Confessions of a Punk/Post-Punk Makeup Fan

I wrote an article that is featured on one of my favorite blogs and Twitter accounts, www.punkgirldiaries.com and on Twitter @punkgirldiaries. My article is about an episode in my life in my teens when I finally made it to the punk mecca of London, a few years too late. Thank you so much to Polly and co. for letting me write. The article continued with some details I had gathered from people on the Subcultures Group and other outlets. Since these are blogs and we can’t let the articles get too long, it was cleaned up and edited to give you some Pow Wow on the peacocks of punk and post-punk. Check it out here at:

…Not just any old make-up set…

Please, keep up if you can, with the fiendish writings of punkgirldiaries. Always a great insight to everything a punk girl should know.

The rest of the article is below:

By J. Canning

Makeup Realities

I used stage makeup from the Dancewear centre upstairs in Castle Street… water based you could paint it on with a brush…Valerie

It’s 1977 to 1980 and what did your average punk girl have to do with little funds and a desire to express herself with makeup have for resources to make that in-your-face statement? London is a theatre town, and much of it started with theatrical makeup. Not every punk girl wanted to start with the clown base. Most punk girls had to shop Woolworths or get eyeliner from Sari shops. Did you get your makeup off a stall in the markets? Use rice powder and mix with whatever the cheapest foundation was you could find? Eyeliner was the staple makeup piece and heaviest used, and it never seemed to wash off. Panda eyes, Egyptian eyes, or mutant Glam eyes, so many choices. Of course lipstick was an absolute must, often blended with several shades to get that right bizarre shade no one manufactured.

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Hope and Anchor

 

Then where did you go to show off, hang out, be with other like minded individuals? In London it was the Beaufort Market and Kings Road areas where the shops were, and Roebuck pub where many soon to be famous people like Phil Lynott and Johnny Lydon (Rotten) hung out. The big magnet being SEX, the shop of Malcolm McClaren and Vivienne Westwood at the World’s End area. Many punk girls seemed enthralled with the sixties icon store Biba, a magical place to go, and carried high-end makeup lines. Districts like Camden Town and Notting Hill where the race riots had occurred were popular hangouts. Portobello Road, Chelsea and clubs like the 100 Club and The Hope and Anchor on Upper Street, where bands like The Stranglers, XTC, U2, The Cure, Joy Division and The Ramones have played. Youth covered the markets and eventually anywhere they could be seen and meet other punks.

 

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As the movement gained momentum and so enraptured and shocked London, many punk women started modeling, and eager photographers followed along, like Derek Ridgers and Jill Furmanovsky. Photographers and videographers were compelled to document the growing scene, there was a thrust, a verve, a movement. And much of it shocked the nation. It became performance art, to put on makeup to the extreme and find the right places to hang out, be seen, make your political statement of the right to express yourself.

However, London was not the only place that had gone punk. Manchester, Liverpool, Dublin, Glasgow and Edinburgh all had their punk scenes that reflected the local youth and culture. Where did these punk girls get their inspirations from, looking at other women in the crowd, or was it the female band members in their local punk groups that inspired them most? Female pop icons enthralled women and men alike, strong women who would get out there and smolder like all women wanted to and the all girl bands like the Slits or Strawberry Switchblade edged them on. Punk girls simulated a favorite singer or download-9actress and went through phases. Not all punk goddesses could be alike, the point was be as different as you could be. Punk girls wanted to be different looking, but also shown respect and not harassed on the streets for their looks.

All my money went on makeup and second hand clothes. I didn’t want to look like anybody else. Roxy

imagesMany girls saw it as a way to see a fellow punk, identify with someone from the tribe. Places to meet like minded individuals were college campuses, band venues, dance halls and record shops. Sleep all the next day if you didn’t have a job, and start it up again. If they were brave enough to try to learn enough guitar or keyboard they could start a band, and escape to see the world and be part of that music industry thrall. Where sadly many bands never saw a profit from any of their records.

Real Punk Girls Makeup: Makeup on The Streets

What was the daily reality of the punk women of the late 70s, did they consider themselves feminine, or had feminism been turned on its head by punk? Punk was punk and not gender specific, it welcomed everyone that identified with it, and thrashed every aspect of social norms. So how was wearing makeup changing from a 1970s Disco Dolly shine to performance art? Some of the pigment colors were very much a carry over from the Glam era and by the middle 80s had changed to stylized masks. But women had to be very retro in a way, the eyes very reminiscent of the makeup styles of the 1920s used for black and white film, or some of the punk/rockabilly sex bomb look from the 1950s got blended in. Dark, heavy eyes, with bright highlights and later in the 80s, creating a different sideshow art kind of look, following bands like Visage.images-3

The following are accounts from men and women who lived the in punk scene in the UK in the years 1976 to 1982 and what they really did with their everyday punk look. 

