Thursday, 10 August 2017
Oliver!: Sugar Shack - You're a Freak (21 March 1992)
Played by Peel on pressed purple vinyl, I'm dedicating this track by Houston band, Sugar Shack, to the woman I saw on the Tube in London on June 23 this year. It was not a Brief Encounter moment - illicit romance was the last thing on my mind considering I was coughing my lungs out with some kind of chest infection, a mere 24 hours before my wife and I were due to leave for Portugal on a long-delayed honeymoon. I would have preferred to be at home, packing, but had had to come into London for a job interview. Considering my interviewers were coming down from Leicestershire and Yorkshire, I felt I couldn't really ask for a reschedule of the interview - not least because they had brought it forward for me before I went away. The interview went OK, despite being conducted in the bar of a Travel Inn. I was there for nearly 2 hours though, so was glad to start my journey home. While taking the Tube back to Victoria, I was sat opposite a woman in her late teens/early 20s who stood out a mile amongst everyone. On a pleasant summer's day, she was rocking some kind of summer Goth look, with boots that looked like they had come from Milla Jovovich's wardrobe from Resident Evil. Her hair was dyed black, her lips were painted black, her eyes were almost submerged in black eye shadow, but what made her stand out were the tattoos. She didn't have the kind of flowing body tapestry of interconnected squiggles, stars and quotes, much beloved of footballers - Luke Chambers, the captain of my team, Ipswich Town has progressed his own transmogrification from arms to upper thighs over the summer, though there are worse offenders. Instead, this lady had tattoos dumped at random parts of her body, or at least where I could see them. On her arm, on her knee, on her chest - there was no consistency or pattern to it. Just random quotes, book titles and band names dotted about here and there with pieces of artwork cropping up in places where text would have been too cramped to fit in. Written across her face, though not in ink form, was a great sense of vulnerability. Despite the Goth/Punk look, she didn't look unapproachable, but rather more that if you approached her, she might crack and break apart in front of you. If the tats and boots were intended as an armour defence, she hadn't quite grown into it yet. I did what I always do when I see people celebrating their individuality/trying too hard (delete as applicable) and mentally speculated over what had led her into this extremity of look - rebellion against a repressive home life? A reaction to being bullied at school? Falling under another's influence and trying to copy it? - the possibilities were endless. What was apparent though was that this was her. Some old form of this woman had been jettisoned somewhere along the line and this was how she was going to represent herself for the foreseeable future. And why not? I may not have been able to stop looking towards her and constructing life stories in my imagination, but to her, she wouldn't be seen any other way on that Tube train. Her life so far has built to that look and if it's the right direction for her, then that is all that matters.
All of which cod-sociology leads me to wish that You're a Freak had been sound tracking the journey, not least because it might have brought a smile to her glum features. Built around a classic sludge-
rock riff incorporating the guitar equivalent of that comedy trumpet "wah-wah-wah-wah" effect on the title line, this is a song which is by turns slightly awed of those with the black lipstick on and the chalk white faces, while mocking those looking on at them. The chorus is a neat reversal of what the title implies - they don't know they're freaks not due to a lack of self-knowledge, but rather more appropriately because they don't give a damn. With its lines about freaks holding lattes* as they move obliviously through the streets, Sugar Shack are ahead of the curve when it comes to predicting hipsterdom but the sting in the tail comes through a false ending in which singer, Mark Lochridge, speaks the ultimate universal truth.
* Turns out I misheard Lochridge sing "light of day" as "latte" which takes away a little bit of the song's satirical bite, I feel.
Video courtesy of FEBear1
PS - I didn't get the job. Serve me right for imagining alternative life histories...