As something of a punk girl polymath, Caroline Coon’s legacy includes that of being, a photographer, a one time manager of the The Clash, a rock journalist, an artist, critic and feminist.
Born into a wealthy Kent family, Coon left home at the age of 16, and moved to London apparently intent on getting a job. However, without the necessary desire to “fit in”, she soon fell in with the artsy Notting Hill crowd, from where she became both a model, and a student at Central St Martin’s School of Art.
“I was warned that I should hide one’s intelligence because men didn’t like intelligent women. You were expected to grow into a respectable woman, a wife and a bearer of children. Even at the age of 13, I knew I couldn’t be that.”, she told Tim Jonze in The Guardian, earlier this year.
Caroline was soon taking an interest in politics and in the late 1960s she co-founded the drug and legal advice service Release, even providing the artwork for their famous “bust card” which was still being used until 2009.
After inheriting the oil paints of one of the most important contributors to the Pop Art movement Pauline Boty, following her early death from cancer in 1966, Coon went on to paint a tribute to Boty’s controversial piece, “Bum” (see link above), a full frontal which she titled “C*nt”.
Inevitably, the heady mix of art and politics would lead her straight into the heart of London’s counterculture, and stepping sideways into journalism Caroline joined the revolution as a rock journalist at the UK music papers Sounds and at Melody Maker, from where she documented the rise of Punk from the very tip of the spear.
Already known for her out-spoken opinions, Caroline also started to use photographs to illustrate her articles and reviews, and many of the early classic London punk images can be credited to her. Photos of Slits, the Clash’s White Riot single cover, Sex Pistols, Siouxsie outside 100 Club Punk Festival 1976 (below), it was all Caroline.
After supplying the Clash with the cover shot for “White Riot”, Caroline even went into management, handling business for the band during the UK ‘Sort It Out Tour’ followed by the USA Pearl Harbour tour, from 1978 to 1980. Her role has often been overlooked, like she wasn’t even there, but she is quietly credited with stopping the band from falling apart and splitting up in 1978. She had this to say about this lack of recognition to blogger Katie Ellsworth in 2015,
“Women who are seen to be close to male musicians either personally or professionally are trivialised, pilloried and despised as: women who break up bands, women of no significance or agency, as groupies, slags, loose, whores…”
The Clash were one of the first high profile bands to work with a female manager, which even during the height of Punk was still almost entirely male dominated role. Brought together by their out-spoken natures and art school backgrounds, Joe and Caroline had even shared a tutor in pop artist Derek Boshier, but it’s to the girls and women of that era that Caroline ultimately tips her hat,
“Young women punks were more revolutionary, socially influential and musically innovative than most of the male fans and bands put together! Young punk women changed the public face of women forever!”
Caroline is still living in West London, still painting, and still telling it like is. Her website HERE
Caroline Coon, featured in a recent interview with Louder Than War HERE