When I read the book by John Lydon “No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs I did not realize that in the early days of Punk, in London, clothes came before the music. For me the music was always the central thing to Punk. There was an amazing array of styles, fashions, hair styles, make-up designs and colours, inventive ideas used in so many creative ways.
My small offering to this page is as follows, but I am sure there is more of you who has evidence of what you wore and what was worn?
“The picture is my leather jacket, a motor cycle jacket I bought in a motorbike shop at the back of Binns (long gone now). I think the leather jacket was an expensive item to have, but a lot of the leathers had great designs painted on them. Not like mine, I kept mine plain for years, until later on I decided to paint it while on the lapels. It started to crack soon, but by then the leather was beginning to show it age – and looked good in my opinion.
The “A” sign stood for “Anarchy” but I think it was a badge from the Canadian air force (I could be wrong?). I sewed that onto he arm when I got the leather. I wore my leather jacket everywhere, you get attached to them, they become a personal item of clothing, you sleep in it, play gigs in it, wear it to weddings and everything else you can think of. Some were covered in studs and badges, real works of art.
Pod’s Leather Jacket, with Clash arm band, badges and painted lapels.
I used to spray-paint logos onto T-shirts, the photo shows me playing guitar with a self painted t-shirt. I did not use the ‘proper’ fabric paints, I just used what there was around the house (emulsion/gloss) at the time. This type of paint made the material stiff. I used to cut words/image out on a piece of paper as a template, tape or pin it to the t-shirt and spray paint over the template, when dry take the template off. I did quite a few of these self made designs such as The Clash’s symbol on the front cover of the 2nd Clash Song book.
The image reads “Words have failed its time for action” which was the lyrics to one of my songs “Time for Action”. This t-shirt was made on the 17/6/82. I am wearing it during a Societies Victims gig, at Morley Street Church Hall.
I used to wear an Hawaiian shirt (see Havana Affair Pagoda video) on stage in Havana Affair, this was a conscious reaction to all the studs and leather jackets worn by punks like a uniform. It was taken from a few sources: the Jam’s lyric “wear any clothes as long as they are bright” from the song “Art School“; also from reading “Moon the Loon” by Dougal Butler (1981) which told of Keith Moon’s love of Surf music such as Jan and Dean and the Beach Boys, which got me listening to it and buying a couple of records, a good read if you want your spirits lifted, it also got me into drinking Brandy!
I bought some black bondage trousers by mail-order on the 6/9/82 which I wore a lot, I did not wear the leg straps as I did not like them and also I thought it was very in-practical, as if you are chased and you have to make a run for it…which happened a few times.
I bought my Union Jack jacket from Carnaby Street, London on the 12/12/82, I used to visit London to see Crads who was in the Air Force, or I used to pass through on my way to/from Europe. I used to go there to see the clothes. I saw the jacket in shop window and I bought it as The Who used to wear one. I did not wear it as any loyalty to the UK or to celebrate Britishness, the opposite in fact. and I think Punk allowed that. You could wear everyday things like sunglasses in the cloudy weather, a dummy safety-pinned to your jacket, a tie with no shirt, zips in inappropriate places on your clothes. So, if I took a Mod iconic fashion statement (celebrating Britishness and British music) and turned it around to mean the decay of Britishness and of British music; punk allowed that. I have a photograph of me wearing it at a Ferryhill gig with Nightmares in a Damaged Brain, I am also wearing my grandfathers old trousers. Put the 2 together and I was saying that we celebrate being English/British, but we let old soldiers be neglected. We have constant WWII films celebrating how “we won the war” yet we let the men who fought it rot, forgotten. Clothes let you make statements with Punk.
Jimmy J was spray painting jackets and t-shirts in the 80s. He has kindly let me use his photos and art work in this blog, today he is still painting and designing. Many thanks Jimmy.Jimmy’s art work I think is brilliant, imaginative and exact. He uses a specialy type of paint (as opposed to the house paints I was using!) I quote Jimmy: “[the paint] it’s called Dylon, loads of colours, great for hand painting, not so good on dark coloured tops, diy punk style”. here are some of his creations:
Jimmy’s has trained and become a designer in stained-glass, and he uses this technique to create art inspired from punk:
This is Joe Strummer (the singer out of The Clash) sculpted out of what looks like a pumpkin, fantastic!
