Tom Salter is one of those rock & pop fashion characters who joins the dots, from crazy Carnaby Street in the 60s to hip Hollywood in the 90s via punk, psychedelia and lot more besides.
At various times the manager of the Grateful Dead and co-owner of Chelsea Billiards in New York and the Hollywood Athletic Club, Salter was also a de facto father-in-law to Joe Strummer; his daughter Gaby was a long term partner of the late Clash front-man and mother to their two children.
Decades earlier Tom had cemented his credentials by running the Gear empire which started in Carnaby Street, serving many a performer.
//Ayshea Brough and Graham Nash inside Gear, Carnaby Street 1965//
Just check out the October 23, 1965 edition of Fabulous in which Sheena Mackay gushes about the pop-stars invading the throughfare on spending sprees, including Graham Nash of The Hollies and his model girlfriend Ayshea Brough “looking at a shop called Gear which had a wonderful table that he fancied very much. Ayshea went for a specially bright red kettle”.
//Rita Tushingham and George Melly at the Smashing Time premiere party, Gear, 1967//
Gear was also the site of the premiere party for George Melly’s Swinging London satire Smashing Time and Tom’s book on Carnaby Street is now a collectible fetching upwards of $200 a copy. A version of Gear even continues in Carnaby Street to this day.
//Cover of Tom Salter’s Carnaby Street book, 1970//
According to Redemption Song, Chris Salewicz’s exhaustive but never exhausting life of Joe Strummer, Salter was also involved in Great Gear Market in the King’s Road, which housed a number of fantastic clothes stalls, including the long forgotten Marx and an outlet of BOY. It also featured a caged DJ booth manned by Rusty Egan (drummer in Visage and Glen Matlock’s post-Sex Pistols band, Rich Kids).
//Great Gear Market, King’s Road, early 80s//
Of course, Tom is mentioned in THE LOOK; he came along to the launch party in Soho a couple of years back and was, as ever, gracious. It was there that it emerged that his extensive CV also included Tom Salter’s Café at 205 King’s Road, which occupies an interesting position in the development of UK punk.
The wine bar (later Pucci Pizza) was the venue in early 1975 for the first and only gig for a bunch of teenage chancers known as either The Strand or The Swankers (opinions differ), featuring Paul Cook on drums, Glen Matlock on bass, Steve Jones on vocals and their benighted mate Wally Nightingale on guitar.
//Paul Cook, Wally Nightingale, Steve Jones, 1975//
Their set, at a birthday party for a pal of Cook’s, consisted of cover versions of such songs as A Day Without Love by Love Affair, All Or Nothing by the Small Faces, Don’t Gimme No Lip Child by Dave Berry, Holy Cow by Lee Dorsey, I’m Not Like Everybody Else by The Kinks and Johnny B. Goode by Chuck Berry.
The occasion is being commemorated as one of the extras compiled by director Julien Temple in The Knowledge, part of the forthcoming DVD of the Sex Pistols’ UK gigs in November 2007.
Within a matter of months of the gig at Tom Salter’s Café, Nightingale had been expelled at the insistence of manager Malcolm McLaren and was briefly replaced by NME superstar hack and SEX shop customer Nick Kent. Then, when Steve Jones switched to guitar, John Lydon came on board as the Sex Pistols came into focus over the August Bank Holiday of 1975.
//Sex Pistols first photo session September 1975//
It was, of course, an April 1976 support slot by the Pistols for his band the 101’ers which persuaded Joe Strummer to shelve his pub-rock ambitions and join the fledgling Clash. “They just cleaned me out,” he said later. “The writing was on the wall.”
//Sex Pistols’ life-changing support slots for the 101’ers//
Before long, Lydon and Strummer were rival punk icons, neither realising that their destinies were to be intertwined in the colourful life of the gent who once ran a wine bar in mid-70s SW3.