If you’ve ever flicked through Sam Knee’s book “Untypical Girls”, you will already be familiar with the selection of photographs featuring women like Kim Gordon, Poly Styrene or Dolly Mixture, alongside some of the less recognizable faces of the punk and post-punk era. One of the most compelling shots in the entire book is of a girl dressed in yellow, and photographed in the act of balancing a broken television set on a garden gate. That, is Stef Petticoat.
Stef Petticoat, was the founder, songwriter and vocalist of the all female, late 1970s, post-punk band The Petticoats.
She was also the guitarist, the bass player and the drummer. She probably drove the van, made the dinner, and set up the mic stands as well. Stef took the DIY to the next level, she wasn’t a solo artist….she, was a band.
The Petticoats, 1980 line-up in full:
Vocals – Stef,
Lead Guitar – Stef,
Rhythm Guitar – Stef
Bass guitar – Stef,
Drums – Stef,
A&R dept – Stef,
Head of Label – Stef
Born in Germany, Stefanie Heinrich had spent a large chunk of her late 1960s childhood listening to the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane, but by the late 1970s she started to gravitate instead towards the early punk records “But it was punk that really made me think, “This is the best music ever and this is what I want to do!”.
“I auditioned for bands in the Aachen, Bonn, and Cologne area, but they were all boring male rock bands who had never heard of punk. They thought I was too wild and my musical ideas too crazy. So I thought, well, if I really want to make the music I like then I have to go to London or New York! I packed my bags and went to London. The bands I auditioned there were just as boring—what a disappointment!”
Along with a drummer called Zuni, she initially formed the band Necessary Evil, but although the project was short lived, it did give her the moniker Petticoat to play with.
“We wrote songs and played a few gigs, but the other guitarist was a very strong lesbian feminist separatist. I refused to sing her songs, which were only about killing all men”.
And so, in 1980 Stef formed The Petticoats… with herself.
Still based in London, she set about writing and recording new material, resulting in three tracks; “Normal/I’m Free/Allergy”, that were self released as a single, again by Stef (obviously). The cover featured photos of Stef, and coupled with her one-woman, in-house promo campaign, the single became a John Peel “Record of the Week”. Paid pluggers have achieved a lot less.
“When the Petticoats single was finished I went around to record shops to sell it on commission. I also went to the BBC to give one to John Peel. If the single had not been made Record of the Week, I think it would not have sold so well at all. The biggest problem I encountered was MONEY. I had just barely enough to do it on a minimum level. After the first 1000 were sold, thanks to John Peel, I had another 1000 pressed and paid. But the plant went into receivership, so all was lost. I took them to court, but lost. I was mad! Thankfully, Rough Trade Records financed the second pressing, but by the time it all came out, I was no longer in the charts and that is why I still have Petticoats singles. Good thing I did not use them to plaster the walls a few years ago!”
We write a lot about girls in bands, their self releases, and their Peel Sessions. It’s rare enough for bands to chalk-up any one of these things, it’s even more remarkable when all three are achieved by just one person. Stef Petticoat, extreme DIYer and all round Punk Girl Wonder.
Quotes used above are from a 2015 interview with Stef in maximumrocknroll.com
Stef Petticoat’s website HERE