Strawberry Switchblade

A Personal History by Peter McArthur

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.