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Max's Kings Road The Rise and Fall of the Hippest Street in the World

Max's Kings Road

The Rise and Fall of the Hippest Street in the World

by Ancient Champion, Columnist
first published: February, 2023

approximate reading time: minutes

from Henry VIII to David Bowie, Margaret Thatcher to Vivienne Westwood, Karl Marx to Mozart to Mary Quant, all set against a backdrop of many of the pivotal moments of the fifties, sixties and seventies and obviously, for H-VIII, before that.

Max Décharné
King’s Road, The Rise And Fall of the Hippest Street in the World
Omnibus Press

Max CoverThe Max Décharné I know best is one of the coolest drummers ever, from when he was working the sticks for salubrious swamp, not any old swamp hands, Gallon Drunk, back in the 90s. Of course I am a man with an unreliable memory, so I checked with our man in America, Alarcon, although maybe his memory can be unreliable too, but we feel pretty certain that the show where we saw Max playing with Gallon Drunk on Sunset in Hollywood was at The Whiskey-A-Go-Go. Sometimes it looks from those archives where people keep everything, like some people think it might’ve been The Roxy. Jesus it is so hard to remember anything ever. Whatever, Max sauntered onto the stage that night, deftly removed his jacket like some 60s wide boy bent on a bit of cruelty, hung it onto an available cymbal stand and with equal elan for the next hour or so, pummelled the drum skins with a righteous ferocity afforded only to the greats. The all time greats.

That was a splendid night out with Gallon Drunk for sure. It turns out though, that Max Décharné has way more strings to his bow that just the drums, he has published a number of critically acclaimed books too, including Vulgar Tongues, Hardboiled Hollywood, Straight From The Fridge, Dad and A Rocket In My Pocket (The Hipsters Guide to Rockabilly); Max has contributed to MOJO magazine since 1998, and his work has also appeared in the Spectator, the Sunday Times Magazine, the Observer, the Guardian and the TLS. Oh and among his musical output there's a couple of albums with Nikki Sudden too. 

Originally published in 2005 and available once more this April in hardback from Omnibus Press, King’s Road, The Rise And Fall of the Hippest Street in the World, has now been revised and updated, although Max notes in virtually the opening paragraph that chronologically for him, the Kings Road’s cultural significance ended in 1979.  I think there may be something to that. Max argues that by that time the punk era had stopped producing great bands, Vivian Westwood’s shop with Malcolm McLaren, SEX, was all out of bondage wear too.

As Max attests, King’s Road was ground zero in the lore of two massive cultural shifts - first as the serious twin of Carnaby street in London’s Swinging Sixties and then the vital centre of an arts and counterculture renaissance again in the mid-seventies at the birth of punk rock. In some ways this is similar to Joe Ambrose's Chelsea Hotel Manhattan, another title wrestling with the legend and the lore of location.

I was walking down the Kings Road in 1978 and if anything it felt a little less magical than I'd imagined it would. Not nearly as much fun as walking down La Cienega Blvd in Los Angeles to Fatty Arbuckle's old place, discovering it was the new home of the Three Bird Pot Pie. Kings Road was major department stores mainly. Then I ran into Gordon Banks, his career in ruins after a 1972 head on car crash damaged his eyesight at a moment when he was undoubtedly the greatest goalkeeper in the world. I’d wondered whether he didn’t enjoy meeting me, or didn’t like signing autographs or was just weary, shopping on Kings Road could be tiring.

Max Décharné’s Kings Road book is anything but tiring. But then one of the things Max didn’t do was play in goal for Stoke City. Which has always sounded exhausting. Available once more this April in hardback from Omnibus Press, King’s Road, The Rise And Fall of the Hippest Street in the World remains the classic rise-and-fall-and-rise-and-fall-again story of establishment streets steeped in sedition, featuring some of the most famous figures of Britain’s rangy cultural history… from Henry VIII to David Bowie, Margaret Thatcher to Vivienne Westwood, Karl Marx to Mozart to Mary Quant, all set against a backdrop of many of the pivotal moments of the fifties, sixties and seventies and obviously, for H-VIII, before that. 

King’s Road, The Rise And Fall of the Hippest Street in the World is ideal and highly desirable for the closet psychogeographer’s in the family, the flaneurs, the drifters. The supra-situationalists or any seeker preparing to thread the needle of this place and its times. This vastly entertaining book is for almost everyone else though too. If you need to take an armchair walk down the Kings Road, Max Décharné’s is the man you’ll want to have with you.I think that's Max...


Essential Info
Publication Date: 13.04.2023
ISBN: 9781913172602
Pages: 480
Format: Hardback

Pre-order King’s Road, The Rise And Fall of the Hippest Street in the World from Bookshop.uk here⇒

Ancient Champion
Columnist

Ancient Champion writes for OUTSIDELEFT while relentlessly recording and releasing instrumental easy listening music for difficult people. The Champ is working on Public Transport, a new short story collection that takes up where 2021's Six Stories About Motoring Nowhere (Disco City Books) left off. It should be ready in time for the summer holidays. More info at AncientChampion.com


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