Online version: http://strawberryswitchblade.net/writings/peter_01.php
A Personal History by Peter McArthur
I first met Rose in 1976 at some punk gig or other. Glasgow had a small, disparate, rather pathetic punk scene. We'd meet up at various venues around town. We'd come in our ones and twos. What it was that brought us together I don't know, maybe only disaffection. Whatever we had in common was strong enough to have us hang around with nothing to do other than be in each other's company. Though Jill and rose were very different people they had this in common, it all began with punk.
I'd seen Rose around, but had never spoken to her. She used to run around with a tall wild-looking girl called Lynda. One day she came up to me and said, 'Hi, I'm Rose Up,' (her punk name), 'and this is my friend Lynda Laid'. We soon became friends.
Rose in those days was particularly distinctive, not only because of her height - she is barely five feet tall - but because of the way she dressed. Rose was one of the most fully realised punks I'd ever seen. She made most punks look half-hearted, me included. What happened later to 'Lynda Laid' I am not sure. I do know she is the subject of Rose's lyric on the 'love song' Let Her Go.
At the time I had just begun studying photography at the printing college. Rose and Lynda worked in a small cake shop in Glasgow's East End called The Wee Scone Shop. It was comic to see these two, blue and spiked haired punkettes, in their gingham pinnies serving cakes. I used to go down there at lunch time and they'd give me cakes and pies for free. I remember Lynda had a flick-knife to 'frighten the Neds away' she said.
Rose was very sweet in those days, you'd say innocent. She seemed eager to please, which is kind of hard to believe when you consider what a wilful little minx she became later. But at the time I remember her as sweet and smiley, always good fun. I think punk had opened her eyes to a different possible future. She was like someone just woken up and looking around.
I think at the time she had a little crush on me, but I saw her as just a friend. One night, I remember, she nursed me through some teenage alcohol crisis. She was very gentle, almost motherly, which is kind of odd cos we were both just barely seventeen and, as the song says, 'we had a lot to learn'. From those days, I developed an affection for Rose that never left me even when things got bad.
I met Jill about six months later at a punk rocker's birthday party. I remember there was a margarine fight in the kitchen. I'd seen Jill once before, on a bus going to Paisley, a small town just outside Glasgow, we were both going to a punk disco. For some reason the city fathers had banned all organised punk events inside Glasgow and you had to travel to pogo. I was disappointed to see she seemed to be with a big burly Ned that night, but at the party she was with a girl called Marge Broni, who is still a friend of Jill's to this day.
What struck me first about Jill, apart from the fact she was very pretty, was the way she dressed. I remember her getting a little bit of a hard time from some 'punk by numbers' type who was saying, 'you don't dress like a punk should'. What she dressed like was hard to say. I remember a black and purple padded dressing gown, white plastic knee-length boots and a purple bow tie. She was sixteen. She seemed to know a lot about music. She had punk records I'd never heard. She read the music papers from cover to cover. We both agreed, when punk degenerated into merely a uniform, punk was dead.
By 1979 punk was dead. By then Rose had met a boy called Drew McDowall. I had never met Drew before Rose introduced me to him. He was instantly likeable. Very intense, a ball of nervous energy. He was always either reading or writing in a book. A very interested person. Although Drew and I were never great friends, he would later save me from getting thumped twice. He had the greatest facility for 'witty violence' of anyone I ever knew, that is, the instantaneous response. He was quick.
Once Jill and I gave up on punk we kind of lost touch with Rose and Drew for a while. I finished my photography course, though I never really got the hang of it. And Jill applied for and was given a place at Glasgow's very prestigious School Of Art (probably the best art school in the world).
While I'd been studying photography I met and became friends with Edwyn Collins, then of the Nu-Sonics, later of Orange Juice. He introduced himself by saying, 'come and photograph my band, we rehearse in a ballroom'. Edwyn introduced me later to Alan Horne who was to be the future inspiration behind the 'Postcard Records of Scotland' thing, which was (hard to believe it now) vaunted far and abroad as the 'next big thing' by people like Paul Morley. Postcard, which I named (my big claim to well deserved obscurity) was to prove instrumental in the future formation of Strawberry Switchblade.
