Friday, 18 May 2012

Fantasy punk band

I was never going to make it as a Slit or a Raincoat but that didn’t stop me fantasising about forming an all-girl punk band with my schoolfriends in ’78.  We couldn’t play any instruments (apart from the recorder on which I was at least adept at Greensleeves and the theme from The Wombles) and we couldn’t have afforded guitars and drums even if we’d intended to learn.  Hope had glimmered briefly the previous Autumn upon finding a discarded electric bass thrown onto the huge communal bonfire down the road before its potential incineration on Guy Fawkes’ Night but, seeing as it had been stripped of its pickups, strings and electrics etc., it wasn’t going to be easy to do much with.  So we just looked at it admiringly and wondered if it could be used as a prop one day in our promo photo-shoots.

With or without instruments, promo photo-shoots were a must.  Most were posed outside my mate’s dad’s garage, made of grey breeze-block and thus looking suitably cold and urban, with us trying to look unapproachably snotty while her dear mum took the pictures and tried not to laugh.  Fortunately she knew it was vital to keep the adjacent hanging baskets out of shot.

Finding a name was of the utmost importance – far more of a priority than actually playing anything.  I borrowed mum’s thesaurus and looked up words like dirt  and chaos and noise etc. to get ideas.  A long-list was compiled – names like The Dregs, The Deranged,  The Blasts… nothing really seemed to fit.  Then we got a bit more imaginative and for a while called ourselves The Xtremists - never mind that we were 14-year-old schoolgirls from nice suburban homes and the most extreme thing we could do was to swear within earshot of a Geography teacher.  Some time later I preferred the name The Arseknickers.  I thought it was a neat play on words and it sounded a bit rude – it looked good written on the cover of my school rough book too.

But our fantasy punk band remained just that. 

One day we made the mistake of telling the older blokes who worked in our local jeans shop that we were in a group.  “Oh, have you got many songs?  Do you have any tapes?” one enquired.  I think he must have had something in his eye because it sort of twitched when he looked at his colleague as he said it. Desperate not to lose face we told them that we’d recorded loads of songs.  I frantically searched my brain for lyrics I’d scrawled out in school break-times, most of which went along the lines of  “I hate teachers, they don’t understand, they just want to rule, they’re so bland”…

“Well, bring a tape in next Saturday and we’ll play it in the shop”.  Whatever it was he’d got in his eye was seriously troubling him by now and causing his mouth to twitch at the corners too.  “Okay…” we replied with brash outer confidence, whilst wondering inside what the fuck we were going to do.

An emergency plan was quickly scrambled.  We gathered round my house the next evening with all the equipment we needed to make our tape:  my dad’s TEAC portable cassette machine with its little microphone, a Maxell C60, the Clash album on the turntable of the family stereogram, and a few pages of hastily scribbled lyrics - Clash album lyrics.  The mic was carefully positioned to pick up both the record playing and our voices singing over the top, fingers poised to press the clunky Record and Play keys just as the needle dropped on the vinyl.  Yes, you’ve got it: we just did Karaoke Clash.  “No-one will know”, we thought.

I don’t think our girly choruses of ‘I’m so bored with the USA’ really drowned out Joe Strummer’s vocals and I’m not sure that the finger-tapping on the sideboard added much to the drumming either.  Of course it sounded horrendous, not helped by the fact that the crappy little mic probably picked up the sound of my mum hoovering halfway through Protex Blue better than it did my “he’s in love with Janie Jones, whoa”.

When it came to Saturday morning, I seemed to have developed that twitching condition myself…  So we did what any self-respecting rebels would do – we bottled out and went back to posing instead.



22 comments:

  1. Oh boy am I back at 14 again!

    1976/7 - I was briefly in a band called Satyre, that was learning Bowie/Bolan tunes etc. Then we heard White Riot... Take one jacket my Dad was throwing out, a razor blade and a bunch of safety pins and ... we were Gash. I was sadly quickly evicted from the band - can't remember really why now, probably as I no doubt insisted on playing a Cmaj7 somewhere rather than straight punk. We did a shoot all stood on/in a skip!

    Moving on - I quickly went towards metal/prog rock. But I do remember the two tape recorder trick in my first attempts at home recording. So laydown rhythm guitar and vocal using two mics into the music centre. Put that tape in a mono player next to one mic whilst recording another guitar part in the other one... labourious and awful quality. All the demos for Unforgotten King my prog rock band from 79 - 81 were recorded like that! Some of them were like 10 - 15mins long as well. Mad! Then I'd take them to the band they'd be straining to hear it all!

    Kids today they just plug into a computer ... blah blah blah!

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    1. Haha - what great band names: Satyre, Gash and Unforgotten King - they tell you all you need to know!
      Love the recording technique, it was about making the most of what you had, and what you could do with it, eh.
      And a photoshoot on/in a skip is just perfect!

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    1. Indeed, Dr MVM, indeed....

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  3. Judging by old photos I was in some great bands....only we never got past the photoshoots either... One day someone will spend a fortune trying to track down that elusive Arseknickers 45 !

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    1. I bet there are some fabulously cool 'band' photos tucked away in your old boxes and drawers!

      I might have to replicate the Arseknickers' first 7" sleeve one of these days (but preferably without a pic of the band...)