A video about the ideas behind Crass’s art
A video about the art work of the Dead Kennedys
A Video about the art work of Black Flag
If you went to school in the late 70s you would have had exercise books to keep your lessons in. In Trinity School they made a point of telling you to “back your book” meaning to cover the front and back with wall paper, or brown paper, or something to protect it from unwanted designs, writings, scribbles etc.
I found my old exercise books in the attic and either I was a very bad student (shock! horror!!) or I misunderstood their meaning. I “backed my book” with newspaper cuttings of punk groups, song titles, and slogans…also a lot of scribbles!
But looking at these exercise books today it tells me a lot more besides that I was bored with school (I hated school). It tells me a transitional period between not listening to punk music and listening to punk music.
The 1st and 2nd Year books, prior to punk, showed I was scribbling the names of characters from the Japanese TV serial “The Water Margin” … Lin Chung, Hu Sang Yang… and a healthy dislike for mathematics with the slogan “Mathematics is a waste of time”then as a new school year began, so did a new type of graffiti…
I started this new art in the 3rd year at school, I estimate it to be 1978. I had often wondered when I started listening to Punk music and what had attracted me to it. I must have been in 1978, but sometime during the 2nd year at school.
On my Biology book’s front and back cover I started to cut out from newspapers letters making up words such as “The Clash” or lyrics from The Sex Pistols, ‘God Save The Queen’ single “we mean it maan”, and my own take on the Northern Ireland problem!
Inside next to drawing of a limb was the mantra “I should remember God Save the Queen”
My Physics 3rd year book was no exception with newspaper cuttings highlighting the groups The Buzzcocks, The Stranglers, and my prospects after leaving school of “No Future” I doodled the Sex Pistols single “Something Else” on the back cover.
In the 4th year (1979) I continued to ‘back my books’ with similar art works. My Classical Studies exercise book had a more detailed composition with the group “Public Image Ltd.” blazoned on the front cover telling me that the band would be appearing on TV at 7 o’clock! On the back cover my religious experience grew to new heights with iconic religious scribbles of “Anarchy, White Riot, Bob Marley and the Wailers, Sid Vicious” written out in the form of a cross, my hopes of “Anarchy in Trinity”, “Angelic Upstarts” and “I am an Anarchist, Anarchy in the UK”. A slogan from one of my own songs “Britain For All”, a Clash’s song “I’m So Bored with the USA”, at the time I was teaching myself Russian and I wrote in Russian the word “Pravda” which meant ‘truth’, as well as being the name of one of the CCCP’s newspapers, it was also the title to one of my own songs “Pravda”. In fainter hand writing a friend (a grebo) has written “Sid Vicious is a poof”
4th Year Maths was no exception, a TV told how USA programmes were flooding our airwaves and how the UK lyrics “I’m So Bored with the USA” was an alternative. I had doodled the skull and nuclear sign from The Clash’s song books, as well as my hope of “Anarchy in Trinity”! There is a “R.A.F” scribble which meant “Red Army Faction” a political group from Italy highlighted by The Clash’s/Joe Strummer’s T-shirt, and also the title to one of my own Songs “R.A.F.” (Rock Against Fascism). On the back cover there are the names of the members of The Clash, Sid Vicious on a tomb stone, with a friend writing next to it “bums Elvis Presley”. There are the members of The Sex Pistols, and also the names of the members of one of my early groups “Frenzy”:
Sparrow Trotsky – rhythm
Philip Bailey – bass
Jaws – lead singer
me? – drums (possibly written by the same friend, a guy called Kieth, or QE, who has been “denounced as a slag” in the right hand corner!
The final piece of art work was from another 4th year book, showing more Sex Pistols song titles “Problems” and “New York” and a cutting of [Public] Image [Ltd]. And as a loyal subject I finish with a portrait of the queen herself, looking regal as ever.
Some quotes from Facebook:
not just you i wrote all over my shorthand book and Mr Cluelo gave me detention. Didn’t do that again
I ended up putting wall paper over the books, i think that is why the scribbling is still in tact. well done on the detention by the way!
