The other day I was crate digging through some 45s when I was confronted with something I used to own, but had not thought about in many years, the You Can Be You EP record by Honey Bane that you see above these words. It was put out on Crass’s record label in 1979 when Bane—who’d already done a stint at the St. Charles Youth Treatment Centre in Essex—was a 15-year-old teenage runaway.
On You Can Be You‘s three tracks—the presumably autobiographical “Girl On The Run,” the menacing “Porno Grows” and “Boring Conversations”—she’s backed by members of Crass who are pseudonymously billed as Donna and the Kebabs. A year earlier she’d put out another record via the Crass Records imprint—well at least half of one, it was split with Poison Girls—with her punk group Fatal Microbes, who included Poison Girls leader Vi Subversa’s kids Pete Fender and Gem Stone. (Both later became members of dayglo punk group Rubella Ballet, another Crass-associated act.)
The Crass connection is where my knowledge of Honey Bane more or less began and ended. She was the sort of person famous more for being a “wild child” in the gossip columns of the British music weeklies like Melody Maker, Sounds, and the NME than for her actual music. Googling her today I see that the following year—after self-releasing an amazing single called “Guilty” on her own label (listen below)—Bane handed Sham 69’s Jimmy Pursey, who was then doing A&R work for Zonophone, a demo tape and he signed her and became her manager. This seems, at least in retrospect, odd, as her Zonophone labelmates would have included groups like Angelic Upstarts, the Cockney Rejects and other sorts of early Oi! skinhead bands who seem a bit of a stark contrast when compared to the UR anarcho-punks she’d previously been associated with.
Honey Bane’s “later” music—made when she still was not yet 21—wasn’t political, or punk, more sort of poppy “new wave,” all vapid and girly. She appeared on the picture sleeve covers with magenta-dyed teased-up hair, covered the Supremes’ “Baby Love” and even went on Top of the Pops performing a number called “Turn Me On Turn Me Off” looking like a teenaged Toyah Wilcox wannabe. That was probably the height of her fame. After that she acted a bit and posed for men’s magazines. In recent years, Honey Bane’s been making music again and has self-released a CD compilation of her earlier career which you can get at her website.
“Turn Me On Turn Me Off” on ‘Top of the Pops.’
The fantastic self-released 1980 single “Guilty.”
The even better b-side “Guilty (Dub)”
The ‘You Can Be You’ EP backed by members of Crass: “Girl On The Run,” “Porno Grows” and “Boring Conversations.”
Honey Bane fronts Killing Joke for one number live at the Venue in London, 1980. Quite a leap from this to the stuff she’d soon be recording with Jimmy Pursey.