In 1977 we were ready to tell anyone who asked that what we really, really wanted was Anarchy, but by 1979 and especially after the election of Margaret Thatcher to PM, pop culture’s political idealism had noticeably shifted towards something much more “lefty”.
At the fore-front of this, were post-punk bands like the Au Pairs who were starting to incorporate socialist and feminist politics into their songs. With a boy girl line-up, and a brittle “end of the decade” view at the world, the Au Pairs combined scratchy guitars, dance-able rhythms, with all the fire and fury of the well-read.
Lesley Woods is often the focus, as the front-person and vocalist, but lurking behind and providing the baselines was another post-punkgirl, Jane Munro.
Jane Munro: “At the time, to me anyway, the stuff that we were doing didn’t seem that out of the ordinary because most of the bands we were gigging with or who were influential at the time also had political and/or feminist lyrics – the Gang of Four, the Slits, the Clash, the Raincoats, the Mekons, to name but a few. In retrospect though, to judge by the number of people who remember and were influenced by the band, I guess we must have stood out – possibly down to Lesley terrifying the audience!”
Having acquired a bass, and mastered the bass-line from The Stranglers “Peaches”, Jane joined the band through a mutual friend. Wasting no time in releasing their first two singles “You” and “Diet/It’s Obvious” the band combined an infectious dance-ability, skittishly constructed away from the norms and rockisms, which many of the previous punk bands had still been guilty of. Woods’ energy and out-spoken stage-presence catapulted her to the very front of the attention queue, especially as far as the music press were concerned, but as Jane explained (to pennyblack.com), that approach wasn’t always the best way to represent the band as a whole;
“They became more and more obsessed with the band’s political stance and Lesley’s lyrics. As a result she became the unelected spokesperson. I was never in my element doing interviews anyway and they always seemed to be dredging over the same old ground, so to some extent it suited me to let Lesley get on with it. If the rest of us had been more assertive it would probably have been better for the band though, we might even have been able to demonstrate we had a sense of humour, although I doubt the press would have been interested in that – not controversial enough.”
Bass playing, especially when it’s done well, often goes unnoticed, but Jane’s playing is the glue that holds the Au Pairs sound together. Contrasting the “busy-ness” of the band’s two guitars, Jane provides the perfect balance with deep, repeating, melodic and dare we say, slightly Weymouth-like bass-lines.
The early 1980s were absolutely ripe for political kickback, especially from the young, who felt ignored, patronised, misunderstood, unrepresented and silenced by the people in power, who were usually generations older than themselves. As more and more students from working class homes were admitted into the Universities and Polytechnics, gigs themselves became a hot-bed of student-led left-wing activism, pushing issues like unemployment, defence, equality, feminism, fairness and change. Bands like the Au Pairs led the charge, not just by including many of these topics in their songs, but by example – and Jane’s part in that was to be the bass-toting bed-rock, which underscored the bands message. Like EQ, but different.
Jane is now an alternative therapist.
Quotes from http://www.pennyblackmusic.co.uk
1 thought on “Jane Munro – Blame it on the Basslines”
I vividly remember the cover to the “Playing With A Different Sex” LP cover in the import bins of 1981. How could it fail to intrigue with such a cover? But I did not actually hear the band until I saw “Urgh! A Music War!” I still need that album but I recently tracked down the “Diet” b/w “It’s Obvious 7” in Akron a few years back.