Above: Punk girls on the Tube (late ‘70s/early ‘80s)
Skip: I think it’s part of your youth, isn’t it? Everyone needs to grow and explore themselves. To explore something at that time, and have someone to explore it with. We used to have a little troupe of people we used to go around with. All of us had our own distinctive style. Boys and girls. The girls were very flamboyant. The boys were very flamboyant. The makeup. This wasn’t necessarily a Punk thing, because there were people wearing make-up before. But there were a few punks who had ventured into wearing make-up – chaps as well as girls.
Piotr: Do you have any examples of what people used to wear?
Skip: A lot of it was home-made, Piotr. To start with I think that’s how most people…
Piotr: Jeans jackets?
Above: A striking Punk look
Skip: Jeans jackets. With slogans on the back. T-shirts, home-made t-shirts. Home-made shirts, home-designed – you designed your own. It wasn’t so much ripped jeans, even though ripped jeans became a Punk thing, and that’s followed on – ripped jeans are still here today as a fashion statement, to a degree. Everyone tried to do their own thing. I had a particular friend, he used to get his mother to make him clothes that imitated Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren down the King’s Road. His mother did it exceedingly well. The clothing from Vivienne Westwood’s shop would be very expensive, his mother would copy it and make it for half the price. As it moved on, the fashion…
Piotr: Became more mainstream, presumably? You could buy it in shops as opposed to making your own?
Piotr: What was the punk attitude and how did it weave into politics and rebellion?
Above: Covers from 1970s issues of the Advisory Service for Squatters’ ‘Squatters’ Handbook’
Skip: The Sex Pistols… Anarchy in the UK, that was about being yourself. The Clash took the political line, really. Rock Against Racism was a big thing for them. The political stance was a huge thing for Joe Strummer. There’d been a lot of squatting. Johnny Rotten used to squat. Sid Vicious used to squat. Joes Strummer was squatting down at Ladbroke Grove. His band prior to The Clash, were the One O’ Oners – the name came from the number of the road where they were living.
Piotr: Did it come from a political belief like anarchism, or was it just…
Skip: It was political and the right to determine your own future. And that was a huge thing about Punk. It was a learning curve for everyone, and I think young people need to have a little bit of that… you can learn to be yourself, to grow up and be yourself, not necessarily fight the system all the way, but be yourself and do what you wish to do.
Piotr: In terms of politics also, you had Rock Against Racism; at that time, in Ealing, Black and Asian people were being attacked in the streets by Skinheads. But the Skinhead look – was it the early 80s when you had punk with mohicans?
Piotr: And they did seem to look quite like Skinheads, so sartorially there is an overlap isn’t there?
Above: Soul music, including Marvin Gaye’s 1967 hit, was an influence
on late 1970s Punk, too, via The Slits
Skip: Absolutely. And you can say the same with Reggae, as well. And also there are a lot of people who will regard Soul music as having a part to do with Punk. The ‘wedge’ haircut, the big flared trousers… going down to a tighter bottom at the ankle. That was very much a Soul look. Punks took that… it was a concoction of so many things. And even though you might say that Soul didn’t have anything to do with Punk… The Slits’ first single was a cover of ‘Heard it through the Grapevine’, which is very much Soul. So it was a mixture of everything.
Piotr: Yeah, indeed. So, moving on to a more general topic, I suppose. Before the age of the Internet was live music more popular?
Skip: Yes. Yes. Absolutely. It was a form of entertainment for everyone. Nowadays kids can stay home and watch their stars on the Internet, rather than get out and see the people you like to see live. Today, I can go on the Internet and see recordings by The Damned, The Sex Pistols…
Piotr: But is it as good as a live experience?
Skip: Absolutely not. No. And neither is the Vinyl. It still gives you a chance to hear the band, and jump up and down in your living room, like in my childhood. I used to go and see a band the next day, we would meet up, go round someone’s house, put a record on, have a scream and shout, listening to the record. The Internet seems far removed from that. Not that I think there’s anything wrong with it…
Piotr: So you think it’s a useful tool, but it won’t replace live music.
