The Girl in the Band

Kathy Freeman

as published in AND ALL AROUND WAS DARKNESS (Gregory Bull and Mike Dines – third in the Tales from the Punkside series)

The Accelerators. Kathy Freeman and Martin Yarker

 

Most of my adult life I’ve remained obstinately unaware of the unequal roles of men and women in the music industry and elsewhere. Denial? In hindsight, maybe it’s been a case of “don’t look down.” On a high and dangerous ledge it’s best not to think about the environment but to just get on with the task. Over the years I’ve been obliged to share bills with some wildly incompatible acts as an example of “Strong Women in Music” but never actively sought that role. All I ever wanted to do – and this hasn’t changed – is make music.

In mid-seventies Liverpool, I’d just about heard of the Runaways. The only female musicians I actually knew were the Women’s Lib posse in my neighbourhood, with their limp and tedious 12-bar strums about male chauvinism. It was SO much more fun to hang out with the boys, playing loud, loud, loud and practising aggressive downstrokes till my wrist ached. Which led me to co-found the Accelerators, playing rhythm guitar, as punk rock hit the Northwest.

Maxim's Poster

Women were getting a raw deal in those days, and I was stuck in an abusive relationship with the other guitarist, He’d slapped me across the face after a show for the unpardonable sin of losing his cable when packing up (and by the way, I don’t know to this day why I was responsible for his fucking cable) No friendly caring helplines and forums back then, dear reader. Yet It never even crossed my mind to quit the band. It was heaven, hell and dysfunctional family to me. I put another steel layer round my heart and got on with it.

The rush I got from hitting that stage as a team to play blazing rock n roll – coupled with the adventure of ceaselessly travelling the country in mechanically unsound vans and supporting the likes of XTC and the Buzzcocks – outweighed everything else. Sadly it also blinded me to what was going on in the wider music scene. Procuring and playing gigs was my life mission, and while the likes of the Slits and Siouxsie Sioux were busy rewriting female musical history I was probably shovelling coins into a payphone to talk to some dodgy pub landlord or helping load a PA into a van.

With their dogged policy of taking the opposite standpoint to everyone else whenever humanly possible, the Accelerators were deemed to be far from politically correct. We had a serious run-in with “The Feminists” who even picketed a show we were due to play*

To quote the band Magazine, I was shot by both sides.

*full account in No More Heroes, complete history of UK Punk from 1976 to1980 by Alex Ogg, extract viewable at www.kathy-freeman.de

The Birdhouse

Fast forward to the late eighties – once again I was the only girl in the band. This time it was volume eleven grunge rockers,The Birdhouse. Again my focus was on the playing – I didn’t want to think about sexual politics bla bla bla. But while they were generally respectful to me, the locker room banter of one or two of the band and male crew was anything but respectful to womankind.

Female band followers were generally referred to as “it”, not “she.” There were the crude remarks about the singer’s own unfortunate girlfriend who had “an arse the size of the moon” When, as the band was hanging out in some dingy Midlands aftershow room, the comment…”woah I’d like to give that a pearl necklace”…drifted across the room something snapped. I hurled my handbag at the floor (not the stuff of Amazon legend, but an effective conversation-stopper) and screamed at them to shut the f*** up. Lo and behold, by the next day the worst offenders had come separately to me with shamefaced apologies, each referring to the “alter-ego” mode that comes with being on the road. A kind of Jekyll and Hyde mentality which incidentally also excused them for not showering for five days on the run.

My time in The Birdhouse was up when they decided to become the next Guns and Roses (only to disappear swiftly into pre-internet oblivion) But the experience was duly processed into a song “Here Come the Boys” which I performed in my nineties punk-metal band Joyryde. This time fronted by women. “Strong Women” if you insist.

Joyryde GMB 96

Here Come the Boys

Well look who’s here, who’s just hit town

You better get some action, they won’t be hangin’ round

They’re lookin’ for love, they’re lookin’ mean

They know where they’re going - God knows where they’ve been

Here come the boys

They got social conscience, they really care

They know what’s right and wrong, and how to get their share

When it comes to women, they are the law

They don’t know what a woman wants- they know what she’s for
Here come the boys

He calls his girlfriend up – she’s not at home

Well that’s ok, he’ll never walk alone

Cause life’s for living, not self-control

And if you get diseases - that’s the way it goes

Here come the boys

Audio link: https://kathyfreeman.bandcamp.com/album/joyryde-1991-1998-london-recordings

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On air

My radio experiences generally boil down to the good, the bad and the ugly. More about the good in a minute.

