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The Hoardiculturist #6 – T-shirts

In May 1985 I was mooching around Nottingham town centre with a few friends when we stopped to watch a group of leather clad buskers banging out a version of Wild Thing. For a few minutes we stood listening with a fair amount of indifference until I realised there was something familiar about the lead singer. As I stared at him, the cogs started to click and whirr in my head, and then it dawned on me – it was Joe Strummer. I then recognised another of the buskers as Paul Simonon and realised I was witnessing an alfresco gig by the Clash.*

A few weeks later I was back in the city – sadly I didn’t witness The Clash in action again, but I did exchange a few pounds for one of their T-shirts at Revolver Records. Emblazoned with the words Straight To Hell, this was the second band T-shirt that I bought (the first was a Jam target T-shirt, but I don’t have an interesting yarn to tell about them. Not unless receiving a signed photograph of Bruce Foxton from his manager or being friends with the girlfriend of Rick Buckler’s nephew counts. Which, of course, it doesn’t).

Today, the faded 24-year old The Clash artefact, with armpits fossilized by cheap early 80s stick deodorants, has been filed away with about 30 other band T-shirts on a shelf in my wardrobe. Largely bought as mementos from gigs, the line-up includes Birdland, Wedding Present, Pop Will Eat Itself, Gaye Bikers on Acid, Crazyhead, Sonic Youth, The Pixies, Mudhoney and Nirvana, along with several music festival T-shirts.

Several have the power to make me squirm. The Lesbian Dope Heads On Mopeds (the cross dressing alter egos of Gaye Bikers on Acid) T-shirt is simply disgusting and I can’t believe that I could have worn it without having my collar felt by the local police constable. While some make me laugh. A huuuge T-shirt with Iggy Pop’s face on the front still reaches my knees and makes me wonder if it’s actually an Iggy nightie. A T-shirt from York’s finest (well, can you think of any others?) Shed 7 has a picture of shirtless lead singer Rick Witter on the front, while the back is printed with the motto ‘one day I think you’ll sing my praises’. Ok Rick, I don’t think this is ever going to happen, is it?

I was going to accompany this piece with some up-to-date pictures of me wearing some of my vintage T-shirts, but after trying on my Primitives Stop Killing Me T-shirt, which dates back to 1987, I decided I ought to spare you from such an horrific sight – I either bought a crop top by mistake or the years haven’t been too kind on my tummy. Therefore, here’s a picture from the archive – me wearing a Wedding Present T-shirt on a ferry to France in the summer of 1987.

Wearing a band T-shirt

Wearing a band T-shirt

*The reason I didn’t recognise the band straight away was because this was The Clash MKII. Only Strummer and Simonon remained from the original line-up, while three new members were recruited. I later discovered that I’d caught the band at the beginning of their seven date Busking Tour of Britain.

9 comments to The Hoardiculturist #6 – T-shirts

  • Martyn,

    I used to have that Wedding Present t-shirt in white. I think it was a freebie from somewhere as I wasn’t that into them.

    The Cramps always had great t-shirts. The sad news earlier this year of the death of lead singer Lux Interior sent me rummaging for a black-and-white model whose sleeves I hacked off back in the day. Still tucked away safely at the back of the drawer.

    I have no interesting 1980s alternative rock star encounter stories of my own, by my sister-in-law was a Billy Bragg groupie (maybe that should be *the* Billy Bragg groupie) and once shared a coffee with him at a service station while he was penning A Lover Sings. Consequently, she is the “Teresa” mentioned in the last line. (“Steve” is just there to rhyme with “Eve”.)

  • Ahh – the Pixies. Went to two of their gigs and couldn’t afford to buy a T-shirt at either (poor student). Nor the Primitives gig I went to. I probably still have the ticket stubs somewhere though.

  • You can’t just leave them on a shelf somewhere. They need to be either framed or worn: I think the Gaye Bikers On Acid shirt would be just perfect for press day at the Chelsea Flower Show.

  • something about buying and wearing a new tshirt of a band, THE band, that no suit in later life can quite match. i think i’ve got 3 left and once every few months when searching for that other sock i pull one out of the depths of the drawer and smell it for the always-present mustiness of a tshirt now not worn or washed.

    great blog

  • Wow!

    Check out the young rebel picture! Is that a mullet I see?

    I have to agree with James on this one. You should definitely frame the best and wear one to press day at Chelsea! I think I would actually pay good money to see that!

    Great post.


  • My husband is insanely jealous about your accidental Clash gig. i think he would probably wear an Iggy nightie too, given half the chance. Great pic!

  • HM – How sad you never got to buy the T-shirt. I used to have two Pixies T-shirts, but the one from the Bossanova tour seems to have gone missing.

    JAS – I’ll opt for framing. I never be invited for tapas again if I graced Chelsea wearing a GBOA T-shirt.

    MarkD – Sadly I still buy the odd band T-shirt now, but generally wear them for decorating, gardening or fetching the papers on Sunday.

    Ryan – A mullet!! That’s the beginnings of a pony tail – I had fine flowing locks all the way through until 1996. However, I did have an ironic mullet in the early 2000s.

    Lia – If every man wore an Iggy nightie, the world would be a better place.

  • Ellie

    Can I buy your Shed Seven shirt off you please??!!

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