Suzie Tremors and the Barbarians of Speed

Chapter One

Ken Preston

8 February 2024

An illustraation of an angry punk woman screaming into a microphone.

If you weren’t there, you’ve got no idea. I can talk about it all you want, but there’s no way you can ever appreciate the madness, the messed up, drug-fuelled insanity of it all.

I can barely remember most of it. That’s what they said about the sixties, right? If you can remember it you weren’t there. And I was there, all right. I was right in the centre of it all, not like the centre of a hurricane, you know? The eye of the storm, it’s meant to be real calm in there, so I’ve heard.

But I’ve never been in the centre of a hurricane, so I don’t know about that. But in the centre of Suzie’s world, it was intense, it was insane, it was…

Shit, like I said, no matter how much I tell you how you’re never going to appreciate it, not fully, you want the stories, right? That’s what you’re here for.

That’s what we’re all here for.

Let’s start with Suzie then. You know what she looked like; this mean little girl with a permanent scowl on her face, she wasn’t pretty by any stretch of the imagination, right? And she knew that, she knew if she was going to make it in any way, she had to go full on mental, take on the system, tear the bastards down.

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She started as a punk, all ripped tights, tatty black leather jacket over a blood-stained tee, tangled hair that hadn’t seen a brush or shampoo in God knows how long. She was a, what do you call it? A stereotype, that’s all she was, a cliche.

I saw her for the first time back then, strutting up and down a tiny stage in a shitty little basement bar in Soho. Screaming into her mic, gouging at her face with those ragged fingernails of hers, spitting at her audience.

Even back then, cliche that she was, she was something else.

The crowd hated her. Screamed abuse in her face, lobbed broken bottles at her, they spat at her, and sometimes the men, they would jump on stage and attack her.

There was this performance artist, New York I think, who set up a table on the sidewalk and piled lipstick, paint, clothing, marker pens, knives, all sorts of crap on it, including a gun with a pile of bullets next to it. And she propped this cardboard sign up, and the sign invited everyone to mess with her, you know, using any of the items on the table. She just stood there, like a statue, and people painted her face, or dressed her up, touched up her lips with the lipstick. Innocent, fun activities, using her like a child’s doll.

Later that day, not too much later, it got ugly. The cops broke it up when a guy had the gun, the bullets loaded in the chamber, stuck in her face.

Suzie was like that, a blank canvas that anyone who met her or saw her perform, felt they could project themselves onto her. And if they happened to be nasty and ugly, then that’s what it was.

But Suzie didn’t see herself as that blank canvas. She wasn’t that performance artist, inviting people in. She fought and kicked and screamed and spat and cursed and clawed and punched at anyone who tried to box her in, to reinterpret her in their own image of what she should be.

Suzie was backed by a three-piece band. You remember, right? Ratzo the drummer. Got through drum kits at a terrifying speed. Had an inverse Mohican, greasy hair hanging down his neck, a broad strip shaved front to back in the centre of his scalp. Sickboy played bass guitar. You’ve never seen anyone so skinny outside of Belsen. And finally there was Nazgul, pumped up body covered in tattoos and piercings, he liked to pour enough alcohol down him he should have died and stuff himself full of doughnuts and then on stage, if someone got too close, he would vomit it all up over them.

But they weren’t a band. They were Suzie’s backing musicians. Suzie was her own thing, and she wasn’t sharing top billing with anyone.

Until she met Ng, and the Barbarians of Speed were born.