PART 4 – SIGN ON THE LINE – (THE TRAVELLING WILDERNESS YEARS)
College would go on to consist of some lectures, discovering pints of snakebite, Fizzbombs band rehearsals in very dingy, damp rehearsal rooms in Edinburgh, weekly gigs, recording a 7” single, gracing the centre pages of the NME and making a video with Douglas Hart of the aforementioned The Jesus and Mary Chain. The Fizzbombs supported the likes of The Pastels, Tallulah Gosh, The Shop Assistants, The Vaselines , what seemed like every other weekend, and recorded a couple of Janice Long BBC Radio1 sessions. Everything was terrifying and incredibly exciting at the same time, yet also seemed very, very normal. My lovely brother once told me I was the shyest, most nervous looking person he’d ever seen on stage, yet part of me absolutely loved it. Part of me is a show off, just an awkward show off. College years ended with a tour of England in the back of a smelly transit van, sleeping on the promoters’ floors and putting our make up on in the local Wimpy Bar. The glamour of our short lived, peripheral rock and roll life had been and gone….Ann and I decided to head off for further studies in Glasgow and without a backward glance, kissed the Fizzbombs goodbye.
We decamped to Glasgow and it all got a bit academic….but Ann’s boyfriend, who had been the drummer in The Mackenzies, had started a new Hip Hop club with his bandmates called Gobstoppah, upstairs at Mardi Gras, so we had somewhere to hang out and dance to the likes of Salt n Peppa, Grandmaster Flash, Run DMC, etc…. if not to play music. My best friend from school, Pascale was studying at Glasgow Uni so Fridays were typically QM union gigs, Orange Juice, Fun Boy Three, Boomtown Rats. There followed a few years of travelling around with Ann….I remember the Boston Common Summer Concerts, sitting on the grassy hill outside the boundary fence, drinking peach wine coolers listening to Stevie Wonder and Belinda Carlisle in the sticky New England summer night.
Europe beckoned and I have happy memories traversing the continent on buses and trains, forehead against the window pane, watching foreign landscapes flash by, listening to a mish mash of the Buzzcocks…Ever Fallen In Love, The Shangri Las, The Shirelles, The Chiffons….melodic, feisty and tragic, perfect for my tinny little Walkman cassette player. Heartbroken months teaching English in southern Italy and listening to my Everything But The Girl and Dionne Warwick cassettes on repeat. A year in Bologna where Ann and I wrote a truly terrible “rap” with our new pal, Mel, who would go on to become one half of Mel and Sue (Light Lunch, Bake Off, etc). We sat in the Piccolo Bar one afternoon drinking beers and penning a diatribe to the Italian male of the 1990s (I’d had a fairly traumatic few months living and working in southern Italy)….deriding all things machismo and designer, in our very clunky rap which we thought hilarious….Moschino? Che Schiffo!. Mel had a pal who was a DJ and invited us to perform at squat rave, La Fabrica. Bologna at the time benefited from having the only communist commune (local council) in Italy and illegal raves flourished in what was a really conservative culture where everyone had long brown hair and wore navy blue uniforms. We got a lot of hassle for just being who we were, girls in Doc Martens, flea market coats and red lipstick….maybe the odd stripy t-shirt here or there…the C86 thing was hard to leave behind. I feigned illness and if memory serves me right, the venue burned down before our performance could take place. The constant sexist street hassle wore me down and I moved back to Scotland then London for a year, before ending up in Prague shortly after The Velvet Revolution.
Finding ourselves in Prague in a flat rental with two American girls on the night we arrived, Ann and I (still together) accompanied them to their friend’s gig. This led to a short-lived fling with an American who, when you closed your eyes, sounded like a young Frank Sinatra! When I opened my eyes he was wearing cowboy boots and a distressed leather jacket, as Ann took great pleasure in pointing out. I also found myself very briefly playing tambourine with a newly returned Czech dissident musician, until he realised my natural affinity with the offbeat. My Prague memories revolve around listening to the aforementioned Frank sound-alike playing gigs, or serenading us on the banks of the Vltava River…..he really was the most amazing Frank sound-alike! And watching American bands like Mudhoney and Superchunk playing tiny little, super loud new gigs that had sprung up all over Prague.. Sitting in our rented room overlooking the Charles Bridge listening to mix tapes of The Lemonheads, Teenage Fanclub, Dinosaur Jr….As the summer school term came to an end and so our temporary teaching contracts finished, I felt the pull back to Scotland, and so another trans-European bus journey ensued with Czech bus drivers and a mini fridge full of pivo. I’d picked up only the essential Czech, hello, thank you, two, beer. Goodbye beautiful Prague, see you in 30 years.