By the early summer of 1978, my first teenage girl punk rock band The Spinal Indicators, had three songs, they were our first attempts at songwriting, and none of them were what you might call “over-thought”. We shouted them out over half a drum kit and a fuzzed up acoustic guitar. Granted one was a cover, of sorts, a sarcastic and speeded up version of the hymn “Jerusalem”, which was the “school song”, and obviously by subverting it and changing some of the words, we were making it clear that we hated school. We thought this was exactly the kind of thing Siouxsie & The Banshees might do, we knew that they’d played a version of The Lord’s Prayer at the legendary Punk Festival The Roxy, and we thought we could do the same. We had another song called “Going Out” in which the lyrics riffed around parental disapproval and how much we liked going out, and the third one was about our art teacher and sounded a bit like Roadrunner. Yep, things were really shaping up.
The following Friday while I was casually flicking through the latest edition of the local newspaper. I turned to the half page music column in which they would usually be writing about one of the local turns: maybe a woman with a flute who played last Tuesday at the Parish Church, or even one of every towns “Blues influenced” local rock bands, but just occasionally there would be something of interest, “Slough Band tipped by top promoter” – the report of how a local band had played as second support at a pub somewhere and would be going back there to play again, this kind of thing. However, in this particular edition, the music column had a big announcement to make. Over the next few weeks local bands were invited to send in their entries to the newspaper’s big search for a star talent show. Now, talent shows just made me think of Junior Showtime or Opportunity Knocks, they attracted the desperate, or the pushy and were especially delicious to the kind of musical act you would pay good money to avoid. Either that or the floodgates for the “semi-professional” would be opened and every lumpy old fashioned guitar-soloing, greasy-haired prog band would suddenly come rocking out of it’s joss stick scented bedroom.
It was not for us, they wouldn’t understand us, we were too punk, and they were too square. I read on, the top prize was a recording session and a single pressing, and even the several runners up prizes were worth having, like a whole day in a professional recording studio and an amplifier from the local music shop. But still, like I said, it was definitely not for us, we were too punk and local paper talent shows were obviously way too uncool.
The weeks passed I thought no more of it until one day, as I was talking to my Father, a man who had worked at the local newspaper for nearly 20 years, and the subject of the talent contest somehow came up. “They haven’t had many entries you know” he said, “All that publicity and there’s more prizes than entries”.
Within minutes I was on the phone dropping the bombshell insider information to which I had just been privy. That evening we set up the cassette recorder for an emergency recording session, with just days to go before the deadline. Even if we came last we might actually win something, we might even get to record something properly, the pressure was on. The cassette was promptly labeled and posted along with the form which we had cut out from the newspaper, we said we were Punk and had been together for 5 weeks.
A couple of days later, as the deadline approached I casually asked my father how the talent show was going, “A lot better I think, they said that there had been a last minute rush on and now they’ve got so many entries they don’t know what to do with them all”.
When winning something by default was going to be our only option, we were now sunk, ……and nobody would ever get to hear our version of Jerusalem…
The Spinal Indicators – “Jerusalem”. 1978.