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Peter Townshend's Blue Plaque Speech

For those who don't know, English Heritage is a UK body that places specially made commemorative plaques at historic sites throughout the country as a tribute to people who have made a significant contribution to the UK's cultural heritage.  The plaques are discus shaped and blue, and, suprise, suprise, are referred to as "Blue Plaques."

At the request of Kathy Etchingham, English Heritage had agreed to place one at 23 Brook Street, London, where Kathy and Jimi had lived together in the late 1960s.  The flat next door already had a Blue Plaque on it to commemorate George Frideric Handel, who had lived there.

The unveiling took take place on 14 September 1997 at 6pm (GMT+1), and was done by Peter Townshend.

Malcolm Stewart taped the speech, and Lesley Rodham transcribed it.  It appeared in Jimpress, a fanzine run by Steve Rodham.  To see pictures taken at the Blue Plaque unveiling visit Jimpress's Jimi Hendrix Blue Plaque Page.

Peter's Speech

Right, all I want to say really is I think we needed a guitar player to do this [crowd laughs].  I think that's why they asked me.  There are many many many guitar players I can think of who would be probably better suited as a musician to pull this bit of string, but I think maybe there are few guitar players that can speak as well as I can speak [crowd laughs].  And I think that might be why it's best that I'm here today [crowd laughs].

I think what's really important to say is that Jimi was extremely special as a musician.  He was extremely special as a performer.  If you have only heard his recordings you are only seeing and hearing a very very small part of what Jimi's genius was about.  In live performance Jimi was an absolute master; he was stunning, he was chilling, he was erotic, but he was also, in my humble opinion, a transcendental artist because he seemed to create light on the stage and with his music.

Now there's been a lot of talk about whether or not a 'pop' performer, a 'rock' performer, a 'blues' performer - whatever Jimi was - deserves to be on the building next door to George Frideric Handel.  I think he does [crowd applauds].  I think that not all performers in pop and rock do deserve this honour, but I think Jimi does, I really believe he does - he was so special, so extraordinary.  He's 'up there' for me with Miles Davies and Charlie Parker as somebody who was a virtuoso, as an innovator.  He was absolutely different, extraordinary and new as a practitioner in the days when rock, blues and jazz were all coming together and we were all trying to work out what we were doing - lots of experimenting going on - Jimi brought so many strings together, and we were so proud, I have to tell you, that what he did he did in London.  Maybe he could only have done it in London, I don't think maybe he would have been recognised in quite the same way in the States, not because of any shortcomings there but because the social and musical climate here was clearer.  I think we recognised what he was doing very quickly.

This is a very important thing and it's also a very happy occasion.  I never really got to know Jimi as well as I could have done.  His last words to me were extremely kind, extremely loving and incredibly affectionate.

A lot's been said about the fact that we had a 'spat' at the Monterey Pop Festival.  You know it didn't happen, it really didn't happen.  All that happened was that I really didn't want to be on the same stage as him, within an hour, EVER [crowd laughs].  But there was no 'spat'.  I respected him always, honour him today, and I'm so proud to be able to pull this bit of string.  I have to tell you, I am so proud, because this is a master [crowd whistles and applauds].

[Pete Townshend pulls the cord and draws back the curtains to reveal the Blue Plaque]

Is that all right?  Yeah?  [crowd cheers and whistles].

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Last modified: Sun Jan 30 10:04:56 2000

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