Part 2 – FUNKY TOWN : Katy Lironi
High school beckoned at the end of the 1970s and as the 80s got into full swing I discovered all manner of bad fashion. The hair was highly tonged, the trousers were baggy and sheer or denim and breath defyingly tight, the coat was known as a blanket. But music, I think saved the day. My first and last Apollo gig was to see OMD with Clare and her big sister. I was 15 and Enola Gay was a big hit. I had a brief first boyfriend who was into Meatloaf…that was never going to work out. My next teen boyfriend was into reggae and I was happy to slot that in alongside my penchant for Madness and school disco ska. The Olympia Ballroom in East Kilbride, where I grew up, (later to be known as the feedback capital of the western world!) staged reggae all nighters, and at 16 that seemed like a good place to spend the odd Saturday night, listening to Black Uhuru and Misty in Roots. The other option was Crystals disco, Sunday alternative night, dancing to Talking Heads’ Road to Nowhere and Hey! Elastica, The Human League’s “Don’t you Want me Baby?”, Tainted Love by Soft Cell…..we were never off the dance floor. I had a new best friend by this time and discos were for dancing with your pals, ducking from the boys who hit you on the arm by way of asking you to dance and then stood in front of you shuffling their feet. “I’m dancing with my friend!” bellowed above the music was taken as the worst possible insult to the 1980s Lanarkshire teen boy.
Music means a time and a place and an atmosphere. Holidays are the backroom of the corner bar in Estartit on the Costa Brava, flirting with Spanish waiters and dancing to D.I.S.C.O by Ottawan, Funky Town by LIPPS INC, The Sugarhill Gang’s Rapper’s Delight, and Madness One Step Beyond. Play any of those songs and I am transported, Fanta orange, (later supplemented with some vodka,) in hand to the hot, dark wee sweaty disco lurking beyond the pool table in the bar where my parents spent their holiday evenings, singing round the piano with a group of Scottish and Welsh holiday friends. Christmas is putting up the Christmas tree to the strains of Jim Reeves, our one and only Christmas LP. Car journeys to visit my gran in Fife in my dad’s Hillman Hunter are characterised by the singing of the same old post war classics that every family of a certain era sang on pre-car dvd player journeys….didn’t they? She’ll be coming Round the Mountain, Quarter Master’s Store, Pack Up your Troubles, You’ll Never Get to Heaven….etc, etc….as soon as the batteries run out on the 6 hour marathon trip to visit my sister up north nowadays, I insist my kids all sing these songs…it’s got to be good for them. School Christmas dances, in between the Dashing White Sargeant and Strip the Willow, are reminiscent of the Slosh, always danced to Dan Hartman’s Instant Replay, while regular school discos involved ritualistically dodgy actions to Michael Jackson’s Blame it on the Boogie, lots of Madness and general whirling to Kelly Marie’s Feels like I’m in Love.
As I moved through my teens I like to think I got a little bit more discerning, but again, a lot of what I was listening to was circumstantial…basically found lying around my house. So, as well as raiding my parents record collection, (stored in a fabulous orange plastic u shaped contraption, one for singles and one for LPs, lost to ebay now I fear,) I was also still the receptacle for my brothers’ cast offs. This gave me a cross section of Frank Sinatra, Peggy Lee, Diana Trask (queen of country soul?), Simon and Garfunkel mixed in with Aztec Camera, Orange Juice, and from my own collection, Bob Marley and UB40. My brothers resorted to a bit of straightforward education, buying me some David Bowie, Buzzcocks and New Order for birthday presents. They were also both constantly in bands, so as well as having to put up with regular band rehearsals in the 2 bedrooms bordering mine as I studied for my exams, I was going to see them play gigs from the age of 15. There was a time I liked looking older for my years, and getting in to Maestros with my mum to see my eldest brother Stephen playing with one of his bands was easy.
A stream of musicians made their way to our front door. In the days before social media, they literally turned up and knocked on the door….I even ended up marrying one of them. Douglas made the long bus journey from his small village in rural Lanarkshire to the suburb where Stephen had a bit of a name as a drummer, in a bid to recruit him for his schoolboy band, Article 58. The door was answered by my Mum holding my new baby sister, a child of the 80s and so burdened with many bad musical memories. She was putting up with full band rehearsals from babyhood. My main memory of that time is struggling to learn French vocab while 2 different bands rehearsed outside my door, and carrying coffees and biscuit tins up and down the stairs. The only time I got close to being involved was when one of their band members asked if their wee sister could sing. It was well known that I loved to, but, no, I couldn’t. A standard family joke. I was keen and Graham agreed to audition me in the living room one day. Needless to say it ended in tears and it would be a few years yet until I eventually got my turn. Meanwhile I busied myself becoming familiar with Sylvia Plath, George Orwell and Albert Camus, writing stories, diaries and torturous, teenage angsty poetry.