Smash Hits

6-19 December 1984

There's two of them.
They've been called "a cross between Danny La Rue and Rapunzel".
They've called THEMSELVES "the scabby witches from Scotland".
People think they look like Boy George's sisters.
They produce "good wee songs", one of which is never off the radio.
And they are...
STRAWBERRY SWITCHBLADE

By Peter Martin

When did you first meet?

Rose: In '77 when we were punks.

Jill: I was a punk because I hated staying in. I remember hearing the Damned's first single "New Rose" on the John Peel Show. The first one I bought was a Clash record I thought they were brilliant.

Rose: I became a punk cos it was exciting. Before that all you could do was be a poser and dance to James Brown at discos where you meet really boring guys with groovy hairstyles who always try to kiss you.

Jill: Punks were nicer. You could talk to them and it wasn't like being in a cattle market. You just used to meet a huge cross-section of really interesting people.

Rose: And being a punk you didn't have to conform or anything and everybody would take you for what you were.

Jill: All the people we knew form then are the ones who have gone on to do more creative things - people like Orange Juice and Simple Minds. They just used punk to free them of their inhibitions and to go on to create something - that's what it was about then. It's changed now.

Do you have different backgrounds?

Jill: Well, Rose had people chasing her up and down the street with hatchets and I just had boys bursting my bubbles. I was brought up in the south side of Glasgow, Rose was brought up in the east end which, in any place, seems to have the rougher part. My mum used to have a flower shop but it went bankrupt when the Tories got in. And my dad was a sales rep but now all he seems to do is try and sell our records to all his friends.

Rose: My dad was a coalman and he had his own horse and cart. He used to sell brickettes (brick-shaped lumps of coal) and I used to go with him. It was really working class. We moved house seven times and that meant seven different primary schools. I turned out to be a real tomboy, climbing trees and things.

When did you start dressing up?

Jill: Neither of us look like girls from magazines and if we tried to wear those sort of clothes we'd just look silly. So we wear things that suit us - bright things with lots of polka dots - and use lots of make-up to compensate. Compensate for what? For what's underneath. What do I think of when I look in the mirror in the morning? Porridge. Then I go back to bed.

Rose: But we used to be much weirder when we were punks. For instance, before we'd go out we'd collect everything in the house that was red, black and gold and put it on the floor - paper, kitchen utensils, the lot. Then we'd share it and stick it all over us. We'd also wear things like five pairs of clip-on earrings... each. And then we'd drag ourselves out.

What are the main differences between you?

Jill: Two inches. And one year (Jill's 23, Rose is 24).

Rose: Black and red hair. And you can hear Jill's brain rattling when she walks.

Jill: What a bitch. Well, she wobbles all the time. She can't keep still. I think she must be deeply disturbed - by her 'rock n roll lifestyle' or something cosmic like that.

Rose: All the things we have in common - music, dressing up - relate to the group. In other ways we're completely different. Like I'm optimistic while Jill's a bit pessimistic. She's shy and I'm quite outgoing. But it proves quite a good balance. Also I suppose I've got a slightly bent nose and when I was born I had hair down to my shoulders - they had to cut my eyelashes. I looked like a wee monkey.

What are your songs about?

Jill: Traumatic things like being agoraphobic and not being able to go out of the house for a year and having my mum and dad awful upset because of it. I can't imagine why it happened; I just got upset once and it spiralled form there. I just used to run home from school really fast and vow I'd never go out again. I had to give up school in the end and leave without any qualifications. It was punk that saved me. I eventually went back to college and then on to art school for four years where I got a BA. It was there we formed the group with two other girls who soon left. Then after a year we did sessions for John Peel and David Jensen and ended up with a deal with WEA.

Rose: After a year we released 'Trees And Flowers' and, since then, we've done the LP but we just couldn't decide what to release as a single, so it's taken another year to release 'Since Yesterday'. The next one will be out in January though.

What kind of music do you play?

Rose: Ach, they're good wee songs - nice easy ones you can sing along to.

Jill: My favourite description was in a nasty live review. It described us as 'pompous Christmas cakes who were a cross between Danny La Rue and Rapunzel". Other people have said our songs sound very 60s but if you listen to the album (called "Strawberry Switchblade" and out in January 85) you'll notice we've found a modern sound that complements the songs.

Rose: On the LP there's songs with spirit alongside more weird, moody ones. A lot of them sound like film themes.

Jill: Hearing a song can be really emotional unlike things like drawing. They can move you to tears and that's what I hope our music can do.

What do you think of the charts?

Jill: Well, for a start none of our favourite groups get on Top Of The Pops. If we had control, people like the Farmers Boys and Orange Juice would be on every week and we'd have brilliant fun. We'd come on and introduce them, then play about 10 numbers and annoy everybody. As far as I'm concerned, people today are just buying the wrong records. It's not their fault; it's just that they've not been taught properly. There's too much American mainstream disco in it for a start. That can go. And people like Wham! and Bananarama are just a wee bit safe.

Have you started getting recognised yet?

Jill: Yes, in Oxford Street in London but Rose never notices cos she's always looking for money in the street. There's always these voices going 'it IS, it IS, it's Boy George's sister!'...

Rose: ...and I'm going, 'look, there's a half pence!'

Jill: Why do you always ask us such nice questions? Ask us a nasty question.

OK, why are you so ugly?

Rose: I think it was the porridge.

Jill: I mean, you can't help it if you're born ugly, right, so we don't help it by putting on so much dreadful make up and doing up our hair like scabby witches. That'd be a brilliant headline - 'Scabby Witches From Scotland!' Like, me and Rose used to have this fantasy where we'd go up to a cave in Scotland and get rid of all our clothes and make outfits out of leaves and twigs and live in a cave and go and steal turnips from people's gardens to eat and we'd try and survive for a week. This was just a few years ago. We were really serious about it.

Rose: Yeah, and we'd matt all our hair up and get all mucky with mud all over our faces. We'd go wild in the country and frighten all the cows.

Any other ambitions?

Rose: I'd like to be a ghost and go and haunt groups onstage. I wouldn't haunt people I didn't like. I'd be a groovy ghost.

Jill: Really? Well I'd like to be in a film - a costume drama - and have ringlets and a huge dress. But that's completely boring and so trivial as an ambition. Apart from that I'd like to be a really famous politician, just thrash Margaret Thatcher and bring the Labour Government to power.