Tom Salter joins the dots between Strummer and the Pistols

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.

[...] rockpopfashion wrote an interesting post today on Tom Salter joins the dots between Strummer and the PistolsHere’s a quick excerptTom 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 … [...]

dansk66 said,

August 17, 2008 @ 11:31 pm

Anyone know what happened to TOM SALTER? Did he end up in NYC or LA ?

Sally Bunyan (nee Hayes_ said,

February 22, 2009 @ 7:37 pm

I would like to contact Tom Salter to let him know that his Aunt Hettie (wife of his mother’s brother) has just died at the age of 99. Her funeral is at Golders Green Crematorium on 4 March.

Peter Lardieri said,

April 11, 2009 @ 7:45 am

I am an old friend of Tom Salters and Gunny from the 80’s in NYC. I would love to talk to Tom. Tom do you still have the Buick?
Peter

john said,

March 4, 2010 @ 4:28 pm

I love Holy Cow by Lee Dorsey

[...] places we had only heard about on the radio or in magazines like The Face or ZigZag, Places the Great Gear Market a magical place I remember great names like Artificial Eye where I used to hear amazing weird [...]

nick maynard said,

August 19, 2010 @ 7:58 am

Hello,
Wow, it’s so nice to read about Tom Salter, and to know that he’s still around as I knew him back in 1972 when he lived at a house called St John’s Jerusalem, in Sutton-at-Hone, Kent.

Following the village fete that was held in the grounds of his house where as pop band called Qantum Jump played a set, I wrote to Tom asking him how to start a band and where we could get cheap instruments from…….and he very kindly wrote back and said come on down to the house, and use the amplifiers that we have here and you can practice in the old chapel……which we did every Sunday afternoon…….we didn’t half make a racket there because the old chapel echoed so much……..after a while he let us use the second floor of the old house, up in the roof space and this meant that we had to go through the house to get there……..and wow what a house……it was decorated in such a way it blew my mind…….I still remember the purple sunken bath in the middle of a room and the wardroabs around it painted in the willow pattern in magenta on white……I still remember the white room which was their music room with great pictures of wild flowers on the walls…….I still remember a blue and black painted study quite a small room but beautifully detailed…..the entrance area had a great long scrubbed table in it with ten or more high backed red leather studded chairs…..the whole place was amazing and I loved going there and even loved the smell of the place…..so much so it was Tom Salter and his house that turned me on to Interior Design…..which I studied at Medway College of Design between 1976 and 1978……and 32 years later I’m stil an interior designer with my own companies….www.nickmaynard.co.uk http://www.designandfitout.co.uk besides Tom, I remember Gaby who was a beautiful girl and Tom’s wife and Marc Tom’s eldest son who became a friend and even came to tea at my house and Nicholas who was Tom’s youngest son and who appeared in the famous film ‘Don’t Look Now’…with Julie Christie, and I also remember that even back then as early as 1972 Tom had given up polluting the atmostphere as he called it, as he drove a yellow mini instead of a Rolls Royce…..what a lovely man Tom Salter is…….please give him my love and thanks for being such a nice person….

Nick Maynard

ConnieJean said,

March 3, 2012 @ 8:52 pm

Hey there, I am wondering if a t-shirt I am in possesion of is a genuine antique from the 70’s. Maybe someone here can help, please. I have a Sex Pistols T-shirt still in it’s wrapping and it’s got a little yellow sticker on it that reads Gear. To the left of the word is a small image of an antique styled bicycle with the front wheel very much more enlarged than it’s back tire. It is priced at L4.99. Can anyone advise? Is this an old t-shirt? If it isn’t, I want to open it and wear it already hahaha. Thank you in advance for any response.

John byrnes said,

February 7, 2013 @ 8:28 pm

I worked in gear in Oxford st in 1972. I met Tom salter once. I also worked in car any st. I was at the opening of the great gear market in the kings rd. there was a lady there with a snake wrapped around her. It was a great night

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