Tuesday, March 16, 2010


Y'know, all this unnecessary fuss ((and blatant waste of police time)) about some coke being found in the bogs at Plastic People just reminds me of the multiple ways in which the authorities hassled ravers throughout the early '90s. Of course, if the sniffer dogs had done a tour of the WCs in the city worker bars spanning Moorgate, they'd have been up 'til 6am, talking loudly about their shitty dubstep mixes and the merits of Pedigree Chum. It was exactly the same in 1993, and probably always has been throughout history. The All Bar Ones of this world get left alone, the Plastic Peoples are issued with a stick and a bell and driven from the village.

Back in the old days, the main folk devils in Luton were the Exodus Collective; a crew who threw raves and lived in a squatted building, Crass-style. Sure, there were some dodgy characters hanging around them, but I imagine they had little say in how many drug dealers turned up to their parties. There was a minor riot in '93 when the cops broke up one of their raves and dragged a couple of kids down to Dunstable Road nick. The pressure became so intense that, eventually, Exodus decided to throw in their lot with the OB, and began to attend a series of 'negotiations' with various community liaison officers and 'hip to the jive daddy-o' councillors. Discussing this ceasefire, Glenn Jenkins – the Exodus member most commonly wheeled out in front of the cameras whenever BBC Look East wanted another evening news 'raver' scoop – even came out with the hideously embarrassing quote, "We want to make jaw-jaw, not war-war" ((no, I'm not making that up, and yes, it was painful to type just now)). (((UPDATE - just found out it's based on a Churchill quote, which makes it even lamer)))

Anyway, forward to the 2000s and then what? Jenkins became involved in grassroots community activities around the town and is generally viewed as a decent citizen. UK readers might remember a Channel 4 programme called Living With The Enemy, where a pompous Tory student prick was invited to stay at the Exodus commune. Said whining fuckwad spent the entire time lecturing them on their 'uselessness' to society, and even called the cops when one of the collective lit up a spliff. Exodus' standing in the community rocketed as a result.

It's all quite amusing in retrospect, 'cos I seem to remember one of the most terrifying youth subcultures of the time being BABES IN TOYLAND fans. You think I'm joshing about? Ask your ex-Grunger uncle about 'em, and watch him shudder and dribble. Sure, there were still smatterings of nazi boneheads in the area, but they were mostly heading towards their 30s and picking up dehabilitating drinking habits as they crash-banged into the What the fuck have I done with my life? phase. Babes In Toyland fans were far more dangerous.

Ahh...it's all coming back now. Babes In Toyland kind of get lumped in with the whole Riot Grrrl thing, but there were subtle differences. Your average Mambo Taxi / Huggy Bear / Bikini Kill fan had shorter hair and gave off a sorta '60s French Mod vibe. In contrast, BIT fans were firmly ROCKER, and more likely to sport dreadlocks, floral-print dresses ((they were ahead of Cath Kidston by about 15 years)) or torn Dennis The Menace mohair jumpers, lycra leggings and DMs – with coloured beads on the bottom laces and circled 'A's ((or a couple of Ankhs)) Tip-Exed onto the sides.

I was never massively into Babes In Toyland. Even when the Voodoo Queens were goofing off about chocolate and wearing wigs, at least they still rocked in fine 'swirly organ garage beat combo' style. Shit, even the first Lunachicks LP had songs about cooking babies and sex with gerbils. In contrast, BIT just seemed to be pissed off at ex-boyfriends and their new girls - plus they were signed to Warner Bros, and we all took that shit quite seriously back then. OK, I love the first two tracks off Spanking Machine, but on the whole? One of my mates - the one who drove the car in the Joy Division post, and one of the most cynical people I ever met - summed up their Fontanelle LP as "40 minutes of contrived PMT". Which might sound sexist as fuck, but I kind of got what he meant.

At least Kathleen Hanna was screaming against institutionalised sexism, punk scene hypocrisy, frat boys, rapists, queer-bashers, two-faced male 'anti-sexists' and bent cops. Kat Bjelland was just yelling " YOU FUCKING BITCH...YOU CUNTHOLE BITCH...I HOPE YOUR INSIDES ROT...LIIIIAAARRRRRRR!!!" Big difference. The Voodoo Queens used to cast terrifying Gaian hexes against the boys who screwed them over or told them they were putting on weight. Babes In Toyland went after their sworn enemies' new girlfriends too - EPIC FAIL IN THE RIOT GRRRL COMMUNITY. Although this sickening abuse of magick may explain why John Peel let Babes In Toyland have five sessions. The greedy cunthole bitches.

I remember, one sunny afternoon, me and a friend were drinking in The Cock in the town centre (it had to have a patriarchal name, eh?), a top hangout for UADs, when two BIT fans stomped in, accompanied by a couple of boys - a ginger Kurt Cobain and a guy with a ponytail, specs and a German Army jacket. We tried to avoid eye contact, this was bound to be bad news. I don't know if the two guys were on a promise or what, but they seemed really nervous and were doing that disgusting teenage boy thing where they'd laugh exaggeratedly at the girls' jokes. I kept expecting the duo to file to the Gents', turn on the hand-dryers and jump around, hugging each other and screaming, We've met girls! Real, live girls! But anyway, all they did was order four pints of cider.

