I once met Hester Smith of Dolly Mixture. In about 1980, her brother, Simon (who was irritated by my comment about his amazing dancing bear) made a cup of tea for me and another friend. I think Hester said, ‘Hi,’ and I was overwhelmed with star-struckness.
I was a visitor to Cambridge and it seemed such an integrated pop-scene, with The Soft Boys and Dolly Mixture playing plenty of gigs, and an active anarcho-squat and wholefood vibe. But, as I was told on many occasions, this was nothing to do with the university; this was the real Cambridge.
Like the Raincoats, Dolly Mixture embraced the spirit of punk by just doing it with Front. This excellent article http://peel.wikia.com/wiki/Dolly_Mixture describes the problem of being popular with influential people such as John Peel, Captain Sensible, Bob Stanley of St Etienne and even Eric Faulkner from the Bay City Rollers. It’s always hard having so much conflicting advice from ‘men in the know’ about going for populism, doing your own thing, being girly or being hard-edged.
In the end, Dolly Mixture are very important in this story, and their role is beginning to be acknowledged. I admire them tremendously as struggling female pioneers of alternative music in days that were not very enlightened. Sing it!