Howie was probably what we were all waiting for, he was a visionary. He told me to cut my hair so I cut my hair. He told me to wear drainpipe jeans and a leather jackets so I wore drainpipe jeans and a leather jacket. He said ‘You should be a singer in a band.’ I said, ‘I can’t sing.’ He said, ‘You don’t have to sing, just shriek.’ I said ‘I can do that.’ For a few months I wa lead singer in an all-girl punk band playing upstairs in pubs during the heyday of the Slits and Cunning Stunts and Siouxsie and the Banshees. Howie was correct, you did not need to sing, just bawl, and I could bawl. Me at my zenith.
I was in a very androgynous phase in my life, when I wore my hair short, in a quiff like a fifties American car mechanic, and my jeans were rolled.
observations: In the first entry from this book, Linda Grant’s Adele described her schoolgirl years, before going off as a student in the early 1970s. Now she is post-university, and the incredibly strange and liberating world of punk has arrived, and she describes very accurately how everything changed.
[See also the recent entries on Viv Albertine's book, Clothes Music Boys.]
Again, my personal experience tells me how very accurate her descriptions are, though fortunately for everyone I never sang with a punk band.
Linda Grant would, I think, see the point of Clothes in Books, because the clothes descriptions in her own work are always making a point, showing something important about a character – the student, first day at uni, wearing ‘a yellow midi-skirt, emerald-green tights and black patent shoes. I look like a daffodil in a plastic pot.’ Adele sells YSL’s Rive Gauche (in its ‘blue-and-silver canister’) as a teenager, and later adopts it as her signature scent.
The student party, the key event, the turning point in the book, is all too recognizable – the ‘kitchen full of Blue Nun and Hirondelle and a couple of party kegs of beer…French bread and blocks of orange cheddar.’
Her gay friend Bobby doesn’t put down roots: ‘The city lit up with the available spaces in which he could operate. He never had what I thought of as a home, he was a house sitter and dog walker and cat stroker/feeder for people with nice houses and flats.’ A somewhat dyslexic character struggles with words that ‘slip from his fingers like a bar of wet soap.’ There is a comparison with characters from Wind in the Willows – ‘George I reckoned was another Toad, one of life’s demanders and wreckers, people whose mess you must clean up.’ (Nice change from such people being compared with Tom and Daisy in The Great Gatsby.)
The picture is from a 1970s fashion magazine – the model is, as you can see in the lower version, actually photographed up against an American car.