The Bag I’m In and A Scene In Between explore the subcultures of the U.K. underground music and fashion scenes of 1960-1990.
Recently, I was gifted The Bag I’m In, the follow up to author Samuel Knee’s loving excavation of the underground (post), post-punk music scene, A Scene In Between.
While A Scene In Between focuses primarily on the 80’s sounds of bands like The Jesus And Mary Chain, the Pastels, or Spaceman 3. The Bag I’m In, serves as a compendium of the lost tribes of the UK underground subcultures from 1960-1990.
Both are brilliant explorations interweaving music and fashion in a pre-internet world.
I spoke to Sam about the book’s inspiration and about life in a post war, ‘Scene Between,’ England.
RX – What was your entry point into music and more specifically how the music scene was where you grew up?
Sam: I grew up in South End, that’s a sea side town about 30 miles east of London. It is not particularly multi-cultural; it’s a real old English working class town. I tell you what, it reminded me of Coney Island a bit. In the late 70’s, I started getting into the music and clothes. Largely by my sister who was into punk and post-punk. I was too young to go and see the bands, but she would go see all these bands like The Fall and Swell Maps, and then come home and tell me about it. When I first started getting into music of my own, it was that whole sort of mod revival thing based around the Jam. I sorta got into that, but I couldn’t maintain, I found it a little too tidy, a little too clean. In the early 80’s, I sort of discovered the indie scene. I discovered it in a strange way, sorta fell into it. I got really into the Cramps, the Birthday Party, Gun Club and the Scientists. So I fell into that, which almost predates that kinda Jesus and Mary Chain scene. But a lot of people who fell into that indie world came from that scene. But it wasn’t a purist indie scene, it was more of an amalgamation of – a bit of Goth thrown in, a little bit of 60’s style with these bits of fuzzy guitar. It was quite a tough scene to define.
Rx: Where did the inspiration for the books come from?
Sam: Really I was trying to focus (for A Scene In Between) on that pocket of time of Post, Post, Post Punk, Post Mod revival and pre- ‘E’ culture. Pre Acid House and pre Rave. So I was primarily looking at the U.K. guitar groups who also had a strong 60’s feel. The 60’s seemed to loom everywhere, the scene in between was like a subculture of the indie scene. When the Stone Roses / Sub Pop came along, it seemed to be whitewashed out of history. The only bands people seem to remember were the Smiths and the Jesus and Mary Chain and all of the rest seemed to be swept under the rug. The scene had a strong fashion feel to it, although people always said they were “anti-fashion,” that is still a fashion. I mean you’re not going into a shop and coming out looking like everyone else on the street. There was a big charity shop (thrift store) thing going on. Part of it was economical and there were a lot of 60’s clothes that were largely unwanted outside of our circle, so we had free run of all that stuff. So the scene in between was just that people that were too young for punk and pre-date that whole sorta ‘E’ / rave thing taking over.
Rx: What made you want to do the second book?
Sam: I really enjoyed doing A Scene In Between, it was something I had to get off my chest. Then I thought, “Well, these scenes – they’re fascinating.” How they burn out and the rise and fall of them and how they blur into other scenes. So I thought it might be interesting to have a style bible of lots of underground scenes through the years. So I started putting it together. Then I wanted the illustrations in the appendix to give a textbook feel that might hold up over time. So we called it, The Bag I’m In, which means nothing and it also means; the bag you’re in. Plus the song from the Fabs from the Back From The Grave compilation.
Rx: Lastly, out of all these “looks” or subcultures in The Bag I’m In, which is your favorite or the one you most identify with?
Sam: Yeah, well for me, I like the early 60’s art student look. Sort of scruffy mod or English beatnik look. You can pull that off when you are a bit older. (Both laugh)
Rx: Maybe I should look into that, ha ha ha.
Sam: Wait till you are nearly 50 and then go a little art school boho, ha ha ha.
The Bag I’m In and A Scene In Between are both published by Circada books.
In Los Angeles both of these books are available at Stories Books, 1716 Sunset Blvd.
Worldwide at www.amazon.com
Here is a video of the garage song that inspired the second book: