Aha!! I’ve been looking for this cutting from an olde issue of The Face for aages and today I finally tracked it down. The article initially grabbed me because there was a mention of Bobby Gillespie (exciting stuff for a Jesus And Mary Chain fan in the days when Gillespie wasn’t tabloid fodder) and then I was thoroughly inspired by the whole piece. ‘Tambourine bands’, ‘having acid trips without the acid’, Happenings that drew on the Exploding Plastic Inevitable crossed with the ‘spirit of punk rock’; it all sounded perfect, and it was my introduction to the concept of an indie-pop scene (tho it wasn’t really called that then). Up until then I’d been enjoying the worlde of ‘alternative’ music e.g. The Smiths, The Cocteau Twins, The Jesus And Mary Chain, er, The Monochrome set, um, Doctor And The Medics, and whatever I taped off John Peel. This piece provided me with a handy cut out ‘n’ keep guide to which bands I should be investigating. After it appeared, I set the controls for the imaginary guitar jangling, fringe-swinging, pop art indie planet that the writing conjured, hoping to crash-land in a fireball of feedback, sixties frocks and shaggy hair. Hurrah!
The Face, September 1985 (INTRO section) Joanna Rahim
Your mother would probably like them. They don’t take drugs, very few smoke and they all have smart haircuts. Hardly a week goes by without one forming or disbanding at a Happening in one of Glasgow’s music venues. Over a live band or a taped disco covering anything from The Clash to Love, lights swirl and the audience stare at the walls, having acid trips without the acid.
Most of the better quality bands hail from Alan McGhee’s Creation stables, and many, though not all, are Scottish. The other common factor is their deployment of that staple of the school orchestra – the tambourine. The Pastels, Primal Scream, Almost Evening, Big Flame, The Loft (now known as The Weather Prophets) and The June Brides all combine elements of Warhol’s Exploding Plastic Inevitable (film, lights, dancing, whips) with the spirit of punk rock (yes, they can’t play their instruments…) and it’s loud.
“You should listen to the band I’m considering signing”, McGhee declares gleefully. “They call themselves The Anoraks From Hell and they make a noise like nothing on earth.”
You won’t catch Clare Grogan or any of the other pop socialites attending the Splash-1 Happenings which are masterminded by Bobby Gillespie, drummer with The Jesus And Mary Chain and lead singer with Primal Scream. Half the audience tend to be close friends of the band, the rest are either friends of the friends, or else friends of the support band, and audience participation is strictly encouraged; within the past eight weeks alone this INTRO reporter has been invited to shake her tambourine with three entirely different groups. “Hell, don’t knock tambourines!” McGhee squeaks indignantly when informed of this fact. “You don’t understand tambourines are punk. They only cost £5.00 and literally anyone can shake one. Tambourine bands are simply taking the punk concept to its logical conclusion.”
On a good night, when the tambourinists and the whippers overflow off the stage, the dancefloor will be packed with Ray-Banned boys in their roll-necked sweaters and duffle coats sweating it out with some sweet young thing in pigtails and an anorak. Bobs a la Mary Quant, black and white striped mini-dresses and large chintz affairs also feature prominently among the girls. One word of warning though…any miss with feet larger than a size three could end up finding herself an outcast. (Start Rite kids shoes don’t come much larger).
If the requirements for social acceptance seem a little harsh (anyone looking older than 14 is strictly out) consolation may be taken from the knowledge that what Tambourine Bands and indeed Happenings prove is that there’s hope for us all. Even if you can’t sing, play an instrument or move to the beat, you too can have your 15 minutes of stardom on stage; ‘harmonising’ with a Stylophone, whipping the band or the duffle-coated audience, even just by shaking your tambourine…
Alan McGhee’s Top 10 tambourine tracks
1. Rolling Stones Around And Around (Decca)
2. The Chocolate Watch Band Medication (Eva)
3. The Shangri-Las Out In The Streets (Phillips)
4. Primal Scream All Fall Down (Creation)
5. The Byrds Mr Tambourine Man (CBS)
6. Anoraks From Hell Wailing On Napalm (unrecorded)
7. 13th Floor Elevators You’re Gonna Miss Me (CBS)
8. The Pastels Surprise Me (Creation)
9. Sonny and Cher I Got You Babe (Atco)
10. Vic Goddard Stop That Girl (Rough Trade)