DELIA SPARROW from MAMBO TAXI & THE NUNS – Song For Ewe

“SONG FOR EWE”
with DELIA SPARROW of
MAMBO TAXI THE NUNS

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“SONG FOR EWE” is the feature where artists beloved by VELVET SHEEP choose an obscure song they’ve been listening to that day.

Today’s guest is someone who contributed not only to the original incarnation of Velvet Sheep fanzine with a band interview but kindly wrote & illustrated fashion tips. She was a regular and friendly face on regular pilgrimages to the Rough Trade shop to sell VS Sale or Return (a mere 50p per copy). Her band Mambo Taxi, were full of feist and fire and emerged at the same time as other great local punk compadres Huggy Bear & Cornershop. After Mambo Taxi, she was in a plethora of punk bands with plenty to say including The Phantom Pregnancies (with Wat Tyler & Rough Trade’s Sean Forbes) and Baby Birkin, The Family Way and The A-Lines, not to mention collaborating with legendary The Raincoats.

Still to be seen at Rough Trade on occasion, now in its Brick Lane home, and also at the Lexington pub/venue where she has eyeline to my old Quietus magazine crones, she’s also in the brilliant all-female tribute to American GI proto punks The Monks – called, natch, The Nuns. Welcome back to the fold, Delia Sparrow! Yay!

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Delia’s self portrait in Velvet Sheep 13, circa 1994

I first got into Mambo Taxi, when I was kindly sent the “Poems On The Underground” 7″ by Clawfist to review. It was snarly and sassy, and I wanted in. I got in touch with the band via an address on the inlay I reckon (though the early 90s are hazy).

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Delia contributed to Velvet Sheep issue 13, from 1994, which also featured on the cover: 67 (where are they?), Swell, Man Or Astro Man? & Rocket From The Crypt. I was chuffed when via post (remember that?) Delia agreed to giving some fashion tips with the rest of Mambo Taxi.

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I thought it’d be fun to re-print a few of the originally hand written pearls of wisdom, which are still fun (and relevant):

Delia starts with a disclaimer:
(from 1994)
Delia: Please note that we tend to disagree with each other over what’s good and what’s not…Karin cries every time I cut a floor length dress to just below the bum and I all over backwards at the disgusting lengths she can let her dresses be (How can anyone BEAR all that flapping material?) Do you spell that sort of bare as bear or bate? I can’t remember – I’m getting old you know – 24 – I’ll be 25 next thing you know. Tell your readers to send us any unwanted 60s/70s/80s groovy weird cool clothes ‘cos we’re going on tour and badly need some new outfits!!!
DELIA’S dos:
Kinky afros, bouffants, 60s bobs, boys with short furry hair (furry like a cat)…
Silky, bright, glittery tops, big box of make-up, short bright skirts, loop earrings, go-go boots, T-bar shoes and Mary Jane shoes & nice handbag of course.
DELIA’S don’ts:
I hate layered perms like the crap one in Grange Hill, itchy jumpers with cute labels, long brown Indian print skirts, BORING shoes (sensible lace-ups with bumpy thick long-lasting soles and no redeeming features).

(after advice from Karin and some bullet points from Lenie, which I can reveal should they ever choose a “song for ewe”), Delia goes on to give more advice:

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More fashion tips from DELIA:
Ignore all the magazines you’ve ever seen (Just 17, Vogue, Elle, More, Cosmopolitan…) especially the pages with 6 stone 23 year old women who remind you disconcertingly of those news repeats about famines in Cambodia.

And also ignore the pages where they put anyone over 8 stone into floor-length grey sacks with vertical stripes and fluffy hair to hide chubby cheeks.

Also ignore the bits where they say you “can’t” wear certain clothes if you’re “too” tall, “too” short, “too” flat-chested (blah-blah-blah – bollox!). I want to see tall women in stilettos and towering bouffants, short skinny girls in flat shoes and “swamping” big bright patterns and fat girls in tight short dresses with their bums hanging out (but wear floor length hippy shit rubbish if you like).

You know these Wonderbra adverts where they try and persuade you that if you haven’t got two shiny pink boulders just beneath your chin you’re a complete sexual non-entity. Well that’s RUBBISH! My hot tip for summer is Wonderknickers that push and lift your buttocks into a pert bulge that pokes over your trousers/skirt and there’s infinitely more possibilities for interesting cleavage! Wear something different every day, the more inappropriate the better.

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I was chuffed then to have Delia be a part of VS, she was always very kind and a giving person. Rough Trade could be intimidating as a teen back in the day, and although they always let me sell the ‘zine there, there was something a bit aloof about diminutive Daryl and the guy with the increasingly receding hair that looked a bit like Paul Merton. (Turns out Daryl was cool and did do an interview for his Soul Static Sound label later on). On the other hand it was always a relief to see Delia, someone imbued with the DIY spirit, follower of fanzines, warm of smile.

I saw through one of my best pals Toby Amies that Delia had been playing in The Monks tribute act The Nuns…

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Toby had got me into The Monks originally (their tonsured hair appealed to my own devil’s peak) and what’s not to like about an all-female version. Less obvious than The Ramones. And any band with Delia in is going to be seriously fun, so through my mutual friends I got back in touch.

I was delighted that she did recall!
“I remember Velvet Sheep! Do believe I have one in a drawer somewhere underneath Mrs Haversham stage frock collection.”

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I know we’ve already heard from Delia but it’s time we did again, now back in the present, so without further ado…

IT’S OVER TO DELIA, 2016 EDITION:

“So I love the Everly Brothers anyway. They have so much…chiming, shrill guitars ringing out like Christmas bells. Glorious harmonies like you’re being called to voicey church by two of the best angels in the pantheon of splendid angels. And then another thing! They do ballads! Little stories! And not just ballads! Death ones! Planes crashing, people in jail, amazing. “Death Disco” compilations could probably survive on just Everly Brothers output.

Another of my favourite things is songs within songs. Or when they reference songs and then play a bit of it…Like the “Bertha Butt Boogie” when they play a bit of the boogie. Or that Pulp song about dancing in a field then a bit of the music you dance in a field to kicks in. Or even “Speedy Gonzales” when they talk about the plaintive cry and then the plaintive cry kicks in…

The song I’m thinking of is “Nancy’s Minuet”.

The amazing bit where the slightly out of tune-ness of the ‘minuet’ kicks in (slight dissonance being another pleasure centre in my musical being). Totally in tune…kind of…but kind of pulling in the wrong direction too…

this version of the song by the way…”

“…album version sounds weird…”

THANKS SO MUCH DELIA, IN 1994 AND 2016. KEEP IN TOUCH! AND PLEASE SAY HI TO THE QUIETUS POSSE.

 

Author: Nick Hutchings

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