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This Day in Music – 34 Montagu Square

On 17 October 2000, a flat in Montagu Square, London, which was once owned during the ’60s by Ringo Starr, went on the market for £575,000. The two bedroom, two-story property was also home to Jimi Hendrix, John and Yoko, and Paul McCartney during the ’60s.
If walls had eyes, then this would be the place with the most stories — the occupants of 34 Montagu Square reads like a who’s who in music from the ’60s. It gets confusing, but stick with me here.
Joseph T. Parkinson designed and built the houses in Montagu Square as part of the Portman Estate, between 1810 and 1815. It was named after the Yorkshire-born Elizabeth Montagu, a social reformer, patron of the arts, literary critic, and writer.
Ringo Starr leased Flat 1 in 1965, shortly before his marriage to Maureen (it was just over a mile from Abbey Road Studios, where the Beatles recorded). It consisted of the ground floor and lower-ground floor (the cellar/basement in the original house). The ground floor had an en suite bathroom (with a pink bath sunk into the floor), a bedroom and a sitting room. Downstairs was a kitchen, a bathroom and a bedroom/sitting room, which had its original fireplace.
The Starrs lived there until being advised by his accountant that the group members should move to houses near his, in Esher, resulting in Starr buying Sunny Heights, St George’s Hill in Surrey for £30,000 ($72,000), but Starr retained the lease on the flat. He first rented the flat to The Fool, who were a Dutch design collective employed by Apple for various endeavours, such as painting the Apple Boutique in Baker Street, London, and designing psychedelic clothes for all four Beatles, as well as The Hollies, Marianne Faithfull, Procol Harum, Donovan, and Cream.
The next occupant was one Paul McCartney who rented the flat from Starr in 1966. The Beatle installed recording equipment in the flat, planning to use it as a demo studio. He recorded a demo version of “I’m Looking Through You” and worked on other new songs including “Eleanor Rigby”.
McCartney left the flat in late 1966 and another musician took over the lease from Starr — Jimi Hendrix. The rent in December, 1996 when the guitarist moved in was £30 ($63) a month (£265.12/$426.35today). Hendrix shared the flat with bassist Gordon Haskell from psychedelic band Les Fleur de Lys (who had the solo UK #2 hit “How Wonderful You Are” in 2002 along with a #2 album, Harry’s Bar).
Anyway, Hendrix turned out to be not the best of tenants and when under the effects of LSD, he threw whitewash over the walls, which as you can imagine made a bit of a mess, forcing Starr to evict him. So, once again, the flat was empty. (I think Ringo missed his way, he should’ve worked as a letting agent.)
Now here’s an interesting one — can you imagine the conversation between Lennon and Starr? “Hey Ringo, I’ve got this new bird, and the wife has found out, any chance her and the lad could stay at your flat until I sort things out?” “Yeah, no problem, Johnny boy, but I’ve had to put the rent up after the last tenant trashed the place, can you give us a month’s rent up front?”
When John Lennon started a relationship with Ono in 1968, his wife and son moved into the flat on 21 June 1968, living there for three months before returning to the Lennons’ home in Kenwood. John Lennon and Ono preferred to live in London, rather than in isolated Weybridge so the couple did a swap with John’s wife and moved into Montagu Square for several months as the Beatles recorded The White Album.
Visitors remembered that the flat was in a state of squalor, with dirty plates, cups, clothes, newspapers and magazines littering the floor, with the couple living on “a diet of champagne, caviar, and heroin”. Lennon and Ono’s experimental Two Virgins nude cover photos were taken at 34 Montagu Square.
The Lennons bought Tittenhurst Park in 1969, which became the location for the final ever Beatles photo shoot as well as Lennon’s “Imagine” video. And you’ll never guess who he sold it to when he and Yoko moved to New York City. His old drummer mate, Ringo Starr, who lived here until early 1988.
Music label owner Reynold D’Silva bought 34 Montagu Square for £550,000 in 2002, beating a rival bid from Noel Gallagher. D’Silva considered opening it as a music museum, but decided to rent it instead, for £795 per week. On Saturday, 23 October 2010, in front of 100 people, Yoko Ono unveiled a blue plaque at 34 Montagu Square which states: “John Lennon, 1940-1980, musician and songwriter, lived here in 1968”.

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