Thursday, 28 December 2017

The Bodysnatchers

Nicky Summers The Bodysnatchers
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                                      The Bodysnatchers 

          Early Days and Anecdotes by Nicky Summers

I had been wanting to be involved with music since I was about 13 but frankly had no idea how to go about it .
In those days few people formed bands , and rarely did girls play electric guitars. In the early 70’s from around 12 and a half onwards , I had been into Marc Bolan and  David Bowie , then Lou Reed ( as Bowie produced Lou Reed’s album Transformer so those of us into Bowie were all intrigued to buy it – we weren’t disappointed) and also from there The Velvet Underground . I also listened to Motown, Stax , Bluebeat and 60's girl groups and 1950's R and B .  I started seeing bands from quite a young age and saw David Bowie perform several times including all 4 nights of his final shows at Hammermith Odean in 1973. I have also seen Roxy Music ,the Rolling Stones and Mott the Hoople being supported by a then unknown Queen ( I remember thinking the singer had a good voice !)

The 70’s I remember was a ‘dark period ‘ musically and culturally .I wore 1930’s dresses from charity shops and Biba make up, (but I was very young , around 13).

.Later  During the mid to late 70’s, teenagers, or anyone who questioned anything , were  actually tremendously bored by the musical output at the time .and we were bored socially as to what to do . It was either novelty bands or long haired relics from the sixties , playing prog rock , which still to this day does not appeal to me .
There were, I think ,only 2 or 3  channels on TV , no technology .

I felt I was desperate for something incredible to happen and in early 76 you could almost sense it in the air, the restlessness of a generation.

I got into punk by accident in the autumn of 1976..The Sex Pistols had appeared on the Bill Grundy TV show …I didn’t watch it as I wasn’t into Bill Grundy ,but the next day it made front  page news  and people were talking about it at school …coming home from school  people in the street were calling me a ‘punk’….due to my dress sense and the way I had ‘doctored ‘ my school uniform in general …I had my hair in a crew cut, cut by a Soho barber  knife pleat skirt and plastic sandals ...I think I was around 17 ….so as I was being referred to as a ‘punk’ in the street  I decided to check out some of the bands thinking the whole scene  might be something I might be into  .

 I remember the first band I saw was The Damned (late 76)..can’t remember where ..and I also went to the Roxy club a few times . I  had the great opportunity to see many bands including The Clash ( several times) Damned , Buzzcocks, Subway Sect ,John Cooper Clarke ,  X Ray Spex , Penetration and  The Slits .  I saw the Slits 2 or 3  times and found them really inspiring as they were female and challenged the general ethos of what being in a band and making music was about and for me , being a female member of  the audience, was a different thing than watching a male band . 

The list of bands I saw in punk days  is endless . in London at the time you could go out every evening and there would be always be several bands playing , not necessarily well known , but there was always live music on . We would buy the NME and Sounds papers and read the listings to see who was playing that week .
 You could buy a beer and see a band for £2 a night !

The thing about Punk is that it gave a sense of empowerment to a young generation initially through music and subsequently art , fashion  film etc. Punk opened the doors for the future and the next decade. It kicked out the stale , dead stuff ,that  had to go. 

I saw the Clash on their White Riot tour supported by the Slits and later on in  1978 ( I think) the Clash did four nights at Camden Music Machine and I went to all four nights . For two of those nights they were supported by a band called The Special Aka who I thought were ‘interesting ‘,a bit art school to be honest .

 Later in late 78/early 79 the music scene in London at least, was changing, and although still inspired by the ethos of punk I had moved on from it  . I had rehearsed with a punk outfit but we had never gigged and I was looking to put an all girl group together .I was inspired by punk , reggae / dub , Motown, Bluebeat, 1950’s r ‘n’ b and Stax and 60’s girl groups ,  but it was quite difficult to get together.

I was listening to Reggae more at this time  mainly dub such as Joe Gibbs’  Majestic Dub and African Dub , Augustus Pablo and slower paced rocksteady as well as some early bluebeat and ska such as Don Drummond who I believe was way ahead of his time. I worked in Rupert St market in Soho and opposite was a record shop, now defunct, known as Cheapo Cheapo records that was filled with albums passed on by the nearby record companies and music journalists. The owner Phil would let me ‘borrow’ records , listen to them and if didn’t like them I could return them to him , I was able to be exposed to a lot of music this way and heard some rare sounds and short lived bands who never made the main stream .