By the time I met and started going around with Edwyn and Alan, Jill had already gone into this weird polka dot obsession. She never really explained it to me, but I gathered from her art school work that is was something to do with dots as camouflage, like leopards spots, only Jill changed her spots two or three times a day.
Though Jill was getting out and about on her own these days, she was still, unbeknownst to me, battling with the agoraphobia that had first struck her in her early teens.
It was at this point, a year on or so down the line, Rose and Drew came back into our lives. Rose was still strikingly dressed but still in a sort of neo-punk style. Surprisingly, for a pair of professed anarchists, they had gotten married and Rose Porter became Rose McDowall. They also has a little girl called Keri, whom Drew always referred to as 'your baby' when talking to Rose. And we always referred to as 'Rosemary's Baby' when talking to Drew, even though she was the cutest curly haired wee thing.
We started hanging out together again. Jill and I had a flat now in Glasgow's West End, on the Great Western Road. Rose and Drew became loosely part of Alan Horne's ever expanding 'Postcard Family' which was based in West Princes Street just around the corner from us.
The post-punk Glasgow music scene was much more interesting than the punk scene. Glasgow never really produced a decent punk band. Post-punk there was the beginnings of such bands as Simple Minds, Primal Scream, Texas, The Pastels, The Bluebells, Lloyd Cole, etc. And through Postcard, Orange Juice, Aztec Camera and Josef K. There were others besides.
Once Jill and Rose started 'stepping out together' they soon became famous for being 'that odd polka dot couple'. Rose had quickly adopted Jill's style and together they developed it further. Jill was happy with this, she was never proprietorial. In fact she gave a polka dot dress, replete with bows, to my sister of the all-female band Sophisticated Boom Boom for their debut gig. Rose was furious.
I don't know if they always planned to start a band, but the fact that everywhere they went people said, 'you two should be in a band' and the fact that everyone we knew seemed to be in a band could not have made the possibility obscure to them. Yet it still came as a surprise to me. Jill I knew was interested in music, but Rose - like myself - could take it or leave it, it seemed to me.
I suppose I took them for granted. Drew and I would stroll ahead talking literature, or more accurately Drew would be telling me about Lautreamont or Mishima or somebody, while the girls trailed behind talking clothes or something like, or so I thought.
When one day they announced they were going to form a band and it was going to be called Strawberry Switchblade it was news to me, although the name wasn't. I knew it as a song James Kirk had supposedly written (has anyone ever heard it?) and the proposed name of an aborted fanzine I had worked on with Edwyn Collins and Alan Horne. Someone has a copy.
Rose likes to pretend that the name was a foregone conclusion, but I distinctly remember us all having long discussions about possible alternatives.
Although Rose was already playing sort of Mo Tucker drums in Drew's experimental band The Poems, I was sceptical, if not mocking. I seem to remember saying something like, 'oh yes, very good, but there is a little thing called being able to play an instrument then there's songs, then there's being able to get gigs'.
Within weeks they seemed to have gotten it all. I don't know about Drew, but I was stunned.
Initially, they worked very closely together. To begin with Jill wrote most of the music and Rose wrote the lyrics, but that sort of evened out later. Rose became very serious about music, but to begin with Jill was the guiding influence behind their instrumental sound. Jill had been a music fan since she was fourteen. She'd gone from Donny Osmond to Led Zeppelin. When I first knew Rose, she liked the punk thing but was annoyed, it seemed to me, by the proliferation of bands you were supposed to know about. In the trainspotting aspect of music Jill was initially well ahead of Rose. Drew was the real music fan in that family. It was Drew who knew about the latest release of this or that obscure esoteric band.