I don’t remember which brands, though I did love Biba. I wasn’t trying to look ‘pretty’- we were trying to express a different type of femininity I think. I wanted to look striking, and different. Part of it was rejecting the traditional stereotype of girls looking ‘sweet’. –Gaye Bell

Just reread the post- I guess the message was, f*@# looking stereotypically pretty, like you want a man? And a huge reaction to f*@# Farah  Fawcett Majors type Californian ‘natural beauty’. Gaye and I caked our faces in the palest shade of panstick. – Rachel Bell

I used felt tip pens for eyeshadow lips drawing cute tattoos on face, daddy was sad he lost his pretty little girl. He came round and my parents would call me in to have a good laugh at what I was going out wearing. We found a way. Homemade diy.- Rose McDowall

Probably from around 1974 ish Germolene as a face mask/moisturiser straight out of the tin. Scraped off after a while with bog roll. Then some old theatre make up we used as kids to dress up. Was still lying around. Bit dried up but good enough as a starter. Black biro, bit later kajal from Cockburn Street market applied with a metal stick in the lid – went on like axel grease and smelt of vick nasal clear and made your eyes water for hours. Later Biba foundation – wee black pot with a twist on lid. The colour of a rich tea biscuit. Oily stuff. Went on nice but kinda curdled by the end of a night out. May have been called china doll shade putty? Unforgettable smell of linseed. Ellenet? Whatever, loads of sticky hairspray after trying sugar and egg white mixes. Ellenet was good for setting face paint too. No, don’t go there. Crazy color for hair. Fab all over shocking pink face and neck dye when it rained. Lips, early days watercolour paint, vaseline and a paint brush – later something black or black cherry. Somehow I still have my own face and hair. Ivy League sold the complete range of Barry M around 1982 or perhaps a year later. Oh the joys, and the boys with black eyeliner. Where did we find the time? Yes certified with a capital W… pale pink antiseptic gunk in a tin. I just used whatever was lying around. And my fertile imagination – Jay Kirkland

I was lazy about it all and lacking in skill. I loved Biba but couldn’t afford it. I remember a brand called Razzle Dazzle I adored, great sparkly stuff. When I could be bothered my AIM was to look like a Warhol painting, so I remember slapping on lots of bright green or purple eyeshadow, bright pink lipstick and as white a face as I could get. I loved kohl (and seem to still be wearing it…) I have an abiding memory of Jackie Brown painstakingly mixing her face colours on an actual palette. And Gaye applying several different lipsticks to arrive at the exact shade she wanted…I used to think the most challenging thing (for me and the world both) was to go out with no make-up at all. It took huge bravery, haha! And what happened then was that I was entirely ignored and invisible. So I think the drama of the paint was to make sure nobody could ignore us. For me it was more about expression than whether or not we were being conventionally attractive – though you’re right Gaye, there was an element of that.  – Grace

In some cases… when it got all gothy I gave that a total bodyserve. 6 hours to get ready for two hours posing then go home and take it all off for two hours. Beauty is not skin deep….black and white or tru-gel for me. KY gel was a bridge too far for me haha. Mind you my girlfriend at the time was a hairdresser so mucho products around. – James

Yes not fan of gothy look..but as Grace said there was a bit of our own artistry of sorts involved and making your own statement, and a form of playing and experimenting. But yes inner beauty just as important! – Anne

I put makeup on lots of straight boys, but mostly for gigs or videos. The boys often just did the Johnny Thunders eyeliner look. I think a part of it was kind of advertising who you were and what tribe of people you were akin to. You could spot a like-minded soul a mile away in 1970s Scotland. Part of it was shock value, but I always wanted to be the opposite of what people expected me to be, as they were usually judging me on my appearance. My idea of rebellion was to be polite, friendly and well-mannered, plus I wasn’t a drinker and I didn’t smoke. It took me a long time to stop putting kajal on my inner eyelids and dark shadow under my eyes, but it just looks mad when you get older.- Mairi Ross 

Going into the ladies at gigs and getting who ever offered to do the eyeliner for me….. I wonder,you may have done (Mairi), it was quite a regular thing,when I was going through my “Peter Perrett” look phase…if only I’d been skinny it might have worked! – Joe

