I left home reluctantly; a dungaree wearing, immature 18 year old who didn’t fit at school and had no idea what it was I was looking for. I’d come through the New Romantic years with a passing interest in Blacmange, Bananarama and Heaven 17, but still felt that something was missing. I hadn’t found my niche. Shy to the point of carrying books around with me to fill any lurking gap in the conversation, I had discovered cider, boys and had one best friend. Missing out on the chance to study English at university by one grade, I found myself on the way to Edinburgh to study Publishing at Napier College. I didn’t realise that this was the right doorway opening for me, behind which lay all the stripy t-shirts and anoraks a shy, socially inept girl from EK could possibly hope for. It was like the scene I’d been pining for without even knowing such a thing existed.
On the first day of college, I ran panting and late (I’d locked myself into my dig’s bedroom by accident) into the Merchiston Napier campus on an August morning in 1988, sporting rolled up jeans, my Dad’s old golf jerkin and a neon orange shiffon scarf in my hair. Lips red, face freckled, white and terrified. The janitor pointed out a retreating back-combed figure in a man’s black raincoat, urging me to run after my fellow publishing student.
She turned out to be Sarah, a native Edinburgher and my first college friend. She introduced me to night busses, music venues, back alley short cuts and the joy of lunch time cider at the student union. She was almost immediately recruited as bass player with nascent C86 band The Shop Assistants, and there was my opening into the C86 scene, wholly overrepresented within the student population of my college, to be precise, within the confines of the publishing class of 1988.
Within weeks I too had been recruited into the ranks of another burgeoning C86 band, The Fizzbombs. Not only that, but I had a fellow C86 boyfriend, complete with stripy t-shirt and floppy fringe and a new back-combed best friend, Ann, drummer with the Shop Assistants and bass player with the Fizzbombs – neither of which were instruments that she had much history with. That was kind of the point of C86, it was total DIY and we all learned as we went along, the noisier, more feedback and shambly the better, so it was apt that I was recruited as the singer in this context of innovation and trial and error. My life as it was to become had begun, and it was both exhilarating and terrifying in equal measure.
The digs I’d locked myself into on the first day of college didn’t last long. I was much too solitary and shy and my landlady ended up calling my mum in concern for my welfare. I was swiftly moved into the halls of residence at Craiglockhart, all female and still run by nuns. It suited me perfectly, I had lectures five days a week, all meals cooked for me at the halls, leaving me time for band rehearsals and a full time social life of immersing myself in the indie clubs and music venues that 1980s Edinburgh specialised in – The Hoochie Coochie club, The Kangaroo Club, The Onion Cellar, The Green Banana Club at Potter Row….I was introduced to the delights of The Jesus and Mary Chain, The Velvet Underground and many 60s classics and Garage genre-ish music, dancing all through the week to The Doors, The Kingsmen’s Louie Louie, and shoving one another around the dancefloor to The Mary Chain’s ‘Upside Down’.
The fact I came from EK was suddenly OK. My brother was a late arriving member of Glasgow pop group Altered Images, and somehow that had contributed to me being asked to join two bands within the first month of starting college. Asked to drum with the Shop Assistants, I ignored the offer in fear, assuming they’d confused me with my brother who was a drummer, and a guitarist, and everything else musical in between. It was not in the genes, so I just ignored the rehearsal date given to me and hoped they’d go away. Asked to join the Fizzbombs as vocalist, I planned to do the same thing. But I hadn’t reckoned with Margarita, fellow publishing student, the bands writer/guitarist/unofficial co-ordinator and someone impossible to say no to. I duly turned up at rehearsal and whispered my way through the first terrifying three hours. Bizarrely I was asked back. And so my own real flirtation with the actual act of making, performing and releasing music finally began and has been at least a small part of my life ever since.