Last week I attended the book launch for PUNK Magazine, held at the POWERHOUSE ARENA in Brooklyn’s DUMBO. The crowd was a great mix of PUNKS, wannabe punks and never have been punks. Vintage T shirts, stripes and stars, studded everything. Ripped up stitched up, hairdos and tattoos. I guess I feel comfortable in this kind of crowd- my parents were prominent Punks; my father has been playing keyboards for Elvis Costello since the band was first formed- the main attraction in my opinion. My wild poet mother made a swift exit from LA – recorded in the song Los Angeles by the legendary punk band X. She arrived in London in 1977 as Tour Nurse for Stiff Records, having no nursing qualifications but looking sharp in her vintage uniform. I grew up around loud music and even louder attitudes- instilled from the get go with the message that you can be whatever you want to be and do it all exactly the way you want.
That’s probably why I found myself, at the age of 21, boarding a plane to Mexico with a one way ticket and no idea where I was going but confident I would find what I was looking for. What I found, after many crazy twists and turns, was a place on the design team for Virgins Saints & Angels, working for one of the strongest most inspiring and nurturing women I have ever known, Cheryl Finnegan. This self-empowered woman ditched a very successful 14 year marketing career with Levis Strauss and headed to Mexico in much the same way I did, without a clear plan but a heart full of courage and faith, which in my mind is the real PUNK. It’s easy to look at the hair, the outfits, the ‘bad’ attitude and see nothing else- but the true essence of PUNK is much more than a look. Starting out as a battle cry against the corporate take over of rock-n-roll, it soon spoke to rebellious youths across the United States and the UK, inspiring them to take a stand against the mainstream and reject the political idealism of the times. Sadly drugs and alcohol were also an avenue for this rebellion and many great young minds didn’t make it out, which is why when you hear a great success story emerge from it all, it really has impact. And this is what inspired me to write this….
I was invited to this event by a dear friend of my parents, Roberta Bayley, one of the principal photographers to visually chronicle the punk rock music movement. Starting out as a door person at New York’s legendary punk club CBGB’s, Roberta was chief photographer for Punk magazine and responsible for many of the most iconic photographs of punk artists such as Blondie, Iggy Pop, The Ramones, Elvis Costello, The Sex Pistols, Nick Lowe, The Clash and The New York Dolls. She graciously took the time between book signings to introduce me to people, point out a few legends, and tell some behind the scenes tales; one of which I cannot get off my mind.
If you have ever dyed your hair you are probably familiar with MANIC PANIC beauty products, but do you know Tish & Snooky?
Born and bred in NYC, the sisters were singers in the original Blondie lineup, standing out with a unique fashion sense
and style. After years of making their own outfits and seeing them copied all over the East Village they decided to try
their hand at selling them. In 1977, with a $500 loan from their mum, Tish & Snooky opened the first Punk-Boutique on
New York’s infamous St. Marks Place. MANIC PANIC (their mother coined the name) was more than just a shop catering
to the alternative punk-rock crowd- the boutique became the place to see and be seen, it’s iconic entrance is featured in
countless books and music videos.
It was from this funky little storefront that the sisters introduced their customers to hair dyes in every color imaginable
with matching colors for lips, nails, and eyes. MANIC PANIC’s popularity soared in the 80’s, seen on fashion models and
celebrities of all kinds- exploding across magazines, television and major motion pictures. The sisters closed their store
in ’89 while their wholesale business expanded with distribution across the US, UK, Australia, Europe, Japan…an empire
Like MANIC PANIC, Virgins Saints & Angels is an entirely female company, committed to letting women express their
intelligence, style and creativity while leading balanced family and work lives. The Tish & Snooky sister-act success story
really spoke to me, I hope you enjoyed it too!
These are two of my favorite shots from Roberta Bayley
My mum in her infamous vintage nurses uniform 1977, and my father- Steve Nieve 1978 (photo by Chalkie Davies)
In the words of MANIC PANIC “live fast and dye your hair” , and in the words of Virgins Saints & Angels “Wear It & Believe”
Whatever you do with your hair, and whatever you choose to believe, be YOU because no one else can be!