Jill similarly knew what was what in the current scene, and she also had a knowledge of what had been. Also, I was amazed to hear she had been to see bands like AC/DC and Ted Nugent long before punk turned her head. At these pre-punk gigs she must have been the youngest person in the audience. So I guess it was unsurprising that it was Jill who first set out musically what Strawberry Switchblade were to be.
Probably the biggest revelation was Rose's voice. She could really sing, and her voice had personality. Jill, to be honest, did not have much of a voice, yet it worked really well with Rose's. They had a 'sound' immediately.
Once they had written a full set of songs they set about looking for some gigs. It was decided that they needed a rhythm section. This always seemed to me an odd idea. Duos were not unheard of even then. But on Rose's instigation they came up with a bass player, Janis Goodlit, and a drummer, Carol McGowan. Two women I never really liked. I say 'women' as opposed to 'girls'. I could never think of Jill and Rose as 'women', maybe only because we met so young. But Carol and Janis were most definitely 'women'. The kind of women who didn't shave their armpits. Carol was supercilious, I think her home had an inside toilet. And Janis was the type of woman who would munch her way through a fish supper while complaining about her period pains. When they started demanding writing credits on the set of songs Jill and Rose had already written they were promptly fired. I was not heartbroken.
After the event I thought about the odd decision to bring them in. I found it hard not to suspect it was an attempt by Rose to dilute Jill's power. At the time such a thought would have seemed horribly cynical, but as subsequent events developed it seemed to me more and more the explanation.
However, they lasted a few gigs. I guess because of the way Jill and Rose looked, and the fact that we knew a few people, it was relatively easy for them to get gigs. In fact too easy, they had no struggle in which their partnership might have been hardened. Their working relationship was never really worked out. Once things took off somehow, there was no space to work things out.
Anyway, their first gig was set up. It was in a West End restaurant called The Spaghetti Factory in Gibson Street. It was a low-key affair but all the Postcard crowd were there and a few Glasgow notables. I think Jim Kerr, I think Bobby Bluebell and Clare Grogan.
Within weeks of their first gig, which was, remember, within weeks of first picking up guitars, they were offered a Peel session and then a Kid Jensen session. Which was good, however in the interim they had sacked the 'women'.
Principally with the help of James Kirk of Orange Juice, they started preparing for the two sessions. James not only gave them the name, and Rose's first proper guitar, he was also their kind of spiritual inspiration. The music scene is full of fake eccentrics. James Kirk is the real thing. He may not thank me for saying that. Or he may. With real eccentrics you never know. James did all the bass parts and the guitar as yet too complicated for the girls to do. The drummer was initially the then-drummer of Del Amitri, but he son dropped out. The replacement was a young Indian called Shahid Sarwar, whom we called Shahid Starwars.
After the Peel and Jensen sessions which, thanks to James Kirk, went quite well, Bill Drummond and David Balfe turned up in Glasgow to offer them a publishing deal. I had heard of them through their work with the Zoo organisation, but beyond that they were strangers to us. They offered the girls a deal under the Zoo name, but it soon became clear they were just scouting for Warner Brothers. At the time publishing money seemed like money for nothing. Hopefully nowadays young bands know, it is only money for nothing for the publisher.
At the time the girls were being informally managed by a big fat American girl called Barbara Shores, or 'Ke-Babs' as Drew called her. She had been part of the Postcard crowd and was brought in on the instigation of Rose. Though she was practically useless, she showed a marked bias towards Rose. Which placed her, by then, on firm ground, that is until she queered her own pitch by trying to hit them both with one of the most draconian management contracts in rock n roll history, and there have been a few. I still have the actual contract, and it is a testament to her naivety. Any conman worth their salt knows there is enough bondage inherent in your average everyday management contract to keep a truckload of masochists happy, without resorting to the extreme. 'Ke-Babs' was sent packing.
But again, the incident was another example of how Rose was ordering things to suit herself even though they were backfiring on her.
