❚ OLD HABITS, EH? A day in the spotlight and Simon Barker, aka Six, starts rewriting history! There we were last night in a Spitalfields gallery, chatting for the first time in 20 years at Punk’s Dead, his new show of early photographs of the now fabled Bromley Contingent, the posse of a dozen fashionistas who helped put the Sex Pistols on the map back in 1976. Having staked his claim to fame as the only person clapping at the end of the Pistols’ sixth gig (Dec 9, 1975, at Ravensbourne College) and being one of four fans with the band during the infamous “Filth & Fury” TV interview (Dec 1, 1976), Simon today works as a photographer in Prague.
Why Prague, I ask, as a big fan of the Bohemian medieval city? He groans: “Oh no! Why Prague? Why does everyone ask me the same question?” You’d never guess Simon and I used to natter away as if we liked each other back in the 80s when I’d pop into Viv’s Worlds End shop after going for a haircut next door at Smile. OK then, Six, why *Bromley*? As in Bromley Contingent. What was in the water in Bromley that produced his posse of poser punks?
“Ah, excellent question!” he replies. “We hated the name. It was created by the media — that woman Caroline Coon.” This is a double-edged dig at both the middle-class, ex-hippy Melody Maker writer who coined the phrase after seeing the “very striking” posse at three Pistols gigs in a row and asking where they came from (Bromley is a town in the south London commuter belt)… and also at me for being another member of the despised legion of journalists.
His Always-a-Punk gene is really kicking in now. “In actual fact, only two of us — me and Steve [Bailey, aka Severin] — came from Bromley. Siouxsie [Susan Ballion, later singer with the Banshees] was from Chislehurst. Billy [Broad, later Idol] lived in Bickley. And Jordan [born Pamela Rooke] came up from Seaford.
“For me and Steve, living in that bit of suburbia, Bromley had the best connection into London — 20 minutes by train. Any further away and it wouldn’t have been so easy to visit for gigs, sex, Louise’s…”
Aha, the location-location transport solution! A recurring theme, because in a surprisingly cooperative interview in 2002 Six did admit that his reason for moving to the Czech Republic “was its location. It is the heart of Europe and a great base to travel from.”
Six was either being pure-punk cussed by splitting hairs about his posse, or possibly was having a bit of a hashtag_Senior_Moment. Bickley is after all the next stop down the line from Bromley, only 2,000 metres away, and Chislehurst another 1,000 metres further on. But fair enough, he’s got a point. Even if you include Sioux and Idol and Bertie “Berlin” Marshall, who lived three doors away from Bowie’s mum in Bromley, five out of a posse of 12 does not a “Bromley” Contingent make. So last night, we witnessed history being rewritten.
WHO waS WHO in the “Bromley” Contingent
According to Wikipedia: Siouxsie Sioux, Jordan, Soo Catwoman, Simon “Boy” Barker, Debbie Juvenile (née Wilson), Linda Ashby, Philip Sallon, Alan Salisbury, Simone Thomas, Bertie “Berlin” Marshall, Tracie O’Keefe, Steve Severin, Billy Idol and Sharon Hayman.
Caroline Coon’s 1977 book The New Wave Punk Rock Explosion remains a fresh and pro-fan account of the movement’s origins, less prone to mythologising than later histories
❏ Mind you, the true superstar present in the Spitalfields gallery was Jordan herself, Queen of Punks, artfully positioned in front of Six’s truly iconic portrait of her on the wall, priced at £300 a pop. There wasn’t a moment all evening when she wasn’t surrounded by a buzz of fans and old stars of punk and she was such easy company, chatting away without airs or graces. She said: “I’m a veterinary nurse now and I breed Burmese cats. Look at the number of photos here of me and Siouxsie with cats.”
She has returned to live in Seaford but loves telling the 70s stories about travelling up to London from the south coast resort, being harangued by commuters for her spiky hair and outrageous bondage clothes from McLaren and Westwood’s Chelsea shops Sex and Seditionaries. To keep her out of trouble, one British Rail guard told her to go sit in first class. “The day I came up to apply for a job at Sex, it was shut, so I wandered over to Harrods and applied there in my blonde spikes and green face foundation. They gave me a part-time job in Way In” (their trendy top-floor fashion department).
As the single most inventive pioneer of definitive punk looks, Jordan soon joined Sex, however, becoming their totemic house model and honorary fifth member of the Sex Pistols, all too willing to flash her tits for the press at their ninth gig in Andrew Logan’s loft. In 1977 she briefly managed Adam & The Ants in their hardcore phase, but most notoriously starred in Derek Jarman’s dystopian fantasy movie, Jubilee, singing a raunchy version of Rule Britannia.
➢ Punk’s Dead by Simon Barker is an exhibition of his intimate punk photographs, open for a month from June 7, at Divus Temporary Gallery, 4 Wilkes Street, London E1 6QF.