December 8, 2023

The 70s 80s 90s Blog

Three Decades of History with TV historian Tony McMahon

King’s Road Chelsea in 1981

2 min read
In the early 1980s, the King's Road in Chelsea was still a magnet for hipsters and partygoers before it lost its cool
Strong LGBT presence in Chelsea in the 1980s

At the start of the 1980s, I was at college and a group of us had a little routine we called the “King’s Road run”. That would involve going down to the King’s Road in Chelsea, getting into a suitable mental state and then walking down the road asking “where’s the party?”

Unbelievably, we got into a few pretty full-on parties with this tactic. Because back in 1981, the King’s Road that cuts through the middle of Chelsea still had a bit of a cutting edge. That has well and truly disappeared today folks.

In the 1960s, it had been the home of fashionable niche boutiques. Then in the 1970s, Vivienne Westwood set up her shop Sex – later becoming World’s End with a large clock outside that span backwards. This was a meeting point for ultra-fashionable punks – who nevertheless claimed to disdain haute couture!

DISCOVER: Memories of Liverpool in 1981

What is a now a McDonalds was a night club. I went there around 1980 or 1981 and saw a New Romantic guy beaten up very badly by two or three denim clad heavy metal types. I still recall hearing his skull crack as a boot crashed down on his head. Horrible.

The Sloane Square end of the road was always very respectable. But the World’s End area felt a lot more run down. There were squats and the chunky Victorian villas were in a pretty dreadful condition. But the parties were great. And there was an eclectic mix of punks, Goths, futurists and a strong LGBT presence.

As often happens with London, the hipsters decamped at some point to Notting Hill and then eventually headed east to the other side of the capital. Today, you can bump into investment bankers should you wish but they won’t let you come to their parties!

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