Various carefully brushed on bright eyeshadows, dark eyeliner, bright lipstick and a dark cherry one I found. Usually the cheapest I could afford, like Rimmel and the cherry lipstick was Mary Quant or Biba. Putting it on took ages, wanted it different and striking. Didn’t go for gothic or anything on the face. Just had to stand out! With my short hair and often androgynous clothes even got mistaken for a boy! In the words of one woman who called me ‘son’, “Aye well ye cannae tell these days!”. – Anne

Miss Selfridge..all those sparkly eyeshadow sticks. The Indian kajal eyeliner in a little tin pot applied with a fine paint brush. Boots green hair gel. Food dye for hair. Max Factor bright pink lipstick. – Patricia-Anne

Razzle Dazzle.. stuff of legends.. came in wee glass pots… gold colours and the like… bit like Barry M today – Valerie

I was more of a Siouxsie Sioux era punk. Unfortunately because of the lack of phones there are only one or two photos somewhere, none that I can retrieve!! I used crimpers on my hair and used to stick my hair up with egg white and sugar!! Black kohl was my go to makeup with very artistic cat eyes, the lines of the khol running from mid nose to temple. And the same black kohl on my lips. My style went from ratty holy jeans, monkey boots, and ripped t shirt to seditionary jeans and tops(all with straps and buckles) and boots with countless buckles on them as well. I had a nose piercing to which I hung a chain (I think it had elephants on it) to my ear. I counted myself as a peacock punk, a little young to be there at the beginning, but in my teens still railed against anything that was considered the norm. – Tracii

I didn’t start wearing eyeliner until 1985, so I am excluded.  Dunno – the time was right. Always interesting to realise it was no big deal in London, but going back to Bradford contained more questions..! I think i wore make-up very much NOT to be attached to any sort of Youth Culture. Goth – No,. Well, yes, sure. I liked the idea of subverting ‘femininity’ at the time and I was a man with a wide feminine streak etc. – Chris

Kohl eyeliner and red lipstick . X – Radge

For me it was camouflage something to hide behind but I eventually gained my confidence through my punk years and learned I could be an individual and not a follower. It also allowed me to think for myself, too political and many other things too. – Maureen

My name is Mud. I got into Punk in 1978, when I was 14/15 years old.  I lived, and still do, in the South West of Scotland. London, the epicentre of Punk may well have been in another galaxy!  Apart from Top of the Pops, John Peel on the radio and music papers like Sounds and NME, I lived surrounded by flares, long hair, disco and beigeness.  As a skint teenager I “borrowed” make up from my Mum’s Avon collection and saved up for my first Max Factor kohl eyeliner. I was inseparable from my black eyeliner for the next six years ……..My first gig was The Undertones in Glasgow in May 1980. Looking back I dressed more like an extra to “This is England”, skinhead look as I was on my own loving Punk. Skinhead with long fringe, grandad shirt, lightweight combat trousers and monkey boots, I even had a Harrington jacket, no make up apart from brown eyeshadow ℅ Avon and eyeliner. Lots of eyeliner. Krazy colour hair dye. After using, and luckily not losing our hair to Sun In. We wanted to go bright hair by 1982.  We could only get it in a shop in Rose St, Edinburgh. No internet back in the day. My style evolved as I attended gigs. Edinburgh was our Mecca and we absorbed what we saw every time we made the trip to the Capital. Saw Dead Kennedys, Crass, Poison Girls, The Fall and Killing Joke at The Nite Club.  Exposed to hard anarchic views and culture. My mate and myself discovered Sun In hair lightener. We were aiming for peroxide white – as you’ll see from the photos this didn’t happen. I traveled up on my own to see Siouxsie and the Banshees- style icon. I by then had my leather biker jacket, bondage trousers and mini kilt – thought I looked the part. Black hair back combed, but nothing like the goddess herself. We did a night in Glasgow followed by a night in Edinburgh at Adam and the Ants, circa Kings of the Wild Frontier. Suddenly we were peacocks, but it was fine as Adam had/was a punk.  The fun had started and we were members of a new family, well for a couple of months. – Caroline

 

 

 

So I Started a Meetup Group; Confessions of a Alt Punk Post-Punk Girl

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It’s a Tuesday night in the PDX. My fledgling group of Alternative Music, Punk and Pos-Punk people have joined me at the Blackheart Bar for pub grub and a torturous Pub Quiz on punk rock. Robert and Alexis have provided some really obscure West Coast and East Coast punk trivia, I have included questions I gathered from the UK Scots and Irish scenes care of Twitter pals in the UK and Facebook Subcultures groups. There was one attendee who mopped the floor and the others were banging heads. It was a cringe worthy evening. The bar played my Spotify list for the two hours and just let it run after we left. Not too bad. Food wasn’t too bad, the decor is fun here.

