Pretty in the Past: Gaye Advert from The Adverts

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Phoebe
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I feel slightly ambivalent about making Gaye Advert the subject of this week’s ‘Pretty in the Past’ as she spent her career trying to make people focus on her music rather than her hotness. But I can’t help it – she is mega hot!

Like a perfect three-minute punk record, The Adverts formed in 1976 and broke up in 1979. They were one of the first English punk bands to enjoy chart success with hits like Gary Gilmore’s Eyes. Bassist Gaye has been called the ‘first female punk star’ and with her distinctive style – panda eyes, ever-present leather jacket, shaggy black hair – she was a pin-up for teenage boys and girls across the land.

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Gaye Advert from The Adverts

She got thoroughly fed up with being described as the eye candy of the band and her bandmates were equally unimpressed at being sidelined – this was said to be one of the reasons they broke up. So yes, I feel bad about drawing attention to her style yet again. However, I think I can defend myself (bear with me…)

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Performing Gary Gilmore's Eyes on Top of the Pops

Many female artists put a lot of thought into the way they look when performing; Kate Bush, Siouxie Sioux and Stevie Nicks definitely did, while Lady Gaga, Madonna, Florence Welch, Natasha Khan and Paloma Faith all do today. There’s nothing wrong with that – it’s just another way for them to express themselves alongside their music. And the same goes for male artists – think of Mick Jagger strutting around in leggings, David Bowie in, well, anything, the spandex-clad chaps of LA’s hair metal scene (“dude looks like a lady” indeed…) and Jack White in his monochrome ensembles (and very tight jeans.)

Gaye Advert had a iconic look that’s been much imitated over the years, but she was also a girl playing bass in a punk band and that’s been even more influential, inspiring young women to pick up their instruments and make a noise. I think that one doesn’t negate the other and that it’s ok for me to admire Gaye’s style because I love her music too. Yes she looked super cool, but her real legacy is so much more than that - her steely, silent presence in The Adverts, playing the hell out of that bass, influenced the generations of women in rock who followed her.

Do you think you can celebrate someone's hotness without objectifying them or reducing them to mere 'eye candy'? And if so, who should be my next subject?!