Monday, 9 July 2012

Rock n Roll and wearing a bootlace tie in Doncaster

In my line of work you often come across the emerging tribes, the cults and fashions of the young and ridiculous. And I cannot fail to acknowledge the obvious fact that that once was me – all dressed up with nowhere to go – but putting on a show anyway. It transpires that the mid-eighties in Scunthorpe was part of a large scale sociological experiment where by all sub cultures were allowed free reign in schools and on the streets.

I mean I used to go to school in a tweed jacket topped with a quiff – we had a uniform – but it didn’t seem to matter as Patrick jackets collided with Donkey ones and doc marten boots. It was a free for all in the playground. It was a freedom we don’t always get under Gove and his return to the headmaster ritual of the 1950s.

I still look at clothes. I can’t fit in them but I still look at them. I’m no hipster – do you get me? I may have to start dressing like Tad to make up for my inability to sustain a healthy diet. These flirting with fashions fit snugly alongside our falling in love with sounds. I’m not sure whether it’s the clothes that lead to the finds or the songs which dictate the style – which takes me back to those pre-adolescent moments of developing a look to match the eclectic tastes being shaped through radio, film, television, friends and records, an older brother, record shops and market stalls.

I wore a bootlace tie. It was purchased in Scunthorpe Market. It may well have had a skull on it – or something rockabillyesque. I bought it because I liked Showaddywaddy and Matchbox. There was a rock n roll revival taking place – the late seventies a throwback to the fifties. All crepe soles and blue suede. A friend even had a drape made.

He was ten.

He would wear it at our first year disco in Secondary school – I wore pleated trousers and a grey mesh vest. By then the bootlace tie had been discarded and Visage and the new romantics were taking hold – the beginnings of my love affair with the synthesizer carved out in tributes to Bowie and Berlin. I have vivid memories of venturing to Doncaster. A city. It didn’t make Scunthorpe seem quaint or backward. This was not cosmopolitan.

It was larger and just as violent.

We never seemed to turn out the bands like the North West did. There is no equivalent of The Beatles this side of the country. Our ports brought in fish not rock n roll. Doncaster. Like any good city had a shopping precinct. All concrete and glass with punks and that, sat around smelling of glue and cider. I had come with my mum and brother – I am not certain why. I would wear my jacket – it had a Shakin’ Stevens patch and a Stray Cats one on the back. I would wear my bootlace tie too.

I was scared of the punks.

I thought they wouldn’t like the rockabilly clothes that I wore with pride. These names pinned to my back to mark me out as a fan. If I am honest they didn’t even notice me walk by. Those moments of dwelling that blow up but don’t go pop in your (inner) mind (y’all.) As I have said before rock n roll music – which any old way you might choose it – has always been coursing around the fringes throughout my life. And dressing to demonstrate your idols on t-shirts and badges and patches and bags is all part of that allegiance and defiance of youth. I would always buy a t-shirt at gig. Sell the fanzines in my bag and give the loose change to the t-shirt sellers or invariably the members of the band at the beginnings or ends of set filled with shimmers and jangles – feedback and attitude. And my t-shirt said ‘I understand – I get all of this’.

Whilst wearing the patches of rock n roll across the concrete streets of Doncaster and Scunthorpe – I thankfully had not gravitated towards the wearing of my idols on fabric so close to my skin. I did not own a Showaddywaddy t- shirt – although I would wear one now – postmodern maaaan. I think the first t-shirt I bought to ‘rep’ the band was The Smiths. A black Hatful of Hollow one from the Meat is Murder tour – Sheffield City Hall – five pounds well spent.

I wore it till it frayed.

And then came countless other t-shirts – at first mainly Smiths ones – The Queen is Dead, Shelia Take a bow, Shoplifters – the list goes on. And The Primitives ‘Stop Killing me’ black and white number, The Groove Farm, The Cure and and and. I still wear them today – in a nod to the allegiance and cultural belonging that liking pop affords. I have an Edsel Auctioneer one, various Brian Wilson ones, My bloody Valentine ‘Feed me with your Kiss’, a Primal Scream ‘Ivy Ivy Ivy’ one, Public Enemy, the Pistols and the most recent purchase a grey one with Metroplex records emblazoned across the chest. These emblems of safety and tribal belonging have shaped the fan world since they cottoned on you could get the kids to part with more cash if you but a name and face on it. Okay so the The Sidddleys never had a pencil case made but I swear my brother and I contemplated the Brian Wilson dressing gown that was available on the ‘That Lucky Old Sun’ tour. It would have gone nicely with our Smile bags – mine is currently gathering dust in a cupboard.

It is unlikely that I will ever seize the zeitgeist again and rock up a look with patches and badges – not that my rock n roll tributes were ever of the moment. I may occasionally venture out to Sainsbury’s proclaiming my love for the valentines as the young folk busily stay hip to music’s ever changing moods.

They’re wearing the crepe soled shoes again. They are as yet not modelling The Edsel Auctioneer gear.

This is The Edsel Auctioneer – they were/ are from Leeds – I will write about them at some point in the future. I did like them so much that I bought a t-shirt – so they’re worth a listen. Kind of like a northern Buffalo Tom – but much better.