//Steve Jones, Unknown, Alan Jones, Chrissie Hynde, Jordan, Vivienne Westwood. Photo: David Dagley/Rex Features.//
SEX became a magical place. People spent hours there; no one wanted to leave. In it, I created a feeling that was both euphoric and hysterical. You felt an enormous range of possibilities – that whatever was happening couldn’t be predicted, but it was a movement toward a place unknown.
Malcolm McLaren, Musical Paintings [JRP Ringier 2008].
One of the most prescient pieces published about 430 King’s Road in its incarnation as SEX appeared, appropriately enough, in sex magazine Forum in the mid-70s.
And, after more than 35 years, I’ve tracked down the writer and the photographer who, for the first time anywhere, recall the revolutionary retail environment and the sexually-charged photo-shoot featuring future Sex Pistol Steve Jones, performer Chrissie Hynde, radical shop assistant Jordan, film-writer Alan Jones and, of course, Vivienne Westwood.
The feature appeared in the June 1976 issue of the magazine and was written by expat American Forum staffer Len Richmond, later to pen hit British sitcom Agony and Three’s Company (the US version of the UK’s Man About The House). The photographer was Chelsea-based freelance David Dagley.
“In 1973 I’d arrived in the UK from San Francisco with 300 bucks in my pocket and found that I could work as a journalist because nobody cared about whether I had a green card,” explains Richmond down the line from Los Angeles.
Within a couple of years Richmond had been taken on by Phillip Hodson and his wife Anne Hooper at Forum, a monthly pocket-sized publication where sexual relations were surveyed in a serious, non-prurient manner.
Ever on the look-out for subject-matter, Richmond was drawn by the giant pink rubber SEX sign which had been erected on the facade of 430 King’s Road the previous autumn. Richmond also had a personal interest, since his mother owned the second-largest manufacturer and wholesaler of sex toys in the US at that time.
“So, you know, always on the look-out for clients for Mom, I thought I would go see these guys,” says Richmond. “In fact they didn’t stock her products, but I realised that it was a great subject for Forum.
“The leather gear interested me; as a gay guy from San Francisco I was into leather, though I thought the rubber stuff was curious. I hadn’t really hooked into the British love of rubber, the cutting-off of the air, the really constrictive clothing. It kind of horrified me, to be honest, as liberal as I was. But I saw that the t-shirts with the porn extracts were part of the overall act of rebellion. Whatever they could do to piss off people, they would.”
Richmond also suspected that the rubber-wear was part of the arsenal of provocation. “It was another way to say: ‘Nothing bothers us. We’re going to throw this in your face and get a reaction from you.’ I suppose the Sex Pistols were a natural progression of that attitude.”
Richmond distinctly remembers Malcolm McLaren being present on the visit in spring 1976, though he took a back-seat role as Westwood gave the journalist a tour and history of their residence at the site, laced with polemic.