This was the flaw that was to prove the downfall of the band. Rose, who was of course the lead singer, had assumed leadership, but worse she was acting like Strawberry Switchblade were her band. It was like in her head she was rewriting their history. She only had Jill to share with, and Jill had never been a pushy person. Jill began deferring to Rose, and to be sure, the band initially moved along on Rose's sheer willpower, but Jill ended up having to battle Rose just to get some credit for the work she'd done and was doing.
At that point Jill had written the music for what were to be Strawberry Switchblade's first four singles, and the lyrics for two of these. But Rose had developed the gift of assuming authorship, or at least to talk you'd think so. Writing credits would even out later on, in Rose's favour, but at the time Jill had done more than her share of the work, and the image remember was more or less hers. She was therefore beginning to get alarmed at Rose's monomania, her growing conviction that she was Strawberry Switchblade.
Jill was quickly presented with a dilemma. Since being a teen agoraphobic she had dreamed of being a pop star to help herself step out of her situation. By the time Strawberry Switchblade were getting attention she had put much of her time and creativity into the band and Rose was acting like Jill was a hired hand. What was she to do?
Although it is not for me to excuse Rose's turnaround, to understand her you have to know where she came from. Rose was the first born female of a poor working class family. In such families the first born female is kind of schooled in insignificance. They are expected to expect very little out of life. They are expected to look after their siblings and become like little mini wives to their fathers.
Also, Rose was the least well educated person I ever met. She is very very far from stupid, yet she knew practically nothing. She is living proof that there is a class of individual, or was, in this society that id they do not show up at school no-one comes looking for them. Though from my own personal experience of sink schools in the sink estates of Glasgow in the 1970s maybe that's a blessing. Later on, Rose would educate herself.
Jill by comparison appeared to have had a comfortable life. She had a nice home, in a nice part of town. She had had a good education, and had a place in the Art School. Rose might have been excused for feeling she had a bit of catching up to do. Or was due more to redress the balance.
When Jill mentioned 'the art school' in an interview Rose would get mad and say, 'don't mention the art school, I don't want people to think we are an art school band'. 'No, you're a scone shop band,' I'd say, which did not help much.
However, this is what brought their collaboration to a halt, Rose's inability to give credit. And her permanent assumption that she had the right to first and last say. That she had the right to first choice, and the lion's share.
Just one tiny example; in every restaurant, train or bus, no-one could settle till rose chose her seat. It got that bad.
Maybe background had nothing to do with it, but that certainty of presumption that Rose displayed seemed to indicate she felt hard done to deep down, that she 'had a right'. Rose's ability to create and live in a bad atmosphere was something Jill, who is a peacemaker, just could not handle, and the band limped on. It made life very unpleasant for Jill, but still she would not just give in. This is the crap fans don't know about, and probably don't want to know about.
Maybe Rose was plotting, or maybe she was out of control. It was hard to know if her attitude was pathological, or a tactic. I know Drew used to call her 'Bilko' when she was at her worst, which Rose hated. Maybe Rose had a logic to pushing Jill out but since she could not do it on her own, from anyone's point of view, she was sawing off the branch she was sitting on.
Jill had other problems too. No home is as perfect as it seems, and she continued to battle with the agoraphobia. People have various theories about it. They are always coming up with psychological reasons, but really it is just a chemical imbalance in the brain. For some reason a 'faulty switch' is thrown and the brain floods with adrenaline. This causes a total terror attack as the senses go haywire. It is very unpleasant. It is trying to avoid these attacks that agoraphobia is. The secret is not to avoid them. The secret is to endure them. Knowing they may be vile, but they will not kill you. 'Whereas I might, if you don't get out of the house,' as I used to say to Jill.
It is a testament to how much they both wanted to make records that they both pushed on through these problems.
When Bill Drummond and David Balfe, or 'Batman and Robin', heard about the dismissal of Barbara Shores, they expressed an interest in managing them. Bill Drummond was a very interesting man, full of odd and eccentric ideas. He was kind of bluff. You could imagine him as a big game hunter, or a polar explorer. In the music business he seemed out of place like a commando in a kindergarten. Having known him briefly, when I later read he claimed to have burned £1,000,000 of his music business earnings, I could believe it. Balfey, on the other hand, was a bit of a blank. He blushed a lot, and that was disarming.
