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I never made permanent membership status for any subculture (“broke musician” doesn’t count ) but not for lack of trying. I’d always so wanted to belong to one scene only, with whatever exclusive music, cars, clothes, hairstyles and unwritten social codes went with it.
It started when my big brother was hanging around with exciting people who smoked, listened to jazz music and only wore black. I dreaded them spotting me in my school blazer (navy blue.) Brother’s beatnik pals hit the road and drifted out of my life, and the logical next stop was hippie-town. Maybe I’d have lived my whole life out as a late-blooming flower child but history intervened.
I was living in a quasi-commune and even baking wholemeal bread for a while, when along came punk and blew a big hole in all that Earth Mother rubbish. I never wore flares again, and only just missed hacking off my waist length hair and spiking it. I settled for bleaching my fringe to near-extinction My former hippy pals blanked me in the street. So much for love and peace, man.
I truly BELONGED to punk for a while, but the intensity of that flame dwindled as the eighties arrived along with a sea of synths and whining vocals. The spirit remained, but my focus had to change.
For a moment I was into motorbikes. I earned a few stripes by riding pillion on a Triumph from London to Liverpool and back. In the snow. I’d get a brief acknowledging nod from the bros in the biker pub with my honorary status as “righteous chick”. But that’s as far as it went. The Biker Chick’s lot was not for me. Deep down I knew I’d always favour a shedload of musical paraphernalia blocking my hallway over a shedload of oily engine parts. And more importantly I couldn’t face a lifetime of never being able to have big hair because of the helmets.
Then there was Psychobilly, which could have been my default landing after Punk’s demise, but wasn’t. I saw the seminal Meteors in the Ace, Brixton in 1983, but the penny didn’t drop. Several years passed before my next encounter, when Joyryde supported Demented are Go at the Dublin Castle in Camden. The sight of twenty sweating fans with full body tattoos and Mohawks (that was the men) wrecking on the dancefloor wasn’t my lightbulb moment though I liked what I was hearing. More years passed, before a chance meeting led to playing guitar for the Death Valley Surfers. Once more I had that magic list of who to hang out with, what to wear and what bands to listen to.
A cool ride while it lasted, but belonging to the one tribe was eventually thwarted; partly due to wrong hair (again) and no tattoos, and largely by the obstinate part of me that insisted on writing and performing off-genre songs. My own psychobilly band got stick for not being “pure psychobilly” and I realised yet again, I couldn’t rest in anyones else’s comforting but temporary subcultural space.
Songs about not fitting in: HERE