Ahead of their sold out show this week at The Hug and Pint in Glasgow, our guest blogger, Duglas T Stewart, reflects on 30 years of the BMX Bandits. It’s a lovely piece…welcome to his world…
BMX Bandits formed in the Summer of 1985 and released our first single E102 /Sad in 1986. It seems so long ago but it also seems like it only just happened, like it’s close enough that if I closed my eyes and reached out I could touch it.
Glasgow was a very different city back then. Most of the buildings were black, the city hadn’t had its facelift yet. It could feel quite oppressive. I reckon being in a group that was “alternative” meant something different back then. It meant there would be people out there who would find what you did objectionable, some of them would sneer, others would shout abuse and there were others who would have liked the opportunity to hurt you physically in some way. I remember being snuck out the back door of a few venues to protect us from angry audience members and I remember half a dozen or so shop windows in Motherwell being smashed after a BMX Bandits show, possibly because some people were so outraged and there was something about us that troubled them.
There were beginning to be club nights set up by and for people with tastes that were not the norm. Splash! One was one of the first, a place where we felt like we belonged. It was a time when going to gigs had a sense of danger attached to it and there was often a feeling that anything could happen at a show. It was exciting and made what we and other friends’ groups were trying to do feel vital.
Although I was 20 when I started the group I was still a troubled teenager. Being in the group and being part of an emerging community of like minded groups kicking against the norm gave me a sense of belonging and purpose. Now I’m fifty and you know what, I’m still a troubled teenager. My parents aren’t around to worry about me and watch over me anymore but my friends and bandmates do that. The group still gives me a sense of belonging and purpose. It’s like my family. BMX Bandits really are more like an extended family than a regular band.
It’s said that often artists are dissatisfied with the world they find themselves inhabiting and so they set about creating their own world, a better world. In my world, the world of BMX Bandits, love is pure and sacred and beautiful. Even when love hurts so much that you feel like you want to die there still is beauty in it. It’s like in fairytales, if Belle would only realise that she really does love the Beast things would be alright and if if the princess would just kiss the frog with true love’s kiss everything would be as it should be. It might never happen, but I’m never going to settle for a normal life or compromise on love or music, and so I’ll just try to keep holding onto my dreams and singing my songs.
I’m very lucky that I have had so many good and talented friends who have wanted to be part of my world, have selflessly helped me create it and seem to believe in it too. My friends’ talents as musicians, co-writers and singers have made it possible for me to share BMX Bandits’ world with other people. They’ve made my dreams and the songs in my head real.
Because there have been so many people in the group over the years some people looking from outside might wrongly assume it means these people are interchangeable but they’d be way wrong. They’ve all brought their own special magic to what BMX Bandits is. The newest member of the BMX Bandits family, Chloe Philip, is a perfect example this. Chloe brings something very individual to the group with her presence, her voice, her physicality and her unique undefinable Chloe-ness. It couldn’t be anybody else. The songs I’m now writing for the group with Chloe in it couldn’t have been written for previous incarnations of BMX Bandits.
Why am I still doing BMX Bandits 30 years on? BMX Bandits aren’t just about the past, we’re also about now and about what might happen next to us, what sadnesses and joys await us. I’m still looking for love and music to heal me and wanting to heal the world with music and my love. It seems the world is still resistant to the idea. But I’m stubborn, still not giving in, not yet. Maybe the beautiful and pure love I am searching for will never be mine in the real world, maybe it will remain elusive to me but it lives forever in our songs. It will always be there in the words and the music, in the voices and in the sounds. Welcome to my world.
Duglas T Stewart October 2015
BMX Bandits’ Glasgow date is sold out.
They play Clark’s in Dundee on October 29th
100 Club London January 30th 2016