Interview Mark Wardel
Portraits Etienne Gilfillan
I’m in the lobby of the famous 100 Club on London’s Oxford Street waiting for the first female ambassador of punk culture, Jordan Mooney, or simply ‘Jordan’ as she became known the world over, with her iconic makeup and iconoclastic attitude. She has been muse and inspiration to Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren, Derek Jarman, The Sex Pistols and Adam and the Ants among others. Long gone is the famous peroxide beehive hair and in its place a punky crop of violet spikes. Jordan applies a violent slash of bright red Chanel lipstick for the photo session, and once the shoot is over we repair to old-style Soho drinking den Trisha’s to talk about her forthcoming memoir entitled ‘Defying Gravity’.
Mark Wardel: You’ve always looked great and have made some outrageous style statements – like the famous see-through skirt and no-knickers look of 1976 – and I wondered what, in today’s climate of blandness and conformity, the reaction might be were you to do that now?
Jordan Mooney: I think things have gone in a very retrograde direction since then. Obviously, it was seen as very, very shocking back then – although to me it wasn’t shocking because I felt very free and happy in my own skin.
MW: What were the sources you drew on to put together that amazing look?
JM: It started when I was very young – my parents really wanted this pretty little girl but they actually got someone who was messing up really lovely vintage stuff and combining it with sort of Eric Stanton-style fetishy gear… I just felt absolutely comfortable, even though people in the street would look at me. I’ve always disliked nostalgia but I believe the history of fashion and music has to be worked upon… I was the transformer of the 50s look – I mussed it up and took it somewhere else.
MW: I saw the early punk movement as almost more of a fashion and art-based thing than the music…
JM: Yes, it was born out of the art movement, and its nucleus was Vivienne and Malcolm’s shop at 430 King’s Road, which is somewhere that’s always been a kind of moving and shaking point.
MW: Certain areas of London seem to historically always attract certain types of people or energies…
JM: I interviewed Vivienne Westwood for my book and she said the same thing – historically, something had always been there at 430 King’s Road, and because it was so inaccessible punks had to make that long pilgrimage from Sloane Square, often accompanied by tooled-up policemen because of the danger of violence from Teddy Boys.
MW: The 70s were violent times. People now don’t realise how violent that decade was, but it must have been incredibly exciting and stimulating when the whole Sex Pistols thing exploded…
JM: It was! And they were head and shoulders above anything else at that time because of their uniqueness. I always liken them to a great TV series like Star Trek with the perfect cast… They would never have become so famous if they hadn’t had those exact people in those parts, and the Pistols were like the perfect band.
MW: One of the main social hangouts for Punks in the late 70s was Louise’s in Poland street. What was it like?
JM: Louise’s was a lesbian club. When you walked in, your first impression was that it was full of very well turned out men in tuxedos dancing with each other, but suddenly, as you looked around, you realised they were all women… no men at all! It had a very Berlin type of vibe, and Louise was this very grand Marlene Dietrich type – but a little worn around the edges – sitting at a little table at the top of the stairs.
The punks more or less took over Louise’s and there was a really great DJ, a gay girl called Caroline. At the end of every night she’d play this song – “Every little breeze seems to whisper Louise” – and you knew the evening was ending, and I swear I’d almost be crying because I didn’t want it to end!
MW: I find it very weird retracing our footsteps in this city which has changed so much…
JM: Same here – it is a weird sensation. We were just at the 100 club, which is still going strong, but so many other places I used to frequent such as the Marquee on Wardour Street have all gone…
MW: Your memoir is due out soon, but I hear you almost lost a huge treasure trove of archival material from it.
JM: Yes! I went to my publishers with a bag containing a lot of irreplaceable photos and documents, including love letters from Adam Ant and a book of his handwritten lyrics for the ‘Dirk Wears White Sox’ album. Basically, my entire life was in that bag and while rushing to get the train I left it on the platform. As the train pulled out I looked down and realised the bag wasn’t there – and the next stop was Gatwick! I was in compete shock. Fortunately, about four days later, I got the most wonderful call from a lady called Gladys who said “Ere luv, is that Jordan Mooney? We’ve got your bag!”
Jordan Mooney’s memoir Defying Gravity is out April 25th