It’s been a busy and satisfying week, rounded off by publication today in the Architects Journal of an essay of mine on the cultural significance of 430 King’s Road.
AJ article on 430 caps a busy week packed with DIY Cultures, Nathalie Du Pasquier, Apartamento et al
‘This country is run by a group of Fascists': When Malcolm McLaren met Sweet Gene Vincent backstage at The Marquee
//Clockwise from top left: Gene Vincent with one of The Houseshakers, Magnet Club, Chelmsford, UK, February 1971. Photo: http://gene.vincent.fanclub.voila.net; Let It Rock assistant in Gene Vincent and the Blue Caps top, Wembley Stadium, August 5, 1972. Photo: Masayoshi Sukita; Vincent’s quote as featured on the Sex t-shirt You’re Gonna Wake Up, 1974//
‘Gene Vincent for me was the embodiment of rock’n’roll’
Malcolm McLaren 1997
On September 22 1971, Gene Vincent was a mid-week booking to play a “rock revival” night at central London club The Marquee.
Times were tough; at just 36, the soft-spoken American rocker was apparently way past his heyday and beset by severe health problems brought on by the combination of alcoholism and addiction to prescription drugs taken to dull the constant pain in his left leg. This was the result of a crippling motorbike accident in his youth and the lingering effects of having been in the 1960 car-crash which killed Eddie Cochran.
Electric Colour Company were intent on enlivening the visual landscape of grey London town by desecrating polite notions of decor and good taste
My feature on the pioneering but sorely undervalued design studio Electric Colour Company appears in the current issue of UK GQ Style.
//The four pairs of boots are classic examples of early 70s rock n roll style//
These rare and unusual boots are thought to have once belonged to Elton John; the current owner was told this when he acquired them.
Preparation for my paper at Ben Kelly’s interior design symposium Dead Or Alive has coincided with the refurbishment of the Worlds End shop at 430 King’s Road in Chelsea.
The address is the subject of my talk; I’ll be detailing the history of 430 and how and why it was an important social and cultural locus over a number of decades.
I’ve been aware of the existence of the Kensington boutique Roxy for some time, particularly since the store name was used as the title of the feature on London street fashion in a 1972 edition of Japanese magazine An An.
But my curiosity was pricked recently while browsing that same issue of An An which appears in Freddie Hornik’s scrapbook (see last post).
I have just filed a piece for GQ about Granny Takes A Trip and the branches of the King’s Road boutique which opened in the 70s in Manhattan and Hollywood under the stewardship of the late Freddie Hornik.
The feature also scrutinises the scrapbook Hornik maintained from the mid-60s, when he worked at the rival Dandie Fashions at 161 King’s Road, through his acquisition of Granny’s at 488 King’s Road in 1969 from founders Sheila Cohen, John Pearse and Nigel Waymouth.
It charts in snapshots, magazine clippings, company paperwork and notes Hornik’s ambitious expansion plan which resulted in partners being brought on board at the Chelsea shop – in the form of co-owners Marty Breslau and Gene Krell – and for the launch of the New York outlet at 304 E.62nd Street, which was owned by John LiDonni and Richie Onigbene.
This strategy proved successful, and was capped by Hornik’s launch with Jenny Dugan-Chapman of an LA branch, first on Doheny in Beverly Hills and then on Sunset Strip.
By this time the Granny’s international operation had hit the moment when rock turned to glam. Existing customers such as Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards were joined by the new raft of dandy peacock performers making the moves in the early-to-mid 70s, including Marc Bolan, Alice Cooper, Bryan Ferry, Elton John, Lou Reed, Todd Rundgren, Rod Stewart and Ronnie Wood.
Hornik’s scrapbook – which was updated for him for a time by LA store manager Roger Klein – makes for a pop culture treasure trove, one which offers rare insights into this exciting era of rock and roll fashion.
Having returned to the UK to live a quiet life in the late 70s, it is poignant to note that Hornik, who died in 2009, kept an eagle eye out for any mention of his outlets and his associates, adding to the scrapbook as the revival of interest in the clothes and characters of the period really started to roll.
I’ll keep you informed as to when the piece is due to appear. Access to the scrapbook courtesy Alex Jarrett.
Amid the references to the late Christopher Nemeth in today’s Paris show of the Louis Vuitton A/W 15 menswear collection (see my last post), artistic director Kim Jones used the staging to pay subtle homage to the two great maverick figures of London street culture – namely Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood and specifically their 70s punk store Seditionaries.
//Left, Saint Laurent point-toed patent brothel creepers, A/W 2014. Right: George Cox Buckle Diano made to the 1950s last//
Last season’s foregrounding by Saint Laurent of the pointed brothel creeper is just one of a run of examples of fashion brands plugging into the purity of this quintessentially British rock & roll style minted in 1949 by the UK independent footwear company George Cox.
Among the first stylistic innovators to take the design out of Teddy Boy revivalism and apply it to contemporary fashion was Malcolm McLaren, who had been selling creepers for a couple of years at Let It Rock, the boutique he operated with Vivienne Westwood, by the time he visited the Cox factory in Northampton in November 1973. Here he ordered samples for six styles, some of which went into production for sale at 430 King’s Road.
“There were many kings of the King’s Road at different periods of time but there was only one Emperor”
Very sad to note the passing of Billy Murphy, a thoroughly lovely bloke whose contribution to street fashion – particularly in Britain and specifically in and around the King’s Road – is sorely underrated.
I knew all about Billy’s significance in his field decades before I met him; as I wrote here, his shop The Emperor Of Wyoming was “an extremely important staging post not just in the story of British rock and roll fashion but also the development of the vintage scene in this country”.