“A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction,” Virginia Woolf writes in 1929. The same applies to being a musician, in that Woolf really means autonomy, making your own space in which to create, however you succeed in contriving it. The familiar riot grrrl cry “Girls to the front!” was designed to stop a leaping, frenzied, all-male mosh pit from preventing women from enjoying the show without getting smashed by a random pumping fist: a common complaint from girl punk fans.
Over and over, She-Punks shout for their own space, which translates as agency. No wonder, then, that groups like the Delta 5 in seventies Leeds and the Bush Tetras in early-eighties downtown New York both sang about getting people out of their face.
“Everyone called us a woman’s band, which is kind of a misinterpretation, because we always had two guys in the group,” sighs Bethan Peters, the Australia-born, New Zealand–raised bass player of the Delta 5 who really grew up as a law student/punk musician in Leeds. Delta 5’s “Mind Your Own Business” was released in 1979, a pivotal moment in England. The knock-on effect of repeated strikes led to what was called the Winter of Discontent, with its collapse of basic social services and approximation of anarchy, leading to the election of the Conservative leader Margaret Thatcher. It was the abandonment of an idea of egalitarian socialism that had failed to align itself with the future of industry and business, particularly new technology. Its replacement was a hysterically optimistic conservatism. In a domino effect, Thatcherite promises of a more dynamic capitalism with home ownership for all led to the economic devastation of the old working-class industrial North of England. As its music reflects, Leeds was in the forefront of antiestablishment thinking, with a vigorous breed of no-nonsense student Lefties. Women’s rights were a default belief for them, in contrast to the chauvinism usually ascribed to old-school Northern blokes. Alongside singer Julz Sale, the band included drummer Kelvin Knight and guitarist Alan Riggs. The women of the Delta 5 blossomed alongside their supportive male bandmates, unlike so many women artists in the punk scene. Their spiky, metallic, grating guitar sound expresses that group of artists: rigorous, uncompromising, their arrogant conceptualism tempered with welcome sarcasm. Read More