From the moment I received word that London was celebrating a year-long 40th anniversary retrospective of punk rock music and culture, I knew I had to head across the pond to check out some of the numerous events and exhibitions going on around town.
I picked a few to check out, from PT Madden’s Sex Pistols photo series to Punk 76-78 at the British Library, plus a Soho punk rock tour for good measure.
Inside the Barbican Centre’s library, music photographer/Rockarchive founder Jill Furmanovsky’s photos are included along with a variety of punk era objects, photos, tickets, albums, etc. in Rockarchives Chunk of Punk (extended through May 25).
PTMADDEN’S Wilkinson Gallery exhibit centers on a a collection of Sex Pistols photos captured by PTMADDEN while still a university student in 1976.
His concept? Taking one photo every 30 seconds of his beloved punk band, the Sex Pistols on stage. From the series, only 26 survived and are included here.
Public Image fans will have wanted to visit Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA)’s Dennis Morris: PiL – First Issue to Metal Box, a small collection of artifacts surrounding Johnny Lydon and band’s Metal Box concept album packaging (the exhibit wrapped up on May 15).
Dennis Morris designed a unique record sleeve in the format of a single folded sheet of tabloid newspaper that featured fictional content about the band. Although the actual title was Lydon’s idea, Morris created a metal 16mm film canister embossed with the iconic PiL logo on top. This distinctive, first-of-its-kind package was produced at the Metal Box Factory in Hackney prior to its closure.
While several of these shows have ended (or are about to), Punk 1976-78 opened just last week at the British Library. An illustrious punk rock who’s who attended the opening, including Chrissie Hynde with opening remarks by Jon Savage, author of England’s Dreaming, a book that’s a must-have for any music lovers of that era. Just ask Vancouver music aficionado Nardwuar — he recommended this fabulous addition to my bookshelf.
Broadcaster John Peel was one of the very few DJs to embrace punk back in the day, giving bands a chance to be heard during his BBC Radio One program. The Undertones’ Teenage Kicks became Peel’s fave record — his personal copy is here on display.
London’s Roxy Club became the first venue dedicated to punk bands, opening on New Year’s Day 1977 with a concert by The Clash.
The Buzzcocks, The Jam, Iggy Pop, Patti Smith, Siouxsie & the Banshees and many more are all represented in this free, lovingly curated exhibit.
Rare memorabilia can be found here too. The Damned’s Rat Scabies’ well-loved and worn leather jacket was retired after years of use. He returned it to Lewis Leathers in 2011 along with a signed letter “for the sake of posterity”. The London motorcycle clothing company that sold him the jacket was likely pleasantly surprised to see its return.
A rare one-sided acetate disk containing an early version of Sex Pistols’ Anarchy in the UK, early DIY show flyers, tickets, music, photos, accessories from Vivienne Westwood’s SEX shop (in collaboration with Malcolm McLaren) are amongst the gems to be enjoyed through October 2.
Anarchy in the UK is another punk rock photo retrospective that includes the Sex Pistols, Brian Ferry, Marc Bolan, David Bowie, The Rolling Stones and countless celebrities that have crossed photographer Richard Young’s path over the course of his 40+ year career.
Young lived in New York in the early 70’s, catching hot bands at the time such as The New York Dolls. Upon returning to London (in 1973), he evolved as a music photographer, with Brian Ferry, David Bowie and Marc Bolan posing for the camera.
And then The Sex Pistols suddenly rose to fame (mostly through the insane amount of negative press they received). Once Young’s photos were published in The Evening Standard, his career really took shape. He actually toured with The Sex Pistols (one can only imagine the experience!) and is responsible for photographing the one and only Sex Pistols studio session.
The London music scene is well captured in this exhibit: The Jam, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Adam and the Ants, The Ramones, Blondie, Billy Idol and The Clash are all represented in stark black and white prints that recall the iconic era.
Via overwhelming demand, the show’s been extended through end of June at Richard Young Gallery on 4 Holland Street.
The Original Soho Punk Tour
Let tour guide Aidan McManus take you around London’s Soho district as you discover some great punk haunts and hangouts.
The two-hour tour meets every other Saturday outside Tottenham Court Road tube station’s Oxford Street entrance. McManus has all the stories and over three years’ experience recalling the events of the time to fans far and wide.
He bills the tour as the “one and only original punk tour”; we’re soon off meandering the streets of Soho, stopping here and there as McManus shares history complemented by black and white images from his iPad archive.
You’ll get to see the building where the first Rolling Stones album was recorded, The Sex Pistols’ flat/recording space, first Sex Pistols gig and a venue or two (many since replaced by newer shops and venues) where just about every band came through and performed in during the punk era.
Visit Flipside Tours online for details and other tours.
Remnants of London’s punk scene can be found at Camden Town via colourful shops, piercing studios and a variety of characters along the streets leading from the tube station.
Once you’ve had your fill of shopping, head over to Poppie’s Fish & Chips, an institution since 1952 on nearby Hawley Crescent. There’s a takeout window and curio-filled restaurant filled with memorabilia picked up by 72-year-old owner Pat ‘Pop’ Newland over the years.
Pop’s been serving up huge portions of crunchy-battered cod, wild halibut, haddock, skate and sole alongside chips, mushy peas, steak pies and other British fare.