The Revenge Of The Jasmine Minks (Rev-Ola)
Former Television Personality Joe Foster has been
responsible for unearthing some wondrous treasures on the Rev-Ola label,
most of them from that golden age where Pure Pop met Underground Culture
that was the end of the 1960s. Thankfully too he’s keen to keep alive the flame that burnt brightly when the same interface clashed at the start of the 1980’s.
So now, alongside the issue of a collection that showed off the magical Pop Art
Attack of Biff Bang Pow!, there’s a long-overdue retrospective of fellow early
Creation labelmates The Jasmine Minks.
The Television Personalities once boasted that they could have been bigger than The Beatles. It might have been a tongue in cheek claim that was more a doffed cap of reverence than anything else, but to some they not only could have been, but should have been. Saying that the Jasmine Minks could have been bigger than Wham! is far from being a referential nod of appreciation, but it’s peculiarly true. When pop svengali Simon Napier-Bell was searching for a new group with whom to storm The Charts at the start of the ‘80s, he had the Minks on his list of contenders. On seeing them play at the legendary Living Room, however, he deemed them ‘too serious’ and a week later signed George Michael and that other one, and thus another drab chapter of Pop history was written. How different it could have been.
Jasmine Minks then belong to that parallel universe in which Paul Morley once so famously wrote that Subway Sect’s ‘Ambition’ was hailed as the greatest number one single of all time. Jasmine Minks belong to that parallel universe where every Manic Street Preachers’ fan knows that their beloved band’s name was in no small part meant as homage to the Minks’ debut album, that Richey Edwards in particular was as inspired to join a band by the Minks as he was by Wolfhounds and McCarthy. Jasmine Minks inhabit the world where Felt were bigger than U2, where Apple outsold Microsoft and where all the hippest kids now dress like The Young People. Which maybe is this world, after all. I mean, we all make our own worlds (up) anyway.
In my world the Jasmine Minks have always been important beyond belief. They showed me how to strike a pose of decisive defiance, how to cloak a heart of sensitivity in a button collar shirt of the sharpest steel. Or maybe it was the other way round. Like the finest of George P. Pelecanos’ heroes, Jasmine Minks were always soft yet strong. Or, again, maybe it was the other way round. Jasmine Minks always had more soul and style in their collective little fingers than I could have hoped to attain in my whole raggedy body, but they more than any made me want to move, moved me to action. Most importantly perhaps, they taught me the joys of dancing unashamedly, even if it was largely inside my body, inside my heart, or inside my bedroom.
Jasmine Minks tossed me aloft on the seas of possibility and left me gasping for breath on the rocks of cold, brutal, beautiful reality. They sang about clutching letters to chests and with a stroke of true genius about how ‘the difference between them and us can be accepted with little fuss’. They sang about ghosts of young men who haunted all our tomorrows and yesterdays and they sang about lives and loves that cut you deep, so deep you cried tears of unbridled joy at being shown how to suffer so perfectly, with such sublime human grace and dignity. Listening to them again now, they still do.
Thinking about Jasmine Minks in 2004 makes me think about how they were a magnificent gesture of defiance, but that’s not true. Jasmine Minks were a glorious act of defiance; an ultra-dynamic, keenly-styled, fiercely-passionate leap of faith. Faith in the power of words, music, art to change the directions taken by those exposed to their records and performance; those who allowed themselves to be taken higher, deeper, wider, further by the experience of seeing and hearing their epiphanies of soulful honesty, their barest of Truths. Faith in those very individuals who believe in the importance of those Truths; faith in the strength of the bonds that bind them. That bind us still.
© 2004 Alistair Fitchett