At one end of the female rock/pop star spectrum you have leather-trousered babes like Chrissie Hynde who look like they’d want hot, dirty sex on the back seat of a Mustang, and at the other end there are cute moppets like wee Clare Grogan who would probably want you to hold hands and have a strawberry milkshake with them. Her male equivalent was probably boyish Nick Heyward with his nice wooly jumpers and Lemon Fire Brigades, the two of them mainstreaming the cute Tufty Club approach to pop of Orange Juice and Postcard Records, putting out singles with collectible goodies like iron-on transfers and stickers and affecting an air of golly gosh innocence. It’s almost too perfect that she had a part in “Gregory’s Girl” which is the cinematic equivalent of twee pop. Back when Altered Images were enjoying their 15 minutes I was going out with a pretty, spiky-haired girl called Sarah who was also at the cute moppet end of the spectrum and, as it happens, her best friend was Eithne Farry who later joined pioneering twee popsters Talulah Gosh who got their name from Clare’s nickname for herself.
Of course I had a little bit of a crush on Clare too, she was such a doll and even cuter in real life. I once had the pleasure of standing next to her at the bar of the Hammersmith Palais. I’d gone there to see Altered Images supporting U2 (avant garde post-punkers This Heat were third on the bill – how’s that for a peculiar line up?) and was having a beer between acts when who should appear by me ordering a drink but the lovely lass herself. She was very, very small, but perfectly formed as they say. I didn’t speak to her but my mother worked at the BBC and got me her autograph when the band was there recording a Top of The Pops. In typical mother fashion she just had to tell Clare I fancied her which prompted this heart-fluttering message I have treasured ever since:
Though you wouldn’t know it from perky pop like “Happy Birthday” and “Pinky Blue” Altered Images started out like a junior school version of Siouxsie & The Banshees. Their 1981 debut single “Dead Pop Stars” was produced by the Banshees’ Steve Severin and is dark and spiky post-punk pop with Clare sounding like a deranged pixie. This could have been a big hit but had the misfortune to be released soon after John Lennon was shot which pretty much put the kibosh on it’s chart potential. The bubbly dance version “Disco Pop Stars” is from just one year later which shows how fast music was moving back then, from kiddie punk to bouncy dancepop in a matter of months. This appeared on the flip of the “I Could Be Happy” 12″ single and here Clare is in full-on munchkin mode, sounding as fizzy as a Sherbet Dab. This may test the tolerance of your sweet tooth.