My best friend Clare was into punk; we were both 16 but she was much more worldly. She wore badges, she did the NME crossword, she listened to John Peel and bought new records every week.
“Let’s form a punk band,” was her great idea.
Fortunately, I knew a guy who loved punk and he worked at the town theatre so we could rehearse there. Several weeks of exuberant planning, discussing and arranging things resulted in the first ever musical meeting of The Devices.
I only had an acoustic guitar and I knew that wasn’t punk, so stupidly I took along my recorder.
Theatre John had a proper electric guitar, an effects pedal and a small amplifier that was ear-splittingly loud. Clare had already decided to be the singer and the first 15 minutes looked like it was going to be John showing off his punky guitar while we listened. But no, there was another electric guitar available and so I tried playing along.
“What songs do you know?” asked John. Suddenly I realised that I was not a proper punk because I was only about the fashion and didn’t know any actual punk songs. Clare knew all the vital ones that sadly I didn’t, so our first rehearsal consisted of an hour playing ‘Rockaway Beach’ that they knew, followed by about ten minutes playing ‘The House of the Rising Sun’ that I knew. I left rather disheartened and resolved to buy a Ramones record as soon as possible.
However, at the next rehearsal it was agreed that I’d be the bass player. In the absence of a bass guitar, I would simply play single low notes on the old electric guitar John had now given me. At home, I managed to plug it into an input in my Dad’s reel to reel tape recorder, which made a good distorted sound.
John then presented us with songs he had written. They were all angry punk pop songs with chords that I’d never heard of. but I just kept on playing my one-note part and singing backing vocals. Before long, we planned a gig, produced a fanzine, badges and even did a bit of graffiti around the town. And I started to write angry girl songs; we would have been just right for the Riot Grrrl explosion.
Being in a punk-style band brought me to life and gave me a creative determination that has never faded. At 17, I played a gig onstage before I had ever watched a gig as an audience member. We still shouldn’t have played that song with the recorder in it though.