Wednesday 9 November 2011

King's Road Today

Here are some photos my girlfriend and myself recently took on King's Road. Unfortunately, these days, it looks just like any other street in London - full of high street shops and soulless gastro pubs.As we were walking around, we were trying to imagine how amazing this place it once must have been....


Michael Chaplin and Nigel Weymouth outside Granny Takes a Trip (488 King's Road) in 1966.

Yours truly, same place, November 2011

Granny Takes a Trip, 1967

Granny takes a Trip, 1968

 Granny's former location, November 2011. If my girlfriend had been there in 1968, she would have blended into the yellow background.

At present, 488 King's Road is a home to a bespoke Italian chandelier shop.

Freddie Hornick and Alan Holston outside Dandie Fashions (161 King's Road) in 1967.

Me on 161 King's Road, November 2011. Now it is a location of lovely, small photo gallery. The subject of their current exhibition is Andy Warhol, Edie Sedgwick and The Factory in 1960's.

Still from the film "Blow-Up", 1966. David Hemmings goes to meet his agent a restaurant on Blacklands Terrace, off King's Road.

Same place today. The building had acquired few windows and extra floor, but it's still a restaurant.

Still from "Blow Up" (1966) - Dedicated Followers of Fashion on Culford Gardens, off King's Road.

Dedicated follower of 60's fashion in the same place, November 2011.

Ok, this has nothing to do with King's Road, but since I'm posting photos of myself I might as well include photos of  me and my girlfriend taken during NUTs Brighton Mod Weekender in August by photographer Kim Tonelli.

Monday 7 November 2011

Christopher Gibbs - 1960's Peacock Style Icon

Christopher Gibbs in 1966 wearing a jacket from Hung On You.

Antique dealer Christopher Gibbs was one of the central figures of the Chelsea Set in 1960's London. Known for his immaculate style, he was a sartorial influence on many menswear designers such as Mr. Fish, Rupert Lycett-Green (Blades) or Michael Rainey (Hung On You) and other of his famous friends such as Mick Jagger or Brian Jones.Gibbs was described by fashion historian Nik Cohn as one of the most avant-garde dressers in Britain - reportedly, he was the first man in London to wear flared trousers as a fashion statement (as early as 1961). Interviewed by fashion writer Paul Gorman , he talks about his life in 1960's Swinging London: I know it's a cliche to say, 'If you remember the 60's, you weren't there', but I definitely suffer from the blown-mind syndrome. The only thing I'll say in my favour is that I was practically the only person I knew who actually went to work at nine o'clock in the morning, whether I'd been up to eight o'clock or not, because I had a job, my own business, and I realised that, if I didn't, I wouldn't have any of those things (Paul Gorman, The Look - Adventures in Pop and Rock Fashion, p 77).

Christopher Gibbs in 1966

Gibbs came from an upper-class family. He was educated in Eton (although he got expelled) and at the Sorbonne in Paris. From 1958 onwards he was making numerous trips to Morocco, during which he accumulated a large collection of garments and antiques. Around the same time, in the late fifties, he started his antiques shop on Sloane Avenue in Chelsea. Being a shopkeeper, I used to sell things sometimes. Then I used to parade around in them - he says, before modestly admitting: Yes, maybe I did have an effect on a few people (Gorman, p 77).
By mid - 1960's, Christopher Gibbs had become a style leader, a Swinging London's Beau Brummell. At the time his regular hangout of fellow dandies included interior designer David Mlinaric, owner of Dandie Fashions Tara Browne, owner of Hung On You Michael Rainey (and his brother-in-law Julian Ormsby-Gore), and upper-class socialites Neil Winterbotham, Mark Palmer and Nicholas Gormanston.