Pretty Vacant, Sort of

Why did I start a wee band of people up in the PDX? I was getting desperate. This town is a music town but the copacetic attitude of people means serious dullsville if you really like music, or would like to even talk about it to people. I searched Meetup groups for months and found nothing like my tastes. Damn, this means I have to start one. Argh. So I did. Still a strange thing, people are interested but nothing like back in the day, like when you went to every show with your mates. What’s happening to the world? Is it just the town, or the age group? Don’t go there. People just seem to meander around this town, which can be good. But it’s nice to actually talk with someone about something, anything you have a passion for. Music, movies, life. Most of the indie scene here is very copacetic and ambient. Not really my thing.

I love doing the Celtic fusion, other days I just do soundtracks. I have my moods too. But I need something else. Yeah, and remembering your youth isn’t so bad, right? I have been surviving on Facebook Subcultures groups, Twitter feed, really wish there was someone I could talk to. Yeah, really I am an introvert with extroverted moments, but this world has become so isolating with everyone stuck in their smartphones and watches.

Adverts

Wait, I am going to see PiL in a few weeks. Should I take a chance and do the 1/4 page flier adverts like I used to do for dance clubs back in the eighties, on obnoxious colored paper and tell people about our Meetup group? Wow, how retro of me. I think I may give it a try. I am also helping ad to the ambience of the toilets if I put them in there, right?

So if you’re desperate and not finding enough people to share your music enthusiasm, and online Facebooking isn’t meeting your needs, try a Meetup in your town. Or go old school and just hang out in the record store. Maybe it might work.

Alt Punk Post-Punk Join if in the PDX or get an idea for your own group

Spotify Punk and Post-Punk Playlist so far

Blackheart Bar

2411 SE Belmont St.

Portland, OR 97214

503.954.1541

Fisherman’s Blues 30th Anniversary, Fresh as Ever

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I remember the first time I heard the song “Fisherman’s Blueson my local college radio station in California. I had been listening to the Waterboys first 3 Albums for years, and it had been fun trying to get import copies of them in the early 80s in San Francisco. I had really enjoyed what had been called,  “The Big Music”, a single from their A Pagan Place album, a music sense that spirituality and the land and people came together, and a music sound that was big and grabbed you. When I heard the change in the Waterboys music with the new single, it took a few times of playing the tape over, but I was hooked. Blending traditional and new sound, they were creating a bigger, deeper music. The Waterboys were definitely going in new directions. I think I played the album on cassette until I stretched that tape too much. Got it on vinyl. Had to sell it during dire straights, got a copy back a few years later, used as I wanted the original issue.  I have had it in various forms ever since. There may have been times in my life that I didn’t listen to it, it lay dormant as some of our favorite albums do due to family issues, me issues. However, I always found a way back to it when it was needed.

This October marks the 30th anniversary of the album. It was a record that may have only been released with 10-13 tracks depending on your country, however much, much more was recorded over the two year recording period and released on subsequent compilations. I have a fantasy that the final boxed set that came out in 2013 will be released as vinyl, if it was, I may find it. Yes, 100 plus songs. Heavy load, but always uplifting or sad. When You Go Away, always one that makes a tear come.download-7

Fisherman’s Blues was released on October 17, 1988. It would take two years to record, and two countries. Steven Wickham had joined the band after the Waterboys This is the Sea album had been released. Other musicians were called in to join in the many lengthly recording sessions. The Waterboys recorded the beginnings of the album at Windmill Lane Studio in Dublin during January to March, 1986. The band then had a madcap adventure in California and a recording session at Fantasy Studios in Berkeley, where much of the recordings would make it onto subsequent albums. During March to August of 1987, the band returned to Windmill Lane in Dublin.  The main members of the band were present, Mike Scott, Steve Wickham, Anto Thistlethwaite on sax, Trevor Hutchinson bass, and Roddy Lorimer on trumpet. A large crew of guest musicians played on many of the tracks. Pat McCarthy was the recording engineer.

