First time we saw La Femme - Stef Egan

Prior to the punk/new wave scene hitting Melbourne in 1978, I had only heard of Chane Bowie during my Sharpie days in the city by legend. Perhaps the best memory was mid 1977 when a few of the guys were winding up Carps when he arrived at Flinders St Station one Saturday afternoon.

Chane Bowie A.N.A. Sharps 1975

Informing him that Chane Bowie and his boys are in town looking for him, Carps strutted pass us one by one with outreached hand saying “10 cents”, “10 cents” …..as in to make a phone call for more backup. When we burst out laughing, he realised we were having him on and called us all “shitmen” a term he made up  about wannabe sharpies.

Carps 1977

 

The first punk gig I ever went to was with Little Dave and Bash around late 1978 after picking up a flyer titled “Lower Yourself”. This was held at a small warehouse somewhere near the city and was the first time we saw The Models who were playing with support act Eric Gladman Man and Machine. The vibe on the night was electric and was the starting point with our music interest turning to the Melbourne new wave/punk scene.

A year earlier, I always remember Jacko, who was one of the first I know to get into punk, rocking up to the lockers at Flinders St Station to leave another album for the night that he bought from the import record shop in Collins St Gaslight Records. Many were the latest punk albums from the UK or USA such as Sham 69, New York Dolls, Buzzcocks, Generation X, Ramones, MC5, X-Ray-Spex and The Damned.

Jacko

Not long after the “Lower Yourself” gig, Eric told us about a new local punk band called “La Femme” playing in Murrumbeena Rd at a Scout Hall. He said they were all ex-Sharps and the lead singer was the legendary Chane Bowie I had heard so much about, but was now known as Chane Chane and he formed the band with his mates Brett, Graham and Peter.

Stef and Eric

Eric, Gerald, Little Dave and myself rolled up and although the crowd was small as expected with a band just starting out, it wouldn’t be long before they were packing the new punk live venues popping up around Melbourne. La Femme came at the right time with this new genre of music of the late 70’s and early 80’s and were one of our favourite live bands of the time. I also remember as we hailed a taxi after seeing La Femme at Murrumbeena, Eric said "do you know the way to Sydney?" After the taxi driver excitedly saying "I'll have to go pass home to pick up some things", Eric said "that's good, take us to Moorabbin"

Little Dave and Gerald

 

Pete             Brett            Chane Chane           Graham

 Countdown
 
2012 LaFemme Re-union Rehearsal

Disclaimer: I am a defiant, rabid LaFemme fan, wannabe band mole and this is biased (but honest) - Julie Mac October 2012

I need to write about Thursday's rehearsal, and it is not often I am stuck for words, but I am. Now I do know not everything is about me, even though I manage to make it so, but it was an emotional experience. Not teary, fluffy emotions, but a reminder. A strong memory. I tried to conjure up the smell of cigarette smoke, sweat, Tabu perfume, sour beer and it was like coming home. I had butterflies, I was a tiny bit star struck, I felt like my eardrum ruptured, but I didn't care. I closed my eyes and it was like I only heard them play last week. I remembered giggling with the girls over which band member we liked, and how Caryn used to stand in front of the stage and shout, ‘play Brett’s song’ in her special drunk gravelly voice, as she sneered at any other female that tried to get into ground zero. And how we spent hours planning our outfits and working out how much we had to spend on Orlando’s Sparkling Star Wine.

There was a lot of secret, musician talk that I didn't understand, like the bridge, and the power chord, and then Brett challenging/questioning Chane if he really knew what a crescendo was, but the music was loud, hard and raw, just how it should be. Played by strong men that have survived living the sex, drugs and rock’n’roll lifestyle for decades, and have the inner and outer scars to prove it.

The banter between the guys was the sort that only best friends can get away with, even if you haven't seen each other for thirty years and I remarked that the room wasn't big enough for both Brett and Chane, and I am sure Pete and Graham secretly agreed with me.

After two orgasmic hours, I knew the rehearsal was over - even though one particular song hadn’t yet been played, (don’t want to spoil the set list surprise) when Pete grabbed his drumsticks and said ‘Fuck it, I have had enough’.

While the guys packed up, I sat with Pete, and I could see the pain he was experiencing, as he hasn’t played the drums for 28 years. His muscles were cramping and his limbs stiffening. I thanked him (and then the other guys) for putting the band back together for the coming Banana’s gig. I explained, as best I could, how much it meant to me. When LaFemme were at their peak, we were emerging adults and we planned our social life around them, it kept us connected. We felt young and powerful and it was my last happy period of freedom, before responsibility, before I got old and forgot who I was.

Julie Mac 1980 before the Ramones/LaFemme concert at LaTrobe Uni

LaFemme Rehearsal Postscript

I didn’t get invited to the rehearsal because I am ‘special’ (in the American Pie sense), I kinda weazled my way in.

I thought I was going to be in NZ the weekend of the Bananas’ gig, and I started fretting, so I messaged Chane (my inner teenager squeals at the fact I have his phone number) and begged/pleaded/grovelled to be allowed to sneak into rehearsal and I made some vague promise, I was never going to keep, about bringing pizza.

Chane suggested I do an interview and I thought ‘Yessss!’ and then had these rock and roll fantasies about being someone cool, like Maryanne Faithful, or Gerlinda Chane, but at the same time suffering from ‘I am not worthy’ imposter syndrome.

                                                                                 

Gerlinda

                                                                                                   Julie Mac & Gerlinda 2010

The first time I saw Chane after 30ish years at a Sharpie re-union at Young and Jacksons in 2009, I snatched him away from Sam Biondo and said, ‘Chane come with me’, and dragged him over to where my friends Linda Fletcher and Caryn Lynch were standing and bragged ‘Loooook, I’ve got Chane Chane and I am going to root him first’. The girls ignored me as best they could, and to shut me up Caz said ‘I didn’t like Chane, I loved Brett!’ Well fine by me. Later I staked my claim by dry humping his leg in front of Caryn and Linda.


                                                      

Caryn                      Julie Mac                    Chane                        Linda

 

Sam Biondo and Chane Chane 2009


There are different kinds of fans, there are the ones like Peter Heywood, who can tell you every David Bowie statistic, then there are the ones like eminem’s murder/suicide ‘Stan’, and then, there are the ones like me, who no nothing else other than the fact that I lurve, lurve, lurve them, that I know nearly all the words to their songs and I don’t know why. I think it is some kind of punk psychosis, that hasn’t been medically diagnosed yet.

So all these years later, a dream has come true, and I am thinking to myself (smugly/gratefully) ‘I’m with the band’, as I stand out the front, watching Graham get his bass guitar out of the truck, (which I think is some sort of space shuttle class of bass, that I am too stupid to identify, but would make others in the know ooohh and ahhh) and Brett give ‘eye of the tiger’ warm up exercises to Pete, while rolling his eyes at CC, (as he calls him) for forgetting the code to the studio.

Chane returned to his inner city punk rock star pad (I had a guided tour earlier) for the code and I stayed behind, I didn’t mind, I got to be a wannabe for a bit longer.

 

juliemac@melbournesharps.com.au