14 Hair-Raising Pics Of Punk London In Its Heyday

14 Hair-Raising Pics Of Punk London In Its Heyday
Early Clash near the Roundhouse, Chalk Farm/Camden Town and their manager’s offices and rehearsal rooms, December 1976. © Sheila Rock.

The 1970s UK punk movement was fast and furious when it hit. The Roxy — London's first and premier punk club — only lasted 100 nights.

But photographer Sheila Rock was there to capture the scene that would violently swerve the course of music — and fashion — forever.

SEX, King's Road SW3, 1976/1977. "An infamous shop owned by the creative and anarchic duo, Malcom McLaren and Vivienne Westwood. A seductive and somewhat intimidating fashion shop that has made history. It sold provocative clothes that were expensive and cool and desirable. Jordan (on the left) was the manager of SEX. I asked her to pose outside of the shop and as I was crossing the street, unknowing to me, a male passerby in flared trousers stared at her for a lengthy time. A caught moment." © Sheila Rock.

In her book, Young Punks, Sheila Rock relives the gritty, grubby — and occasionally glamorous — age, with pictures of bands and artists who've now long etched their legacies into music history.

BOY , Kings Road SW3. "This was the punk shop created by John Krivine. He moved his Acme Attractions from the basement of Antiquarius and opened BOY, which sold punk inspired clothes. Krivine with Malcom and Westwood were the only shops selling clothes to Punks." © Sheila Rock.

Rock was a regular photographer for The Face magazine, shooting many of its covers — and giving her access to the likes of The Sex Pistols, The Damned and The Cure.

Interior of BOY: shop girls at work. "The interior was created by John Harwood and Peter Christopherson. It was inspired by a gruesome story of a young Boy who died violently." © Sheila Rock.

In this in this updated, reprinted and repackaged edition of Young Punks, the Buzzcocks pose pre-gig outside the Marquee club on Wardour Street. John Lydon, aka Johnny Rotten, poses swaddled in a red coat — about to embark on his post-Pistols music career. And employees of BOY on the King's Road show you don't have to wear a uniform to work.  

Jeannette Lee at the entrance of Acme Attractions, King's Road. "Jeannette Lee and Don Letts managed this cult fashion shop in the basement of Antiquarius Market on the King’s Road, London. It was a vibrant mix of 60s Beatles memorabilia and fashion. It was more than a shop. It was a destination place for London Fashionistas, artists and musicians." © Sheila Rock.

Punk — which burgeoned in London clubs like the Roxy, the Marquee and the 100 Club — was about the fashion as much it was the music. Says Rock: "Punk permeated everything in fashion, music and lifestyle and its influence was everywhere you looked.

"My job as a photographer was to capture what was happening and let the pictures tell the story."

Early Generation X with Derwood Andrews, Billy Idol, John Towne and Tony James in front of the Roxy in 41-43 Neal Street, Covent Garden. The Roxy was the first punk club venue. © Sheila Rock.

The SEX shop on King's Road — owned by Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood — became an icon of the punk movement, and, like many of London's punk clubs, didn't last long (it was open only from 1974-6).

Inside the Roxy, Covent Garden. © Sheila Rock.

Indeed, many of the venues photographed by Rock here have long since bitten the dust. But as Kurt Cobain, who was inspired by many punks bands, would later say in his suicide note: "It's better to burn out than to fade away".

The Clash - Topper Headon, Mick Jones and Joe Strummer, in the Camden office of Bernie Rhodes, their manager. © Sheila Rock.

And at least the 100 Club on Oxford Street is going strong — recently receiving a grant to keep on rocking.

Generation X along the Embankment. © Sheila Rock.

Young Punks by Sheila Rock is available now on Omnibus Press, RRP £25.

We featured this book because we know it's the kind of thing our readers will enjoy. By buying it via links in this article, Londonist may earn a commission from Bookshop.org — which also helps support independent bookshops.

The Buzzcocks near the Marquee before a gig - Steve Diggle, Pete Shelley, Steve Garvey, and John Moher. "The Marquee was a popular music venue located at 165 Oxford Street." © Sheila Rock.
John Lydon at his flat in Chelsea. "He had left the Sex Pistols and formed Public Image Limited (PiL)." © Sheila Rock.
The Damned play at the Roxy. © Sheila Rock.
The Damned - Brian James, Rat Scabbies, Dave Vanian, and Captain Sensible - at the Roxy in 1977. "It was a club that lasted only 100 nights but it was the premier punk haunt." © Sheila Rock.
The Cure - Michael Dempsey, Lol Tolhurst, and Robert Smith, in 1978. "Shot along the Embankment with the grittiness of the Thames and moody skies." © Sheila Rock.

Last Updated 19 December 2023