The remaining bulk of the over 100 songs and recordings were created at Spiddal House near Galway, Ireland. Where more madcap adventures came forth. And something about burying a electronic metronome timing device? And a shotgun?download-5

Out of this wealth of recordings, 13 tracks made it to the original release on October 17, 1988 (again, depending on country). Of these, “Fisherman’s Blues, about a man wanting to explore his life and the world around him with the burning need to explore, released as a single in October 1988, and “And a Bang on The Ear, a song about Scott listing many romantic entanglements and what the hero learned in the end, was released in June 1989. The rest of the songs recorded over the two years would be released on Too Close to Heaven UK or Fisherman’s Blues Part 2  in the US. In 2006 the Collector’s Edition was released with additional tracks, followed by the Fisherman’s Boxed Set in 2013 including all original songs totaling 121 tracks. 85 of the songs had not be previously available.images-5

Fisherman’s Blues entered Billboard’s US Modern Rock charts at 3rd place, and the single reached No. 32 on the UK singles charts. It has appeared in several film scores, including Waking Ned Devine and Dream With the Fishes. The album is considered one of their best albums in a 30 plus year career span.

images-10For more on the madcap adventures, I strongly suggest you read Mike Scott’s Adventures of a Waterboy.

Sadly, Fantasy Studios in Berkeley closed its doors this last September. Their site is still up if you want to see the long list of artists who have worked there over the years.

Song interpretations are always my own, just like you have your own meaning for songs that you hear. To find the meaning behind the lyrics, go to the Waterboys Lyrics page and decide for yourself.

Waterboys Discography 

http://fantasystudios.com/

https://www.windmilllanerecording.com/

All Music Writeup

The Big Music and it’s Revival?

Spiddal Reunion Concerts

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The Punk, Post-Punk, Gothy Girl is Resurrected.

Gaol Breaker

I’ve bunked off from the gaol. It’s been some 6 weeks or so since I have blogged. I have spent the last 5 weeks crawling out of a weird, wet, dank abyss called Recovery From Major Medical. I have survived a surgery that some don’t, I was lucky I was very fit going in. I am forced off work and we don’t have temp disability here. Why, I feel like I did back in the early 1980s, no hope, no future. I’m alive. Appropriately listening to The Specials ‘Ghost Town’, because the Tibetan Tube Throat singing with accordion/box music at the cafe was really grating on my nerves. Now we’re on to The Fall, ‘Totally Wired. I’m waking up. I pay my taxes, and no real help for me in medical. Oh, yeah, I live in America, the corporate health empire of the world. If you are lucky and live in Canada, UK, Ireland,or the continental EU and have social medicine. Fight to keep it. Here you spend your whole recovery period fending off calls from hospitals while the insurance companies duke it out. So now I am listening to Talking Heads ‘Once in A Lifetime’, wondering where this life is going. And now we segway into ‘Mirror In The Bathroom’ by The Beat. Yeah, girls, makeup after a medical just doesn’t want to work. Actually not wanting to work for a while now. Argh. So not going there with the Albatros Eyebrows so fashionable lately. Again, unless you can pull off a good Siouxsie brow, just keep it simple.

This was a life changing event for me, but I am trying to crawl out of it. Vaughn likened it to having a Scottish Basket Hilt or Japanese Katana Sword run through me and twisting the ribs apart. Now I have to heal from it. I managed to get my Sandman tee shirt on, black skirt, black jacket, boots and thigh high socks on. I look like a Gothic wreck. Good. My red curls got unfurled from the stupid braids of sickness.  I drove for the first time, really slow, no maniacal California driving. Was very good and did not play tunes in car, needed to focus. Speed limit, don’t attract trouble. Made it to the cafe.

Ah, ‘Fade to Grey’ by Visage. Ooo, baby I feel even better already. I have been listening to a mix of digital and records when I can get to the turntable. Unfortunately the non-working thing has curtailed any record buying. But I am selling things off on eBay hoping I can maybe afford the 40th Anniversary Reissues of the Bauhaus Catalog on colored vinyl starting next month, check out Peter Murphy’s site for details. I’m working on the second cup of decaf coffee. I made it to my cafe I usually write in. I really just wanted to feel somewhat myself.

Bauhaus to Reissue 6 Records on Colored Vinyl for 40th Anniversary 

Record Store Physio

One of the tests of where I am truly at with the body has been a visit to two local record shops, Music Millennium and Everyday Music. One I actually found a vinyl copy of The Waterboys ‘An Appointment with Mr. Yeats’, which unless you are on the East Coast or L.A. aren’t likely to find. It was nice to hear some Yeats set to music and try to get back to listening to records. At EDM, it was more of an exercise to see how long I could stand up, can I flip record bin dividers, and even better spell Siouxsie right so I could look for the 12 inch? I kid you not, the really bad side effect of being a Ginge and anesthesia, is it may take weeks to get most of your spelling back. It’s scientific. Yeah, so flipping the records in the bin is a great way to tell how you are doing when recovering.

