The Raincoats in session at The BBC. Recorded at Maida Vale Studios on December 12, 1980 for BBC Radio 1. I only vaguely remember hearing about The Raincoats, right around the time I first heard about Throbbing Gristle. These were bands that represented the experimental side of Punk, opening the doors to Post-Punk and freeing up the atmosphere, taking it beyond 3-chord wonders.
Not for everybody – in fact, the Experimental side of things really got out to a small audience; people who were disenfranchised with Punk, who had come from the Prog genre and were up for something a bit more complicated and spontaneous. The Raincoats filled the bill quite nicely.
The Raincoats consisted of Ana da Silva (vocals, guitar) and Gina Birch (vocals, bass) formed the group in 1977 while they were students at Hornsey College of Art in London. (of course; all the really interesting bands got started in Art School – ever since the 1950s).
For the band’s first concert on 9 November 1977 at The Tabernacle, the line-up included Birch, da Silva, Ross Crighton (guitar) and Nick Turner (drums). Kate Korus (from the Slits and later the Mo-dettes) joined briefly but was replaced by Jeremie Frank. Nick Turner left to form the Barracudas, and Richard Dudanski (ex-The 101ers and later Public Image Ltd.) sat in on drums, while filmmaker Patrick Keiller replaced Frank on guitar.
Late in 1978, the Raincoats became an all female band as they were joined by the Slits’ ex-drummer Palmolive and the classically trained violinist Vicky Aspinall, with this line-up making their live debut at Acklam Hall in London on 4 January 1979. Managed by Shirley O’Loughlin, the band went on their first UK tour with Swiss female band Kleenex, in May 1979 after Rough Trade Records released their first single, “Fairytale in the Supermarket”. Johnny Rotten was an early admirer of the band, and later stated: “The Raincoats offered a completely different way of doing things, as did X-Ray Spex and all the books about punk have failed to realise that these women were involved for no other reason than that they were good and original”. The Raincoats’ distinctly uncommercial sound did not appeal to everyone; after witnessing an early performance by the band, Danny Baker remarked that “they are so bad that every time a waiter drops a tray we’d all get up and dance”.
In November 1979, Rough Trade released the band’s self-titled debut album, which received considerable acclaim from the press. Palmolive had left the band in September, shortly before The Raincoats came out, and teenager Ingrid Weiss joined the band on drums. The Raincoats’ second album, Odyshape, was released in 1981 and featured Weiss as well as drumming contributions from Dudanski, Robert Wyatt (The Soft Machine) and Charles Hayward (This Heat). The Raincoats employed a diverse selection of cheap second-hand instruments such as the balophone, kalimba and gamelan on Odyshape, and the album incorporated British folk, dub basslines, polyrhythmic percussion and elements of free jazz among other world music influences. Its eclectic mix of musical genres has been described as one of the “great lost moments of women-in-rock”.
So if you missed them the first time around (they reunited in 1993 and are still performing as a group), you now have a change to make up for lost time by listening to this 1980 session.
No need to crank it up – just keep an open mind and be prepared for the unconventional.