When I was 14 I discovered ‘Crazy Colour’ in a chemist on the Mile End Road. I had previously dabbled with cochineal on my fringe but it ran down my face when it rained.
I had a brief dalliance with a Laura Ashley bell sleeve shirt, some peg leg trousers and some pointy ankle boots. The jump to punk was quite a challenge so I decided new romantic was a good interim look.
My first encounter with the Sheffield punk scene was in Woolworths on the Moor. I used to go down every Saturday with my babysitting money and browse the vinyl.
Now to any millenials reading. before downloads,before Spotify, before CDs even, we used to buy all our music on vinyl records, the hipsters amongst you may be reviving this medium and even opening special shops I hear!!
Anyway, back to Woolworths, I was just about to buy a ‘Cure’ single whilst helping myself to the pink shrimps out of the ‘Pick n’ Mix’ when I heard a voice behind me. ‘want to come and have a coffee with us?’
I turned round to be greeted by a green mohican and a neck tattoo which read ‘Sheffield Punx’. Crikey.Result!! I followed this begulingly exotic creature over to the Woolworths cafe where an entire row of tables was occupied by a plethora of proud hairdos. The smell of Bristows hairspray mingled with the smell of the cigarettes being chain smoked and stubbed out’ in the saucers of the single cup of tea which was being dragged out over a few hours. By the way, back in the day you could smoke nearly everywhere. This wasn’t an anarchic act. Cinemas,pubs,buses..all smokers welcome.
Sheffield Punx boy took the stud earring out of his nose piercing and swapped it for my ear stud. He may as well have proposed I was that smitten. That encounter led to me being Sheffield Punx boy’s girlfriend for all of 3 days. These 3 days were enlightening and changed my direction in life: On day 1 went to The White Lion and drank barley wine which made me ill. On day 2 we went on a hunt sab march. On day 3 he let me wear his leather jacket so i thought that meant we were married, but then he took it off me again and we both went home.
My transition was gradual and extremely time consuming: Deciding on my ‘look’ which ended up as follows.
Hair: backcombed, crimped (no hair straighteners then!) hairsprayed-either boots own, Harmony or aforementioned Bristows. Crimped again to kind of stiffen the hair up to ensure maximum staying power. It was black at the sides and my signature colour was Crazy Colour in Violet. Hence my nickname which was Grape, Good eh?! I was ‘Tree’ for a while too when I was temporarily green of hair. I had two kind of wings that i sculpted to come either side of my head creating what I perceived to be a’peacock’ effect.
Make up: Liechener white pan stick. Rimmel eyeliner in black worn as lipstick. A heavily lined eye which ended in a feline extension. Purple eyeshadow and a mauve blusher applied in a stripe along each cheekbone.
Attire: Black leather biker jacket with a range of studs painstakingly attached. I also handpainted the back with a number of band logos-Crass, The Poison Girls, Discharge. All painted in humbrol enamel which cracked and peeled off. I wore army shirts, black trousers and 18 hold Dr.Marten boots. I was quite scary.
I was expelled from school for having purple hair. It saddens me that nothing seems to have changed in that area! I was told by the deputy head, Mr. Battye, who looked like a muppet vampire, that’if I wanted to look ridiculous I could do it at weekends’.
I had a particularly fetching chain from my nose ring to my ear, and a penchant for wearing curtain hoops as earrings. Yup. My getting ready process took around 3 hours in my bedroom which I had painted black-could I have been more of a teenager- whilst listening to music which was angry and full of expletives. Once I wore a net curtain which I dyed black. I also favoured a neon tight under fishnets. That was a good look.
Big Johns’ Magical Mystery Tours:
I have to talk about Big John. He was a gangly, spiky haired puppy dog. An absolute gem. He had a stutter and was obsessed with the N.Y.P.D. He worked as a delivery driver for a bakery and that meant use of the van at weekends and Johns Magical Mystery tours: On the delegated day we would all meet up at our usual rendezvous: The fish tank in the hole in the road (non Sheffield friends, the hole in the road was a now legendary crater caused by bombing in World War 2 which was made into a kind of shopping complex.) We would then pile into the back of his van and he would drive us to a secret location. This was normally a town or village in the Peak District. We were all squashed in with the escapee breadcakes and our bottles of Merrydown cider. Big John would open the back door and we would all fall out and go and look around. We certainly meant no menace and genuinely had nice days out, sitting by rivers, looking at monuments and being scowled at by locals who undoubtedly felt intimidated by the invasion.
We used to meet up in the downstairs of ‘The Marples’ in Fitzalan Square. There would be gigs in the upstairs room. One time The Exploited played there and Wattie Buchan the lead singer was soooooo punk rock, his eardrum expoded and he carried on singing. Hardcore!!
Sheffield had it’s own punk bands, The Plastik Toyz, The Mau Maus. and we supported them at every gig they did. Please note; I never ‘pogoed’ and i never gobbed. Let me be very clear about that.
There were many subsidised gigs at this time. The Polytechnic, Dingwalls, The Roxy, (where I snogged a GBH roadie but forgot I was wearing black lipstick ) and The Leadmill. I saw The Clash for 50p!!
The Leadmill was where I had my first ever job. I worked in the cafe and made the riders for the bands. I wore full hair and make up at all times. I apologise in retrospect for any stray purple hairs that may have got lost in your coleslaw. Jaz Coleman, the Lead singer with killing Joke, was my favourite. He was absolutely bonkers and wore a flat cap and a trenchcoat. His rider was very simple and he gave one of the best performances I had ever seen.
At the front of The Leadmill was a record shop called ‘Rat Records’. It was run by a canadian man called Nick and I ended up spending most saturdays in there, It was a real hub for the local music scene and he always had the latest crudely packaged Crass singles and introduced me to many more. It was fascinating and an exciting time for emerging local music.
I guess we were the second wave of punk. embracing an ‘anarcho-punk’ attitude and trying to make a stand against authority, the police and war. We went on CND marches, Rock against Racism gigs, and joined the Peoples March for Jobs from Rotherham to London. Heck I was only 16/17 but this time of my life opened my eyes and my heart. I met amazing people many of whom I still see now and again. Call it a sense of belonging and yet our aim was to be non-conformist, To create our own style and way of life.
So thank you Sheffield Punx Boy for introducing me to my adventure. My hair has never looked back since.
To be continued……………..