Lou Reed and Iggy Pop's London weekend that made rock history 50 years ago

Gigs at Kings Cross Cinema provided the cover shots for Transformer, by Lou Reed, and Raw Power, by Iggy and The Stooges

Two nights at Kings Cross Cinema provided the cover shots for Transformer, by Lou Reed, and Raw Power, by Iggy and The Stooges - Credit: Mick Rock/André Langlois

A plaque has been unveiled at the venue where gigs by Lou Reed and Iggy Pop provided the photographs for two iconic album covers.

On July 14-15, 1972, promoter Tony Defries hired King's Cross Cinema, now Scala, to put on the successive London debuts of Lou Reed and Iggy Pop to coincide with the start of David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust tour.

The photographer Mick Rock, who died in November, was there both nights. His pictures became the album cover shots for Lou Reed’s Transformer and Raw Power by Iggy and the Stooges.

On Thursday (July 14), American musician Thurston Moore, best known for Sonic Youth, unveiled a plaque to mark the legacy of the concerts, 50 years on.

Thurston, who now lives in Stoke Newington, moved to New York in the late 1970s and became part of the punk scene.

He said the events in King's Cross were important in part because of the connection forming between the London and New York rock and roll scenes, "which was primarily Bowie's fascination with Iggy and Lou Reed".

"That was so significant to everything that came afterwards," he said. "It feeds into a punk rock, and so I love that as an American living in London. I love that unit of borderless aesthetics.

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"Plus the two events that happened here on that weekend result in those records of Raw Power and Transformer – completely defining documents for me as a teenager. 

"At that at that time I was totally unaware that these gigs happened, but when Sonic Youth first played Scala, I was like: 'Oh my god, this is the place. We're playing the same place that Mick Rock's photos on Raw Power took place.'"

An advert in Melody Maker featuring Lou Reed and Iggy Pop's shows at King's Cross Cinema in 1972

An advert in Melody Maker featuring Lou Reed and Iggy Pop's shows at King's Cross Cinema in 1972 - Credit: André Langlois

The plaque was the idea of local musician Darren Van Asten, of Sister Mercedes band. The unveiling was filmed for the forthcoming BFI-funded documentary Scala Club Cinema, directed by Jane Giles and Ali Catterall, and scheduled for cinema release in 2023.

Scala owner Ryan Bissett: “We’re pleased to celebrate these moments in the history of our iconic building. We’re proud to continue to host so much new music talent at Scala. It’s a building that holds a lot of great memories for many generations.”

Mick Rock's cover photo for Lou Reed's Transformer, displayed on stage at Scala

Mick Rock's cover photo for Lou Reed's Transformer, displayed on stage at Scala - Credit: André Langlois

Mick Rock's cover photo for Raw Power, by Iggy and The Stooges, displayed on stage at Scala

Mick Rock's cover photo for Raw Power, by Iggy and The Stooges, displayed on stage at Scala - Credit: André Langlois