Spitting at the early punk bands seems to be a bloke thing. Tell us if you ever saw a punk girl gobbing because I don’t think I did.
I grew up knowing that there were a selection of physical tricks that boys could do, but girls couldn’t. Like the loudest whistle with index fingers in the mouth, or a fart noise by milking your armpit. All the girls knew which boy could pee the highest and the one who could burp to order.
My attitude as a girl was that I resented the fact that I couldn’t manage do those things, but even if I could do them, I probably wouldn’t as they were mostly gross.
And so we come to spitting….. gobbing…… spreading your bacteria over your heroes. The bands always seemed to hate it and some of them got hepatitis, conjunctivitis or glandular fever from it. My first experience of gobbing was at a 1980 Banshees gig at Sheffield’s Top Rank. Obviously stressed-out, Siouxsie tried to reason with the spitting ruck about hepatitis and then went off stage in an (unsuccessful) attempt to get them to stop. It’s hard to describe, so I’ve invented a new metric. In that gig, Siouxsie was getting about 200 gobs per minute (GPM) and it looked like some kind of macho sperm-shooting substitute. Standing towards the back, I and a load of other punkgirls felt frustrated and so very sorry for Siouxsie.
But why did it start? Possibly because a journalist exaggerated or made something up about the punk phenomena. According to Vibrators’ drummer Eddie:
“The first people I remember spitting were when we played with the Sex Pistols in Amsterdam. John Black from the Evening Standard wrote an article saying that punks liked to be spat on while onstage, and that was it. The following week, every time you went to a gig, there were kids down the front gobbing on the band. There wasn’t a band that liked that.”
Although Iggy Pop did claim origination of the phenomena at gigs going back to the early 1970s:
“I was the first person who used to go out and gob on the audience and nobody ever gobbed back.”
Despite becoming ill from gob-infections, Joe Strummer goes on to make the phenomenon a badge of punkboy honour:
“It was a salute, a connector, it connected you to that guy standing there, if you could lob a good gob on his forehead then you had a Saturday night.”
Walking through the park on the way home from some Saturday record shop browsing, I asked my friend, who to me was the authority on all things boy and all things Punk, how he managed to spit so far, so fast, and with such accuracy. He explained that there was no use in trying to spit like it was toothpaste or fish bones, with pursed lips and little baby spits, for a really good punk rock gob you needed a sizeable amount of that back of the nose or throat phlegm. This was then manoeuvred onto the tongue where, with a mighty, lung-busting effort, the phlegm was projected outwards and upwards through harder, flattened lips in one mighty whoosh. We practised on the walk home. He was right about the technique.
So, if you are a punk girl who can gob 3 metres, or even if you can make those arm-pit farts, please let us know, and we will give you the respect you deserve. Possibly.
Ceramic Spitting girl by Kim-Simonsson