A Riot of Our Own

One afternoon in the summer of 1979, as we stood on the edge of the tennis courts at school, and by we I mean me and my new friends, my new art room friends, art room friends who liked the same bands as I did friends, were just standing around chatting. That particular afternoon, instead of just talking about bands, something we did pretty much all the time, we unexpectedly and quite dramatically opted to raise the stakes when one of us suddenly blurted out that instead of just talking about other people’s bands we should just start our own band. From that moment on we were no longer just mere schoolgirls, we were now our own gang, we were a Punk Band, a new and unstoppable force. Giddy from the sudden rush of adrenaline that this surprise turn of events had just caused, and now even before picking up an instrument or writing a single song, or even a single word from a single song, the first thing we needed to do, was to decide on a band name, we all knew that the name was really important. We stood there making hand gestures and talking over each other and interrupting, we talked about this band name or that band name, and should we start the band name with the word “The”. We could be “The Somethings” as in The Slits/Adverts/Clash/Stranglers etc – it was a no nonsense, straightforward punk band choice. Obviously there were exceptions, a few “Someone and the Somethings”, and the occasional 1 word-er (Blondie), 2-word-ers (UK Subs, Generation X) or even 3 word-ers, (TRB, Stiff Little Fingers) the question was, what would our “Somethings” be? Or would we be “Somethings” at all? We threw some words around, hoping to find some kind of rule of thumb about the band names we already considered to be good in the hope that it would lead us to the most amazing band name ever, ours.
Rule 1 – They had to be the right words, the words themselves had to create a punk buzz.
Rule 2 – The “Somethings” had to be something a bit abrasive or subversive.
Rule 3 – The words themselves didn’t have to actually mean anything, and could even be contradictory (Angelic Upstarts) and it was probably better that they didn’t mean anything other than the name of the band.
Rule 4 – Use of the more angular letters, the ones with sharp corners were also a punk thing, letters like Z, (SpizzEnergi), V (Vic Goddard, AlternativeTV) and X (Sex Pistols, X-Ray Spex, Generation X) all played their part, as did numbers and initials (UK Subs, Sham 69).

There was so much to think about. Book, cover, cover, book, you could often get a band’s measure just from the name, how did it sound? how did it look written down? All important questions and ones which we weren’t really coming up with any answers to.

Exhausted from our initial and so far fruitless efforts we sat down on the bench and the chit chat started up again. Maybe there wouldn’t be a band after all. My new friends were now telling me about how their Biology lesson had been, and how they’d had to endure a slide show about the various stages of embryo development in mammals. With raised eyebrows and open mouths to indicate disbelief, and leaping around the bench with twigs to demonstrate, they told me how the teacher had turned up with some kind of special home-made pointing baton with a large red arrow on it. She had then used this special new stick to point out the spinal column in each of the various developing embryo slides. She kept referring to it, ad nauseum apparently, as the “Spinal Indicator”. As the laughing died down, we were suddenly silent, there then followed a few hurried glances at each other and then without any further discussion, we all just knew that that Biology lesson had possibly just changed the future of rock forever. Unwittingly, the Biology teacher, had just delivered to us, on a plate, or possibly on a petri dish, the most brilliant band name any of us had ever heard of.

We were just embryos ourselves really, floating around in the great primordial soup of punk ideas, but The Spinal Indicators were now, officially a thing.

spinal illustration

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