Friday, March 6, 2009
A Magical History Tour of King's Road's Hipsters and Hitmakers
There really is no other street in London quite like King's Road, it's an area so saturated with rock royalty, drama queens, designers and sites of special pop-culture interest, that you're never more than a few meters shy of some heavy-hitting historical location. I don't think it's an over-exaggeration to suggest that no other post code has shaped what we watch, wear, listen to and laugh at quite like SW3. You may not have been to King's Road, but the offspring and influences from this spawning ground of sounds and styles - will have stealthily woven it's way into your life somehow.
With a one way walk (of 1.4 miles) from Sloane Square to Edith Grove. It's possible to complete a tick-list of London undergrounders and embryonic icons including :Angry Young Men, Beatles, Bolan, Dracula, Droogs, Feminists, It Girls, proto-punks, Pythons, Rocky Horror, Stones and Ziggy Stardust.
So, starting from Sloane Square then...
The Royal Court Theatre
John Osbourne's Look Back In Anger premiered at the RCT in 1956, the success of the play payrolled the production of Saturday Night Saturday Morning movie, which in turn, kick-started the 'Kitchen Sink' genre. Almost ten years on David Frost spotted Michael Palin and Terry Jones, starring in a '65 Oxford Revue and invited them to join the writing team for The Frost Report, a team that included Graham Chapman, John Cleese and Eric Idle. And in 1973 The Rocky Horror Show made it's flouncy debut.
138a King's Road
The site of Mary Quant's first boutique 'Bazaar' - which opened in 1955.
Now a West Cornwall Pasty shop
A few doors up, at 152 you'll find The Pheasantry. A rat-run of shabby flats in the mid-to-late sixties, but home to Germaine Greer, Clive James, Eric Clapton and Martin Sharp (designer of Disraeli Gears and Oz Magazine) - A location, that a few decades before had been the Russian Dancing Academy - attended by a young Dame Margot Fonteyn
Now a Pizza Express
Just across the road at 49 King's Road once stood The Chelsea Drugstore. Referenced in the Stones song You Can't Always Get What You Want, and used for a several interiors in Stanley Kubrick's Clockwork Orange.
Now a McDonalds
Staying on the south side, a short hop takes you to number 85 , former home of The Great Gear Market. A dingy network of Leather Shops (the Boys Town type), Antenna hairdressers (the birthplace of extensions), Rusty Egan's Record Cage, Tik and Tok's clothing shop.. an eighties hang-out for all alt.types
Now a Marks and Spencer
If you're feeling peckish, why not pop in to Picasso's at 127 for a bite? It's one of London's endangered species - an original fifties coffee bar, that's not been Starbucked. Yet.
Flood Street is next on the left, and Chelsea Manor Studios at 1 - 11, the site of the Sgt. Pepper's photo-shoot .
153, now Ad-Hoc, but used to be punk-turned-eighties favourite BOY. Head west along King's Road and you'll soon come to Oakley Street - I would recommend looping south to Cheyne Walk and ticking off...
89 - Bowies seventies house of residence
87 - Lady Wilde, mother of Oscar Wilde. And Later, George Best
48 - Mick Jagger's house '68-75
27 - Bram Stoker
3 - Keith Richards until '78
Back on King's Road, keep heading west and take a left into Old Church Street looking for 46a and Sound Techniques Studios - it's no longer used for recording, but while active produced a pitch perfect pedigree of - Floyd's 'Syd' period singles, and classic albums like : Nick Drake - Five Leaves Left, Bryter Later, John Martyn - Bless The Weather, Solid Air, Fairport -Liege and Leaf.
A jump to the north side of the street takes you to The Vale, and another The Beatles site - Robert Whitakers Studio at 1A being the site of the 'butcher' sleeve photo shoot..
Stay on this side for 380, where in the seventies Marc Bolan was a regular at Alkasura (closed long ago) for most of his swishy bits and satin jackets..
430 King's Road - the birthing pool of Punk. McLaren and Westwood moved in 1972, setting up shop as Let It Rock and selling fifties collectables and creepers to Teddy Boys. But it was the shops refitting and reformatting as SEX that pulled punk's earliest groovers and shakers - the art-school Bowie/Roxy crowd and safety pinned estate urchins - into it's orbit of Hate-Couture
Still Vivienne Westwood - Hurrah!
Finally the sixties 'scene' shop Granny Takes A Trip was sited at 488, and just around the corner you'll find the young Rolling Stones notoriously sqalid lodgings at 102 Edith Grove.
I could cram in James Bond's unamed square, Duke Ellington's earliest recordings, Judy Garland's death, George Melly and Quentin Crisp, The Killing of Sister Georgie, Don Letts and Acme Attractions, The Who, John Barry, Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Mozart, James Whistler, Edith Sitwell and the invention of cotton but, perhaps I'll save that lot for later..