//Malcolm McLaren: “I hate anything chic – that’s terrible!” Photography Pennie Smith//
The publication of veteran music critic Nick Kent’s new memoir Apathy For The Devil brings to mind the first serious attempt by the UK music press to acknowledge the vital relationship between fashion and popular music.
//Page 20, NME, April 6, 1974//
Headed “The Politics Of Flash”, Kent’s article in the New Musical Express in the spring of 1974 is a crucial snapshot of a scene at an important transitionary stage: the theatrical costumery of such fol-de-rols as Gary Glitter, Elton John and Queen is about to give way to the shock of the new being rolled out by the likes of Malcolm McLaren and Antony Price.
Just six days prior to publication date Television played their first CBGBs gig, setting up a scene which would lure McLaren to New York and on return help focus his working relationship with young customers Steve Jones and his mates in The Strand.
//Page 21, NME, April 6, 1974//
The fetish gear was already in stock, though the pink rubber Sex sign was yet to be erected and the store awaited installation of the”gymnasium” interior by carpenter Vick Mead.
In fact McLaren told Kent he has just decided against an extremely long new name. This was to have been a quote from a pornographic magazine which turned up on a number of garment labels: “The dirty stripper who left her UNDIES on the railings to go hitchhiking said you don’t THINK I have stripped all these years just for MONEY do you?””
//Page 46, NME, April 6, 1974//
As Kent’s former girlfriend Chrissie Hynde said on Jonesy’s Jukebox a couple of years back, when she worked there around this time, the shop didn’t have a name, just 17th century clergyman Thomas Fuller‘s maxim “Craft must have clothes but Truth loves to go naked” sprayed across the lintel on the facade.
//Antony Price: “My ideal rock band would be four Amanda Lears.”//
Kent simultaneously ended the relationship and Hynde’s employment at the shop by attacking her on the premises over a perceived infidelity.
//Chrissie Hynde & Nick Kent in Sex threads, 1974. Photo: Joe Stevens//
He then wove the incident into a forlorn NME review of a solo album by Van der Graaf Generator’s frontman Peter Hammill.
//The Rock Taylor team: “The Sweet spend £1,000 a month on clothes.”//
The Politics Of Flash is thoroughgoing, taking in Freddie Burretti’s design relationship with David Bowie (though Burretti declined to be interviewed), Ossie Clark‘s with Mick Jagger and Annie Reavey‘s creation of flamboyant stagewear for Elton John.
//Annie Reavey: “Elton approaches garments as artworks.”//
Mr Freedom, City Lights Studio and Alkasura are all name-checked and the Rock Taylor quartet – Geoff Clark, ex-Alkasura Jean Seel (later Boy George’s landlady), Graham Springett and Keith Hartley – discuss their customers The Sweet. Meanwhile former Ruskin’s designer Julian Kraker says that he believes his clients Slade are “to the 70s what the Stones were to the 60s”.
//Gene Krell: “The kids have always started the rock fashion ball rolling.”//
At Granny Takes A Trip (where Kent has since acknowledged he regularly scored heroin), co-owner Gene Krell was forthright about the shop’s role for such regular clients as Keith Richards and Ron Wood. “We’re not dealing in fashion…that’s a bunch of crap!” he told Kent. “We have our own style which is nothing to do with good taste. Our clothes are very proletarian, very, very reactionary against English provincialism.”
Our partner in Priceless, Antony Price, sums up the inertia which gripped mid-70s London. The man who, within four years, would be operating amazing King’s Road outlet Plaza, told Kent: “We’re all so shrouded by this spectre of the swinging 60s. There’s no such thing as futuristic fashion in England. It’s all dead and there aren’t even any decent clubs for them to show off the extent of their decay.”
THANKS are due to the world’s greatest music journalism resource, rocksbackpages.com, for providing us with this vital item from their incredible archive. Visit it now.