Although I was too young to be a 1977 proper punk rocker, by 1979, and inspired by everything Punk had delivered, I was just one of the many teenagers in our small town, who were now in a band. Punk allowed something to happen, it was a cultural juggernaut, and the free-form rules and the three chord menu applied whether you could actually play anything or not. Admittedly, our bands weren’t very good. We didn’t think that at the time, we thought we were great; we were enthralled by our new artistic status, our new band “gangs” and of course, the volume. In general the bands were basic, they were part time and mostly practiced on Sunday afternoons, but even so, by 1980 suburban Teen Town had turned into a post-punk petri dish, fizzing with young ideas.
Bands were formed, dissolved, and new ones set up in their place on an almost weekly basis. Bands were everywhere, but even in the post punk, equal but different, egalitarian utopia… there still weren’t many girls. I’d gone from being in an all girl punk three piece, to being the only girl in a band of Grammar School boys. Me and Bass Boy had come up with our first band name, we were called “Youth of Today” because firstly, having just written a song of the same name, we decided that we liked the idea of a “name-check” theme song, and secondly we thought it was subversive and clever to capitalise on all the negative things being said in the papers and TV about “the youth of today”, thinking it would give the band subliminal advertising each time the phrase was used. The fast paced chorus heralded our arrival,
“We are the youth of today,
We are the youth of dismay,
We are the youth of decay,
We are the youth of today”
It was three chord punk rock.
After one rehearsal, with a new drummer and singer from Bass Boy’s school, I noticed that something different was starting to happen, something less obviously punk rock, and something a bit more open ended and miserable. You see, bleakness and misery were suddenly everyone’s new best friends. We began listening to Joy Division and reading Sylvia Plath, and my fellow teens had started wearing those big, long, old man’s coats from the charity shop. Fringes were grown out to be more like Robert Smith and we dyed our hair black. There was a new doom in town, black was the only colour to be seen in, and graveyards became an acceptable new meeting/hanging out/photo-shoot place.
The band was now called the B-Stream, and, although I didn’t know it at the time, hindsight tells me we were humourless, doom-laden, post-punk, proto-goths, and the songs weren’t really about anything at all. I was now in the minority in more ways than one, doom was very, very big with the boys, I just got to play along. It was ok, I was still learning, but I was still more of a “wait til I get a fuzzbox” kind of a girl, and although I was happy to try the whole bleak thing on for size – literally in that I also had the coat and the hair, I eventually had to admit that it wasn’t really me. Pretty soon I was back listening to The Buzzcocks and Siouxsie and hanging out with punky Mark, wondering, behind my new long fringe, whether misery was here to stay.
I was also wondering about the difference between being in an all girl band, and being in a band with boys….but that can wait until another day.