They encouraged us to move to London. Unfortunately by the time we got to London 'Batman' had been given a better offer, a job at Warner Brothers, and we were left with 'Robin'.
Just before we moved to London the girls did a country-wide tour supporting Orange Juice. They played backed by a TEAC machine that Drew operated. I collected the nightly fee, I think it was £60, about one quarter of what we were spending each night to play. This for me was the most fun we ever had with the band. While touring Jill and Rose forgot the stand-off and it was just like old times. We travelled form city to city, venue to venue in a big hired car driven by Shahid Starwars, the drummer on the Peel and Jensen sessions.
The oddest thing about this tour was the attitude of Orange Juice, and Edwyn Collins in particular. Remember Orange Juice had been amongst our best friends. Suddenly they just blanked us. James Kirk had been kicked out of the band by then (a big mistake) so it was nothing to do with him. Other than Edwyn maybe felt guilty. We were barred from the Orange Juice dressing rooms, and they generally made things pretty difficult for us. Only David McClymont spoke to us, and he did that surreptitiously.
This for me was a major disappointment, because I sort of idolised Edwyn. The girls were getting attention, so it was hard not to see Edwyn's attitude as unmanly jealousy and just plain meanness of spirit. We had a tiny revenge on them when one night in Brighton all of Orange Juice's rider of two dozen cans of beer was delivered to our dressing room. We kept the lot. It lasted us about three weeks.
People sometimes get what they deserve and Edwyn's career went into a ten year nosedive, not because I fear he turned his back on us but because he kicked James out of what was James' band, well as much as it was his.
We moved to London in the summer of 1983. For the first few months we stayed in a Chinese hotel called the Keio in Sussex Gardens in Paddington. It was great.
Though Balfey was much less impressive than Bill, it would be a lie to say he was charmless. He was even then quite good looking, in a goofy kind of way. Though having seen him on TV not that long ago, it is clear he has no portrait in the attic. Rose quietly developed a crush on him, though that is not now something she would admit even under torture. Anyway it made Rose, it seemed, a little bit easier to handle, at least for a short while.
Sad to relate, though things were on the up Jill and Rose had gone into a kind of cold war phase, this is how they got by. They were still working, but not working together. It amazed me how they both could play at being friends in front of others but have nothing much to say to each other in private. They had come to an understanding, but it was stand-off not reconciliation. For me, brought up on the paradigm of The Monkees, 'four mates in a rock n roll band', it was all a bit depressing.
However, we were new to London, and there was still a lot of fun to be had from the situation. As things developed it quickly became clear that Balfey did not have an original though in his head. His idea of promoting them was to get them into rubber dresses. It was kind of pathetic. He'd recommend they work with people because, 'they worked with Thin Lizzy'. All you could do was grit your teeth and not laugh in his face. Bill was sometimes around, and Bill was always refreshing, he would leave you with hope but it never stuck around, a bit like Bill.
Things between me and Balfey soon became difficult. He, I think, saw me as a threat to his authority, but he had no authority, especially where it counted, over Rose. At the very least he thought I was in his way. And I guess I was sometimes a pain in the neck, but it was hard for me to keep my mouth shut having seen the girls come so far only to be mis-managed by a kind of oaf, someone who seemed to neither know what to do with them or, more importantly, who they were.
To be fair to Balfey, he never just gave into Rose as most of them did. Though I think this was more to do with his view of himself as 'the man' rather than principle. Also, I always got the impression that Balfey thought Rose was low class.
Balfey was then part of a bigger management organisation called Outlaw. It was a kind of unreconstructed lads affair (like Spinal Tap without the jokes). I think Balfey was kind of embarrassed that he was managing a pair of 'girlies', as he saw them. That is why, I think, he was so happy when Zodiac Mindwarp came along later. Zodiac was Dennis to Balfey's Walter.
