Book Reviews: OCTOBER 2016

"A Scene in Between: Tripping Through the Fashions of UK Indie Music 1980-1988" (London: Cicada Books, 2013)
by Sam Knee

Sartorial, adj. having to do with a person’s style of dress. Oxford Dictionary of Current English (Third edition, 2001).

“The generation that came of age via the underground scenes of the ‘80s, sandwiched between the new wave and grunge, has been largely brushed over, written out of history in favour of the more familiar territories that bookend either side of the decade. ’81-’88 was a golden age for the UK’s indie guitar scenes—a moment in which ‘60s folk garage rock combined with late ‘70s punk rock in an unlikely sonic alliance that signified a brief return to DIY culture. Punk’s last gasp if you like.” So observes Sam Knee in the introduction to his engaging pictorial chronicle, A Scene in Between: Tripping Through the Fashions of UK Indie Music 1980-1988 (London: Cicada Books, 2013. Pages 191. $24.95).

The purpose of his book, he explains, is “to excavate the sartorial treasures of this UK indie youth” scene. Taking many of their fashion cues from the groups of the ‘60s, the ‘80s indie rockers sported V-neck sweaters, corduroy blazers, striped tees, black jeans, motorcycle jackets, anoraks, Chelsea boots, leather trousers, and moppish bowl haircuts. Knee’s study features brilliant period photographs of such bands as The Pastels, My Bloody Valentine, The Smiths, Primal Scream, The Sea Urchins, Spacemen 3, Talulah Gosh, Felt, The Vaselines, and The Jesus and Mary Chain. Discussing the style of the latter group, for example, Knee asserts, “The Jesus and Mary Chain leather-boy visual aesthetic was arguably inspired by rocker youth street fashion of the early ‘60s. A key influence was the book Rock and Roll Times by photographer Jurgen Vollmer, published in ’82. The book featured pictures of the Beatles in their pre-mop-top, black-leather clad Gene Vincent phase, as well as images of Vollmer and his friends, who were somberly dressed art school beatniks.”

As you browse through Knee’s captivating photographic volume, you’ll want to have Psychocandy, Hatful of Hollow, Sound of Confusion, Up For a Bit, or some other golden oldie from the stylish UK indie age spinning in the background! Insightful interviews with Stephen Pastel, Amelia Fletcher, David Conway, and Lloyd Johnson enhance Knee’s splendid book. Check it out.

Review by Kirk Bane