To celebrate 40 years of the Punk scene in London, our friends at Herb Lester have created a Punk London Guide. We got a sneak peak of the guide and picked out our three favorite places that you can visit today.
Celebrating 40 years of the subversive culture of Punk, 2016 sees a number of events popping up across London including gigs, talks, and exhibitions. A number of the coolest and creative organisations from around the capital have joined forces to praise the rebellious punk spirit that has been so central to London’s identity. To mark the anniversary, Herb Lester has created a special alternative city guide.
Visiting the places that were central to the punk revolution in London, Punk London is the definitive guide to punk in the 1970s. We selected three of our favorite places from the guide that are well worth a visit next time you are in London:
430 Kings Road
This is the address of the various incarnations of Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren’s fashion store in Chelsea, London. The store was at the centre of the punk-scene in London in the 1970s which contrasted drastically with the shop’s location in one of the most up-market neighbourhoods in the capital.
Both Westwood and McLaren were key players in the punk movement for their boundary-breaking fashion designs, anarchic spirit, and connection to the punk bands of the decade, most notably McLaren’s management of the Sex Pistols. The store’s manifestation in 1972 was called Too Fast To Live Too Young To Die and saw the first movement away from Teddy Boy fashion to Rock influenced designs – the shop name itself was taken from a slogan found on a leather biker jacket.
The 1974 version of the store, aptly named SEX, showcased fetish fashion. Apparel was made from leather, rubber, and plastic, and adorned with an abundance of studs, straps and zips. As the punk revolution spread, 1977’s Seditionaries was the best place to get kitted out in baggy and bondage-strapped fashions and youth’s all over the world started copying the look.
The store is still owned by Westwood today, although it is now called World’s End. It has retained its rebellious punk spirit, standing out from the other civilised boutiques on the Kings Road thanks to its Alice In Wonderland-like façade and eclectic collection of fashion.
Since 1938, this venue in Camden has attracted some of the biggest names in music and continues to do so to this day. In the late 1970s the Electric Ballroom was particularly prevalent in the Punk music scene, hosting two once-in-a-lifetime performances from ad-hoc punk super-groups The Greedy Bastards and Vicious White Kids.
In July 1978, the Greedy Bastards, made up of various members from famous punk rock bands including Phil Lynott from Thin Lizzy, Bob Geldof from The Boomtown Rats and Steve Jones and Paul Cook from the Pistols, rocked the Electric Ballroom with cover songs and unique spins on rock classics. The Greedy Bastards were named so by Malcolm McLaren because they demanded a majority of the money made on the night from the door and despite a Christmas single the following year, they would never play on stage together again.
Inspired by this collaborative effort, Sid Vicious brought his friends together in another punk super-gig the following week at the Electric Ballroom, this time to raise funds for him and girlfriend Nancy’s air fares to the USA. The gig was called ‘Sid Sods Off’ and easily raised the funds needed for Sid and Nancy to leave the UK and not return.
After closing down briefly due to noise complaints, the Electric Ballroom re-opened in 1979 to hold host to The Specials, Madness and Dexy’s Midnight Runners. It endures as a popular venue for rock and indie acts today, and has seen the likes of Blur, Garbage, the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, The Clash, Snow Patrol, Led Zeppelin, and The Cribs among many others, grace its famous stage.
Notre Dame Church Hall
It is 1976 and the Sex Pistols have been formed for barely a year. Malcolm McLaren, their manager, is seeking venues for the band to kick off their tour. Many of the larger more established rock venues are refusing to book them, possibly offended by their disobedient, rebellious behaviour.
An unlikely venue finally becomes available in the form of a church hall nestled beneath a 19th century French catholic church in Soho. And so one of the most publicised of the Pistols’ concerts took place on a rainy evening in 1976.
It was featured on Janet Street-Porter’s London Weekend Television and in fact most of the TV footage you will see of the band was from this gig. The band actually went on to make another appearance at this hall in 1977, this time spreading their punk message across to America thanks to the NBC journalists in attendance.
The hall now holds host to local ballroom dancing evenings but its lesser-known punk past shouldn’t be forgotten. Pop into the hall when your visiting nearby Leicester Square as it is just round the corner!
Purchase the full guide for more great suggestions for touring London. The Punk London guide is available from the Herb Lester website and is the ultimate gift for any Punk fan.
London Punk Guide Publisher