Skip: No, absolutely not. And there are still bands today that I go and see, I feel still have that Punk ethos, even though to me it’s been left behind, it’s gone. But you still see people who want to go out there and do their own thing, and create a band, have a good night out playing live music to a bunch of people. They are out there and there are still venues out there. I think one of the stronger areas in London now, is Camden. It was a very strong area back then as well. Even though The Clash have a west London root, they were based in Camden. So Camden has continued to be part of that alternative scene.
Above: Punks in Camden in more recent times
Piotr: When I was growing up in the ’90s… we had ‘Brit-pop’. But people were still into Nirvana when Kurt Cobain was still alive… we used to go to Camden to buy DMs, and whatever else it was…
Skip: T-shirts…. It’s a very good alternative spot. And with regards to Brit-pop, Supergrass were a great band. Elastica. And obviously we can talk about Blur and Oasis, but there were lots of other bands that created good music. With regards to Elastica, on their album cover, the singer is wearing an Adam and the Ants t-shirt. Their first album released with a flexi disc, had an Adam and the Ants cover (song): Car Trouble. So there’s another connection with Punk.
Piotr: What about your record collection. Is it vinyl, tapes, CDs?
Above: Original 7-inch vinyl Punk records
Skip: The love of my life. Well, not quite, but it means a lot to me. I played a record to a chap you came to visit the other day. He, when he saw me putting the record on, said, ‘You play records?’ He was stumped by it… he had lost the connection with music and records, in a day and age when he probably streams it a little, he listens to it on CD, he puts his computer on, he listens to an album that has been downloaded by someone. And I think that’s great, there’s space for that… but for me there’s nothing like taking the record out, putting it on the table, watching it start to spin… but it’s all a personal preference.
Piotr: Does it actually sound better?
Skip: Sometimes. I bought a single the other day, both sides sound like frying eggs, but the music is brilliant. It is absolutely fantastic. And to me that single even though it’s badly worn has got a story to it. When you play something on YouTube, when you play a CD that’s so clean, there’s no story to that. And when the CD starts going ‘bup, bup, bup, bup’, you’ve got to chuck it out… some records do jump and you have to lift the record and put it down, but I have repaired records. Some of them have bits of dust in the grooves, and if you’re gentle and careful you can release the dust, but scratches are scratches and some scratches you can’t get rid of. But to me that’s part of the life of it.
Piotr: Are they quite expensive then?
Skip: Depends on what you want to buy. I bought an album the other week that was Glastonbury Fair album, 250 something dollars.
Piotr: Was it from America then?
Skip: It was in America. I don’t know where it was released.
Piotr: They packed it nicely?
Skip: With that, Piotr, it came with an album sleeve that folds open, then folds down. So you’ve got six album covers in front of you that make up the album sleeve. Then inside that you have a booklet, and that tells you about the Glastonbury Fair, bits and pieces. To me it all of it has to be in place, all of it, as it should be. That’s why I bought this particular copy. None of it was lost.
Piotr: You found that online?
Skip: Online. I go to a site called Discogs. It’s great fun flicking through record shops, in Camden, Ladbroke Grove, in Uxbridge there were Lightning Records – a small label – in Ealing there was Beggars’ Banquet. And as a lad, to go to a record shop and flick through the records, see what you can find, what you can afford… for me when I started buying records, for a paper round, it was buy a single a week. A single at that time was under a pound. Something like 70 or 80p… I still had money left over from my Saturday job, I would have money left over to go to a gig. The records have slowly built up and built up…
Above: Vinyl haven: there used to be a Beggars’ Banquet record
shop like this one in Kingston, in Bond Street, Ealing
Piotr: How many do you have then?
Skip: Er… not as big a record collection as some I’ve seen, but 5-600 albums, and about 5600 singles. That is fairly small if you compare that to somebody like John Peel… he had an important part in Punk music, without him so many bands would not have been heard. If you’d listen to his show, you could listen to the Undertone and think ‘now there’s a band I’ve got to see’.