I’m in the Hawthorne. There are two record shops, Exiled and Jackpot. Okay, no money, but the singles bin can be a great find for super cheap. Hmmm. Oooo, playing ‘Generals and Majors’ by XTC now, that’s the marching orders, right. Also, there is a convo going on in the cafe I have been trying to drown out, because I don’t want to know. Time for ‘Sorry for Laughing’ by Josef K right now, turn that volume up.

Alternative/Punk/Post-Punk/ Group 

I’m dying here in Portland. Great music when you get to it, if we can get them to come. Got tickets for PiL and Echo and the Bunnymen in the next months. But really dying for some Alternative Culture. Yeah, you can still be Alternative if you are over 30, get over it.

I lived in San Francisco too long. It’s hard meeting people when they know you’re from another state. Portland may be the Weird Capital, but they can take a while to warm up to you. And finding anyone into my musical tastes near mine has been impossible. I was so desperate I looked on social networking sites. Nada. So, in my insane creativity and having to think about it, I decided I would try an experiment and create a group and see if anyone shows up. Insane, I know. Probably no one will come or be interested, but I have to get into the Phoenix frame of mind, that bird with singed wings is gonna fly. So, I have to craftily word an invitation. What insanity can I brew from this crazy idea, or will it be typical and no one will show?

Sad about this world that we have gotten so distracted we have to meet in pre-fabricated ways like this. It used to be that you met like minds at the record shop. Here if you try to talk to someone about an exciting find they think you should be sent to the looney. Funny thing, you are already there. Isn’t that what it’s about?

The Real McKenzies

If I make it through this week of killer Phisio (yeah actually they have me going to medical Physio), Vaughn has said we will attempt to see a great Canadian/Scots Punk band called The Real McKenzies I have been listening to for the past few years. If I can show that I am doing better. I need to see if I can manage to get through a show, even if it means being taped to the pillar and doing Pathetic Pogo. I may do a chair Skank if I can find one. But my minder is telling me it depends on how I do this week. So bunking off and driving and making it back in one piece will count I hope.

Oh, and for those of you in the US (West Coast), and don’t know yer ancient history, Gaol here refers to jail. It’s how it was spelt in dem olden days.

We’ll leave this on Elvis Costello’s, ‘I Can’t Stand up For Falling Down’. But really, ending on XTC’s ‘Dear God’, because our world is just as bad as it was 40 years back and what have we learned in this time? Share the music, share the lyrics, wether it’s old school or new groups, get the music out there. It’s the only way to save this race. Hope you enjoyed the convoluted playlist.

Crass: How Does It Feel?

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Crass 1982

My Featured 45 for today is Crass’s, How Does it Feel. Crass is by no means for everyone, but they sure could get their messages across. They always had great cover art and posters from their singles.

In 1982, I was a punky 17 year old on my first trip to the UK. I was vagabonding for a month on my own. I was desperate to see where all my favorite punk bands had been and what influenced them, even if it was just to stand in the same city, hop record shops, and try to get to a show. I had to experience Carnaby Street, Camden Market, Portobello Road, and of course I had to travel and hit up other towns in the UK. I learned that each city had it’s own music scene after talking to local kids, each with it’s own flavor. I liked Joy Division, so off to Manchester I went. I then had to visit with some pen pals. So after that it was Wales.

I’ll never forget visiting with my pen pal. Ah, that ancient teenage custom of meeting people from around the world, before there was Twitter and Snap Chat. You dug around in the back of music Fanzines from the UK, the ones you might find in the import section at the record shop. You found names of people who liked the same groups you did. Hand wrote a letter, said “Hello, I found your name and you like some of the same bands I do. It’s hard to find this music here, I listen to college radio to get it. I’ll tell you about California Punk and Rockabilly, or Goth.” And so weird transatlantic bonds were formed. I would of course learn that not everyone you wrote to was how they presented themselves. That’s another story for another time.

A Discotheque in York

I was in Wales, that ancient city with Roman bits still strewn about it. My pen friend and I went down to the local all ages discotheque, me in all my crazy bizarre finery from the markets in London. Yeah, half my clothes got lifted at a youth hostel. London lesson. At least they didn’t get all the 45s I had picked up you couldn’t get back home. We sat in the disco, she with her Shandy, me with a Pernod and Ribena. Two lads started trying to get our attention. This was new territory for me. Boys didn’t give me the time of day at school or in California in general. The Gingery thing. So I let my pen friend handle it, they were Welsh and I figured I wouldn’t get it. But one wasn’t speaking Welsh, and he was in a soldier uniform. I picked up the accent finally. A Liverpool man. I had just gone through on the one day trip there. But he was speaking in tongues I didn’t get, very intensely. Finally his mate, probably seeing the utter bewilderment, and reminding his friend there was an American, tell me in my ear, “Don’t mind him so much. He’s just been through the Falklands business. He’s still not with us yet.” It was the short, fierce little war between Argentina and the British.

