Complete Strawberry Switchblade interview by subject
Jill Bryson interviewed 9 June 01
Rose McDowall interviewed 29 Jan 02
Bill Drummond interviewed 26 April 03
David Balfe interviewed 19 May 03
David Motion interviewed 2 Aug 02 & 15 April 03
Robin Millar interviewed 16 Feb 03
Tim Pope interviewed 22 June 06
Glasgow Punks: Rose and Jill before Strawberry Switchblade
What started you in music? What music did you grow up with?
ROSE: The stuff I grew up with was a lot of sixties stuff, like The Byrds, The Beatles, Tommy James and the Shondells, I really loved stuff like that. I was really into the Velvet Underground. I liked Roy Wood [giggles] from the seventies. Not a lot I liked from the seventies apart from punk, when punk set me free from my chains. So I grew up with a lot of that [sixties stuff] cos my dad was really into music and he liked Johnny Cash and Buddy Holly and all that sort of stuff as well. Mamas and Papas, Simon and Garfunkel. I had three sisters and they all liked different kinds of sixties music so I got to hear quite a wide range of stuff and picked out the things I liked the best, which tended to have lots of harmonies which were a bit psychedelic or the Velvet Underground - Lou Reed was just a total genius songwriter. He is god!
Were you close to Jill before the band?
ROSE: Oh yeah, Jill and I were really good friends, and we were pretty notorious around Glasgow for going around all dressed up. Not really so much in the early days, but when I was in The Poems I used to be overdressed, outrageously dressed all the time.
A lot of people forget what that meant THEN. Nowadays you can work in offices with multi-coloured hair and eyebrow piercings, people forget what it was like up until the eighties.
ROSE: It was, like, dangerous! It was actually dangerous, we got beat up sometimes and stuff like that. Bikers beat me, my best friend, my boyfriend and her boyfriend up pretty severely. We all ended up in hospital just because we were punks and we were quite outrageously dressed. Some guy wanted to dance with me and tried to pull me off in a corner, I pushed him out the way, and he went off and told all his biker friends. I was five foot nothing and wearing flat shoes and these great big bikers come up. One had my boyfriend and put him against the wall and he was going to put a glass in his face, and I jumped on his back and was hanging on to his shoulders to try and pull him away, and another biker punched me on the nose and I was out for the count. Then I woke up and bouncers came and threw US out.
It's a really weird thing, that rigidity of fashion at that time, how scared people were of anything that was different. It was something the eighties really broke down and gave individualism the chance to come through. It's got to be emphasised that almost everyone was NOT a punk on the late 70s, and those who were ran real risks.
ROSE: Exactly. And especially in a place like Glasgow which can be a bit violent anyway. I suppose if you were in a little village you'd probably get talked about and whispered about but probably not beaten up so much. But if you're in a big city like Glasgow you have to watch where you go. There were certain pubs you wouldn't even dare walk into. I couldn't really go into pubs anyway cos I was always thrown out cos they didn't believe I was old enough. Being thrown out of pubs when I was 27, that was quite funny!
But it was a really big deal being a punk then.
Jill said you had to go out to Paisley to find somewhere where someone would play the records.
ROSE: That's right, yeah.
A city the size of Glasgow and nowhere would play the records, it was THAT MUCH of an outsider thing.
ROSE: Right at the very beginning there was a couple of little clubs. There was one on Buchanan Street - there's a big centre built there now - and the DJ had two albums, one was the Damned and I think one was the Stranglers, and a few singles and he just played them over and over again all night. But that closed down because nobody wanted to put punk things on, it was an affront to society.
When punk happened it totally saved my life. I was a really fucked up teenager who really did not want to conform to the norm, never had even when I was a kid. I didn't want to be like everybody else because I didn't respect them. But I was at that age where I felt 'what am I supposed to do?', and then punk happened. 'THAT'S what I'm supposed to do! I'm supposed to be me!'. Punk allowed me to be me without feeling like a fake. It totally liberated me. I didn't have to be a girly girl and it wasn't expected of me, or if it was it didn't matter. I would probably have done the same thing anyway but been really outcast or locked up for being a nut. My mum was always telling me I was a bit crazy. Punk really was my saviour. It sounds like an extreme thing to say, but for a pubescent teenage girl who's totally fucked up about life, it was really really really my saviour.
