Girls Will Be Boys
PRESENTED BY MICK STAND!
PHOTOGRAPHED BY PAUL SLATTERY!
IT’S FOUR feet across, bright red and yellow and looks like a bizarre altar. Plumb in the middle, just where you’d expect The Bible to be, there lies the sleeve of the Girls At Our Best! debut album.
Actually, it’s a shop window display unit and, at £165, the most expensive bit of cardboard I’ve ever laid eyes on. In the basement of Happy Birthday Records it was serving as a doorstop, but in the chain stores it will be competing with similarly extravagant promotional paraphernalia featuring more familiar faces such as The police and Meat Loaf.
Amazing. for a moment we all gaze at it in awe as if it really was a holy shrine – then we laugh.
BUT JUDY EVANS, GAOB! singer proclaims: “I’m fascinated with the idea of selling yourself. Everything is consumerism.” On “pleasure”, the said LP, the Girls take a poke at the record industry in “£600,000” and “Too big For Your Boots”. this from a band with no experience at all of the big time.
They all come from the Leeds Area and the first glimmer was SOS, formed in ’77 with guitarist James Alan and bassist Gerard Swift. then taking refuge reality in art school, Alan met Judy. Or, as she tells it: “I went to college to work hard and become a serious artist – until I met this punk rocker with a nervous rash.”
Well, convent schoolgirl from posh Wetherby that she was, she joined the group regardless (what’s known as a rash decision) and SOS turned into the Butterflies.
James comes over all queasy at the memory: “We were notorious. Very erratic. You know all the arguments that you have in a group when you’re rehearsing or in the dressing rooms – we had them on stage.”
Judy: “Me and James would be fighting in one corner, and then we’d turn around and find the other two had walked off and left us.”
THE BUTTERFLIES were grounded at the end of ’79 and the three of them began what amounted to a rest cure.
Seemingly the convalescent home was James’s house, a riotous assembly of brothers and sisters and friends presided over by his mother, a remarkable lady who made her impression on the neighbourhood by painting “muriels” of her heartthrob Rod Stewart on the outside walls.
This was when the fates came up with a nonsensical gesture of support. Several months after the Butterflies had ceased to exist Rough Trade heard a tape of a song called “Warm Girls”, loved it and offered to back its release on the band’s (would be) own label, Record Records.
Renaming themselves after a line of their lucky song, they became Girls At Our Best!, sold 7,000 and hit the independent charts, then did again with “Politics”.
Finally they acquired a drummer (absent from the interview) and a deal with Happy Birthday, who are small enough for “Pleasure” to be their first album and big enough to pay £165 for a bit of cardboard – you work it out.
Anyway Judy and James gave up their jobs at Leeds Warehouse (where Marc Almond of Soft Cell used to work) and Gerard quit plumbing, taking a 60 per cent pay cut to go professional with the Girls. After a 16 month break they were back on stage earlier this year, although they’d still only done 20 dates in total before their current tour.
IT’S QUITE clear that the most instantly distinctive Girl is the girl, Judy. Her voice soaring above what James describes as the band “oi-ing away” is high, pure – and jolly. Like a Girl Guide singing pop. Or a choirboy soprano on the edge of breaking – out of innocence perhaps. Strange. Even to Judy.
She’d had a fairly standard rock shout until they recorded “Politics” and the melody led her into new territory. “I thought it was really weird when I first heard the tape,” she says. It’s an expensive voice to run: they have to capture extra sound equipment to capture it live.
Then there’s her face. When I say something hesitant about Judy being “good looking”, the blokes chorus “us too!” So all right, she’s beautiful. Knows it too.
“People have always told me I was sexy. At least since I was 12. It was frightening at first though.”
But thankfully, later in her teens she learned to be comfortable with her looks. That’s why she can write as good a joke as “Fast Boyfriends”, the next single, where the boys are likened to burgers in a fast food joint, heat ’em up and eat ’em up. It’s equally why she can come out with the sensual tenderness of “I’m Beautiful Now” or the Edward Lear-influenced “Water Bed Babies” with its whimsical and suggestive words: “Water babies in the sea/Water melons are for tea/Water bed are made for me/they make my mouth water”, The flavour is playful sexy, innocent.
GIRLS AT Our Best! are neat, light and bright. James may not be too far of target when he says “Pleasure’ is a collection of greatest hits which aren’t greatest hits yet.”