International Women’s Day seems like a good time to begin a series of posts about women in the arts, or, more specifically, about discrimination of all kinds in same1. But hey, it’s Sunday, so I’m going to do a nostalgia post instead. It’s a version of a piece I posted a while ago, but, given that I have this spiffy new site and need to play with all its media settings, today seemed a good time to revisit it.
When I lived in Hull, the women’s community—and it really was a community; we were in each others lives to an extent I think most Americans would find amazing, amusing, or appalling—really went to town on International Women’s Day: big parties, blowout celebrations, demonstrations (in every sense).
I remember one IWD in particular because it was the day my band, Janes Plane, debuted: 33 years ago today. Just nine months later we were in London, playing at the Ace in Brixton.
Dead Kennedys, The Damned, The Undertones, Cocteau Twins, Killing Joke, Stiff Little Fingers…and Janes Plane. We all played at the Ace that year. (Also, uh, Kajagoogoo, though I will point out that this was before their pop hit, “Too Shy.”)
On December 9, 1982, Janes Plane, the little band that could, found itself on stage one night in front of a sell-out crowd2 and four TV cameras. I had a blast. Sex, drugs, and rock and roll was not a metaphor.
If you’ve read my memoir, And Now We Are Going to Have a Party, you’ll have heard some of the Janes Plane songs. You can read an excerpt about the band’s formation, and how singing brought me to writing, here. Or, ah fuck it, just listen to “Bare Hands”
That song was recorded in August 1982, which was also when a UK TV show called Whatever You Want came to town to film us.3 Here’s video of part of that Ace gig. We were woefully under-rehearsed4 and this was the song we’d played least. (It was the last song we wrote; you won’t find it on the CD in the memoir.) Also, Jane’s guitar was horribly out-of-tune. It was always out of tune; even pooling our resources, we couldn’t afford to replace the machine heads.
We were incredibly poor. That white shirt I was wearing cost 20p in a jumble sale and I cut the collar off with a knife—didn’t have scissors. The waistcoat was knitted for me by a lover’s mum. The pink trousers were hand-me-downs that I wore all the time. I was reminded just the other day that on the day of the gig I didn’t have tube fare to get there and had to borrow it. But, hey, we got paid in cash—union rates—right after the show. That night we partied. The only snag is, I don’t remember a thing about it. Eh, I was 22; I thought I ruled the world. I remember that young person fondly.
1 I’ll be starting that series soon.
2 I’m just guessing but somewhere right around 1,500.
3 You can watch that here. I’m not posting it because the video makes my toes curl. I was 21, trying to hard to look laid back and world-weary, but stressed out about that kitten—you’ll see what I mean if you watch it—and with a wicked hash hangover: the night before I’d smoked Nepalese Temple Ball for the first time; I smoked a lot. Note, too, that my nose looks different: this was two years before I got it broken in a fight.
4 Our drummer left the band not long after the demo recording and the TV filming. She went to London to take a job as a sound engineer for an animated TV programme and we couldn’t find another woman who a) had her own kit and b) could play it. We recruited a couple of guest drummers for a handful of gigs but then the band just…stopped. But, hey, the Ace was in London, so we reformed for one night only. After that gig we could have done so much. But that’s another story…