Again to be fair to Balfey, I guess it would have been difficult for anyone to understand the complexity of Jill and Rose'' relationship and their respective histories. For a middle-class Englishman with no hinterland, practically impossible. This was an intimate affair. Add to this the fact that we all kept him at arms length, and he knew it, with recourse to Scottishness and a more or less constant stream of disinformation.
Gathering that he was kind of sexually confused, out of mischief I told him once I was gay. Then lived to regret that one when he started making passes at me. However, it was pure mischief on my part. It was obvious underneath that cash-crazed businessman was some slack old hippy who just wanted to fuck the world. Oh, and call it love. On the subject I asked him once, 'why are you such a tart?'. He answered, 'I find everyone worthy of interest'. For a brief moment I thought 'have I misjudged this man?'.
Though it was obvious that Balfey was artistically clueless, the void that I was really worried about was the one between Jill and Rose. I knew they were both talented, and I knew they did their best work together. I'd seen this stand-off developing, but how to bring them together? I hoped time would provide the answer.
Meanwhile, Balfey's big idea was to record Jill's agoraphobic paean Trees And Flowers and release it on a fake indie label for credibility (?). Then follow that up with the big major signing. They had already signed to Warner Brothers for a measly £20,000. Balfey got the Madness rhythm section in (strangely and unexpectedly snooty people) and they recorded a good, if slightly too bucolic, version with Roddy Frame on guitar.
One of my photographs was chosen and Warner Brothers paid for a big poster campaign around London. They got some pretty good press for this single. It topped the indie charts, and Annie Lennox and Boy George cited it. They had a very good press man at the time, a gut called Mick Houghton. He was kind of measured, and seemed to have a very good idea of who they were and how to present them. For me, he had it just right. But Balfey thought he was 'too classy'. He and Warner Brothers wanted them on the cover of Smash Hits. To be fair to Balfey the girls wanted this too. But once you go there, there is no way back. I think Mick knew this, and later he was proved right. When Mick was sacked, I felt kind of sick.
After a number of months stay in the Chinese hotel the novelty began to wear off. We started looking around for a more permanent address. Someone came up with a two bed flat in Muswell Hill. We moved in in late summer. Rose and Drew in one room, Jill and I in the other. For a short while it was happy families.
I found and rented a part share of a photographic studio in the B2 studio of Metropolitan Wharf in Wapping. There I made friends with a couple of photographers, brothers Innis and Finlay McAlister who became part of Jill and I's wider circle.
After an abortive series of musos Balfey was to produce, someone came up with the name David Motion. I think it was Jean Mulhearne, Balfey's then-girlfriend and PA to Rob Dickins, the man who had signed them to Warner Brothers.
He turned out to be one of those top business men who is also a top guy. It was he who stuck by the girls, and financially indulged them, for instance letting them record the song Poor Hearts three times because the implacable Miss McDowall, and no-one else, thought it was a single. It wasn't.
'The beautiful Jean', who incidentally has a writing credit on the Strawberry Switchblade track Black Taxi, knew David Motion through his work with the band Intaferon, I think.
Motion and the girls met and got on instantly. More importantly Motion knew how to handle Rose. He had a natural calm authority and, though I did not know it at the time, was some kind of genius.
By this time, late 1984, Jill and I had been together for more than six years. I'd known her since she was sixteen. We had grown up together, but we had grown into different people. Although we were still fond of each other and would remain so, we were no longer a couple in the real sense. All this time Jill had been having an on and off battle with agoraphobia. One of the by-products of the battle with Rose and an ongoing source of bitterness for Jill was that it made her more and more insecure and thus more and more reliant on me.
One of the tactics of agoraphobics is to fixate on an individual. They sort of convince themselves that they will still be okay as long as that person is around. The person Jill fixated on was me. This was okay as long as we were a couple, but when our relationship broke down it became kind of absurd. And, once I began to get photographic work in my own right, more than a little inconvenient.
