The original rude girl shows no sign of mellowing as she turns sixty

Tim Lezard Europe, UK, UK unions, Racism
The Selecter on stage at Gloucester Guildhall, February 2015 © Tim Lezard

The Selecter on stage at Gloucester Guildhall, February 2015 © Tim Lezard

Age has done nothing to mellow Pauline Black’s sense of injustice.

Now in her sixties, The Selecter singer and original Rude Girl is as feisty as ever she was, touring the UK to bring a message of hope and unity to the masses.

And she believes trade unions have a role to play in achieving her goal.

Speaking backstage at Gloucester Guildhall on the first night of the band’s 23-date tour to promote new album Subculture, she said: I think it’s important for everybody – everybody – to join a trade union, particularly these days when we have so few rights at work because of zero hours contracts and the like, just so someone can make a profit.

“If you join a union, at least you have some fall-back.”

Unions, of course, also take equality seriously, something very close to Pauline’s heart. The Selecter was formed in Coventry in 1979, just as Margaret Thatcher came to power.

“We didn’t set out to be a political band,” she says. “We just looked at what was going on in life. We were six black people and one white person. If you were black and you were young and you were living in this country, in the late 70s there were sus laws on the streets and you could get picked up any time by the cops. It was unfavourable.

“There were no jobs for young people. If someone wanted to call you the ‘N’ word on the street, that was fine. They could do that.

“We could have written songs about unrequited love, but I don’t find anything else to write about other than what goes on around me, or what I see going on around me. My songs are written through a black prism.”

Selecter tour poster

The Selecter’s debut album Too Much Pressure reached no 5 in the UK charts, helped by the success of singles On My Radio and Three Minute Hero, but the band split up not long after their second LP in 1981.

Pauline went on to forge a new career as an actor and TV presenter until the band reformed in 1991. After stops and starts, they reformed again in 2011 and have this year released a new album, Subculture.

“2-Tone is a subculture,” explains Pauline, “and not only that, but it is an umbrella under which a whole load of subcultures came together, united around an idea, which was an anti-racist, anti-sexist idea.

“Sad to say racism and sexism are still just as prevalent today as they were 30 years ago. Maybe in a different form, but when you see Chelsea people on a train, in a foreign country, managing to push off someone who’s black because they’re black. That was very much the backdrop to 1972.

“There were plenty of times when we got exactly those kind of people, dressed the same, actually, at Hatfield Polytechnic, Hammersmith Palais, sieg-heiling at the stage.”

But she says she won’t be preaching from the stage. “I’m here to give our side of the story,” she says. “If you concur with that, that’s great. If you don’t, then fuck off!”

* You can catch The Selecter on tour here


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License.
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Tim Lezard

Campaigning journalist, editor of @Union_NewsUK, NUJ exec member; lover of cricket, football, cycling, theatre and dodgy punk bands

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