As these rarely seen photographs show, when the subject of my last book the late Tommy Roberts took over management of Kilburn & The High Roads he sought to elevate them from the pub-rock scene by upping the visual ante on every front.
With the release of debut single Rough Kids lined up, Roberts and his partner Willy Daly booked a late night showcase gig at London’s King’s Road Theatre (home at the time to The Rocky Horror Show) and drew on their collective fashion business experience with such leading emporia as Mr Freedom, City Lights Studio, Quorum and The Sweet Shop to kit out the group’s frontman Ian Dury with a tailored 40s style double breasted “Alan Ladd” suit and a tie made from peacock feathers from the late Malcolm McLaren’s Chelsea boutique/installation Sex at 430 King’s Road.
Future Sex Pistols bassist Glen Matlock – then a shop assistant at Sex – has recalled how he measured Dury up for the suit. The singer was also provided with a boxer’s gown bearing Billy Bentley’s name on the back. Dury’s friend Kosmo Vinyl, who is in town from New York, revealed this week that McLaren and his partner Vivienne Westwood also supplied a matching Brown Derby bowler hat and a boxer’s jumpsuit, to be worn during the performance of the single.
Daly and Roberts commissioned from design team Sue and Simon Haynes an ambitious stage set to emphasise the Kilburns’ London connections: a scale representation of Tower Bridge with a moonlit backdrop of the Thames embankment.
“By this time I was a set-builder so could turn my hand to constructing quite big designs,” says Haynes. “We made this out of plywood which we painted green and slotted together. The towers housed the lighting and I got my friend Andy Fail to paint most of the backdrop. It took about two weeks to put together in a church hall I rented in Ifield Foad, Fulham. Tommy brought Ian along to see how it was going and he said he loved it, but as far as I know it was only used a couple of times, I guess because it was too unwieldy to take from gig to gig.”
The backdrop remained a feature of the Kilburns act; it fell to road manager “Smart Mart” Cole to handle installation. “It looked fabulous but the band used to get quite irritated because it would take quite a time to take down after a gig when they were itching to leave,” says Cole.
On the night of the King’s Road Theatre performance, Malcolm McLaren was in the audience with Sex Pistol Steve Jones and musician/producer Chris Spedding. “The show started at 11.30pm after the pubs had closed and the cinema finished programming for the night,” recalled McLaren in 2006. “Ian and Kilburn & The High Roads summed up the whole London arena of fashion, music and art at that time, and Tommy was expert in communicating that.”
Taken from this post:
When Kilburn + The High Roads played the King’s Road Theatre 1974: Ian Dury in Let It Rock ‘Alan Ladd’ suit + feather tie and Sue and Simon Haynes’ extraordinary Tower Bridge stage set