49 Kings Road, West London, England

You Can't Always Get What You Want by The Rolling Stones

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I went down to the Chelsea drugstore
To get your prescription filled Read full Lyrics
Considering the history of the Rolling Stones, the drugs, debauchery and tendency to stir up all manner of hell and unrest, you would, of course, think that the "Chelsea Drugstore" is anything but a traditional drugstore. Maybe a metaphor of some kind or a shady establishment frequented by the lower castes of society for illicit businesses, but certainly not a place where you can literally get your prescriptions filled.

The "Chelsea Drugstore" was a real place. It was located in Chelsea, but it was actually more of a mini-mall than a drug store. Customers could find everything from food outlets, bars, newsstands, record stores, boutiques and, of course, a chemist.

Chelsea Drugstore in the 1970s, 49 Kings Road, West London<br>Photo: Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Libraries)Chelsea Drugstore in the 1970s, 49 Kings Road, West London
Photo: Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Libraries)
The Chelsea Drugstore opened in 1968, one year before the song was released. It replaced the White Hart Pub and along the way became Britain's first American-style drugstore. Standing on 49 Kings Road, on the northwest corner of Royal Avenue and Kings Road in West London, it was situated in a region known for its high class. Its sleek modern glass and aluminum exterior was modeled on Le Drugstore on Boulevard St. Germain in Paris, and the building was arranged over three floors. The upstairs section even boasted a highly stylized chrome-and-neon soda fountain.

Featuring stainless steel, brass, marble and mirrors, the building drew attention as well as ire - raising the eyebrows of local residents. There were no shortage of complaints from the Royal Avenue locals, who saw the modern glass and aluminum facade as an eyesore to the existing architecture of the surrounding area, not to mention the type of clientele the venue attracted. And they had much to complain about, with the store opening hours stretching to 16 hours a day, seven days a week during the peak of its popularity. At one stage the store even boasted the "flying squad" delivery option to those customers looking to get more for their dollars. This involved young ladies fitted out in eye-catching, extravagant purple catsuits hand delivering purchased goods on flashy motorcycles.

Kings Road, West London<br>Photo: Danny Robinson, <a href="https://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/192556" target="_blank">Geograph Project</a>, CC 2.0Kings Road, West London
Photo: Danny Robinson, Geograph Project, CC 2.0
Good things never last, however, and The Chelsea Drugstore closed down in May 1971. A more sterile imitation reopened in September, but its reincarnation would also become short-lived, as it formally closed in the late seventies. Later it was renovated for public housing, but more recently the site was taken over by the McDonald's franchise chain. Whereas the song to this day is still popular and also fondly remembered, there is little left of the original Chelsea Drugstore except for some black and white photographs and sketchy descriptions from its glory days.

The Chelsea Drugstore's other claim to fame owes to Stanley Kubrick, who filmed part of A Clockwork Orange there. In the movie the site was transformed into a record shop, where Alex picks up two girls for a spot of high speed "in and out."

Pete Trbovich
May 17, 2010
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Comments: 4

  • Tim Strapp from Us Via BatterseaI think Ira meant skinheads chasing punks not teddy boys as I sadly was one of those skinheads. In my defence I was young and stupid. Had many a good evening in there when only the bar was open...
  • Ira Potter from Kensington, London.When I was 15, (1975), I worked on Saturdays in Sainsburys opposite the drugstore, we used to go to the bar at lunchtime for a couple of pints and in the upstairs bar they had strippers, that was where I first saw a beautiful woman naked dancing to Roundabout by Yes, nobody seemed to mind that I was obviously underage, I was a late developer and looked about 13, we also used to sit downstairs in the windows and watch the teddy boys chasing the punks up and down The Kings Road, a lot of the punks had bondage straps between their legs so they couldn't run very fast and the teddy boys would hook the straps with umberellas.
  • Christopher Jackson from DoncasterI worked at the drugstore In the late 60s the manager's name was Mr Guy Gellinoe ? The Stones song is in fact " I was standing in line with Mr jelly " as that was his nick name with us . This needs checking with the Stones to prove that this is correct
  • Mark Moody from Usa AlabamaI lived in England during these years and actually visited this as well as being on the stage in Hyde park when the stones did the concert with over one million present, an amazing time
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