I wasn’t a cool teenager. I took my A-levels at one of those intensely conservative UK ‘grammar schools’, a place where late teens are forced to wear a suited uniform that prepares them for their anticipated future as the nation’s politicians, insurance salesman and – heaven forbid – bankers. We lived in a fiercely white, ferociously middle-class corner of rural Wiltshire, where – in the late ’90s – punk was still making its way down the tracks from ’70s London, and urban music was a concept so foreign that ‘Crazy Town’ actually seemed fresh. Like most teenagers, we had our own limited form of rebellion.
Cruising the backstreets in my friend’s ancient, lowered, alloy-wheeled Fiat Uno when we should have been in Chemistry class was about the height of things. Our livelier evenings were made up of underage drinking in the cemetery outside the local arts centre, if we could obtain the alcohol. Local musicians of limited talent combined the trumpets they played in the school band with a few chords on guitar, and quick as a flash, an entire generation of rural gig-goers became huge ska punk fans. In that shiny-rimmed, decrepit old Fiat we listened to only three bands. Rancid were the angry, political, edgy punk monsters who we dreamed of seeing smash their guitars across the art centre’s stony floor. An obscure American ska band called The Gadjits fell at the other extreme, fixated with nothing more than bouncing like idiots, singing about juvenile delinquency and bouncing like idiots some more, only whilst on top of various different women. Less Than Jake – a sizable group of Florida based musical miscreants – fell nicely in the middle. They summed up the feeling that there should somehow be more to life than middle class rural boredom with tracks like ‘Is This Thing On?’, and caught onto the teenage tendency towards misbehavior in tracks like ‘Sugar In Your Gas Tank’. They were, in short, our idols.