There are plenty of stories about people seeing the Sex Pistols in ’76 or ’77 and then deciding to form a punk band. Some punkgirls like us, got on the scene later on and worked in a post-punk, indie kind of world. What’s really admirable about Nicky Summers is that, despite being very young, she was already virtually a punk when the movement came along – so much so that after the Sex Pistols appeared, people knew what to call Nicky:
“The Sex Pistols had appeared on the Bill Grundy TV show… I didn’t watch it as I wasn’t into Bill Grundy, but the next day it made front page news and people were talking about it at school …coming home from school people in the street were calling me a ‘punk’….due to my dress sense and the way I had ‘doctored ‘ my school uniform in general …I had my hair in a crew cut, cut by a Soho barber knife pleat skirt and plastic sandals …I think I was around 17 ….so as I was being referred to as a ‘punk’ in the street I decided to check out some of the bands thinking the whole scene might be something I might be into.”
It’s always best to read someone’s life stories in their own words – so please do read Nicky’s blog for loads more detail and anecdotes.
Nicky was the one who decided to form a band. She has the classic pre-punk background: Bolan, Bowie, Velvets, but from 1976 was a regular at all the London gigs by The Clash, The Damned , Buzzcocks, Subway Sect , John Cooper Clarke , X Ray Spex , Penetration and The Slits:
“I saw the Slits 2 or 3 times and found them really inspiring as they were female and challenged the general ethos of what being in a band and making music was about and for me , being a female member of the audience, ..it was a different thing than watching a male band.”
Nicky explains that she’d started a punk band but was more interested in moving on musically, inspired by a whole load of world sounds. The difficulty was finding other girls who wanted to play and who were reliable enough:
“I had rehearsed with a punk outfit but we had never gigged and I was looking to put an all girl group together .I was inspired by punk , reggae / dub , Motown, Bluebeat, 1950’s r ‘n’ b and Stax and 60’s girl groups , but it was quite difficult to get together.”
Eventually the line-up was established and the Bodysnatchers played their debut gig in November 1979 at the Windsor Castle pub in west London, where they supported Shane MacGowan’s band The Nips.
Success came quickly; a deal with 2Tone, support tours with Madness and The Specials. It was obviously a whirlwind, with no breaks or chance to develop the band. The fact that 2Tone was owned by the major label Chrysalis also had a big impact:
“I felt there was a lot of pressure on us to ‘perform’ ,keep up a certain image, and churn out chart hits. We were not given space to develop. After one interview for a magazine I was reproved by a rep from Chrysalis for not wearing a short skirt (I was in jeans). It wasn’t what I’d signed up for.”
Nicky’s blog has some interesting views on how female musicians and girls in general are under pressure with their appearance these days.
“You could wear a binbag or have spiked hair , there was a different take on femininity and appearance and image …you were not dressing for men, it was always about creativity and expression, and what ideas were going on …and the guys at the time supported you in that….It has never occurred to me that I had to take my clothes off to make music.”