MAX DÉCHARNÉ – King’s Road: The Rise and Fall of the Hippest Street in the World (Expanded and Revised Edition)
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This expanded and revised edition of author Max Décharné’s vibrant and colorful story of the infamous King’s Road in London makes for a delightful summer read and is both insightful and humorous. With its warm and perfectly ironic tone, the book expertly guides us through the labyrinthine and deeply fascinating history of what was often referred to as the hippest street in the world.
From the outrageous (and bloodthirsty) Henry the VIII to the sonic cacophony of the Sex Pistols, it should come as no surprise that this particular location was and is steeped in urban legends and myths, or modern London folklore, if you will. Harboring a sense of the unique and often associated with fashion and the arts as well as the glitz and glamour of the 50s, 60s, and early 70s, this is where many an actor, playwright, author, radical politician, designer, record producer, and musician lived. Groundbreaking and innovative plays and scripts were staged here with John Osborne’s Look Back in Anger being but one example, and many of those timelessly cool tunes by the early incarnation of the Rolling Stones also came about in these environs. The punk explosion, the SEX shop, the roots of the Sex Pistols, the controversial theater plays, the eccentric restaurants, the outlandish bars, the unconventional shops, and the clientele who either frequented or inhabited this particular part of the city are all covered and touched on throughout its 518 pages. Some of the more intriguing and curious bits of information and anecdotes involve such onetime residents as occultist Aleister Crowley, Hammer Horror icon Christopher Lee, James Bond author Ian Fleming, and legendary actor (and Get Carter badass) Michael Caine. Some of its chapters are literally a treasure trove of strangely compelling tales and narratives that will leave you spellbound.
Packed with amusing trivia, quirky details, and enlightening remembrances, this is an enjoyable and impressive study of the pulsating heart of the King’s Road, and although it does tend to feel slightly too dense and convoluted on occasion, it is a comprehensive piece of work that perfectly captures the audacious spirit and lively aura of the area and its people. For anyone with more than a passing interest in the Swinging Sixties cultural revolution as well as the birth of punk rock, this one is a must-have and a mandatory read.