I had been hearing of the Crisis through my travels. I had heard something before I left home, and wanted to find out more. But this was the days of no Internet, and American filtered news, even more filtered than now. It was Ronnie Reagan and Thatcher. All about control. The conflict took place the April before I arrived, and cemented Thatcher for upcoming elections. The whole conflict was a mystery to me, and many tried to explain it to me, many of them older and very British. But the punk rock contingency was having none of it, and protests of the violence were being sung about in the music that was released that summer and fall.

I tried to be patient and sadly the young soldier with drink got far worse, and my friend and I had to make our escape. After that night, I felt terrible that such a young man had to go through such violence, and live with the people who had died because of the actions on both sides. I was determined to find out more about the punk scene in other cities. I had been told to try Edinburgh, and hunt record shops there. Maybe even get into a club. So next day, after dealing with Welsh friend’s bizarre Mum, I boarded a train for Scotland.

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Inside poster art. Crass isn’t for everyone but they got the message across.

The Borders

After surviving the strange heat wave that had hit London a week before, I was warned to prepare for Scottish Summer. On the train I would find out what that was. I was scrabbling about lugging the case, my boots and short skirt, my punky self. Slipping and sliding on the wet floors. Trying to avoid all the leering men I kept encountering. Learning life’s mysteries of older men hunting young 17 year old girls. Definitely not something you tell Ma about when you get back. I  finally found a car with mostly women in it. Everyone was going about the weather. In those days, no WiFi to check the actual weather. But as we got closer to Scotland, you could see the bendy trees and debris flying about. Clouds dark as night. The train got thumped by gale force winds. Finally at the border, there was an announcement. All trains cancelled going in. We had to catch the train going back on the other side. Panic.

My Edinburgh Punk Rock history lesson was thwarted! Yes, it was really 4 years after the scene was really happening, but I still wanted to see the streets and venues these kids went through and fought in. I wanted to get in the record shops!

So after the insanity of trying to cram in on the return train on the other side, with no room for me, I found myself sitting on my case on the platform. A young station master strolls up and I asks when the next train will be. There is no next train, not for a few days maybe. Devastation. The Station Master says, ” I’ll call the Missus.” Apparently everything is solved with calling the Missus in the UK. The man came out and said his wife insisted that I stay with them. I was a bit worried as I didn’t know this person, but he was in uniform and looked very worried about my well being. So I was given my Tae and got on so well with their young child, that I was asked if I had baby sitting experience and sat for them while they went round the pub. The Missus wrote to my Ma to tell her I was alive. Sadly, I had to go back down to London and couldn’t get to Edinburgh after all of the trouble I had been through.

This year, a fabulous adventure of a exhibition featuring Scottish Punk and Post Punk music is going on at the National Museum in Edinburgh, Rip It UP! I cannot travel this year, but if you are, take it all in. Tell us how it is.

Got any great stories from 1976 to 1990 about your travels and experiences in the UK and Ireland music scenes? I would love to hear them. If you know any great Punk and Post Punk bloggers/blogs, give me a line. I would love to feature stories here. Got rare 45 and album poster art to share, send it to me, all credits will be made.

Rip It Up Exhibition at the Scottish National Museum

The Waterboys, a Light that Still Reaches

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This Amazing Light

I’m barreling up to San Francisco with some concert going friends. I wouldn’t say they were close friends, but a group of kids that managed to get to rock and punk shows in the SF Bay Area together. We were packed in the car, too many of us. They were talking about getting there by the time U2 gets on. It’s December 1984, and U2 is making it big. It was not assigned seating for the tickets we could get and that point it didn’t matter. I start talking about wanting to make it before the opening act starts. The others commented, “Who cares about the warm up band?” I did, it wasn’t  just any warm up band. It was a band I had been waiting for, a Scottish and Irish band called The Waterboys. The show was U2 at the San Francisco Civic Auditorium. Always a bad band venue, standing room only affair, and getting in and through the doors was usually akin to a cattle chute. I was determined to find somewhere I could dance and sing along, so we muscled in.

This was California. We weren’t the East Coast, where the record stores got the imports first. If a band wasn’t big enough yet or had not signed with a big American label, it was hell to find the vinyl. Growing up on the Left Coast of the US, you would have a rough time getting decent music choices for the fresh new music coming out of the UK. It was like fashion, it took a while to filter in and bands were up against the great American Music Machine. The new music was taking a while to hit our coast.