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  4. This story brought a smile to my lips and so many similar memories. Tragically, my first 'fantasy' band was actually a fantasy prog rock group! Hahahah! I'm laughing now at the thought of it. I could play about four chords on the guitar (acoustic - couldn't afford an electric); one mate had another acoustic but couldn't play at all; another was 'saving up' for a bass; yet another claimed to own a drum kit but we never saw it. We talked about buying a band keyboard (£20 from Woolies) even though no one could play it (am practically rolling on the floor now thinking about it!). Our 'influences'? Yes, Genesis, ELP. We 'rehearsed' ONCE in the back of my mate's dad's fruit and veg van! The realisation that we had zero musical skill or suitable equipment didn't stop us thinking up the vital band name - Cosmic Flame! Hahahahahahaha!!! What freaks. Must have been about 14 and should have known better. A couple of years later punk came along and I actually managed to join a next to useless but 'real' band that played two gigs before the inevitable musical differences sent us all on solo careers! That's another story. Love the image of you having your promo shots done carefully avoiding the hanging baskets. By the way, nice Cortinas song. They were Bristolian comtemparies of mine bu they came from one of the 'posh' schools so they could actually afford to be in a proper group. We liked their songs but hated them.

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    1. Oh that's so funny, SB - and very relatable. Plus another great band name that says so much! Top marks for the effort of at least making it to one 'rehearsal', given your lack of equipment, etc. etc.!
      Prior to my punk band ambitions, I'd been exposed to Tubular Bells by my big sister, and at the tender age of 11 or thereabouts my next-door neighbour and I decided we'd try and compose some similar epic on her family's piano. Neither of us could play, and she was tone-deaf, we couldn't even have managed 'Chopsticks'. But it was fun trying, because in our naive child minds we actually thought it was possible... (I'm sure Mike Oldfield would've been quaking in his boots).
      Didn't know that about the Cortinas btw - interesting!

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  5. Priceless. And so familiar. I too yearned to be in a band but have always had the musicality of a fridge-freezer. Despite the DIY spirit of punk I was shy of performing as I was sure I'd be shown up as the talentless plank I was, so it wasn't until I embraced New Romanticism that my true creativity was unleashed. This mainly consisted of storyboarding pretentious videos for which the songs remained largely unwritten, but which generally featured me in top-to-to Antony Price, lying on a chaise longue with Midge Ure at my feet.

    I fear there are photos of one of our 'rehearsal sessions' somewhere, with my mate Craig taking the Midge Ure role (he had the sideburns.). I do hope they've been destroyed...

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    1. Ah, thank you! I like the sound of your video - lots of moody shots, shadows and perhaps some futuristic looking solarisation effects? I must say I'm tempted myself by the idea of lying on a chaise longue with some dapper chappy at my feet (not necessarily Midge Ure, though...)

      I find the problem about embarrassing photos of oneself is that it's usually other people that have them...

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  6. My one actual band that actually made some music had a name far inferior to those of some of the fantasy bands of my youth - Silent Command! Named after a Cabaret Voltaire single! If it sounds austere, minimal, industrial even...well that was probably the effect we were after, regardless of the fact that our set included a Ramones cover and a ten minute blues epic, somewhat at odds with the image! It goes to prove your theory that we should've concentrated our efforts on choosing our name and forgotten about the music!

    In the years prior to this i'd been in 'bands' such as Detour (glam - one VERY embarrassing photo session which sounds uncannily similar to yours C), Xhamshia (don't ask), The Liquid Gang, The Cruel Crusade and my favourite, The Visionaries - a name later used by a Los Angeles hip-hop outfit who clearly got the idea from a spotty group of teenage boys from Ipswich - we should've sued!

    A terrific post C and some hugely enjoyable comments.

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    1. Thank you, amd I'm loving everybody's comments, too - what great names and images we're collecting here...

      You seem to have excelled in your membership of bands in quotation marks; I can see now an imaginary cover for an old NME with moody photos of Silent Command, Xhamshia, The Cruel Crusade etc.... I bet the reviews would've been interesting!

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  7. Great stuff. The Arseknickers was a brilliant name.

    I was in plenty of made up bands too and even wrote reviews of our "gigs" and sent them into fanzines (under alias) which published them. We were called The Aggression. If that doesn't sum up modish teenage angst I dunno what does.

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  8. Thanks, Monkey. I like yer style: the made-up gig reviews, what a laugh! I bet there were fanzine readers everywhere looking out for your tour dates...
    *The Aggression* - perfect.

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  9. What a brilliant story I can see the movie now!..arseknickers, keeping the hanging baskets out of shot!! Great! I think we've all been there. Growing up in the 80's I had a new romantic-ish band suitably yet tragically named 'Electric Thunder'. I say band, it consisted of myself on Sax, I was awful, all I wanted to play was 'Careless Whisper' or 'The Heat is On' but I ended up sounding like mating sea elephants! The other two in the band had that tiny white Casio keyboard (you might as well of had a kazoo) and drumsticks and his school folder. We did write our own stuff though!!

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  10. Thanks, flycasual - yes I think we've all been there (at least anyone over about 30 presumably - all part of the DIY ethos that I don't think exists much now.) Another great band name, I see! Yep I remember those Casio keyboards. And impressed that you played (if that's the right word?!) the sax....

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  11. From my recollections of similar experiences: the photoshoot/artwork was always of more pressing importance than the music...

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    1. Well you have to get your priorities right don't you?! Lovely to see you here again, A.

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  12. I'm not gonna relate any embarrassing information on myself in this regard until you produce the Promo Pics.

    I'm probably the only one that fantasied more about being a producer than a actual musician. I still do...mainly because I listen to a lot of country music. Terrific songs...horrid production.

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    1. Ah that's a shame in one way (that I don't get to hear your embarrassing tale) but a relief in another (because I don't have any promo pics! Closest idea you can get is the one on my post 'first gig you ever went to...' Take that and times by four!)
      I've never known a 'fantasy producer' before - interesting. I've certainly heard some terribly produced albums though so I can see where you're coming from!

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    2. Awesomely embarrassing, e.f! But worth the cringes for a cheap laugh, I hope!

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