I saw Rush 2112 scribbled on one of the later ones!
nothing to do with me John!! my mate QE liked to scribble on my books, he was a heavy metal fan. nothing against Rush though, i used to like them.
I used to back mine with the middle pages from Smash Hits so I would be looking at Sheena Easton or Debbie Harry instead of paying attention to the teachers
I have a few Rush albums. There, I said it.
my mate Fib, who went to Dalston school used to back his book with the Dandy and the Beno, they used to get passed around the class for a read.
Design a Cassette
Did you ever make anyone (or yourself) a music cassette? If you did, did you take the time to design it? To spend time and thought into making it individual and artistic? Sadly, I did not ! It never occurred to me to make it beautiful. My cassettes were “functional”, they had a title and a penned list of tracks… but often, it did not have even that! For people who painted on jackets, t-shirts, designed poster etc. cassette covers were an extension of that artistic outlook. Mine vision was “blue and white” not Technicolor.
I do not have many original cassette covers left in my attic. But the little I have may reflect some of the people who took the time and trouble to design me a personalized symbol of their creativity… many thanks to them.
The first cover on show was given to me my Swanny, when I joined the “Red Aligatorz” in the mid-80s. Being a punk, I guess I was not musically ‘cultured’ enough to play Rockabilly music from the 50s, I was lacking the background and information to play that music.
To ‘educate’ me, Swanny made me several cassettes with countless artists of the 40s, 50s and 60s. Musical styles such as: Blues, Rockabilly, Skiffle, RnB, Swing, Jive, Talking Blues, Country, Hillbilly, Bluegrass…etc. His cassette covers were hand-made, often pen on a white background with imaginative characters drawn on the cover with ‘text boxes’ coming from the character’s mouth. Inside the cover was hand written titles, with minute handwriting the artists and titles of all the songs.
Not only did the covers have a stamp of originality, but the recording themselves had its own trade mark. For example, as Side A came to its end and the last song had been played, there would be a few seconds of tape remaining. Swanny would record his vocals saying something like,”turn the cassette over or I will kick your arse”…! But often the song would end in the middle as the cassette finished. Music (and sound) was crammed into every millimetre of tape.
The example here shows Swanny’s multicoloured cassette cover entitled “Nameless Musical Styles of the Fifties”
Next follows a series of cassettes by Swanny, with coloured headers: Getting Hot, Feeling Blue”
Another style of cassette art was from my friend called Jamil. He was also educating me into a music that I had by-passed. “Joy Division” had long ceased to be when I read for the first time “Touching From a Distance” by Deborah Curtis. I had not listened to them much when they were climbing the popularity charts. But after reading that book I was hooked. Jamil kindly did me an extensive collection of recordings of demos, live gigs, singles and LPs. What made these cassettes special for me was the hand writing. They were (in my opinion) works of art. More a type of calligraphy than hand writing. When I travelled abroad, Jamil and I used to correspond, and I used to receive letters in this style, beautiful pieces of literature.
As Ian Curtis was a big David Bowie fan, Jamil also inducted me into Bowie’s music too. I do not think I would have listened to it other wise! I am pleased I did if only the 1st 2 LPs.
The front covers of these cassettes were made from designed paper:
And the Bowie front cover was a wrapping paper design:
The final example of a cassette design was from my friend Paul. He used to do me a mixture of music from the 90s, not Punk by any stretch of the imagination. His cassette was a compilation of Punk songs. His front cover design was his own typical humour!!
I think CD covers were just as equally creative as cassettes, perhaps more so as we had the added help of the computer software, but that what gave the cassettes more of a Punk/D.I.Y. approach was the absence of this technology. It was not always “correct” or “tidy” precise and “finished” and that’s what gave them an attraction.
I had a black and white copy of the The Sex Pistols File:
And in this one source of information available at the time on the group, there was a photo of the Anarchist shirt made by Vivienne Westwood and worn by Steve Jones.
This shirt was amazing, and I decided to create my own. By using a workers jacket from my dad’s work place I started to add slogans and patches, which ment something to me at that time.
