Some of you won't recognise the picture above, probably taken in the thirties from the eastern corner of Langton Street, looking south south-west across the World's End towards the power station. The road running from left to right is the King's Road. The World's End pub is just off picture to the left; the bus is standing roughly in front of what is now the World's End Pharmacy.
I like to think of the young lady with the long hair, third from the left, walking towards us as Beckett's Celia:
"She had turned out of Edith Grove into Cremorne Road, intending to refresh herself with a smell of the Reach and then return by Lots Road, when chancing to glance to her right she saw, motionless in the mouth of Stadium Street, considering alternately the sky and a sheet of paper, a man. Murphy"
Samuel Beckett, Murphy (1938)

Friday, March 19, 2010

King's Road, Chelsea, 1940 - Faith Sheppard

This view of the north side of King's Road from the corner of Park Walk almost as far as Beaufort Street is dated 1940 and is the work of Faith Sheppard (1920). Painted when the artist was just 20, probably while she was studying at the Chelsea School of Art, it appears to be her only painting of Chelsea: most of her other canvasses depict France and in particular Provence.

The kerbs on the S-bend have been painted black and white; this was done in 1939 in preparation for the black-out.

The bend was partially straightened out around 1970 when most of the houses and shops on the southern corner of the bend, opposite the ones shown in the painting, were demolished to make way for Moravian Tower.

On the left of the picture at 392 King's Road we can see the Man in the Moon, once a very fine pub, which for 20 years until 2002 was also home to a theatre. With the arrival of the new millennium the Man in the Moon went the way of too many other Chelsea pubs and became a restaurant. Trading under the name of Eight Over Eight and selling pan-Asian fare, it has been closed for refurbishment since October 2009 following a serious fire which broke out in the kitchen while about 50 people were in the dining area.

Next door at 390 is the Maypole Dairy, which I know not only because the word "Maypole" is written above the shop but also because I consulted the 1934 Post Office Directory for London. For this particular stretch of the King's Road, moving from east to west, i.e. from right to left on the painting, and starting from the archway through to Chelsea Park Dwellings in the middle of the strangely ecclesiastical-looking block, the directory gives the following: are Chelsea Park dwellings...
380 Ashford & Sons, newsagts
382 Davies Wm. dairy
384 Rosenthal Saml. draper
386 Wyatt Wm. Hy butcher
388 Mac Fisheries Ltd. fishmongrs
390 Maypole Dairy Co. ltd
392 Man-in-the-Moon, Harry Wasley is Park walk......

The directory is six years older than the painting but it looks as if the shop next to Maypole's is still a Mac Fisheries in 1940, with its distinctive shop sign, or I should say two signs overhanging the pavement. Today the shop is a Starbucks with a very similar sign sticking out ... just one, and green not blue.

The shop to the left of the archway, number 380, looks very much like a newsagent's (you can see the newsboards propped up against the shopfront) and in 1934 that's exactly what it was. It was a newsagent's in 1921 too, belonging to Alfred Frederick Vedy, with a sideline in postcards of Chelsea. It was still a newsagent's in the 1990s and the place where my dad would spend most of his mornings after he retired, chatting to his friend Sami who worked behind the counter and to anyone who came in to buy a paper. This was how he got to know Yasmin and later Simon Le Bon, who were living in Apollo Place just off the embankment at the time.

Further on is a row of one-storey shops set further back from the street. The pavement follows the line of shops as the road widens. This row has recently been rebuilt and now has two-storeys. The work is ongoing.

On the right of the canvas we can see the side wall of the Roebuck, known to be the favourite watering-hole of Malcolm McLaren and the Sex Pistols back in the 70s.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Jesse Lawrence

Music Videos by VideoCure

The music is One Love recorded in 1977 by Bob Marley and named 'Song of the Millennium' by the BBC in 1999; the video was made by Don Letts in 1984 to accompany the posthumous Bob Marley compilation album Legend, Marley having died in 1981; the boy featured in the video is Jesse Lawrence - more of him later.

British Grammy-award winning film director and disc jockey, Don Letts, who can be seen on the video grooving with Paul McCartney at 1:36 and shaking hands with a police officer at 2:14, had been a friend of Marley's ever since 1976 when he famously sneaked into Bob's hotel following a gig at the Hammersmith Odeon and spent the night chatting to him.

Don Letts is also credited with having brought together the two musical styles of punk and reggae, resulting in, for example, the Clash recording Junior Murvin's Police and Thieves on their debut album The Clash in 1977 (though Murvin's first comment on hearing it was "They have destroyed Jah work!"), and in Marley's own Punky Reggae Party.

In the mid-70s Letts ran the King's Road clothes store Acme Attractions in the basement of Antiquarius, selling "electric-blue zoot suits and jukeboxes, and pumping dub reggae all day long". The store attracted the likes of The Clash and the Sex Pistols, Chrissie Hynde, Patti Smith, Debbie Harry and Marley himself, and is often cited as the "cradle of punk". Letts subsequently became resident DJ at the Roxy. By early 1977 not enough punk songs had been recorded to provide an evening's entertainment, so Don filled the gaps with selections from his dub and reggae collection. And that is the story behind the punk/reggae connection:

"The Wailers will be there, The Damned, The Jam, The Clash – Maytals will be there, Dr. Feelgood too." (Punky Reggae Party, Bob Marley & the Wailers)

When the One Love video came out, a lot of people automatically assumed the boy seen walking down the King's Road was one of Bob Marley's sons, but in fact his name is Jesse Lawrence, he's British not Jamaican and he was brought up on the World's End Estate. The opening shot shows one of the Estate's towers: Jessie lived up there on the eighteenth floor. The indoor shots were filmed in his flat. Jesse's parents Bernie and Paul had been part of the punk scene in the 70s and were friends of Don Letts'. Bernie was famed for her culinary skills and had a part-time job cooking for John Lydon (Johnny Rotten) while he lived at 45 Gunter Grove. She was once asked to model for Vivienne Westwood but had to refuse due to her commitments in looking after a young family. As Bernadine Lawrence she went on to write the best-selling How to Feed Your Family for Five Pounds a Day.

Alongside shots of the Estate and Lots Road Power Station, there are also two particular sequences at 1:07 and 1:19 of Jesse looking into someone's window halfway down Slaidburn Street. You can see the lights of what is now Somerfield and the red brick of the World's End Estate in the background.

In the closing sequence, filmed in the piazza at the junction with Royal Avenue, you can see Jesse's little brother Rene, in particular at 2:17. At the front of the crowd behind Jesse are members of the Birmingham pop/reggae band Musical Youth, one of whom is holding Rene. They had a big hit in 1982 with Pass the Dutchie and the video was made by ... Don Letts.

Jesse, who also stars in the "Waiting in Vain" video, went to Park Walk School and is a true Worldsender. He studied painting and photography at the Chelsea School of Art & Design, and wrote and acted in the theatre before becoming turning his hand to film-making and co-founding the production company la famiglia together with secondary school friends and fellow West Londoners Cristian Solimeno and Kaleem Aftab. With la famiglia he wrote and directed, among other things, the UK Film Council backed short Mash Up (2006), including location shots filmed in Ladbroke Grove and on Albert Bridge, and Much Ado About A Minor Ting (2007), funded by the prestigious Cinema Extreme Scheme, and filmed around West London's famous Trellick Tower. More recently he has been collaborating with other production companies.

Special thanks to Jesse for confirming all the details of this story and for adding a few more.