To be honest, I’d forgotten. But all it took was a split second and thirty years of time travel for it to come back to me with all the force of a meteorite. Without warning, it appeared on my phone, sent by a friend. A photograph. Not just of me, but of the band I was in as a teenager. It would have been about 1986 or so and I was all of fourteen years old. My eyes were immediately drawn to my trousers where there was an uncomfortable truth to confront – I was wearing acid wash jeans.
For those who’ve never been in a band photo, there are a few things you ought to know. Band photos are the antithesis of a ‘happy snap’. It’s not enough to take a picture of a musical group gathered around as the drummer blows out the candles on his birthday cake. In the eighties especially, band photos were a super serious business. You had to look as though the weight of the world was on your shoulders, which it probably was, because of the massive shoulder pads you were wearing.
We were publicizing our first major gig – playing on the back of a flatbed truck in a children’s playground in Balnarring. Granted, it’s not exactly the Tennis Centre, but most major concerts don’t have a fully functioning seesaw like ours did. The photo was taken on the road outside the Hastings Uniting Church, which we had used for rehearsals; having, as it did, both a stage and a public address system. As a bonus, the pulpit was the ideal place to set your lyrics out. But a photo inside the church wouldn’t pass muster. No way. The photo needed to capture our raw fourteen-year-old intensity, which, at the time, was bubbling away like nobody’s business akin to a forgotten casserole left on the cooker of humanity. Or, instead of intensity, it could have just been hormones. Whatever the case, the photo needed to capture it.
As a result, we stood on the street. By which I don’t mean that we stood politely on the footpath as if waiting for a bus to arrive but, rather, smack, bang in the middle of the road; an obstacle to on-coming traffic. I don’t know how long it took us to make the photographer happy, but the second thing I noticed (after my acid wash jeans) was the car creeping over our drummer, Chris’s, shoulder.
I know, I know. There’s no need to be ashamed at the fact of having worn acid wash jeans. It was the eighties and wearing acid wash clothing, together with a ‘Fido Dido’ or ‘Hypercolour’ t-shirt was as good as compulsory. But these were no ordinary acid wash. These, to my great shame, were homemade acid wash jeans.
Home made acid wash jeans are significant for a number of reasons. Firstly, there’s no one else to blame for the results. And, secondly, it reveals a grim desperation to achieve acid wash status. I appreciate this must confound younger readers who have grown up hearing tales of their parents being forced to wear acid wash when, in actual fact, we quested after acid wash denim as if our lives depended on it. Acid wash jeans are much like greatness. Some are born to acid wash denim, others have acid wash denim thrust upon them. Others like me, however, took matters into our own hands.
Today’s generation probably can’t get their heads around this kind of ingenuity. I don’t want to big note myself, but it’s fair to describe my DIY acid wash as next level MacGuyver-esque genius. First of all, you get a bucket, cram your jeans in and pour over some bleach and leave it to soak. Then, critically, you must thoroughly wash the jeans before wearing them unless you want to suffer permanent scarring below the hips. (Although those chemicals can help with the high notes.)
Clearly, I was so pleased with my efforts that I wore my acid wash jeans, along with my (acid-wash free) denim jacket to our very first band photo session. That’s right – not only did I ‘double denim’, I did so in two completely incompatible styles. At the time, I thought I was super cool. In retrospect, I’m amazed that the car visible over Chris’s shoulder didn’t immediately speed up and start tooting its horn with the aim of scattering us like chickens. I knew so little then.
As for the concert, I take my share of responsibility. Namely, I must reconcile myself to the fact that there are probably people who attended our gig in the Balnarring playground more than thirty years ago who, to this day, hate music as a result. And avoid seesaws at all costs. I probably wore the homemade acid wash jeans to the gig proper, which, at least, may have distracted from the music, at least for a little while.
And as for that photo? Once you get past the super-serious facial expressions that border on pouting, the flagrant double denim and homemade acid wash, I actually like it a lot. It was the first tangible evidence to the outside world that we were a band. Unified in purpose. Bound together by music. Shrouded in acid wash. If it was a fashion statement, it mostly consisted of profanities, but that’s okay. We were a real band. And, for the moment, that was enough.