As someone at the epicentre of the late-seventies punk explosion, we couldn’t think of a better person to ask than renowned photographer Sheila Rock, to regale us with stories of our capital. We find a London bursting with energy and potential, and tales of casually hanging with some newcomers called The Clash…
When I first started being a photographer it wasn’t just about the music, it was the youth culture I was interested in too; it was fascinating and vibrant, something very different, very English. We had a style in New York, but it was more beatnik, more Warhol, this was so different and expressive, both the music and the fashion.
That was how I got started, I knew Lenny Kaye (of the Patti Smith band) from New York and I remember coming to see them at the Roundhouse. Afterwards he was talking about this new band, called the Clash, and how good they were, he said to come see them at the ICA. That’s where I met them for the first time, there was a bit of a buzz, but it was very early days and no one really knew what was coming next. That was the great thing about that time, it was all so spontaneous. After that I went down to Kingsland Road and stumbled on Acme Attractions, where I met Don Letts and Jeanette Lee. Back then Jeanette was just a 17 year old shop girl who used to go to gigs and who, I think around that time, had started to manage PiL in a way. She eventually ended up becoming the Managing Director at Rough Trade and, well, Don Letts, he was always hugely influential and integral to the scene and time.
Sheila Rock’s ‘Punk +’ Launches at Browns, South Molton St, on April 25th.