Music was changing again, and I was too. I was still just a kid, however I was finding I really wanted more out of music than what was being offered on AM Radio and FM commercial Alternative Rock. I knew there had to be more musicians and acts that were just not breaking the American music bubble. So I spent late nights listening to college radio stations where you could hear world music. I made cassettes of shows featuring British and Irish bands, because finding vinyl imports for the upcoming Irish and Scots bands was extremely difficult, unless you had a connection at one of the local record shops. I would make lists of song titles and album names from the DJ, and listen to someone who really liked to explore the new music and took our phone calls. Music magazines were often a great resource, but coming from the UK they were hard to find, and usually very out of date. Not that that mattered, because by the time the bands toured, it would be relevant and fresh. Strange how we lived without the Internet for so long.

One of the DJs would play Celtic Trad as well as the rock and pop coming from these countries. This was my first exposure to U2, The Alarm, The Cult, and many other bands. I heard The Waterboys one night after reviewing the tapes that I would set up and leave recording as the shows were usually on in the wee hours. The album was called A Pagan Place, and the few songs played off of the album had me hooked. Scott’s voice was a unique pitch, the lyrics really spoke, and the sound was very different. I then began the hunt for their elusive LP. It proved to be a futile endeavor and I was not to find the album until after the show. However, in the process, I did find out about U2 touring and as luck would have it, they would have The Waterboys as their opening act.

My concert friends and I made it in the venue about 15 minutes before The Waterboys came on. It was packed and insane, and I could not get a great view, despite the fact that the lead singer and songwriter, Mike Scott, was fairly tall. I finally found a place to stand where I could make a space to just listen. My friends were complaining, and I said, “Just give it a chance.” So I kept them in sight and knew where the car was parked if we parted ways. I heard that unique sound that is the Waterboys and what was called The Big Music. There was a song titled, “The Big Music”, but the thrust of the sound was what was big, that you could really feel it. Songs came like “The Earth Only Endures and started bringing out this amazing feeling, a light was going on in and around me. It didn’t matter how dark the auditorium was, there was a light that wasn’t the stage lighting. It was in Scott’s voice and lyrics, the amazing fiddle, and everything else being felt by the sound the band created. The lyrics were fantastic, real feeling stories about the mystical and the amazing landscapes of people and places. I was elated. I doubt my friends got it, they were too U2 centric. I didn’t care. It would be a few months before I could finally get the album and I wore out the tapes I had made by that time.

Life takes you along and while I have listened to the many incarnations of The Waterboys over the over 30 years they have been performing, I started really listening to them again over the last two years as part of one of the life re-evaluations I have had. When you look back on a section of years and how your life is and what you want it to be. Your youth and how you have changed. What made you what you are. That was what music did for this shy teen that is still inside me. It was the music that helped me to grow as I became an adult, if in body only. For really we are still all children on magical music journeys.  And somewhere, there has to be that light, that big connection, that Big Music feeling. 

Adventures of a Waterboy waterboys

Mike Scott has written an exceptional memoir about life as a Waterboy.  I grabbed the second edition called Adventures of a Waterboy: Remastered. After reading the first chapter, I was taken on a rollicking Rock journey. I had to limit my reading to two chapters a night, I just devoured the thing. The detail and feel of each chapter’s theme was consuming. Scott really opens up as a musician and shows us amazing snapshots of the history of the punk and post punk years in the late seventies and early eighties in the UK. He gives us great details about the music that influenced him and his peers. What the music scene was like with someone sailing through it and somehow surviving it. The recording labels, the music industry itself, and the creativity and drive of the music in his head and how to make sure the message got out, with integrity, in a fight against the controls of the music labels and Faustian commercialism that followed. Then of course there were the people who managed, or tried to control him and the band, and how the hero fought that battle. His writing makes you feel like you were right there with him in the room and had met every musician he had met and worked with. The tales are strongly written and absorbing. I recommend it for a great biography read.

Vinyl Hop

Twenty minutes after finishing this article, I walked into a local vinyl shop and found a copy of A Pagan Place. That elusive album that took so long to find the first time in 1984. Sadly it’s not the original copy of the album on if I remember right was Island or Ensign, and would have been worth quite a bit more if it was. But I have it on vinyl again, that’s what matters.

You can catch up with The Waterboys on their website and Twitter. If you are traveling to Europe this summer, they are playing several dates. You can find their tour information here:

Website The Waterboys

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Mike Scott Twitter @MickPuck