Bondage . . . Beki Bondage

The true story of a Vice Squad sexpot

Rebecca Bond sounded like such a sweet girl. She loved animals. She was a big fan of Top of the Pops. She had a soft spot for Vivaldi. She was just the kind of girl you might want to bring home to Mom. But when she became the singer for spikes-spit-and-leather punk band Vice Squad, Rebecca Bond melted away. Now the name is Bondage—Beki Bondage. And you'd only bring her home to Mom if your mom had been very, very bad.

If you were a bespotted, piss-drunk, mean and horny punk rocker in Britain around the turn of the '80s—and God help you if you were—you probably have fond, sweaty memories of Ms. Bondage, who graced magazine covers with her sultry-surly pout so frequently that she was something of a Marilyn Monroe for the mohawked set. And if you were a bespotted, piss-drunk, mean and horny punk rocker in Britain who got lucky (or the American equivalent, for one lonely U.S. tour), you have even fonder, sweatier memories of her in front of Vice Squad, live and in person, at one of their not-so-frequent shows. (A particularly rowdy following helped render their gigs few and far between.)

We don't need to tell you old-timers anything else—you'll be there with your wrinkled copies of Punk Lives! #1 and a Sharpie, waiting for Beki to enter the building. But if you were still in diapers up to and including 1983, you probably have no idea who we're talking about. (That, or you were so punk rock you blew out your sphincter—in which case, we salute you!) So we'll tell you the story of the towheaded little girl from Bristol who wanted to be a veterinarian but got sidetracked along the way.

Those were different times, you know. It was 1979, and if punk wasn't dead, Sid Vicious certainly was (and his cremated remains accidentally spattered all over Heathrow Airport, to spend eternity in some damp vacuum bag). The Vice Squad-to-be kids (guitarist Dave Bateman, bassist Mark Hambly and drummer Shane Baldwin) were trying to figure out how exactly you claim your place alongside the three-chord revolutionaries when you don't even know one. It took a few garage-rattling practices, but short stints in piss-off!-style local bands like the Contingent and TV Brakes eventually coalesced into a messy approximation of music, lacking only a magnetic front person to really make the magic happen. And we know how that ended up: she was lean, she was mean, and she was all of 15. And her name was Beki Bondage.

With Beki out front, drooping mohawks perked up again. Their first show was an accident, but they still got a single out of it. And that single ("Last Rockers," one of their big hits, about life after the bombs fall) sold tens of thousands of copies, and that got the attention of EMI, the label that pissed all over its credibility when it dropped the Sex Pistols and didn't wanna miss out twice. They recorded the No Cause for Concern LP in three days—and it sounds like it, too. Critics today laud it as "barely listenable"—and there you go. The obligatory crash and burn came in '83, and the obligatory Beki-needs-money-for-a-tour-van reunion followed in '97. She made three new albums with a rookie Vice Squad, patched things up with EMI, and left "barely listenable" far behind.

Not that the early stuff is that irritating. Beki's gutter-opera voice and teenage lyrics (some of which were ancient holdovers from when she was 13!) had a certain starkly adolescent self-consciousness that's refreshing after a lot of fudgy subtlety, and she was pushing some feminist and animal-rights rhetoric pretty early on. But the new Vice Squad glides much closer to power pop than No Cause's droning anti-melody (if anything, it's "Stand Strong, Stand Proud" gone sugar), and Beki's got just the voice for it.

She's still a sweetheart under the 20 years of rock & roll—when Vice Squad came through last year, they gave a friend of mine tons of free beer as a thank-you for letting them borrow his amp. And yes, you graying wankjobbers, at least in the liner notes of Bang to Rights (the something-old-something-new Vice Squad CD just out on EMI), she's as sparkling as she was when you voted her punk rock's No. 1 sex symbol back in the Thatcher Age, setting Darby and Sid spinning furiously in their graves. There's a new, softer side to Vice Squad, but our sources report they still spin through the classics, too, so get that mohawk up for the occasion. And leave the diaper at home.

Vice Squad perform with the Skulls at Hogue Barmichael's, 3950 Campus Dr., Newport Beach, (949) 261-6270. Fri., 9 p.m. Call for cover. 21+.
 
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