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.