The Bad was a phone interview with a one man station. He meant well but was so nervous that we were virtually swapping roles, with me trying to put him at ease. His stilted and irrelevant questions lurched me totally off-topic into a bizarre rant about Mrs Thatcher.

The Ugly: A more established internet music station had me do a live worldwide broadcast from a pub. Consisting of a lengthy interview followed by a full live set – no pressure there then….

Instead of sending someone who was interested in my music – indeed any music – I get Mr Dodgy-Sheepskin-Jacket-Sports-Reporter-Man. He must have read that I used to be in a punk band, because he was onto “punk” like a terrier with a bone for the duration, heedless of the torrent that has passed under the bridge since those days. “Why are you a PUNK?” “How do  PUNKS feel when they rehearse?” “what do PUNKS eat for breakfast?”  When I finally got to perform, the vocals were so low I couldn’t hear my own voice, despite flashy broadcast rig. Seems I was disturbing the bar staff who couldn’t take orders with background noise. As  a PUNK I should have trashed the place but I put it down to experience.

The Good

Here we go

Here we go

You probably get why I was wary before my guest spot on The Parsons Knows Local Music (Radio Verulam) But this was the Good experience – in a comfortable studio chair. With simple, to-the-point, relevant questions; no fumbling and no weird curves. Denise Parsons has been doing the show for barely a year but comes across as a seaoned pro, while genuinely loving what she does. Which made it so-o-o-o-o much easier for me .

Day Of The Triffids

Day Of The Triffids

Don't know what this is but it looks important

Don’t know what this is but it looks important

Heres a link to the the video taken by Denise’s studio assistant, Kevin.

or listen to the podcast on Soundcloud along with other regular broadcasts featuring a distinctly-higher-than-average level of talent from local acts.

Kathy Freeman’s songs are on Bandcamp. First featured song on Denise’s show: “You, me and Alcohol” Second featured song “Here it Comes” ( A new version on You Me and Alcohol will be on Kathy’s next album, due out in Autumn )

More about The Parsons Knows Local Music  on Facebook and more about Kathy Freeman on her website

They run a tight ship at Radio Verulam

They run a tight ship at Radio Verulam

Making the scene

For updates on shows and projects: join the mailing list at my website

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.

Heading West

Heading West

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.

 

accs live 2

 

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.

Death Valley Surfers

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

Loner

 

Kathy X was formed in Berlin in 2002 by Kathy Freeman, survivor of the UK punk scene. The trio has played on the European psychobilly circuit and also more mainstream events over the last decade, sharing bills with Dick Dale, The Meteors The Long Tall Texans  and    Horrorpops  amongst others. The album ALL THE WAY equals punk/rockabilly roots with a few wild detours……celebrating over a decade of cool shows and hot songs – featuring both current material and buried treasures. Check it out here  

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Cheers! More about Jack Daniels…

” I like Jack Daniels and I ride fast cars…”

Fast Cars and Jack Danielsthe story behind the song….

Sounds  clichéd , but  the inspiration really did come to me in a dream.

A girl was playing a video game in a dark sleazy bar. With typical dream logic, the other drinkers were simultaneously the characters in the game.  They were NOT nice people.  She knew she’d lose. She was destined to play victim. The game was pre-programmed. She was mourning her future before she’d even got there.

 “And I  will pay, pay, pay for the punishment that is to come”

Woke up with a feeling of desolation and the song followed within a few days. The dream’s message ? Throughout a one-track pursuit of all things exciting, shiny and dangerous, deep down I knew it would all go pearshaped and that none of the fun came without a price tag…..

 “Don’t know where, and I don’t know when…but I know just how this story’s gonna end….

Fast Cars and Jack Daniels performed by Kathy X at the Schokoladen Berlin