The Paris Review

A Mosh Pit of One’s Own

Fea. Photo courtesy of Blackheart.

“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

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from The Paris Review

The Paris Review6 min read
On the Eve of My Eternal Marking
Photo courtesy of the author. My son wants to know why flies are even a thing; he wants to know why bugs are even a thing. They bother him. I get it. I, too, have his sensitivities. On the other side of the world, where our real lives reside, Chicago
The Paris Review3 min read
Redux: A Creator of Inwardness
Every week, the editors of The Paris Review lift the paywall on a selection of interviews, stories, poems, and more from the magazine’s archive. You can have these unlocked pieces delivered straight to your inbox every Sunday by signing up for the Re
The Paris Review13 min read
Trash Talk: On Translating Garbage
When we speak of translation in these end-of-days, it is often in the loftiest of tones, as though it were a sacred duty undertaken by devoted adepts prostrating themselves before the altar of language. The self is renounced, the greed for authorship