However, Jill would demand I go with her everywhere. And, since neither of us was about to explain ourselves to the hard-faced females who populate the lower floors of record companies, more than a little uncomfortable. Rose's reaction to Jill's increasing oddness was bizarre, she seemed to be developing phobias of her own. Balfey, true to form, got the wrong end of the stick. He thought, or maybe preferred to think, I was exerting some sort of sinister influence over Jill. He decided to force Jill's 'independence'.
I remember one horrendous scene at Heathrow Airport with Jill in tears refusing to get on a plane without me and Balfey screaming, 'That's it, your career's over, you're finished, you'll never work again'. If that was not comic enough, I distinctly remember a young fan standing by patiently unmoved, as if pop stars in crisis was what you expect to see at airports, all part of the show, a real rock n roll drama.
David Motion made a great job of the album. Despite the girls history of conflict and still unresolved 'cold war', he managed to maintain a more or less happy ship. He had done a huge amount of work himself, but had maximised the girls playing ability on all the tracks. Since Yesterday was released as the single and reached number five in the charts, if only like a drunk man ascending a stair. Still, it sold nearly quarter or a million copies.
Paradoxically, when things should have been at their best, I was never more sure they were living on borrowed time. Success had predictably not mollified Rose's need to have more than her share of the cake. Which actually was one of the analogies that Balfey used on one of the very few times he tried to get Rose to behave.
SCENE (Air Studios, Oxford Street): He said, 'Now this whole thing is like one big Christmas cake. There is enough for everyone. Now we can calmly and fairly cut everyone a slice, like civilised human beings, or we can all fight each other for it and see how much we can claw into our respective corners. So Rose, what's it to be?'
It didn't work. But I was impressed. Rose on the other hand probably thought, a man with the morals of a polecat and the single vector of avaricious advantage telling her how to behave was a bit rich, even for Christmas cake!
Although Jill and I, and Rose and Drew, had come down to London together we soon developed different sets of friends. Rose and Drew had taken up with Genesis P-Orridge of Psychic TV fame who, although he had a fearsome reputation, was perfectly nice when we met him. Rose also began a relationship with the lead singer of a band called 'Getting The Fear' called Bea. A very beautiful boy, so pretty you had to really stare at him to be sure he was in fact a boy. Drew seemed okay with this, in fact in many ways Drew seemed to have a closer relationship with Bea than Rose.
Jill and I had a different set of friends. She had linked up with an old college friend, Lucinda Sieger the singer, who had an art school squat in Kings Cross. She gave the best parties, and we became part of that set. We were also friends with the brother photographers and a young couple called Caroline Crawley and Jemaur Tayle. They were signed to Rough Trade and recorded under the name Shelleyan Orphan. Caroline was some kind of pre-Raphaelite beauty, but never has the term 'free love' been more aptly applied. [Caroline's present partner is Cure drummer Boris Williams who played on the Strawberry Switchblade album]. Added to this was a pair of young men from Watford called Barrington Seabrook and William Learmonth who had a duo called Tracey Island. For a time we were inseparable.
These were roughly the two sets we belonged to, not that we never mixed And it was not that we were antagonistic camps, the was a degree of cross-pollination. Drew especially was always popular, and Caroline for slightly different reasons, but generally the two parties stood separate from each other, like Jill and Rose in analogy. A stand-off.
The next period of time for the girls was pretty hectic. Like any couple running away from the fact that their marriage was over, Jill and Rose filled their time up with activity. They did radio, and TV. They did personal appearances and gigs. They went to Japan. They met Ryuichi Sakamoto. He was interested in producing the second album. Rose asked him, seemingly a propos of nothing, whether he had ever 'eaten a dog'. We had dinner with Mr Yamamoto who was the head of Warner Brothers Japan. He asked the girls to relocate to Japan. 'We will make you big stars,' he said. I was in favour. I hoped in the move we'd lose Balfey. The girls declined. (It was maybe their last chance).
