Ask Dave Deville: What was it like in the early days of London psychobilly?

by | 27 Sep, 2014 | Ask Dave Deville


When did you first hear about psychobilly?
That would probably be the Meteors in 1980 or so, but I don’t think it was even called psychobilly, it was called punkabilly. It wasn’t called psychobilly until a year or two later. I used to have a badge on my leather jacket that said “punkabilly”.

So where did you first see the Meteors play?
Feltham Football Club, can’t remember what year that was though, ’82?

What other bands were playing at that time?
A lot of it was “neo-rockabilly” bands, the Deltas, the Ricochets, the Guana Batz. There weren’t a lot of psychobilly bands around back then, it was all still pretty new. We were getting gigs around that time. We were called Nervous and we weren’t very good, it was my first ever proper band. The guy who played drums in that band [Spider] plays in one of my bands now, the Vulture Squadron. He was in the Meteors as well.

1980 Meteor Madness first album
What were some of the good London clubs to see psychobilly bands in the early 80’s?
This came later, but the Klubfoot. It only ran for a couple of years but that was the English home of psychobilly. The Rocksborough Hotel and the Headstone Hotel, in Harrow. All these places are long since gone. The Tunnel Club in Greenwich… it was mostly just regular pubs.

What was different about the newer bands in the early 1980’s London scene?
Probably a harder sound, I guess. You look back at it now and it doesn’t sound that hard but back then it was a lot harder than what was out there.
The Stray Cats really changed it for me. It was something different, big hair, tattoos, Gretsch guitars. Mind you I was still listening to David Bowie back then, glam rock, punk, even Northern Soul. The Stray Cats weren’t really 50’s rockabilly, there was some punk in there too.
My dad had all these old rock & roll records and it was just that really, a bit faster, a bit harder. Some of the bands would play covers and I’d think, I know this song, my dad has that record.

Were there ever fights between the punks and the greasers?
There were so many different groups back then, rude boys, skinheads, rockabillies, teds, the racist skinheads, everybody was fighting. We all did so many drugs and everybody drank so much it’s hard to remember what happened.
Everybody was always running. You’d go shopping at Carnaby Street and turn the corner and there’d be a gang of mods there. There’d be two of us and 50 of them so we just had to run. That’s we were were all so thin.
Sometimes the skinheads would jump in and fight with us. It wasn’t that the skinheads were our friends, they just hated the casuals more than they hated us. If we ran into them the next week they’d beat us up.
It sounds funny now, but back then it wasn’t fucking funny. Ever seen that film the Warriors where they’re trying to get somewhere and they keep running into other groups and getting into fights? It was like that.

How could you tell the groups apart?
There wasn’t really much difference, the psychobillies looked just like skinheads with a flattop.
My friend Darren still dresses like that now with the green flight jacket, DM’s, blue jeans rolled up. Back then you could only get white band t-shirts, you couldn’t get black ones like now. Well, you could get black t-shirts but they were rare. I think the printing was cheaper on white, so most old band t-shirts are white. We didn’t have much choice of clothes back then, no online shopping.

What were some underrated bands from that time?
Oh god… not mine. The trouble is there weren’t that many bands on the scene so whoever was playing, you’d go see them. It’s not like today when there are hundreds of psychobilly bands.

What’s changed the most from the early days til now?
The music’s diversified, but the look of the bands and the people going to the gigs is more uniform. Actually maybe that was same back then too, but the clothes are more expensive now. Instead of people turning up in £10 Levi’s they’re turning up in £100 Rumble 59’s.

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Dave Deville (Klingonz Klownz, The Optic Nerves) answers your burning questions about psychobilly life!

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