You came out of art school didn't you?
What were you doing there?
JILL: Fine art, mixed media. Which meant just doing a bit of everything. I did a lot of photography and film, painting.
What did Rose come out of?
JILL: Just the punk scene. She got married very young and she had a child at, I think, about nineteen. Her child was quite young when we started, only about a year or two old.
You say a teacher didn't have much time, but having a year old kid?!
JILL: Yeah exactly, it's quite amazing. But I think her husband wasn't working at that time so he could look after her as well, and she had quite a big family and they looked after her, so it was OK.
How did you and Rose meet? How long did you know her before the band started?
JILL: Not that long. I met her through the punk scene in Glasgow which was tiny at the time, around 1977. There were so few, you knew everybody who was a punk. It was the first thing I'd ever been involved with, I was sixteen. But I didn't know Rose well, I just saw her around and knew her, she was quite a character.
There has been this revisionist history that everyone in 1977 between fifteen and twenty years old was a punk. It's a comparable lie to the one that says that everyone of that age group in the mid-late 60s was doing loads of drugs.
JILL: Yeah, it's a complete myth. It did expand quite quickly after, but by that time we weren't really interested in punk anymore.
This is ages before the band isn't it? We're talking 1977 and your first record was 1983.
JILL: The punk time was before Rose got married and had a baby. I saw her then, I didn't really know her, but I knew of her. Basically, there was a coachload of people into punk in Glasgow. Punk was banned in Glasgow, you couldn't hear it anywhere.
We used to all meet outside this record shop in Union Street in Glasgow with people looking at us disgusted. We'd all get on this coach to go to a club in Paisley outside Glasgow where - I think it was every week - they just played punk records and you could go and dance. And occasionally they'd have bands. Generation X played there, and a lot of the Glasgow bands. I didn't go that often because at that time I was recovering from agoraphobia. I'd been agoraphobic for a year and missed a year of school. I was sixteen and I'd left school and started going to college. I tentatively tried to go [to the club], I didn't often go, it was a bit far for me. It shows you how much I wanted to go that I actually did it, I wanted to go out so much and hear this music.
It's incredible that you had to go outside the city to find somewhere to hear this music.
JILL: You could hear records you liked and meet people who liked the same kind of music you did. It was so rare to find anybody into it. You could spot them a mile off! You kind of knew everybody, and there was a couple of record shops that we used to go and hang about in, we were that desperate. Most of us were quite young, around sixteen, seventeen, so we couldn't get into pubs. But we used to get into The Silver Thread Hotel in Paisley, near the Coates thread factory. It was the most unlikely place you could possibly imagine.
Was it the punk thing that made you start playing guitar?
JILL: Yeah. Before that I would've thought you'd really have had to play it, be able to play solos and rock guitar and, shit, I'm not going to do that am I? Women didn't really form bands did they? At that time I really liked Patti Smith. I'd got Horses when it came out, it was incredible. It was before punk, wasn't it?
JILL: Yeah, I was 15 and had agoraphobia. I'd heard it on the radio and got a friend to go out and get it for me. It was just amazing. I wanted to be her, I wanted to look like her. I knew there was no way I could ever look, you know, wasted. I was always going to look, well, healthy. I thought Patti Smith was fantastic but she looked like a boy and her band were men. But then when punk started there was X Ray Spex and Siouxsie and The Adverts had a girl bass player, just loads and loads of women started appearing in bands like The Slits.
I thought it was great. It was about enthusiasm and not about ability, it was about IDEAS. And also I thought, well, if I just hammer something out and have the confidence to get up and scream into a microphone I could do it. At the time I was a bit too young, I didn't have a guitar or anything, didn't know anybody else who was in a band. After that there were two or three punk bands in Glasgow and I remember singing with some of them in rehearsals and stuff.