By Gail Thibert
Nineteen years old with freshly dyed blue hair, punk rocker Gail places an advert in a music paper for ‘likeminded friends and weirdos’. Soap the Stamps, Jump the Tube follows her autobiographical journey through the 80s underground music and squatting scene in London
Monday, 9 October 2017
Today we hit 95% of funding. Just 5% left to go! Less than £200 still to raise!
In celebration of that, here is another snippet from when I was in a band called The Lost Cherrees and we played a gig with New Model Army...
My favourite ever gig was also on home turf in New Malden. We’d hired a hall and booked our mates The Screaming Bongos to play along with an up-and-coming band called New Model Army (NMA) who headlined. NMA had just released Vengeance, which had been climbing its way confidently up the Independent Album Charts. I had already bought the album and it had become an instant favourite so I was feverishly excited to be playing on the same bill as such a great band. Our own single and album were also doing well and had made it high in the Indie charts too. At one point, we were number nine alongside The Smiths – who you might have heard of. John Peel was regularly playing our single and we were invited to go into Radio 1 studios to play a live session on air. Sadly, this never actually happened as the powers that be decided not to put on live sessions for a while.
We were used to playing with other bands who were around the same level as us, and who had no egos. We’d even had the luxury of dressing rooms once or twice, but we all shared them and stored our gear there until it was our turn to play. NMA were different. They insisted on using their own drum kit which took up most of the stage, and wouldn’t allow any other band to use it, so Nuts had to squash his own drum kit in front of theirs, leaving even less room for the rest of the band.
In the dressing room NMA kept themselves to themselves, barely acknowledging anyone else and not making conversation with any of the other bands. They also had a platter of sandwiches as part of their rider and ate them all without sharing, which was against the very spirit of punk. We were used to sharing our drinks with not only the other bands but with the audience. It was a shame as I really liked NMA’s music and they did play a blinding set, but it was difficult to forget their snobbery and lack of dressing-room etiquette.
Being a local gig, most of the fans were ours. We played really well and someone videoed the gig, which I believe is available on DVD somewhere or somehow. Funnily enough, there were no night buses at that time in New Malden and the bands were all running late so most of the audience pissed off home after we played, leaving NMA to play to a half-empty hall. That’s karma right there for you.
There is a saying that goes something along the lines of: to overcome your bullies you must become successful. At a gig in Bristol, before we went on stage, I heard someone call my name and turned around to see a girl I went to school with. She told me she was there with another girl we were both at school with, one that used to bully me. Great, I thought, they’ve come all this way just to harass me. But I was wrong. Both girls paid the entrance fee without trying to blag their way in and even bought band merch. The girl that had bullied me was now looking at me with admiration. That was a huge and much-needed confidence boost. Although no mention was made of her previous treatment of me. But I didn’t care about that. Let bygones be bygones and all that.
After years of suffering with extreme low self-esteem I was beginning to develop some serious self respect – it had been a long time coming – and I felt like I could finally hold my head up high around other people.
It’s another popular misconception that punks are punks because they are aggressive, when in actual fact, most punks or alternative people that I have met have arrived at a punk/alt lifestyle directly from a difficult childhood or because of a dark past. The punk/alt contingent also often attracts disabled people, people with deformities, people who are extremely shy or fat or ugly – anybody really who had not been allowed to fit in with their peers for whatever reason. Punk/alt culture provided lonely kids and outsiders with a family or urban tribe they could belong to. Punk was not just about the music, it was about finding like-minded individuals and about finding some form of acceptance. In a way, primary coloured-hair, tattoos, piercings and outrageous clothing can be seen as ways of distracting attention away from other issues or problems that young people have. Or it can be seen as a way of expressing and celebrating individuality – an individuality that had been seen as negative at school, for example. In some ways outrageous dress was a smoke screen and in others it acted as a beacon of pride. If you don’t fit in, you might as well capitalise on that fact and make sure you REALLY don’t fit in
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