Gene Krell talks Glam and Sunglasses – Keith Richards Deeply Moved, Elton John Breaking Rules
Part One of this interview can be found by clicking: HERE.
I’ve spoken to Gene since Friday’s post. He offered a couple of clarifications. Firstly he only worked at Steve Paul’s Scene club for special events. “I worked mainly at Trax, Ondine and the Salvation”.
Secondly, the famous story about Syd Barrett dropping off dirty laundry at Granny Takes A Trip might not have been as off the beam as it’s made out to be. “Yes, I loved Syd. He confused our shop with the Sunlight Laundry that was next door”. Perhaps an honest mistake, but… “He questioned me afterwards as well asking if Granny’s could do his laundry.” As for Gala Pinion, “Gala was unearthly! Did God create such a creature?”, but stressed his wife is the most beautiful of all.
And thirdly Keith Richards wasn’t wearing a jacket from Granny’s in the photograph below: he was wearing an entire suit from Granny’s.
Gene recalls he and Keith laughed about that photo, about Bob Dylan saying, “Hey Keef, where ja git da suit?”.
Nowadays stylists choose most performers’ wardrobe. I work far more often with stylists than performers. Back then musicians with style shopped for themselves. A key to Granny’s success in the Krell era was that musicians simply liked to come there and hang out. Although the clothes were great the scene helped keep them coming back. Gene’s taste in music was a factor.
Keith Richards, in fact, shared Gene’s love for American roots music; old Country and Bluegrass like the Monroe Brothers and Lefty Frizzell. This was around the time Gram Parsons was living with Keith. Gene would play obscure records, rare examples of the high and lonesome sound. Keith’s passion for music was so intense such records could move him almost to tears. He describes Keith as “gracious and generous”, Charlie Watts as “a lovely man”. Many years later when Gene worked for Barney’s Charlie swung by just to say hello.
In this day and age it’s hard to believe it was ever possible for a brand to forge relationships with high profile clients this way. Nowadays you’re aware of the army of flacks pulling oars below deck like galley slaves. In Gene’s words Granny’s was “a time not a place”.
He calls the milieu in which he, his partners, and competitors (including Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren) worked a “Passion Culture”. He feels the personalities and talents of that era would likely get buried in today’s more corporate environment.
Indeed, the work was as intense an expression of individuality as any fashion seen in the 20th Century.
So what were Gene’s inspirations for Glam? “As a kid I loved cowboys. I was simply astonished at the way they looked. They were my inspiration. Still are in many respects.” As such Nudie Cohn was an influence. More conceptually it was “decadence meets pragmatism”.
But around here we’re concerned with eyewear.
What did you wear? “Hollywood wraparound sunglasses, aviator sunglasses . It’s what was happening at the time.” Some sunglasses were pretty elaborate, but many pictures of Glam Rockers show them in variations of traditional styles.
I ask about Elton John. “Elton bought out the entire shop at one point and we made a number of things for him… I always felt he got it wrong.”
I argue the costumes helped elevate him from a great singer/songwriter to an icon.
“There were rules my son…”