The Dandies of Swinging London: Julian Ormsby-Gore (left), Christopher Gibbs (centre) and Nicholas Gormanston (right), 1965

You had to be monumentally narcissistic and have time on your hands, and just about enough money to do it (Gorman, p 77) - said Gibbs about being a dandy in 1960's. In those days he would often call one of his stylish friends, and spend as much as forty minutes discussing which ties should they wear for a night out. Forty minutes spent on a tie - not even Brummell could call that sloppiness - wrote Nik Cohn in Today There Are No Gentlemen.
Gibbs was the original 'Peacock'. He was a big influence not only on King's Road designers, but also on Rupert Lycett-Green of Blades and Mr. Fish. His position as a style guru was assured when he became an editor of shopping guide in Men In Vogue - first ever male edition of this famous fashion magazine. Men In Vogue was published quarterly between 1965 and 1970, and it coincided with 'Peacock revolution' in English male fashion.

Actor Edward Fox (brother of James Fox) on a cover of first issue of Men In Vogue published in November 1965.

Christopher Gibbs in the same issue of Men In Vogue. The double breasted jacket is from Blades.

In his impressively furnished home in Cheyne Walk, Gibbs absorbed his Montesquieu, Beau Brummell and Beaudelaire and determined to adapt their aesthetic sensibilities to contemporary style (Gorman, p 77). his home became 'a place to be' for anybody who was anybody in Swinging London.

Party at the home of Christopher Gibbs with fashion designer Mr. Fish (far left) and interior designer David Mlinaric (far right), 1966.

In 1966, Gibbs's Cheyne Walk home was used by director Michelangelo Antonioni as a set for a marijuana-smoking party scene in Blow-Up, where completely stoned model Veruschka tells David Hemmings  probably the most memorable line of the film:" I AM in Paris!". Avant-garde film director Kenneth Anger also used Gibbs's home to shoot some of a scenes of his infamous masterpiece Lucifer Rising there in 1971.

Gibbs was also a close friend of Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Brian Jones and Anita Pallenberg. In 1967 he took them to Morocco. The trip was a tremendous influence on all of them, especially Jones, who recorded an album with Moroccan musicians Masters of Joujouka, and introduced african elements to his already very flamboyant look.

  Brian Jones in 1967

 Sartorial influence of Morocco on The Rolling Stones, 1967

Christopher Gibbs was an important part of a group that sparkled off a Peacock Revolution. The group consisted of  upper class socialites, fashion designers and flamboyant pop stars.In a rapidly changing world of 1960's London, these young men, through the peacock style, re-invented the idea of dandyism, echoing the words of writer and poet Charles Beaudelaire who wrote in 1836: Dandyism appears especially in the transitory period when democracy is not yet all-powerful, and when aristocracy is only partially unsettled and depreciated. In the confusion of such periods, some few men who are out of their sphere, disgusted and unoccupied, but are all rich in natural force, may conceive the project of founding a new aristocracy.

Thursday 3 November 2011

The Action - In The Lap Of The Mods

Some time ago, I picked up this flyer in Brighton Mod clothing shop called Jump The Gun. It announces that a book about 1960's Mod heroes The Action, titled In The Lap Of The Mods will be published in early 2012. The book  will contain plenty of unseen photos, interviews, limited edition 7'' and foreword by one-time producer of The Action - Sir George Martin. The flyer provides us with a link to a website, where we can find out more about the book. So, I thought it would be a good opportunity to do a post about this extremely sharp-looking band.

Apart from Small Faces, The Action were probably the best looking Mod band in London in 1960's. Their style was the most perfect example of what Mod style was originally about - a subtle, understated elegance, tailored suits, fitted button down shirts and sweaters with geometrical patterns (but without flashy Op and Pop Art craziness which was a trademark of The Who).

Musically, The Action failed to make an impression outside the Mod community, and unlike Small Faces or The Who , they never made it to the charts, despite the support of a big label or the fact that they shared a producer with The Beatles (George Martin produced the group briefly in 1966).

The Action in Jackie magazine, 1966

The group formed in 1963 in Kentish Town, North London, by the group of school friends Reg King (vocals), Roger Powell (drums), Mike Evans (bass) and Alan King (lead guitar). Initially they were called The Boys. Under this name they performed in Mod clubs, and on few occasions , they supported The High Numbers (Which is how The Who were called in summer 1964).

