Forming a teenage punk band aged 15 had both musical and sartorial pitfalls
explains Dan Synge in an exciting new music memoir
Having a few self-penned songs ready to go was all very well, but when BBC5 finally did get to rehearse, the result was a little underwhelming to say the least.
Obvious musical deficiencies aside, the drums drowned out the feeble guitars and weedy unamplified vocals, while Alex would often play his overly complicated bass lines at a tempo of his own devising.
We tried a few cover versions from the song sheets we had nicked from the music shop in Lewisham; Pretty Vacant, In The City and Babylon’s Burning, but even these fine punk tunes petered out after we all got lost somewhere in the middle.
After only our third get together, an elderly neighbour soon alerted a noise abatement officer to record volume levels my parents' home where we had installed our musical hardware. This, despite the fact we had put pads on the snare drum, some used eggboxes on the wall and several inches of carpet underlay over the room’s skylight.
There was no banging on the window or irate shouts of “Turn it down!”, just a cold and officious letter from the council which landed on our doormat one day.
"Our drummer, who was barely into his teens, looked like his mum had dressed him"
Image-wise, we were sending out several mixed messages about our repertoire. Me with drainpipe black trousers (surprisingly hard to get hold of in 1979), borrowed Burton’s jacket from dad’s wardrobe and unruly wavy hair which went over the ears.
Alex, meanwhile, would turn up to rehearsals in an old army jumper wearing unfashionable Kickers boots and inside out school blazer with some home-made punk badges running down both lapels. Our drummer Miguel, who was barely into his teens, looked like his mum had dressed him with his flared jeans and Lacoste tennis shirt. One guitarist, who was with the band only briefly, even had greasy shoulder length hair and professed to liking to prog.
In an ideal world we would have looked like The Rolling Stones in the cool black and white shot I found inside my gatefold double LP Get Stoned (see photo, right). Taken, I would have guessed around 1965, it is almost the perfect band photo with the boys positioned artfully on what looks like the entrance to a magistrate’s court.
Another look I was hoping we might channel was Blondie’s NYPD style line up from the back of my Plastic Letters LP (photo below). Keyboardist James ‘Jimmy’ Destri in particular seemed to have his image firmly under control with a sort of outgrown French crop and zip up leather jacket. The casual smouldering cigarette did the rest.
In stark contrast, the BBC5 line up must have looked like Jimmy Pursey junior and his mates, or at best a more streetwise but admittedly rather less diverse Kids From Fame. Undeterred by our dubious fashion choices and the neighbourhood noise ban, the band continued to commit to the regular Sunday afternoon sessions up to the point where we could proficiently perform twelve of our own songs plus a few easy-to-play cover versions such as the three-chord punk/new wave classic Is Vic There? by Department S. Just as well, we had our first gig coming up...
You Really Got A Hold On Me (Dispatches from the front line of indie pop) is out soon