Piotr: He also embraced dance music as well. The Orb... early 1990s.
Above: BBC Radio DJ John Peel helped propagate Punk in the late
Skip: Yeah, yep. Metal. He embraced everything. He was so important for the music scene. At the time of Punk, he used to do a session on his nightly shows, by the time of ’77 and ’78, ’79, his sessions were twenty or thirty a year. By ’77 to ’79 that had gone up to over 100. By 1979, Punk created an awful lot of other things, inspired an awful lot of bands that I think had their roots in Punk, but would prefer not to be called Punk… in 1979 over a 100 sessions for different bands.
Piotr: He was very important in letting people know what was going on. So, Punk was second half of the seventies, early eighties… how do you think music was different in the 1980s from the 1970s?
Skip: It changed in an awful lot of ways. Punk was on the wane, for sure, by 1980. Even though The Clash released London Calling – that was released on tail end of ’79, Punk was on the wane. Everything runs its course, doesn’t it? The initial impetus was fantastic, probably just like it was in the 60s, but it waned. Bands like the Buzzcocks, for example.
Above: The Buzzcocks split up in 1981
The Buzzcocks split. The Sex Pistols split in ’78. The Damned split, reformed, then split, reformed, and split, reformed, they became The Doomed, they became The Damned again, and it waned. There were still bands out there… some of it was interesting but a lot of it was, for me, was too run of the mill, ‘rock, bash, bash, rock, rock, bash, bash’, there was very little deviation. It became too much of that narrow groove.
Piotr: Did they just move on to different sorts of music?
Skip: Absolutely. There were lots of people that moved on, and created other things. The venues started to disappear as well, which was a shame. There was a venue called the Nashville in West Kensington and it stopped doing gigs. The Red Cow had closed. Hammersmith roundabout was refurbished, and the Clarendon closed. The Greyhound became one great bit huge pub without a stage. The Damned and the Satellites played there, it was a great venue, and it was lost…. Plus there was a kick-back as well, there was a need to have lighter music as well, like Duran Duran, and the new romantics. Adam and the Ants became huge stars. If you compare The Ants in 1977-78 to what they were in 1982-83-84, I suppose he wanted to earn his money.
Above: Adam and the Ants
Piotr: Adam used to wear a bandanna didn’t he?
Skip: Yes, and I saw Adam and the Ants before they became big. They were quite unique, and they had a huge cult following. There were lots of people from Harrow who liked them…
Piotr: So we’ve talked about Reggae. Don’t you think that the quintessential 80s’ sound is like Miami Vice, a kind of electro-pop?
Skip: Duran Duran. They would fit that nicely.
Above: Duran Duran: The end of Punk, according to Skip
Piotr: What about Ska? How do you classify that with regard to Punk.
Skip: Ska was the black man’s music before Reggae came along. And Ska evolved into Reggae. If you look at Bob Marley’s career, he was in a Ska band prior to becoming Bob Marley and the Wailers.
Piotr: When I think of Ska, I think of ‘two-tone’, sort of black-and-white checks.
Skip: Yep, yep, yep.
Skip: Absolutely, Madness. The Skatalites were Ska. Prince Buster was Ska.
Piotr: It was a kind of traditional West Indian music… you had female singers with Ska as well. That was kind of like 60s, maybe 70s.
Skip: The Reggae thing for me, was part of the black culture.
Piotr: So, Notting Hill…
Above: The Specials, who embodied a Ska and Punk fusion known as ‘Two Tone’
Skip: Absolutely. It was all part of the Jamaican sound evolving. And it did get involved with Punk, certainly. The first time I saw The Specials, they were supporting The Damned. Quite a surprise, but very much a pleasant surprise.
Piotr: Did you meet any of the stars at the time?
