Every music fandom needs a Mecca, a place of worship, where fans from all over the world can come to pay their respects to their music idols in the form of scrawled memories and lyrics. This is as true today as it was when the music fan was born in the 1960s.
Back then we had the Beatles with their catchy songs, grey suits and mop tops. The place of worship became Abbey Road’s zebra crossing, made famous by the Beatles’ 11th album cover.
In the 1970s Bolan and Bowie conquered our hearts and for them a Sycamore tree in Barnes and a mural on Brixton road have become deeply emotional spots.
In recent years bands like the Libertines rekindled the relationship between fan and artist through a heady combination of the Internet and impromptu gigs in their flat. The famous Albion Rooms gigs were held just around the corner from an alleyway where the band filmed the video for their single Up The Bracket. Now the alley –dubbed Up The Bracket Alley – is covered in scrawled messages of love and favourite lyrics, creating a vortex of nostalgia for anyone wandering down it.
Where is your favourite musical spot to visit? Share memories of your musical pilgrimages and help tell the story of British pop music for People’s History of Pop. Simply email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.phop.co.uk
As we move through the decades, our music idols have become more and more outlandish in their appearance.
Episode 2 of People’s History of Pop, due out this summer, features the increasingly striking fashions of pop stars, from Marc Bolan’s glitter to Black Sabbath’s crosses. The desire to emulate their look has given us some wonderful photos of die-hard fans on PHOP. A particular favourite of ours is this impersonation of Ziggy Stardust by Scotty Somerville.
This would have been a familiar site at a David Bowie concert circa 1973, where the queues leading into the venue would present a sea of fans all dressed in the most outrageous way they could ready to see their idol, the master of wild imagery.
If you or someone you know ever dressed up as your music idol and took a photo, we’d love to see it! Just go to www.phop.co.uk and follow the instructions to upload your image.
So far the People’s History of Pop has seen everything from rare acetates to superstars’ wardrobes. But it’s often the small things that have evoked the fondest memories. Of all the items in their collection, many of our contributors have said they’d save the oddities of their hoard first in the event of an imaginary fire.
Items as seemingly incongruous as an old beer can, a handful of orange confetti and a plastic bag have been hailed as the jewel in a crown of pop paraphernalia. They are souvenirs with no price tag, reminders of triumphant acquisitions; of catching Ray Davies’ half-finished drink, of experiencing the Pet Shop Boys’ live for the first time, and of buying that first single in a long-departed local record store.
Here are a few of our favourite obscurities:
If you have a music souvenir that’s more curious than costly share it with us at www.phop.co.uk
Today marks International Women’s Day and we would like to celebrate the female music fans across the U.K who uploaded their memories to the People’s History of Pop.
Here are a few highlights from the collection..
My first gig, January 1978
The first gig you ever go to is something of a rite of passage. Perhaps you were, as I was, under-age and with tender ear-drums. Getting through the doors past the bouncer, in spite of being nearly four years under eighteen (and him being the size of a house), wasn’t a problem (perhaps because I was a girl…?) Even the process of buying a pint of cider at the bar was painless. Coping with the volume was something that got easier as the night wore on. But concealing my excitement at seeing a band I really admired up there on the stage, in all their real, raw glory, playing songs I’d only previously heard in session on John Peel’s radio show, was impossible. My first, proper gig was Siouxsie & the Banshees at a club called Triad in Bishop’s Stortford, January 1978. Cee
Ready, Steady Goer!
This goes way back to the 1960s when I was about 16 or 17 and regularly attended recordings of Ready, Steady Go. I was on the list of dancers for the programme and clearly remember dancing with The Hollies – great stuff. I used to go with my school friend, Stella and we just loved to dance and see all the pop stars. Once a floor manager grabbed a boy who was standing near us when we were dancing like crazy and he yelled at the poor guy, ‘dance with them, dance with them.’ Great memories’. Frankee
Spice Girls birthday party
The classic birthday party of the 90’s… get four of your best friends together and each dress up as one of the spice girls! You were bound to be chosen to be a member in at least one birthday party a year! Hanna Benjamin.
It’s 2am on a gloomy Sunday night. Across the UK the streets are quiet, save for one town where teenagers, sporting a uniform of Fred Perrys, baggy trousers and brogues, march to a local nightclub for it’s first all-nighter. The town is Wigan, the year 1973 and the club is soon to become known as the home of Northern Soul.
Deriving its name from the location of thumping dance floors in Wigan, Stoke and Blackpool where the scene first erupted, Northern Soul offered young people an escape from the strikes and power cuts of the 1970s in the form of black American music.
PHOP contributor, Barry May, tells how growing up dancing to Northern Soul has led to a lifetime of collecting classic records.
I remember I was generally very much a ‘bus home’ type kid after Wigan. It was cheaper, dropped me off virtually outside my house and didn’t involve dealing with too many people the morning after. The bonuses of leaving for the early bus were liberating a pint of milk and a paper from the knotted packages left outside the newsagents in the Arcade.
The older we get the more authentic and original we want our precious vinyl records to be. Although I collect original vinyl, I still have a place in my heart for the bootlegged record as it is a part and parcel of our chequered scene – unscrupulous Soulies have the in vogue and most expensive tracks being played at the time bootlegged…they then sell them at a much cheaper price.
Nowadays people all over the world collect Northern Soul classics….it’s not just restricted to the UK shores anymore.
Your 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.
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!!”
Record label manager and music journalist Laurence Cane-Honeysett fell in love with reggae in 1969, before he “hit double figures”, when Desmond Dekker was top of the charts with ‘Israelites’. The label he loved most was Trojan, one of the major British reggae labels, launched in 1968 to put out singles from both Jamaican and British-based producers. Arthur ‘Duke’ Reid, Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, Dandy Livingstone and Jimmy Cliff were all put out on Trojan.
Laurence says: “A decade later I was spending what little spare cash I had to acquire every ska, rock steady or early reggae record I could lay my hands on and during those heady days, long before the internet and eBay, this involved trawling around London, seeking out second hand record shops and jumble sales in the hope of finding a bundle of rarities at a knock down price.”
Laurence loved Trojan so much that he ended up getting a job there and over the years has been sent or given some amazing historical items produced by Trojan throughout the 1960s and 1970s. “Of these, none is more precious to me than an original genuine plastic, gold-painted medallion, which back in the day could be acquired by those who signed up to the Trojan Records fan club. Generously donated by former fan club member, Brian Chin, this much-loved piece of extremely lightweight jewellery really is an extremely rare and special item that while clearly not being the classiest piece of record merchandise ever produced, holds a particularly special place in my heart and all those nostalgic for the days when Trojan and reggae regularly topped the British charts.”
Do you have British reggae memories? If so, we’d love to see the stuff you’ve saved over on our People’s History of Pop collection page.