The jacket was cheap cotton, that the drivers of a local agricultural firm, used to deliver oil to the farmers. My dad got one for free. There was no lining, it was a basic single layer cotton jacket. It was not supposed to be fashionable or artistic, I did not take a lot of time to “design” anything. The zips I bought at the local market or what were lying around the house, the studs were bought at the local market and were more worn in leather jackets than soft cotton.
The back of the jacket was painted with emulsion, no fancy fabric paint ! The badges were bought from our local White Elephant shop, which I used to frequently go when I was walking the streets of Carlisle in the week days.
The back of the jacket originally had text, and underneath the 3 diamond sign, there can still be seen the lyric/slogan from The Angelic Upstarts song, “Police Killed Liddle Towers“. I probably thought this too much of a target for our local police, who would not take it too kindly, so I painted over the text (but still faintly seen today) and painted the 3 diamond sign, as seen on the front of The Clash’s 2nd Song Book
Also, on the back of the jacket (but also painted over) was text from the verse of the Sham 69’s song “Questions and Answers“. The text reads “As soon as we are born we are told what to say and do”. This was painted out and the name of my band at the time, “Frenzy” (see the page in this blog).
I used to cut the stencil out from newspaper and spray-can over it… D.I.Y.
On the back of the jacket there was a badge with an inverted royal crest. In those days, if you turned a symbol upside down, it meant you were against it… I then sew the words “Freedom” above the crest… “Freedom from the royal family”.
The same idea was used for the nazi emblems. nazi badges was turned upside down and sewn onto my sleeve. In the 1980s the national front was popular and by wearing such things it left you open to attacks, I was anti-fascist and I wrote about such topics in my songs.
As The Sex Pistols had created an Anarchy shirt, I decided to put my political ideals onto this jacket. “I.B.S.” stood for the title of one of my songs (Independent British State) and below that “Federalism”. Through these 2 statements I tried to convey my wish for a break-up of the UK, into smaller, more ungovernable, counties. The same way the U.S.A. had federal states where laws for each state had precedence over another law in a different State, yet still have a loose federal law. I.B.S. was the equivalent. To break up the UK, not only in having a separate Scotland, England, Ireland and Wales; but dividing counties within those countries, and giving more control to the local governments and to the people within those counties.
“Pravda” was one of the first songs I had written, it was a Russian word meaning “Truth”. The content of the song was similar to the Sex Pistols “Anarchy in the UK”.
The “RAF” symbol did not mean I was a supporter of the Royal Air Force ! but I wore it as it had the initials “R.A.F.” which meant “Red Army Faction” a political activist organization, and which was supported by Joe Strummer in the film Rude Boy. It also meant the musical/political movement “Rock Against Racism” which was popular in the 1980s to counter-react the growing right-wing elements in pop music.
The front of the jacket had “Rebel Red” again mimicking a Clash slogan and the 5 pointed Star, mimicking the symbols the anti-nazi internees were forced to wear in the ghettos (Jews, Homosexuals, Gypsies, Communists, Anarchists etc), I got this idea from the 1st Clash song book.
On the shoulder there was a R.A.F. regiment badge, symbolizing the dual meaning. There used to be a piece of text, written onto a square piece of cloth and was safety-pinned on to the shoulder. The text was taken from a few quotes of the Anarchist Mickael Bakuinin’s writing.
This jacket if I remember correctly, was only worn twice. The first time it was worn to a gig at Carlisle’s Market Hall to see a punk band, possibly The Angelic Upstarts or Stiff Little Fingers, I can not really remember. The 2nd time was on a saturday afternoon: punks used to meet in the center of Carlisle and generally hang about. I remember having Bakuinin’s text pinned to my shoulder and people trying to read it… ! The afternoon past off ok, until it was time to walk home. A friend and I were walking past the cathedral and then we heard a voice behind us saying “you are running, aren’t you punks?” glancing behind we saw 2 Heavy Metal bikers coming after us, we did not hang around but ran for it. The problem was we had to run passed The Boardroom Pub which was the hangout for the biker gangs and Heavy Metal music lovers. As I mentioned above, these writings and slogans on ones jacket had reactions in the 1980s, it was a spark, and thats all was needed.
Back then a bike gang member had the “right” to go up to another Heavy Metal follower and demand his “cut-off” (his denim jacket), well they did not get mine !