Above: Punk band, Chelsea – Skip met some of the
Skip: I met a few, yes! Some of them have been quite amenable, others haven’t. And some of them have done me a favour. I used to go out with a Punk girl called Wobble. And we used to go and see Chelsea quite a lot. We went up to Cambridge to see them. They gave us a lift home. If it wasn’t for her refusing to get out of the van, at Paddington Station, we might have been put up for the night! They were a good bunch of people. I saw the singer from Chelsea, 7 or 8 years ago, walking down Shepherds Bush High Street – he wanted to go to the Askew Road, he was being interviewed for a documentary. The guitarist at that time was Nick Austin. I got to know him quite well. I was once at the Forum, to watch Stiff Little Fingers, this was in the 90s, the early noughties, and my friend landed up talking to the Chelsea guitarist (prior to Nick Austin). And standing next to the guitarist was the drummer. And the drummers are never recognised. And when I said, ‘you’re Chris Bashford’, there was a huge great grin on his face! Someone has recognised me! Here’s someone talking to the guitarist, and I’ve been recognised as the drummer! He was a nice chap, he said ‘here’s my card’, you know… He was telling me how he was round someone’s house for dinner, when someone recognised that he played the drums for Chelsea, all of them sitting round the table (this was probably in the noughties as well) were dying to find out about what it was like and what had happened.
Piotr: So you were never a groupie, but you did know them?
Skip: I was never a groupie, no. Some of them were very amicable and approachable…
Piotr: Some of them fashionably arrogant?
Above: Johnny Moped
Skip: Absolutely! Approachable, but once again, it’s how you approach them. The guitarist out of the Johnny Moped band his name was Slimy Toad. My friend said to him, ‘how did you get the name Slimy Toad?’ And he took a real disliking to that. When I spoke to them… they were all a fantastic bunch of blokes. They said that ‘outside on the stall you might find one copy [of the LP]’. I went outside, and got the copy, and they said ‘do you want Johnny to sign it for you?’ I said, ‘yes, alright’. So Johnny Moped wrote ‘to Dave’. And I said, ‘my name’s not Dave’. He said, ‘but I thought your name was Dave’. ‘It’s Skip’, and he said ‘plus Skip’, and they said ‘they’ll think he’s gay!’ A great bunch of people, absolutely fantastic.
Piotr: What were your worst and best experiences music wise in the 70s and 80s?
Skip: God, there’s loads, Piotr.
Piotr: Just pick out one or two…
Above: Pink Fairies
Skip: Alright. We went to see a gig in Birmingham. And the first band on gave us their backstage passes, and at the end of the night we were the last four people in there. The promoter saw our backstage passes, and said: ‘do you want paying?’ We said ‘yes’, and we got paid.
Piotr: Ha, ha!
Skip: I went to see a band called Pink Fairies who were very much proto-punk, a band involved with Hawkwind, and I would call them proto-punk. I was in the venue prior to the show. This fellow wanted to kick me out, so I stood on this ledge, hiding myself for about two hours, so I could get in for nothing.
Piotr: Ha, ha!
Skip: And I did get in for nothing… The Adverts, thank God I saw The Adverts, what a great band. Absolutely fantastic band. I went to see Joy Division – I only saw them once. Frank Zappa – pleased I saw Frank Zappa. May they all rest in peace. And, The Marquee, what a great venue that was. When I started going to gigs, the thing that really stays in the mind was the smell, of all them people in the venue. And that might sound funny, but if I could smell it again, that would take me straight back. Straight back to being there. All the heat and the energy that was going on in those gigs. The Clash were a great live band. A lot of them were good. Entertaining. Fantastic fun.
Piotr: I suppose there were some unpleasant folk, or whatever?
Above: Crass, on stage
Skip: Oh yes. For an example, I went to see Crass down at Acton Town Hall [?]. And the Skinheads really caused a scene that night. There was a Socialist Worker’s Party meeting upstairs, and the whole place really kicked off. That was one of the most violent nights.
Piotr: People forget about that aspect of the 70s, don’t they?
