A brief history of music & t-shirts

P1070759Your granddad might not have worn a Frank Sinatra tee, but once t-shirts became part of casual wear in the early 1950s, it didn’t take long for them to become the ultimate statement item. Like carrying a record around (but a lot easier), wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with the name of your favourite band tells everyone on the street exactly what music you like and, of course, what tribe you belong to.

In the 1970s, designers like Vivienne Westwood tapped into the emerging anti-establishment mentality of British youth with slogans designed to shock. Billed as “the ultimate punk-rock T-shirt”, her design featuring a swastika and inverted crucifix under the word “Destroy” became iconic of a musical and social movement.

In fact it was Johnny Rotten’s t-shirt that first caught the attention of future Sex Pistols manager, Malcolm McLaren, in the summer of 1975. Walking down the Kings Road with the words “I Hate” scribbled above a Pink Floyd logo evidently displayed his potential to become the snarling face of punk rock.

In the 1980s, designer Katherine Hamnett used bold prints to fuse fashion with social issues. In their 1983 video for Wake Me Up Before You Go Go, pop band Wham! wore her print, “CHOOSE LIFE”, prompting millions of fans to adopt the slogan, which promoted an anti-drug and anti-suicide campaign.

The idea of using the humble tee to send a message caught on. In 1984 the BBC banned Relax, the debut single by Frankie Goes to Hollywood for its “explicitly sexual” lyrics. Inevitably it went straight to Number 1 and record label owner Paul Morley’s idea of printing “FRANKIE SAYS RELAX” onto white t-shirts turned millions of fans into protest billboards. The t-shirt was so iconic it is still one of the most popular slogans, long after the band’s career ended.

Do you still have your favourite band t-shirt? This Friday is BBC 6 Music’s Wear Your Band T-shirt to work day so show off your old tee by tweeting a picture using #tshirtday.

While you’re at it, don’t forget to upload your music merchandise and memories to www.phop.co.uk or email phop@7wonder.co.uk

Missing the Sex Pistols for disco

The Sex Pistols gig at Manchester’s Lesser Free Trade Hall in June 1976 was legendary, with the likes of a young Morrissey and members of what would become Joy Division in the audience. A lot of people have claimed to have been there, but we were pleasantly surprised this week to have a PHOP contributor resolutely admitting to not being there. Instead, user terri.web was at the Pips disco club, where he was a member, celebrating his birthday in the Bowie/Roxy music room. Here’s his tale:

“I joined in February 1976. Pips was a disco Club with three separate parts playing different music in each. Clothing was very specific. I generally went into the Bowie/Roxy Music part, hence the suit and narrow tie etc. I was at Pips the night The Sex Pistols played The Free Trade Hall. Very annoying in retrospect. It was my Birthday. Well that is my excuse!!”

The story of a song and a city

FullSizeRenderThis is Phil Tucker’s collection of music magazines featuring his favourite band Gerry and the Pacemakers, which he has uploaded to the People’s History of Pop.

“Being a teenager in the 60’s, pop music was high on the agenda and in 1963, when Gerry and The Pacemakers came to national acclaim, I was hooked by their music and in particular, Gerry’s personality.”

The national acclaim the band enjoyed in ’63 was in no small part due to The Pacemakers’ latest hit, You’ll Never Walk Alone. Not only did it set the record as a third consecutive number 1 – a feat that would only be equalled in the 1980s by Frankie Goes to Hollywood – but the song was immortalised as Liverpool Football Club’s anthem.

Liverpool supporters were one of the first to sing popular songs at football matches. “There was an atmosphere at the Kop,” remembers George Sephton, long-standing stadium announcer for the club. “You had to get there 2.5 hours before the game if you were standing to ensure you got in. So people would entertain themselves by singing along to songs.”

The stadium DJ would play the top 10 hits, but when YNWA finally left the charts and the DJ took the record off his playlist, Liverpool fans chanted, “where’s our song?”

“I don’t think [the lyrics] relate to football, I think they relate to people,” mused Gerry Marsden in an interview with Liverpool FC in 2013.

When you walk through a storm, hold your head up high

and don’t be afraid of the dark…

The song summed up Liverpool’s triumph over adversity when it hit number one in 1963. The fifties had been marred by economic depression and eight years in the Second Division. But by 1963, the football club was poised to win the First Division title and the Merseybeat boom was putting Liverpool back on the map. YNWA became the soundtrack to success and the song was played before and after every game that season.

Since that year, ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ has embodied the highs and lows of the club. From the Hillsborough Disaster in 1989 to the Istanbul European Cup final in 2005, it has become the story of a city, an anthem of tragedy and triumph.

Do you have memories of singing along to Gerry and the Pacemakers in the Kop in 1963?

Share your story at phop.co.uk or email phop@7wonder.co.uk