The Boys review,  1964 

In late 1964, The Boys were joined by rhythm guitarist Peter Watson, and changed their name to much more Mod-sounding  The Action.
Most of The Action's repertoire consisted of covers of obscure American soul songs. Perhaps the fact that they did not write many of their own songs was a reason behind their failure to make it in the charts. Their cover versions, however, were fresh and innovative, in some cases better than originals (for example, their version of "I'll Keep On Holding On" in my modest opinion, beats the original by The Marvelettes). They were also a great live band and their shows in London clubs such as The Marquee, were legendary for their incredible atmosphere. It allowed The Action to become the darlings of London Mod scene between 1965 and 1966. They were receiving a big amount of press attention.

Article about The Action sets at Marquee in Rave magazine, circa 1965.

Extremely sharp-looking Mike Evans, right, modeling suits, 1965. This, my dear readers, is how Mod should look like.  

Trivia on Roger Powell, 1965.

Trivia on Reg King, 1965.

A press ad for 1966 single "Baby You've Got It", produced by George Martin. This ad is probably better than the actual song.

Ad for another single, "Never Ever", 1966. Like everything else, it failed to set charts on fire...

With the demise of Mod movement at the end of 1966, the popularity of the group had faded. At the time, a lot of ex-mod bands - Small Faces, The Who, The Creation or The Pretty Things made a successful ventures into psychedelia. The Action also made an attempt at psychedelia, although a rather clumsy one. Their songs from that period, such as "Love Is All" (1967) show how uncomfortable they were trying to copy the sounds of West Coast.

The Action during their psychedelic period, 1967. They still looked great. Reg King's jacket looks like it might have been from Hung On You.

The Action split up in mid-1967. Some of the members went on to form hippie-prog band called Mighty Baby - but that is another story. The Action's story does not end there, though. During late 1970's Mod revival, a lot of bands, most notably The Jam, were quoting The Action as their biggest influence. Paul Weller wrote sleevenotes for their compilation LP "Ultimate Action". The interest in the band grew, and finally, in 1998,  The Action were hounded out of retirement by Rob Bailey - a promotor behind Mod clubnight New Untouchables. They played a comeback gig in Kentish Town Dome which attracted more famous faces. As Mojo magazine wrote in the review: Liam Gallagher (Ok,that makes sense) and Robbie Williams (What the hell was he doing there!?Perhaps he was looking for different sort of action?) stood in line for autographs, as did their number one fan...Phil Collins. "I went to see every gig (The Action played) at The Marquee", recalls the one-time Genesis sticksman. "It was the way Reg sang, the way Roger played, the harmonies by Peter , Alan and Mike on bass. Everything was so hip. I look at Roger and I realize how much of that went into my style. The most pathetic example was buying a jacket that was like Roger's. He wore this fantastically hip Mod nylon jacket, which I finally found and wore to death, before my mum put it in the washing machine and ruined it" (Mojo, issue 82, September 2000). Phil Collins joined The Action on drums during another reunion gig at 100 Club in 2000. He also financed the documentary film "In The Lap Of The Mods", which contains footage from both reunion gigs as well as some archive material.

The book at the same title which was a part of the project never materialized. Well, until now, that is (or should I say until early 2012). Phil Collins does not seem to be involved  this time. About being an inspiration for young Phil Collins, Roger Powell said: It's funny when you think The Action are pretty much responsible for Genesis (Actually Roger, It's not funny at all). The Action played one more reunion gig  - in 2004 at Modstock - a three day event organized by New Untouchables to commemorate 40 years of Mod Subculture. They shared a bill with other 60's mod/psych heroes - The Creation and The Pretty Things - who also reformed for that occasion.
It turned out to be  the last ever gig of The Action. Sadly , in 2010, both Reg King and Mike Evans passed away. 

In The Lap Of The Mods should make an interesting read, and I'll definitely try to purchase a copy (unless of course, the price will be too extortionate, like it often happens with limited edition books).

For more information about The Action visit
Read interviews with Pete Watson, Reg King and Mike Evans at Monkey Picks blog. 
Also check out Punks in Parkas - I have borrowed some images from this site. Back in the day (that is, before YouTube, tumblr, blogspot etc.) it used to be the most reliable source about Mod Subculture on the internet.

 And here's The Action performing "I'll Keep On Holding On" on TV show Ready! Steady! Go! in 1966