Skip: Yes, yes. I was once down at the Electric Ballroom, and they were supported by the Cockney Rejects who had a big Skinhead following. That night was very unpleasant. [On another occasion] it was wall-to-wall Skinheads – an electric night for all the wrong reasons.
Piotr: Thanks for that.
Skip: The burning down of the Hambrough Tavern [on borders of Southall and Hayes], that was a bad night.
Piotr: Were you around at that time?
Above: Hambrough Tavern, Southall, damaged in the July 1981 riots
Skip: No I wasn’t, I was elsewhere. But, I heard about it. That was my local at the time. The Hambrough Tavern had just decided to make people pay to get in. I think they wanted to up the venue. To make it a bit more of a working venue. You would find a lot of pub bands playing on a Saturday night. A great pub, a big pub. For me, a fantastic place. All the Asians playing their pool – they loved their pool – we were round the other side, having a great time. And we all meet in the middle where the bar was. And sometimes we’d venture into the pool side and have a chat with them. A very, very, easy-going pub. Then they started making it a proper venue. Why on earth they decided The Foreskins should play the Hambrough Tavern, I don’t know. You sort of knew it was going to happen.
Piotr: And for the record, what did happen? A Skinhead attack?
Skip: Yes, a bunch of Skinheads went down to Southall… To me it seems as clear as day, now. I’m not really sure what they were thinking. Prior to that my friend had played down there, but it was still a venue where you could see a live band. There were a psychobilly band called The Meteors who played down there. I went down there and I paid to get in. The next gig was The Foreskins and the rest is history.
Piotr: Right. Shall we leave it there?
Skip: How was it?
Piotr: Skip Gillieman, thank you for a fascinating and very thorough interview.
Skip: You’re welcome. Thank you, Piotr.
Afterword by Skip Gillieman
I've always liked music, when punk came along it suited me.
Prior to punk I used to listen to a little transistor radio, Marc Bolan, Slade, Sweet, and 1 band, that are in my collection; Hawkwind. Class pieces of music, I have records by them all, and they still get a spin once in a while.
Looking back I didn't have any idea it would play such a big part in my life, I still buy vinyl records and play them, if I go to gigs I'll try to collect any flyers, handouts, and hang on to ticket stubs, the odd fanzine.
I wasn't down the Roxy club on the 1st Jan 1977, I don't know many people that were, officially opened by the Clash. They say more people saw the Sex Pistols at Finsbury Park than saw them when they were originally gigging. That wouldn't surprise me. If you listen to their bootleg 'Indecent Exposure' recorded in Burton-on-Trent late ‘76 you will realise they could play. That was prior to the Bill Grundy incident and there are a few people that are grateful for that.
I don't really fancy 40 years of punk or celebrating it, though it touched a lot of people. You can take the kid away from punk but you can’t take the punk out of the kid. It's an attitude, the Pistols more than anyone had a great turn of phrase and they lit the touch paper. They were never alone or first.
One thing that is still here today, and everyone is guilty, the element of snobbery. ‘I was there first, you never saw them, you don't fit in our set.’ It's like saying the Skinhead movement wasn't right wing. Not so sure about the Skinheads of today. I had a few runnings with them and it was never pleasant, Crass at the Conway Hall, Crass gig in Ealing and we cannot forget my local the Hambrough Tavern.
The Fatal Microbes’ 'Violence grows' – Small Wonder records, a class bit of gear and it rings true. There's still an element of snobbery today.
I still enjoy music, though I'd like to think that I have moved on a bit. I saw Macy Gray at the Shepherds Empire, what an inspiration and talent she is. A South African band called Dorp – great 2005 punk – and as for the Alabama 3, the [ex] Ruts bassist. They did the title music to the Soprano's TV show. A Class act, feel the power folks?
They did a 30th anniversary gig of the A.R.A. gig at Victoria Park, them and Misty in Roots. It's in the blood. I saw Misty in Roots two weeks ago, a fantastic gig. Their energy, honesty and belief, it says an awful about how they feel about what they do. Respect.
Hope that you enjoy, get inspired, explore or not.