[I often get emails from people heading to the UK asking “What are some musical landmarks I can visit?” I gave intern-in-resident Dorothy Lee an assignment of listing some of them. And I HIGHLY recommend taking any of the London Walks that are based on music. -AC]
If you love punk and you’re looking for a place to travel to, you might want to consider visiting London, England. London is considered one of the birthplaces of punk, and bands such as the Sex Pistols, the Clash, Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Slits, and Generation X (Billy Idol’s first band) were all formed in London. This is also where Vivienne Westwood designed “the first bondage-inspired punk dresses”, and where Malcolm McLaren (who briefly managed the New York Dolls, and also managed the Sex Pistols) formulated punk ideology, which also inspired punk attitude. Malcolm and Vivienne also started a clothing store that was influential in creating the punk clothing style.
The Sex Pistols released their debut single Anarchy in the U.K. on November 26th 1976. According to The Globe and Mail, many rock historians regard this moment to be the birth of punk. It was also noted that the ascendance of punk really lasted only 3 years and that “it went out with a bang in 1979, with the release of The Clash’s London Calling”, which is “widely regarded as the last great punk album”. However, some regard the end of punk’s ascendance to have occurred later that year, with the drug overdose of the Sex Pistol’s bassist Sid Vicious.
If you’re interested in tracing the evolution of London’s punk scene, here’s a list of places you might want to visit (from The Globe and Mail):
- King’s Road: This is where Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood opened their clothing store in 1971. It was originally called Let It Rock, although the boutique was renamed four times: Too Fast to Live, Too Young to Die (1973); Sex (1974); Seditionaries (1977); and World’s End (1980) which is still the boutique’s present name. The members of the Sex Pistols met each other in this store when it was called Sex. Glen Matlock who was the band’s first bass player worked at the store, guitarist Steve Jones and drummer Paul Cook were regular customers, and McLaren apparently enlisted John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten) to be the band’s singer while in the store. The shop is located at 430 King’s Road.
- Camden Market: This was once the central area of the punk scene, where members of the Clash and the Sex Pistols were often seen, along with many other young punks.
- Sloane Square: In the 1970’s and 1980’s, this area was the gateway to key spots in the punk scene. Also, on February 2nd 1980, 1000 punks marched from Sloane Square to Hyde Park for the anniversary of the death of Sid Vicious.
- The Elgin: “Punk was born here, simple as that”. In the early 1970’s, the 101ers were the regular Thursday night band at the club. Joe Strummer was a member of the 101ers before he became a member of The Clash. The venue is located at 96 Ladbroke Grove.
- The 100 Club: “This is perhaps the top spot for listening to live music in London”. Many famous musicians have performed here. In 1976, The 100 Club hosted the Punk Festival which featured performances by the Clash, the Sex Pistols, Siouxsie and the Banshees, and the Buzzcocks. It was at this event where Sid Vicious attacked a journalist with a bike chain, blinded an audience member by throwing glass in his face, and was arrested for illegal possession of a knife. The club is located at 100 Oxford Street.
- Camden Roundhouse: The Clash have played here, and the performance was captured on the bootleg 5 Go Mad in the Roundhouse. Camden Roundhouse has since undergone $60 million in redevelopment, with original features of the venue restored. The Camden Roundhouse is located on Chalk Farm Road.
- Vanilla Studios: This is where the Clash conceived and recorded their third studio album London Calling between May to August in 1979. The studio is located at 36 Causton Street.
For more information on visiting London, go to VisitLondon.com.