For the average music fan, everywhere you look in London, you’ll find a music landmark!
If you read this blog, you’ve probably noticed a few rock and roll related posts about London recently. London offers so much to see for any music fan. If you do a little preparation, you’ll find a landmark of some sort almost everywhere you go in the city. I’m not about to tell you any big secrets by publishing some famous addresses. All this information is readily available on the internet.
We decided to go for a stroll in Kensington for a couple of good reasons. Riding public transit from downtown, we got off the Underground at Earl’s Court. There have been plenty of legendary concerts at Earl’s Court from Pink Floyd to Led Zeppelin to the Rolling Stones to Whitney Houston to the Arctic Monkeys to the Spice Girls. So it was nice to be in the neighbourhood. But this wasn’t why we were here. We were heading to 1 Logan Place.
A short walk up Earl’s Court Road brings you to Logan Place, a tranquil street where you will find Garden Lodge. Walking this leafy street, it seemed the hustle and bustle and noise of the city melted away. From 1985 onward, Garden Lodge was Freddie Mercury’s home. He passed away behind these walls in 1991.
In his will, to the dismay of many in his entourage, Freddie left Garden Lodge and a vast portion of his wealth to his longtime friend Mary Austin, the muse of several of his songs, notably Love Of My Life. He and Mary met before the fame and at one time almost married. In an interview in the mid-80s, Fred said of Mary “All my lovers asked me why they couldn’t replace Mary, but it’s simply impossible. The only friend I’ve got is Mary, and I don’t want anybody else. To me, she is my common-law wife. To me, it was a marriage. We believe in each other, that’s enough for me.” By all accounts, Mary still resides at Garden Lodge.
Garden Lodge is now a shrine to the great performer. The property is protected like a fortress with an 8 or 10-foot high brick wall, topped with a fence topped with razor wire. Fans still make the pilgrimage here, over 25 years after his passing.
To protect the wall from graffiti damage, large sheets of plexiglass have been mounted on both sides of the main door. Visitors are free to scribble and leave notes. 25 years or so after his death, Garden Lodge is still worthy of a few minutes of your time, even if there is little to see from street level.
From Logan Place, it’s a 10 or 15-minute walk to Melbury Road, off Kensington High Street. At 29 Melbury Road, you’ll find Tower House. Tower House was designed by the architect William Burges as his home. It was largely complete by 1878, although inside touches continued until his death in 1881. There are some interesting stories with this residence.
Award-winning actor Richard Harris, who you might have seen in the first two Harry Potter films, as well as Unforgiven and Gladiator among many others, bought the house in 1969 after discovering that Liberace had made an offer but not put any down payment on the property. Entertainer Danny LaRue, famous for his drag impersonations of Liz Taylor, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Judy Garland and Marlene Dietrich described visiting Tower House with Liberace “It was a strange building and had eerie murals painted on the ceiling… I sensed evil”. Upon meeting LaRue, Richard Harris had told him he found the house haunted by ghosts of children from an orphanage that had previously occupied the site. He kept them happy by buying them toys.
This sets the stage nicely for Jimmy Page, who’s interested in the occult is widely known. In 1972, Page bought the house from Harris for £350 000 – outbidding David Bowie. Tower House is still one of Page’s residences and he apparently spends a fair bit of time here. And he’s the reason we were here on our little rock walk on this nice London afternoon.
Surprisingly, and unlike Garden Lodge, Tower House is here for all to see. There is no 10-foot high wall, no razor wire. A simple brick wall separates the property from the street. It seems you could easily walk up the steps and knock at the door.
Tower House has been in the news. In 2015, Page successfully challenged a planning application from his neighbour Robbie Williams who was planning extensive renovations. Page argued that the underground excavations would threaten the structure of Tower House. Indeed at the time of our visit, there was scaffolding surrounded Williams’ house – which hides behind a huge brick wall and lush trees.
You can easily find descriptions and plans of the opulent Tower House on the internet if you’d like to find out more. If you’re ever in the Kensington area of London, it’s worth a look. Who knows, you might even come face to face with the legendary guitarist himself, who always seems happy to pose for pictures with his fans.
Walking along the busy street back to the High Street Kensington underground station, I couldn’t help but imagine Jimmy Page, world famous rock star, picking up some take-away falafels, getting his mobile phone topped up and getting a packet of cigarettes at the many shops we passed by. Do the people in the neighbourhood see one of their most famous residents?
Sadly, there was no Jimmy sighting for us. But loads of people saw us, even if they didn’t realize it at the time!
PS – Just a few blocks away in Notting Hill is the Samarkand Hotel where Jimi Hendrix was found dead in a basement flat on the morning of Friday, September 18th, 1970. The Samarkand is at 22 Lansdowne Crescent.
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Mike & Dianne