The Vandals: L-R Kim, Alison & Sue
Southend Punk Interview with Sue Paget of The Vandals - June 2011

The Vandals - SueHello Sue, so to start the Interview with Southend Punk, I wondered if you grew up in a musical household and were you influenced by any particular sounds on the radio / TV?
Nobody in my family were remotely interested in music. I used to just listen to the radio or TOTP's, until an English teacher (who was a bit of a Jean Brodie character) introduced me to Patti Smith's 'Horses' when I was 14/15....my life changed at that moment.

Growing up in the area, were any local bands a particular influence?
No, I was not really aware of any local bands, I was still at school then so was too young to have the opportunity to see any, and to be honest, I don't think there was a local scene until we all created one when Punk came along.

When did you first become aware of Punk and the feeling that things were changing?
Again, I think it was the influence of my English teacher, she always had subversive students round her house....she ended up getting sacked for 'living' with a student! But it all seeped through from there I think.

The Vandals: L-R Kim, Alison & Sue (Rik Wheatley on floor)What was the local scene like in the very early days - where would you go to hangout?
Woodlands School Youth Club played a very integral part. Everybody used their classrooms to rehearse in....and then all these same bands would go on to play gigs at the youth club. Then The Van Gogh started putting on regular gigs. Also we had The Double Six, where they had regular jam nights. People say that there was nothing to do in Basildon, but I disagree....we had plenty of places to go. Everybody seemed to know each other, we all borrowed each others band members or instruments if needed....it was very incestuous.

The Queens in Southend and The Chancellor Hall in Chelmsford put on lots of gigs that have subsequently become quite legendary - did you go to any of these places regularly? Any particular favourite and/or outstanding memories from them?
A big group of us used to go every Sunday night on a double decker bus over to Chelmsford to the Chancellor hall. They had some fantastic bands on there. It was the only place locally where you could see some of the biggest punk bands like the Buzzcocks, Siouxsie and the Banshees etc. (I don't remember much about the Queens though?) obviously a big gap in my memory!
Anti-Nazi League March 1978: L-R Phil Stagg, Jo Gahan & Sue PagetWere there any gigs you went to, either locally or elsewhere that you found especially inspiring at the time?
I very well remember both the Anti-Nazi League marches, but particularly The Clash one. That was the first time I saw The Clash and I made the mistake of going right down the front.....when they came on I really thought I was going to die! I could feel myself being sucked under...very scary. But there was a great feeling of solidarity, especially on the march itself, and I will never forget Jack Nicholson slowing his limousine beside me, and lowering his window to wave at me! One of the most surreal moments of my life.

Were The Vandals your first band, and how did they form? What inspired you to put a band together?
Yes the Vandals was my first band. The 3 of us, me, Alison and Kim were best friends at school and had been singing together for a while. We had heard that if you got up and played at Roundacre youth club, they would give you a free drink, so we sang an old Family song...'My Friend The Sun' for some fizzy pop. I'm not sure if it made The Vandals - Live in Gloucester Park, Basildon - 20.08.78anyone look up from their pool tables or not, but that's pretty much how it all started. We used to work out harmonies and sing in the street at the tops of our voices whenever we were walking anywhere. We were just a vocal group then. Alison was the only one with any musical training, she could play all sorts, Piano, Oboe, Guitar, Saxophone even.

What was the setlist of songs like? Was it mainly originals?
Alison wrote all the songs and we all worked on the harmonies. They were nearly all original songs, the only cover I can remember us doing was an obscure Cilla Black B side! When Punk came along we got ourselves a suitably punk name and started making our presence felt by spraying graffiti all over town. The fanzine Strange Stories heard about us and did a big feature on us. prior to that, nobody knew who we were, even our own boyfriends (who had been speculating about who the Vandals were) didn't know it was us until Strange Stories came out!

The Vandals: L-R Alison, Sue & Kim (Mark Saunders Photosession)What was the idea behind not having a Drummer?
I don't think it was a conscious decision to have no drummer, I think it was more the fact that we didn't know any ! We procured Simon Kirk for a short time, but I think he was probably too much of a hippy for us. John Dee we were only able to borrow, as he was already in The Machines, and similarly with Paul Langwith...he was in The Spurts, so we just never had a permanent drummer of our own.

Do you have any recollection of your first Vandals gig (April 14th, Grand Hotel, 1978)?
I remember it very well! Richard from Strange Stories had become our manager and did what he was supposed to ....get us gigs. We were totally unprepared for this, we were still just singers at that point. So we had to quickly find someone who could play guitar. We grabbed the first boy we came across at school, Rob Allen (now Marlow) he was a very dedicated Christian and felt guilty that God would not approve, although that didn't stop him when he got on stage, he would writhe around and start playing his guitar with his teeth!! Me and Kim borrowed a Guitar and Bass. I learnt some very basic Bass lines, but Kim was worried she couldn't convincingly play Guitar, so she wrapped her arm in a bandage as an excuse! I remember the place being packed....and I like to think we went down a storm!

