Jimi Hendrix famously wrote ‘Purple Haze’ in London on Boxing Day 1966. Old Jimi wasn’t tucking into the Quality Steet while watching the ‘EastEnders’ omnibus, though, ho ho ho no. Taking a cue from his former employer, ‘Hardest Working man in Showbusiness’ James Brown, Hendrix was in his dressing room for an afternoon performance (2.30pm-5.30pm) at the Upper Cut Club in Forest Gate. Not the most glamorous place to spend the festive season, perhaps, but he was on his insane trajectory to global superstardom, and Forest Gate just happened to be the latest stop en route.
The Upper Cut Club has long since vanished, but one London journalist – Neandra Etienne – has been campaigning to have the location memorialised. Now, as part of Newham Heritage Month, she’s got her wish. Hendrix’s psychedelic masterpiece has got its very own plaque. The formal unveiling will take place tomorrow (Friday May 28) and will feature a live video talk with Hendrix’s brother Leon from his home in the USA. There are also plans to create a mural of Hendrix and other stars who played at the Upper Cut, including Nina Simone, Otis Redding and Stevie Wonder. Etienne said: ‘ “Purple Haze” is one of Jimi Hendrix’s most iconic songs. I didn’t want people to walk past the area and not know of its connection with Jimi. Now that the Newham Heritage plaque has been installed, everyone will know that the song was written in Forest Gate, Newham, London.’
Hendrix lived in London as his career took off. He had a flat in Mayfair next to the house that once belonged to George Frideric Handel. Forest Gate is a long way from those posho enclaves, but the new plaque is a reminder that it was Hendrix’s ceaseless gigging across the city that was the foundation of his stardom, and it’s great that that is being recognised finally. We asked Leon Hendrix what it meant and he said this: ‘Jimi loved London, it reminded him of home in Seattle: it rains all the time but the sun still shines. The sun and the rain they kiss and rainbows live.’
Any purple Quality Street left?
The free unveiling event and talk takes place on Friday May 28, 8pm-9pm. Book tickets here.