile.

I sort of hope so.

Many thanks to Thomas for sending these in; more to follow.

Monday, 10 May 2010

Kenwood: sunroom sofa, 1985.


Re-upholstered and sitting out on the grass, for reasons of...errr: The sunroom sofa, circa 1985.
It's currently on display at the Hard Rock Cafe, Orlando. This is a guess, but how it got there may have been roughly as follows: When John finally moved out of Kenwood in the early part of 1969, he and Yoko were without a home. Sunny Heights, vacated by Ringo at the end of 1968, was without a buyer, so John/Yoko moved in for several months, taking the sofa with them. The Ono-Lennons, of course, eventually moved to Tittenhurst; the iconic couch got left behind, and thus gifted to the Starkeys.
The familiar yellow cashmir covering, worn out from the amount of time John's arse had spent parked on it, needed seeing to; so Maureen, a dab hand at such things, gave it a new, blue covering.
When she and Ringo split, the sofa fell into her hands (not literally), and was later sold at Sotheby's, (coincidentally) to her future husband Isaac Tigrett (founder of the Hard Rock Cafe)(or else to someone who then sold it to Mr Tigrett)...and so to Florida (honey).
Many thanks to Jon Warren for the pics and information.
*UPDATE* The date on this post was originally 1988, but it turns out these pics date from around 1985, so I changed it. It also turns out that the couch was sold at Sotheby's; again, I've altered the post to reflect the new information. There has been some monkey business with the hole - I'll do a whole hole post...later.

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Kenwood: dawn of A Day In The Life?


As far as I know, there aren't any home demos of A Day In The Life in circulation. Possibly the closest thing that exists can be found on the slightly naughty Japanese "misterclaudel" label. The Lost Home Tapes 1965-1969 gathers various examples of John's Kenwood recordings, some familiar, some less so, in generally superior audio quality; which is all well and good. (Though naughty.)
Perhaps the most intriguing track is "Hold On I'm Coming"; not the (possibly naughty) Sam and Dave tune, but an original Lennon demo, recorded up in the attic. Sam and Dave's Hold On was released in March 1966, and doubtless played non-stop in clubs such as the Ad-Lib; John probably borrowed the title in order to kick start a new tune. The demo was recorded on a Kenwood work tape, also featuring early versions of She Said, She Said, and almost certainly dating circa spring/summer 1966.
Upon first listen it sounds nothing like A Day In The Life. But then the vocals drop out near the end, and you suddenly hear a snatch of those familiar chords, and that distinctive mechanical back and forth guitar rhythm that John employed on the song. Listen again, and imagine "I read the news today..." floating over the top. You might even try singing it yourself, provided you are sufficiently pished.
For my somewhat meagre money, and assuming that this demo was actually taped in 1966, there's a fair chance that John discarded Hold On I'm Coming, only to re-work the chords and turn them into a masterpiece.
See what you think:



Friday, 7 May 2010

Sunny Heights: then and now, part 4.


Ringo owned Sunny Heights for around 4 and a half years. Concurrently, he also had the lion's share of a construction company - Bricky Builders, and as a result went hog wild on the house. Immediately upon buying Sunny, what amounted to another residence was tacked on the side; it was this bit that played host to Ringo's exclusive club - called, after much thought, The Club. The Fabs spent more time socially at Sunny Heights than at any of the other Beatle houses; John, in particular, was always here between 1965 and 1967, when not...somewhere else. The Club had a bar, and a pool table imported from the States - unusual in the UK at that time.
There was also a garage to house the various de rigeur automobiles. Tammy recently posted a pic taken at Sunny shortly after the new extension had been completed; what's obvious is that in true St George's Hill style, an extension to the extension was put on at some point - the garage is considerably bigger these days:


Mind you, it's quite possible Ringo was responsible for that too; the news section of the Beatles Book monthly seemed forever to be recounting building work at Sunny Heights during the era o' Richie.
Bricky Builders also worked on Kenwood - I wouldn't be surprised if they built the large garage overlooking the swimming pool. What's more, the firm constructed quite a few properties from scratch in the Home Counties of England, though precisely where these are I don't know. It would be interesting to see if they bear any influence from Sunny/Kenwood or Kinfauns.
The last glimpse of Beatle-era Sunny Heights comes in the opening few seconds of the promo film for The Ballad Of John And Yokos, where said John and Yokos are seen coming out the front door and climbing into their Rolls, circa early summer 1969; three years previously, Ringo was photographed in the same location, dicking about on his girly wheels (for want of better expressions):


Thanks to Joe Baiardi for the bike pic.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Kenwood: NME interview - November 28, 1964.


Secrets of the House of Lennon, apparently. This interesting document constitutes the first substantial bit of Kenwood related press; the interview was conducted there on Saturday November 28, 1964, and published a week later in the NME. (As usual, click on it and zoom in for a readable view.)
So, what "secrets" does it actually contain? From the vantage point of now, not a lot, although we do learn that one of John's cats was a gift from George, and that there was no gate on the property at the time of the interview. (According to a couple of people with close connections to the house circa '80s/'90s, the heavy wooden gate that John eventually installed, familiar from Reporting '66, was eventually removed, and sat discarded by the main entrance for years. Its ultimate fate is unknown, although probably landfill.)
This was pre-sunroom, too, so the mention of going through the kitchen would have either led them out the other side of the house, or through the dining room.
What else? The location of Julian's room is narrowed down a bit; it must have been either bedroom no. 3 or bedroom no. 4 on the Partridge plan - probably no. 4, as previously suspected. The Blue Room may well have been bedroom no.2:


The journalist also recorded an interview with John about Kenwood, for BBC radio's The Teen Scene - thus far unbootlegged, and therefore presumably lost. Still, all interesting stuff, and many thanks to Eric Nernie for sending it in.

In other "news", a close relative of manufacturer Kenneth Wood has been in touch: He's checked, and the story about Mr Wood owning and re-naming the property turns out not to be true after all. So, it remains a mystery as to 'oodunit and why...but possibly a tip of the hat to Kenwood House in Hampstead. Or not.
(A pity, though - this would have been the best chance of obtaining some pre-Lennon images of the place.)

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Sunny Heights: then & now, part 3.


The living room at Sunny Heights, then as now, leads onto the back terrace; it, at least, appears to have endured:


If you are anything like me, you look at these iconic images and think, "Yes, that's all very well indeed, but what lurks behind that window/door/copy of the Times?"
In this case, thrillingly, a dining room:


And apropos of nothing and everything, the feedback at the start of It's All Too Much, as rendered on the remasters, is a thing of awe at volume.