The Vandals - Live at The Van GoghDid you experience any hostility and / or negativity at the time?
Yes we had a lot of trouble with a local gang of skinheads in Basildon. They regularly chased and beat up our friends. They sometimes came to our gigs to cause trouble, I remember a particular occasion when Alison tried to swipe about 30 of them with her mike stand!

What was the general reaction at the time to you?
We never really went in for the over the top Mohicans and safety pins look, we were a lot more toned down.....as you can see from the Vandals photo session. I remember people pointing at us and laughing just because we wore straight jeans instead of flares in Basildon!

The gig with Raped at the Van Gogh sounded like a great evening - I still think Raped / Cuddly Toys are exceptionally underrated. Did you get to know them at all or see them at other gigs?
I wouldn't say we got to know them, but a big group of us went over to a cinema in Finchley one Saturday morning to see them. They were supporting a Charlie Drake film at the Sat Morning Pictures! The place was full of 9 year olds with popcorn....and us punks....very surreal!

Do you remember much about The Vandals photo session at all?
We got up at the crack of dawn one Sunday morning for that photo session, luckily that was in the days before shops opened on Sunday's so we pretty much had the town to ourselves, I don't think we could have done it if there had been too many people wandering past. Thankfully Mark Sauders was a great photographer with a good camera and I think he really captured the moment well.

Pete Zear - 'Tomorrows World' c/w ''Fast Food' - 7"Single (Pete Zear Records ZZ-1 - 1979) Did the Vandals do any recording at all?
No we did not record anything!

How did the Pete Zear single come about? Itís quite an impressive line up on the record, as Vince Segs and Dave Ruffy from The Ruts are on it, and itís produced by Rat Scabies. Do you remember when and where you recorded it?
Pete approached me in The Nashville, I didn't know him, but I think maybe he recognised me from around Southend. We hit it off right away and became good friends. It turned out he worked near me in the city, so we used to meet up for lunch or go to gigs together, so it was a natural progression I suppose to ask us to sing backing vocals on his record. It was in a studio in South London in 1979. I can remember sitting with Sue in Hitlers PyjamasRat Scabies in front of the mixing desk and pushing levers up and down...my contribution to the production being that dreadful fading effect at the end of one of the songs! I also incidentally recorded another session with Pete, at Dr Feelgoods Studio on Canvey. It was produced by John Sparks. I played Bass, I think Bob Clouter played drums and somebody called John Perry sang. But I don't know what happened to the recording.

When was the final Vandals gig?
I don't remember which was our final gig. We were forever splitting up and reforming, we were very disorganised. Once we were double booked...half of us went to one gig, the other half to another! That was the day our manager quit.

Are there any specific images / memories that kind of sum up the era for you?
Just that it was so much fun, exciting, everybody knew each other, like one big happy family, best days of my life!

After the Vandals, you played in another band with Alison - did that have a name?
That was much later about 1981/2. I'm not sure if we had a name, we never did anything in public...just rehearsed. It was around that time that Alison joined Yazoo... A couple of the songs we did ended up on the first Yazoo LP.

Who were Hitlerís Pyjamas - Did they ever record? ?
We were mainly just having a laugh. They were me, Rik Wheatly singing, Perry Bamonte (of The Cure) on Guitar, occasionally Dean Kennedy!? And probably Paul Langwith on drums. I have a dodgy live recording somewhere, Sue Pagetbut nothing else unfortunately.

Around this time you also played in No Romance In China? They were by far my most coherent band musically. Where my other bands had been loud and raucous , they were far more stripped back...very much like early Cure. Again it was me on Bass, Vince Clarke (Depeche / Yazoo / Erasure) on Vocals and Guitar, and Peter Hobbs on drums. We did an early Depeche Mode song....'Television Set' and also another that appeared on Yazoos first LP. We were very good and I am very proud of the music we created.

Did you mainly sing and / or play bass in these bands?
I have always played Bass, and only sang in a backing capacity in the Vandals and on the Pete Zear single.

Finally, I wondered if you still play / write today? Do you still go to live gigs and are involved in music?
I don't, although I have had quite a few offers in the last couple of months! But I have always been pretty shy and performing is not something I would feel comfortable doing at 50. I very much enjoy going to gigs, both local and in London etc, I find I am out several times a week again at the moment...it's been relentless the last six months. Music has been a very important part of my life for the last 35 years. I worked in record shops for 20 years...the only job I've ever really known, so I don't think my love of music will ever leave me.


- Interview by Southend Punk.com, June 2011

A massive thanks to Sue for taking the time to answer these questions, and to Sue, Jo Gahan, Rik Wheatley, Mark Saunders, & Richard / Strange Stories Fanzine for use of the Photos.

 

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