‘Hippy chicks are sad and supermodels suck / riot grrrls, diet grrrls, who really gives a fuck?’“Viva La Megababes” by Shampoo
Sitting outside Woolworth’s in Stevenage, a girl whose name I can no longer remember regarded me with slight disappointment as I lifted the CD single from its plastic bag, turning it over, examining the cover’s collage of similar photographs dyed in different colours ala Warhol.
‘Oh,’ she remarked, ‘you like them?’
It was 1994, the year of wearing Che Guevara t-shirts and German army shirts, and in Plumstead, best friends, Jacqui Blake and Carrie Askew were making snarky pop music and photocopying their own MANIC STREET PREACHERS fanzine.
It is hard to explain the impact SHAMPOO had on me as an awkward teenager whose dad wouldn’t let her play with My Little Pony as a child. Jacqui Blake and Carrie Askew were probably the first girls I had seen on TV who were vocal about feeling like I did. At the time, I was really into thrash and I was likewise the girl who would never have any money for the jukebox in the youth centre but would try and encourage anyone who did have money to put on the MANICS. I liked thrash, especially MEGADETH, because it was so hard to get hold of hardcore at the time, and, likewise, I loved SHAMPOO because that one record shop in Chingford Mount didn’t have anything by BIKINI KILL or HEAVENS TO BETSY. East London wasn’t cool then, it wasn’t even really thought of as London, and in 1994, I was only really there at weekends. I also really liked the ’80s prog rock band, MARILLION at this point too, but let’s not talk about that.
SHAMPOO were like nothing I had heard before in their abrasiveness, their spitefulness — well, nothing before that wasn’t the MANICS. I loved the fact that they were their own gang, that in interviews with the NME and Melody Maker, they would just refuse to answer questions and instead talk about what they wanted to talk about, that they were so involved in their own friendship that other people didn’t matter. I wanted a friend like that, I thought, 15-years-old, strawberry blonde, face full of acne, wearing a second-hand beret, I wanted to be a pop star like Jacqui and Carrie, I wanted to wear fake fur coats and have boys notice me just so I could ignore them.
I started playing guitar properly that year, teaching myself how to play from my mum’s old BEATLES songbook and a book of hymns. I was going to be a pop star, I told myself, and like Frances Farmer, I was going to have my revenge on the world. With purple eyeshadow, a guitar that cost me £100 from Argos, and a pair of paint-stained jeans, I was ready for Top of the Pops, ready to meet John Peel, a copy of On the Road in the top pocket of my flannel shirt, Sylvia Plath quotes scrawled across a t-shirt in marker pen. Wait until they get a load of me, I thought, like Jack Nicholson’s Joker in the 1988 Batman film.
And whilst, more than 20 years later, I’m fairly sure that ‘they‘ are no longer still waiting, every time I hear a SHAMPOO record, I’m ready to pick up that same old £100 guitar from Argos sitting in the corner of the room and change the world.
Illustration by Jericho Vilar
… I was a white girl in a crowd of white girls in the park.