A few swigs in and the cats were getting far too relaxed and comfortable, clearly unable to read subcultures like we could. Who did they think they were messing with, Goth girls? Teenage Fanclub fans? The girls were rolling up their sleeves and showing off their latest fag burns, while the boys were noisily trying to out-Grunge each other by explaining how their parents hated them, and how they used to love Nirvana before everyone else got into them. Now, I've never been a massively talented all-rounder, I admit. I'm rubbish at table football, I can barely hold down a Ramones bass riff and I still don't know how to use Excel. But, for some unknown reason, I was always good at drinking lots, so it used to give me a laugh when other kids' virgin immune systems got blitzed at 0 to 60 in 10 minutes. This was happening at the table next to us.

I don't know what kicked it off - the mood in the pub was pretty upbeat, but suddenly the girls were getting really pissed off. Perhaps Ginger Kurt had slurred something schtupid, like complementing their tits, or insisting that Daisy Chainsaw were better than Babes In Toyland and Hole. Use Woodpecker to strip a sensitive Grunge Boy to his core and you'll often find he's just as much of an idiot as the rest of us. Anyway, the lads grew these painful rictus grins and were repeatedly bleating, "What's wrong? What's wrong?"

PHHZZZHHH! Right in Ginger Kurt's face, cider dripping down his chin whiskers. The barman was flashing all of us dirty looks, as if me and my humble companion were guilty by association. The girl who'd flung the pint was now trying to rip the other guy's head off, screaming, "YOU FUCKING WANKERS!" I wish I'd had a camera, Ginger Kurt's gob was wide open in shock. Eventually one of the old paddies at the bar shouted something and the Nemesister stopped battering the blushing ponytail. "Just...FUCK OFF, right?" she snarled, before grabbing her fags and howling, "FUCK OFF! FFFFFFFFFFFFFUUUUUUUCCCCKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKK OFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFF!"

The two girls stormed past us towards the 'beer garden' (ie-some benches in an alleyway), nearly taking me and my chair with them. The two lads left in disgrace, distraught and flabbergasted. Naturally, the blokes in the pub assumed these two scruffs had committed some unspeakable crime against the poor wee lasses, so they had to run a gauntlet of dagger stares and curses on their way out the front door. The barman muttered something about fucking students and came over to mop up the mess.

The girls came in again in a few minutes and bought themselves new pints. Then, to our horror, they came back and started talking to us.

"Did you think that was out of order?" the pint flinger asked us excitedly.

"No, we hate Nirvana fans - you should have glassed him too," I SHOULD HAVE said, but we just went, "Er...no."

"Good, cos that wanker went through my bag!" the one with the nose ring hissed.

Please don't humiliate us I psychically begged them. Of course, this was in the old days, before I discovered it's perfectly acceptable to punch a lady in the face, as long as it's in a pub and between the hours of 4 and 6. "Yeah," her mate burped, "He went through it, the sad bastard!"

Women and their bags...whatever. "Do you know Donna? She had that party around Easter," the pint slinger babbled. "You two go to Barnfield, don't you?"

My mate just blurted out ONE sarcastic comment, but it was enough to sink the ship: "Do we look like massage therapy students?" Jesus, here we went. "You look...like a couple of WANKERS!" Nose Ring shouted. "Fucking...what's up w..w.." she was slurring, before she suddenly lapsed into a weird spasm. She was puffing her lips out and doing something mad with her hands. Then Pint Chucker picked up my Guinness and took a swig.

"FUCK OFF!" Nose Ring shouted at her. "I'm talking to him...fuck him, he's a BASTARD! Cos he's..."

No, we didn't have a clue either, but Pint Lobber suddenly dropped her cigarettes all over the floor and then fell to her knees, trying to scoop them back into the packet, but dispersing most of them across the tiles. Then Nose Ring started doing that weird thing with her hands again.

Then she yacked up.

Y'know what I reckon, as I recall this incident? I got made redundant last month and, fuck me - I think she actually put a slow-burner curse on me! Where were the police when I needed them? Criminalising ravers, no doubt! Anyway, that afternoon ended in tears (hers, not ours, though it was a close call), with the barman having to yank the mop from its slumber, again.

So, you can imagine what it was like when a Babes In Toyland fan got dumped. Not pretty: imagine Girl Interrupted crossed with Scum. In fact, if you want a mental image of early '90s alternative subcultural activity in Luton, imagine a boy in a Therapy? T-shirt and army trousers, his arms protecting his head, running from a BIT fan wielding a cigarette lighter...with the flame cranked up to a foot in height. Terrible days, they were. No wonder we ended up knocking around with SWP types.

Yes... of course I wanted one as a girlfriend, but that whole Lorena Bobbitt case was in the news, so I shacked up with someone who was mildly mentally ill instead. It worked out OK really, save the occasional threats of self-mutilation.

And they want to give Plastic People a ticking off?
fantastic post.. so many memories. Whenever I read about Kathleen Hanna I blush, embarrassed by the gulf between my ideological understanding of the need to objectify her and the fact that she was so fucking cute.

Mark Lamarr went out with one of Huggy Bear.mwahahahahahah.

the ones to be REALLY scared of were girls in those Silverfish "HIPS TITS LIPS POWER" tshirts. They pulled your hair and everything.
Don't beat yourself up too much - she ended up marrying a Beastie Boy, after all. And that famous pic of her with red hair streaks and INCEST? lipsticked across her chest was enough to push any ideology to breaking point. (EDIT -forget that one, I mean the pics of her reading radical feminist texts down the library)

Besides, I think she was literally getting male musos from support groups / headliners trying to cop a grope backstage at any given opportunity. We'd probably have been OK.

Sadly, there weren't many Silverfish fans around Luton, IIRC. Still, I've tried to block that group from my mind after their ex-guitarist humiliated me at table football.
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