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
Tuesday, 30 January 2018
It's been a while... here's a snippet for all you petrol heads...
My own hair was shoulder length by this point, and I had dyed it purple while I was in Dalston, but I’d become fed up with the purple dye coming off on everything, including my motorbike helmet, pillows, hairbrushes, boyfriends, wallpaper, my own face, passers-by and neighbours. I wore chunky silver rings on every finger but soon found that motorbike gloves got caught on them so I’d had to take the more intricate ones off. Was I becoming old and sensible? Luckily, no. I still managed to wear a massive ring that was so big it concealed half my hand. It was made from silver and was in the shape of Neptune, the god of the sea. Neptune’s fishtail curled round my finger and he held a trident aloft. I also wore an eyeball ring that I’d bought from The Great Frog, a high-end alternative jewellers off Carnaby Street, where lots of rich and famous alternative personalities, such as Lemmy from Motörhead, bought iconic pieces and paid large amounts of money to have items specially commissioned.
The eyeball ring was made with a resin eyeball set into silver, with snakes as eyelids. It used to unnerve people as the eye was so realistic. The jewellers used ‘real’ fake eyeballs bought from ocularists and from the medical industry. My ring was superb.
By now it was 1988. Both men and women in those days, in the circles I moved in at least, wore spandex leggings and blouson shirts with loud designs. I was still riding the MZ but I already had my real eyes on something more powerful, having successfully passed my bike test. I didn’t like the plastic Japanese bikes that were so prominent on the roads. The Japanese bikes were often snobbily referred to as ‘Jap crap’. I favoured classic British bikes, although there was no way I could afford to buy one and I wasn’t mechanically minded enough to keep one on the road either. I wanted something made of metal, all shiny chrome like the custom bikes I saw in Back Street Heroes magazine, which I now bought on a regular basis in order to quench my burgeoning thirst for all things bike.
So, I put my thoughts out to the universe that I wanted a more powerful bike and that the keyword would be ‘cheap’. A short time later, I mentioned to an aunt that I was after a better motorbike. She immediately told me that my other aunt and her partner had an old bike they wanted to get rid of, and that they were on the brink of Soap the Stamps, Jump the Tube 182 taking to the dump to be scrapped for metal. A phone call secured me a classic collectible 1970s ex-racing bike – a Suzuki GT500. It was still in working order and I was told that, if it passed the MOT, it was mine for free! My aunt, Annette, and her partner, Jim, were in their forties and had decided they were too old for motorbikes, which is insane – so long as I can fit the crash helmet over my rollers and squeeze my varicose-veined legs into leather trousers (with an elasticated waist) I intend to still be riding bikes into my eighties and beyond.
I fell in love with the bike the moment I saw it. I didn’t care that it was Japanese. I’m not racist. It was metal and chrome and perfect. In fact, it looked very similar to a British bike, so really, I got exactly what I’d petitioned the universe for. Thanks uni baby. When I said ‘cheap’ I hadn’t meant free but, hey, thanks for listening! I couldn’t believe my luck and was amazed at the effectiveness of putting my thoughts out there and making a quick call on the psychic telephone. Using the psychic telephone – or ‘cosmic ordering’ I believe the more popular term is – is much like prayer: you might not know who it is you are asking for help, but trust that your request will be heard and acted on in some way. It works for me.
The Suzuki turned heads wherever we went, although probably for all the wrong reasons as it was a two-stroke, which was unusual for a big bike. Oh, and because it was extremely loud. Oh yeah, and because thick trails of black smoke spewed from both exhaust pipes. People could hear me coming from half a mile away and, if they didn’t hear me, they could see me. Or smell me. Or my bike, at least
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