Wednesday, January 21, 2009

On King's Road

King's Road was, at its height, a vibrant urban catwalk that showcased everything from the fashionable to the freaky, the bohemian to the punk. The Rolling Stones had their first rehearsal at No. 500, where Bill Wyman auditioned as the band's bass player; at No. 430, Johnny Lydon would join the Sex Pistols. Eric Clapton lived briefly at No. 152, often jamming at the Six Bells (No. 197). Many other artists lived here for a time from Bob Marley to Joe Strummer. It was here that Peter Sellers faked an injury to avoid playing Major T. J. "King" Kong in Dr. Strangelove, and the Rocky Horror Show, after opening in the Royal Court Theatre Upstairs, moved to the Classic Cinema at No. 148.

King's Road boutiques, meanwhile, dressed the stars and their creations from Sgt Pepper to Major Tom. Another icon, no surprise, would be closely associated with the scene: James Bond, who, as Ian Fleming imagined it, lived in a trendy unnamed square just off King's Road. By the 1980s, however, this legendary thoroughfare had lost its edge, degenerating into what many critics summed up as just another bland high street and tame tourist trap. The Chelsea Drug Store at 49 King's Road had become a McDonald's.

This blog is named in honor of a street that for a time symbolized innovation, nonconformity, and youthful exuberance - with the hope that none of these forces disappear anytime soon from the world of creativity.

As for books on this mythic patch of pavement, I recommend Max Décharné's King's Road: The Rise and Fall of the Hippest Street in the World. Décharné also sings for the garage punk band The Flaming Stars.