Soho was different in those days, more like a small, multi ethnic community where everyone knew and supported each other , rather than the over crowded tourist affair it is today.  Gerard St ( China Town) had yet to be pedestrianised and at the east end of it was a large tenement block , virtually a slum filled with families from Hong Kong , in front of it was a dirt track known as Soho market and there was a record stall there where Shane Macgowan worked .

If I have one regret it is not photographing Soho to capture it at that time .

 In the meantime  a band called the Specials put  a few gigs on in London, the first was at the Hope and Anchor in Islington. Thinking they were the band I ‘d seen supporting the Clash previously, my friends and I went to check them out and they had really transformed into  an amazing live band- blew themselves off stage really and I went to all of their London gigs  one of which was the Moonlight.

Around that time I met up with Jane Summers ( no relation ) who played drums who had come up to London from Portsmouth to join a band , she moved in and slept on my floor with her drum kit and stash of NME's, and the rest of the Bodysnatchers came together in  late summer 79. I  did place a few ads in the music press for band members , (as my girlfriends at the time didn’t seem to get it together to come to rehearsals or find instruments to play)….in the NME and Sounds..(not Melody Maker which in those days was for old fogeys and was anti punk).

My criteria to join the band seemed to be that you turned up regularly to rehearse with a musical instrument . Sarah- Jane and Stella joined via the music press ads , and Penny was a student at Central St. Martins and she saw an ad we had put on the notice board there , Miranda was still at school and had acquired an ancient sax . We began rehearsing in earnest at some rehearsal rooms in Royal College St ,Camden .

Rhoda was the last to join us .I met her at a gig in Fulham and I was intrigued by her image  ( and beehive !)  and asked  mutual friend Shane Macgowan  to introduce us. (Shane and I both worked in Soho in street markets  around the corner from each other and we used to meet up after work and go to gigs in the evenings).

The Bodysnatchers
The Bodysnatchers L-R Jane Summers, Nicky Summers, Rhoda Dakar, Penny Leyton, Stella Barker ,Miranda Joyce, Sarah Jane Owen.

We rehearsed for about 7 weeks and in November 79 did our first gig supporting Shane’s band the Nips at the Windsor Castle pub along the Harrow Road . It was for us a try out gig and we were fairly ramshackle , we were having a laugh. We were booked for two consecutive Saturday evenings and the pub was packed .Just about everyone turned up including  our friend Gaz Mayall , Pauline Black from the Selector  and Jerry Dammers.

After this we would gig fairly regularly and in early January we were offered a deal by 2Tone for two singles and the opportunity to go on tour with the Selector which we agreed to do .
For roughly a year we toured consistently in Britain and Ireland and had the opportunity to support great bands such as  Madness and Toots and the Maytals as well as supporting The Specials on the Seaside Tour in the summer of 1980 alongside the Go-Go's. 

 We rarely had time off and I remember I wanted us all to take a break and write some new material, experiment more , but some members of the band were afraid we might lose the momentum we had achieved . We had signed to 2Tone but it seemed we were managed by Chrysalis ( the record company 2Tone was affiliated to ) who, for my part appeared to wish to market us as a pop girl band and for me I felt I was losing my original intention of why I had formed the band from a creative ( and social )point of view .

I felt there was a lot of pressure on us to 'perform' ,keep up a certain image, and churn out chart hits. We were not given space to develop. After one interview for a magazine I was reproved by a rep from Chrysalis for not wearing a short skirt (I was in jeans) .

 It wasn't what I'd signed up for .

Later during the year, around October 1980, during a sound check ,I recall, in Manchester (it was raining !) , a couple of band members fell out and it appeared to be irreconcilable differences . The band split up and we booked a farewell concert at Camden Music Machine in November 1979 exactly a year after our first gig .

The Bodysnatchers

The Bodysnatchers -  Back row L-R , Miranda Joyce, Rhoda Dakar, Sarah-Jane Owen, Stella Barker,
Front row L-R,  Nicky Summers, Penny Leyton , Jane Summers.

cc Nicky Summers