priscilla layne

The Rude Girl Playlist

One of the things I particularly love about our new graphic novel Rude Girl is all the music in it. Music? In a comic? Yeah, baby! Birgit Weyhe tells the story of Priscilla Layne, in conjunction with Layne herself – and since music is such a major part of her life, we get a peek at the records the fictionalised character Crystal listened to at different stages. Each section starts with one or two record covers, stacking up throughout the book to make up an impressive collection.

If you want to follow that development at home, we made a neat Spotify playlist featuring one track from each album. But here come some visuals to go with it…

We start with early childhood listening, music all around Crystal in her Jamaican/Bajan family in Chicago. Try Wendy Alleyne’s Never Make a Fool of a Woman, Bob Marley & the Wailers’ Soul Shakedown Party (a personal favourite of mine) or ABC by the Jackson 5.

Then Crystal starts to choose her own records as a girl… We’ve picked Why Can’t I Be You by the Cure, the very stirring Raiders March from John Williams’s Indiana Jones score, and for The Clash it had to be Rock the Casbah.

As she gets older at the height of the VHS era, Crystal takes comfort from more soundtracks. Composer John Williams is writ large, with Setting the Trap from Home Alone, and Theme from Jurrasic Park.

It’s the 90s, so there has to be grunge… Nirvana’s classic Come As You Are, Disarm from the Smashing Pumpkins (not pictured), and Say It Ain’t So by Weezer.

Next up is big fat punk and ska love, as Crystal discovers subculture. New Girl by Suicide Machines, the brilliantly named Keep Britain Untidy by Peter and the Test Tube Babies, and a dash of Laurel Aitken with Sally Brown.

As life goes on, Crystal’s taste broadens and she finds herself listening to… Yikes, Belle and Sebastian! A calm track to finish off, Funny Little Frog.

There’s more to discover on the playlist – and of course in the book itself!

Fantasy Book Picks for This Town

You know when you love a TV show so much that you want to recommend books for all the characters to read? You do, right, it’s not just me?

That’s what happened with BBC’s brand new drama series This Town, set in the West Midlands in 1981 as riots rage and a band forms, inspired by the 2Tone spirit and the Thatcherite shite going on around them. A bunch of youngsters and their families are embroiled in the politics of the day, largely Northern Ireland-related. And the soundtrack is a treat. Some singing along occurred.

So here come the V&Q book picks for almost all the main characters in This Town, with the exception of the ones I really disliked. I assume they don’t read books.

For songwriter and angsty teen Dante, it’s got to be a bit of metaphysical poetry, right? The Poems of John Donne, preferably a dog-eared second-hand copy with many pencil underlinings.

His cousin Bardon, top singer and guitarist, is such a big reggae lover that we’ve got him Marlon James’s excellent novel A Brief History of Seven Killings, re-imagining the attempted killing of Bob Marley. In paperback, stuffed into the pocket of his leather jacket.

Bardon’s mum Estella needs a good cry, and an empowering tale featuring a blues singer who steps up to a maternal role. What better than Alice Walker’s classic The Color Purple?

Fiona learns to play the bass just to join the band, and don’t you just love her for it? This one was easy: Viv Albertine’s punk-rock/parenting memoir Clothes Clothes Clothes Music Music Music Boys Boys Boys, about those three things and life as a woman in general.

Dante’s brother Virgil is rightly angry with the family’s situation. I reckon a bit of Audre Lorde would be right up his street, confronting injustices and changing the world in poetry and prose. Your Silence Will Not Protect You might even be a motto for his own life, who knows?

The brothers’ dad Deuce made me all melty inside. This is a man who knows how to love, but maybe bell hooks could still teach him a thing or two. And I think he’d appreciate the Christian sides to all about love as well.

Drummer Matty would want a first-edition copy of William Burroughs’ The Naked Lunch, purchased from an antiquarian bookseller in Moseley. Sharp-edged, loud and experimental – beat, baby, beat!

Ah, and now to Jeannie, our lovable skinhead girl, music writer and keyboardist. Who would of course absolutely love Birgit Weyhe’s graphic novel Rude Girl, translated by Priscilla Layne. Get your copy here from 29 April.

Announcing… Birgit Weyhe’s New Graphic Novel RUDE GIRL

You know when a character in a comic wears a band T-shirt and you know the musicians personally? Maybe not – I guess it doesn’t come up all that often. But that’s what happened to me when I first read RUDE GIRL, Birgit Weyhe’s graphic novel telling Priscilla Layne’s story. There it is, on page 264 – a Mother’s Pride T-shirt. The first thing I did was take a photo and send it to the former singer, who went out and bought a couple of copies of the German original. The second was to think: Would people want to read this in English?

Back to the comic itself: the author and artist Birgit Weyhe likes telling people’s stories in her work. She’s often drawn to outsiders, or people who have moved between continents like herself, after a childhood in Germany, Uganda and Kenya (as detailed at the beginning of MADGERMANES). Over the years, a number of her fictionalised characters have been Black. But when US academics accused her of appropriating those stories, she was offended.

Then along came the Black German studies professor Priscilla Layne, visiting from the States. What if Weyhe tried to tell her story – but in closer collaboration than usual? The upshot is RUDE GIRL, a graphic novel about growing up feeling different, and finding – at least for a time – a like-minded community through music.

We get Birgit Weyhe’s take on what Priscilla Layne described to her, followed by sections where Layne gives her feedback; perhaps on the choice of colours, perhaps adding more detail or defending a character. In the process, Weyhe takes on her comments and changes things. It’s a fascinating insight into the writing and drawing of a graphic novel. And Layne’s life makes a very interesting subject.

A childhood in Chicago with a single mother from Barbados, a fairly absent Jamaican father, challenges fitting in at school and trouble in the extended family. First discovering German through Indiana Jones, and later discovering ska, reggae and punk. Pursuing an academic career originally inspired by Kafka while battling imposter syndrome – and achieving a whole lot in life. And who better to translate the book of that life than Priscilla Layne herself?

In the meantime, having commissioned and edited that translation, I’ve met Priscilla in person. Our years on the Berlin ska scene didn’t quite overlap, sadly; but our encounter was still warm and friendly, since I felt like I knew her already. It takes guts to tell a story like this, and both Weyhe and Layne have guts aplenty. For music fans, there are album covers, haircuts, outfits, hangovers, and Birgit Weyhe manages to capture the thrill of dancing in an ecstatic crowd in a single image. For everyone else, there’s a fascinating life told in pictures, a tale of how a sense of community buoys us up and gives us joy and confidence.

RUDE GIRL is published on 29 April, but you can pre-order now.