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The Rock & Roll Tenants of #34 Montagu Square

Updated: Dec 12, 2021


So, if you've been following my blog posts (or even if you haven't, really) it won't take you long to realize I'm a bit fascinated by all the places around The Capital and their significance in rock and roll history. Well, #34 Montagu Square possesses the motherload of significance and I discovered it by way of a blue plaque. But sheesh, when I realized just what went down here I was gobsmacked (that's me trying to be British...forgive me) and so began my quest to find as many places as I could, the birth of this blog site and my creation of the rock and roll video tours.


My newly acquired need to explore London's rock and roll sights began one morning with a google search of blue plaques that would line my intended walk for the day. I never have data outside the house so pre-planning is always required. "Oh, here's a John Lennon one," I said to myself. Who knew what that would unleash.

(Blue Plaques are installed by the English Heritage organization on sites to commemorate the links between notable figures and the building where they lived or worked).







I came up to #34 Montagu Square and took pictures of the door, the street, the park in the center of the square and of that blue plaque dedicated to John Lennon stating he'd lived here in 1968. I then carried on my merry way for the day. It was later that evening that I started really digging around on the history of the place. Here's what I found out...










Ringo Starr acquired the ground floor and basement flat in 1965 just before he and Maureen Cox married. The Starr's lived here until July of 1965 when they then moved to their newly purchased country house in Surrey. But Ringo decided to keep #34 Montagu Square and rented it to The Fool (a dutch design collective of artists that were employed by Apple Records). The Fool designed psychedelic clothes for The Beatles as well as other rockstars and painted The Beatles nearby Apple Boutique and John Lennon's Rolls Royce.


When The Fool moved out in March of 1966, Paul McCartney rented the place and installed recording equipment intending to create a demo studio. At the time, Paul was living with girlfriend, Jane Asher, in the Asher family home a few blocks away as well as recording at Abbey Road Studios, which are also very close by. It was in this demo studio McCartney composed Eleanor Rigby.


After a few months, Paul moved out and Ringo sublet the property to the former Animals bassist turned manager, Chas Chandler. Chandler signed a lease in December of 1966 and moved in with his girlfriend, Lottie Lennox, as well as his new client. That new client was Jimi Hendrix and his girlfriend, Kathy Etchington, rounded out the foursome of roommates.


Hendrix and Etchington argued often. One rather intense fight resulted in Kathy storming out of the house after Jimi insulted her cooking skills. When she returned the next day, Hendrix presented her with a song he'd written about the argument entitled, "The Wind Cries Mary". Mary, Etchington's middle name, is what Hendrix called her when he wanted to poke fun at her. If it was meant as a peace offering I think he may have missed the mark there.


The neighbors weren't exactly pleased with the goings on at #34. I mean, there was a bit of a noise issue. Countless complaints dating back to when McCartney was the occupant and a rumored unfortunate "decorating" incident by Hendrix finally forced Ringo to evict the Chandler/Hendrix ensemble.


Next to occupy the flat, in 1968, were Cynthia and Julian Lennon following the fallout of Lennon having begun a relationship with Yoko Ono. Cynthia and baby Julian lived here for three months until John and Yoko decided living in London made more sense than being isolated at the Lennon family home in the country. Besides, the band was in the midst of recording The White Album at Abbey Road Studios. So, in August of 1968, Cynthia and Julian went back to the country and John and Yoko moved into #34 Montagu Square. In fact, the naked self portrait that graced the cover of John and Yoko's experimental album, Two Virgins, was taken in the bedroom here.


The Beatles manager, Brian Epstein, had died the year before and the band was struggling to keep it together. On 22 August, 1968, Ringo Starr showed up at the Montagu Square flat to tell John he was quitting the band. The remaining three members of the band went in to Abbey Road Studios that night as they had a recording session booked. They recorded Back In The USSR without their drummer. Somehow, they kept the news of Ringo's departure from the press and successfully persuaded him to come back a few days later.


On 18 October, 1968, an unexpected knock on the door resulted in a raid of the premises by Scotland Yard's Drug Force led by the notorious Sergeant Norman Pilcher (he's a blog post all on his own...stay tuned for that in the future). Both John and the pregnant Yoko were arrested. Lennon pleaded guilty to a hashish possession charge absolving Yoko who would have likely been deported if convicted. But she didn't escape without issue. Unfortunately, she miscarried days after the incident. John and Yoko moved out of #34 soon after.


After the raid, an injunction against Ringo Starr was sought by the neighbors forbidding anyone but Ringo or his family to live there and allowing no music or instruments to be played in the flat. Ringo appealed and a compromise was reached but to finally settle the case, Ringo sold the lease on 28 February, 1969.


In 2002, the property was purchased by Reynold D'Silva (the Managing Director of Silva Screen Records which is now the address's occupant) after winning a bidding war against musician Noel Gallagher for the property.



A couple of days after my initial visit to #34 Montagu Square, and after reading everything I could find on the place, I went back and just stood out front. OK, I know I'm a freak but I just couldn't believe everything that had gone on here. In four short years of the late 1960s, three Beatles, an Animal and a guitar god all lived here...not to mention the songs written here. I wanted to ask anyone that walked by if they knew what they were walking past. Just.Walking.Past. Thankfully, it's a residential area and doesn't have a lot of pedestrian traffic so I wasn't arrested for being a lunatic but it certainly got me out looking for other places just like this one...other places and THEIR rock and roll stories.



Check out our video tour of Marylebone Places that includes a visit to #34 Montagu Square

https://videolibrary.rocktourlondon.com/programs/marylebone-places-2aad21?categoryId=95943


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