After Since Yesterday, Let Her Go and Who Knows What Love Is had been released in quick succession. Neither made much impression on the charts. The Smash Hits audience proved to be a fickle bunch. To break the spell I suggested they record a punk, disco version of Dolly Parton's country and western classic Jolene.
Things were so blocked by then, that only got through by me pretending it was Rose's idea. It kind of went like this, 'Rose, remember that Dolly Parton song you really like,' (she'd never mentioned it before) 'well it might be a good idea if Strawberry switchblade recorded your favourite Dolly Parton song'. It was that silly. And Rose knew it.
I had pictured a real hard arsed disco/punk/country hybrid. When Balfey got Clive Langer in, the Madness producer, my heart sank. As it turned out it was not half bad, and with the addition of Larry Adler, actually quite good. But it was hardly the genre-smasher set to shake up the apathetic public I'd envisaged, even if it did make The Face single of the month or whatever.
This was probably the lowest point of the whole doomed adventure. Jill had a mild flirtation with Finlay, one of the brother photographers, which was okay with me cos I liked him. Rose and Drew finally parted. Drew moved into a house-share with Bea. We were all desperately short of money. They did a couple of ads just to keep going. They got some music and I did some naff lyrics for Shock Waves or something. They hoped no-one would notice it was them but their voices were so distinctive people were singing it to them on the tube. But it paid the bills for a few months. Jill and I, although still living together, were no longer a couple. It all reminded me of that Blondie line, 'I sold my one vision for a piece of the cake, I haven't ate in days'.
At about this time Balfey had a brief affair with Jill. He seemed upset I was not upset. Rose was understandably put out. It was hard not to see part of Jill's motivation as a slight to Rose. At any rate it was all over pretty quickly.
There was a strange dead period then. Then one day the air seemed to clear. I had an odd feeling of optimism. I felt like, if they've come this far they might be alright. For whatever reason, Rose seemed to be somewhat relaxed. I kind of hoped she'd finally understood she needed Jill.
They were still working on songs for the second album. The demos were sounding good to me. Then one day Jill announced, 'I'm splitting the band'. Jill and I had been spending a lot of time apart, so I am not sure what precipitated it. I tried to persuade her to record the second album, if only to qualify for the next advance, I was aware she had no money. But she was adamant. 'I've had enough'.
Rose seemed to take the news pretty calmly. However, ending a partnership is always more complicated than starting one. It soon became evident that although they never had much money, they owed loads. Like a rat deserting a sinking ship Balfey left them to it (Never trust a hippy, eh?).
Initially Rose hung around. I remember going with her to some accountants meeting in an office overlooking Regents Park. He was demanding several thousands of pounds. He claimed he had never been paid. All we could say was, 'we never knew you had never been paid'. It was all rather pathetic.
On the way out, overlooking what in London passes for a park, Rose turned to me and asked, 'do you think Jill blames me for all of this?'. I was not sure what she meant by 'all of this'. All I said was, 'you'd better ask Jill, Rose'. It was sad. It seemed to me the closest Rose could get to voicing regret.
Soon after Rose disappeared. She had been seeing a very unpleasant Korean man called Robert. He wore a little swastika medal next to his chest. It was an actual piece of Nazi memorabilia. I could not see him without thinking about concentration camps. I couldn't see what Rose saw in him. Later, they married.
Jill was left alone to sort out the financial mess, and the subsequent court cases. They went on for years, long after we finally split in 1988.
I am still friends with Jill. I am kind of sad uncle to her perfect little daughter Jessie. Jill has returned to her first love, painting. My life has gone on. I have had happier times and sadder times since Strawberry Switchblade. Over the years I have thought about Rose, and wondered why she never really did much. She was driven enough. I think it is because she never met another Jill. A collaborator who gave her work dimension, that is made her look 3D.
I've met Rose occasionally over the years, bumped into her on the street. She is always very friendly, very sweet, just like she was when I first met her.