London was definitely swinging. Buzzing with an endless energy. Commanding a performance for the whole world. During this time, it dazzled so brightly that everyone watched and listened for what trends and music were surfacing from the clubs and street corners. Anybody who was anybody was here doing anything. Robert Fraser, the famous British art gallery owner and art director for the Sgt. Pepper's album cover, said of that place in that time, "Right now, London has something that New York used to have: everybody wants to be there. There's no place else. Paris is calcified. There's an indefinable thing about London that makes people want to go there."
Late 1960s Chelsea was hot, setting fashion, art, and music trends the world would follow. It was a West London borough buzzing with excitement and hedonistic experimentation. It was the swing of Swinging London. This kind of energy, however, was nothing new here. Chelsea had long been London's bohemian quarter - an enclave for artists, musicians, radicals, writers, painters, and poets. Oscar Wilde, Henry James, and T.S. Eliot wrote here. The 19th Century Pre-Raphaelite painters imposed their avant-garde art philosophies here. And by the late 60s, The Beatles, Bob Marley, Jimi Hendrix, and the Rolling Stones walked Chelsea's streets, shopped Chelsea's stores, and sipped pints in Chelsea's pubs. They joined the neighborhood's other free thinkers who debated and shared art and ideas that affected the rest of the planet.
"If you were young and interested in music and style, there was only one place to be. And that
Gene Krell, Fashion and Creative Director, Conde Nast Asia/Pacific, former owner of King's Road fashion boutique icon Granny Takes a Trip
King's Road scores the heart of London's Chelsea like a lifeline. It is the neighborhood's pulsing artery. In the late 60s, it was the hub of the Swinging London wheel, ground zero for the counter culture movement. If you wanted to connect with the cutting edge of music or style, there was only one place to plug in: King's Road. Amid the white, blue, and sugary-pink Georgian and Victorian cottages were boutiques with curiosity-piquing names such as Hung On You, Granny Takes a Trip, and Dandie Fashions. The shops beckoned sidewalk strollers - all sporting the fashion trends of the moment - with storefronts washed with elaborately painted designs.
Despite the glamorous air swirling here - despite all that was happening to expand the worlds of art and music and fashion - King's Road was still lightly dusted with a certain nonchalance. It remained a neighborhood kind of place. No one thought twice about seeing Jimi Hendrix trying on a new pair of boots. Keith Richards stirring a cup of tea at a tavern. Rod Stewart learning the nuances, through a series of stalls and starts, of his new Italian sports car.
This is why King's Road was so special. No one took it for granted. But no one inflated its importance. It was balanced. The creatives were licensed to create. And they did.