“Bombing cities pulling switches
We won’t do your dirty work
Making death is full employment
We won’t do your dirty work
Bombing cities bombing people
While you eat your dirty meal
We won’t serve you at your table
Screw your dirty deal”
Poison Girls. 1981. Dirty Work (lyrics by Lance d’Boyle)
LANCE D’BOYLE, DRUMMER WITH and founder member of Poison Girls, who died on 16 January 2017 at the age of 76, lived in the Andalucian mountains of southern Spain for the last third of his life. Lance (aka Gary Robins) eked out a sustainable living working as an independent artist (a creatively rewarding occupation, but less so financially). He clearly loved the rustic, frugal artisan life, and the clement climate, of Spain. He continued to make music and, infrequently, to perform live, but it was sculpture that had become a more persistent artistic outlet for his talents. “He worked mostly in plaster and wood, as well as found objects, including wire and scrap metal,” recalls Pete Fender. “A well-known series that he did in later years, The Life and Death of the Pomegranate, depicted the fruit itself in various stages of decay and was recorded in a series of photographs.” When his long-term friend and compatriot (the pair had been partners earlier in life) Vi Subversa also moved out to Spain in 1994, Lance relished the opportunity to have Vi in his life once again and the pair once more shared a great deal of warm, companionable and creative time in each other’s company. One of the bands that they both played together in, “The Rooms”, developed something of a reputation in the local area.
Lance was never the most prominent nor the most publicly demonstrative member of Poison Girls. He was arguably most comfortable about being in the limelight when he was able to refract the attention on his presence there through something absurd, ridiculous, passionate or distracting. He wasn’t alone among anarcho-punk musicians in picking a silly and playful stage name (hiding his ‘real’ identity from audiences and (D)SS Snoopers alike), but for Lance the daftness of it seemed an especially good fit. From the band’s earliest days, he played an indispensable role in crystallising their approach to their work. If Lance’s reluctance to occupy centre stage is part of the explanation for the fact that his contribution could be overlooked, that is reinforced by the fact that Poison Girls were as reluctant to assign individual attribution to the creative outputs of the band as were another famous beat-combo of the period with whom the band enjoyed a brief period of close collaboration. Yet that should not detract from a proper appreciation of Lance’s contribution to the band.
Lance was an inseparable part of the trio at the core of Poison Girls, between 1977 and 1984 especially. As one half of the band’s rhythm section, Lance had to adjust to the style and technique of a succession of bass players over the course of eight years. In the role of drummer and percussionist, songwriter, lyricist, poet, artist, graphic designer, propagandist, publisher and master of ceremonies he was indivisibly and indisputably Poison Girls.
Lance’s punk was informed by his anarchism, long before his anarchism was informed by his punk
As was the case with Vi Subversa, Lance d’Boyle’s own pre-punk political experiences further overturns the myth (much propagated by certain members of another, Epping-based, popular music ensemble) that the catalytic convertors of anarcho-punk had no pre-knowledge of the politics or practice of anarchism. “I’ve counted myself as an anarchist since I was 23”, he reflected in his early-seventies, the age at which he had become “a member of CND and sold Freedom and Anarchy in Cardiff.” By the time punk broke, Lance had decades’ worth of experience in student activism, anarchist circles and in the counter-culture on which to draw. His punk was informed by his anarchism, long before his anarchism was informed by his punk. Lance was not attracted to the dutiful, ideological ranks of the organised anarchist movement, and was more of a bohemian than he was a Bakuninite. But his political worldview was infused with an understanding of anarchist precepts and shaped with an excoriating loathing of the crippling effect that systems of power and control had on ordinary people and of the machinations of the war state that kept such systems in place.
In the early 1970s, Lance (still known as Gary to his friends) began his first experiments as a “percussive musician”, and (as Richard Famous recalls) taking “Animal from The Muppets” as a role model became a drummer. Gary was working as a tutor at the North London Polytechnic, teaching the Diploma of Applied Behavioural Studies (DABS) course. “I think his work as a DABS tutor was a major contributor to his outlook and modus operandi,” Famous suggests. “It was an internationally respected and innovative course, exploring how people react and interact in group situations. Gary met Frances (Vi Subversa) on the course, and the DABS, for want a better word, ‘method’ provided the framework of how Poisons were to operate.” Later, Gary moved in with Frances and her two children Gem Stone and Pete Fender. At the Edinburgh Fringe Festival Gary joined the production of the soon-to-be-infamous Body Show, with which Frances was closely involved. The Body Show was a radical, avant-garde theatrical piece. “My performance as the ‘Id’, in a wrestling bout with the ‘Superego’ drew protests to the town council and rumours in the local press of nudity and more,” Lance recalled many years later. “The instant notoriety guaranteed full houses for every performance.”
When Poison Girls formed in 1977, he was closely involved in setting up the celebrated venue in the Brighton called The Vault. Together with Richard Famous, he produced the first-wave fanzine Spitting Blood, which focused on different aspects of the emerging punk scene (and which, with typical mischievousness, opted not to mention the connection with Poison Girls even as the band was interviewed in its pages). Spitting Blood was a well-regarded and well-produced fanzine, but its simple page styling only hinted at the graphic and design abilities that Lance would reveal in the early 1980s.
The formative days of Poison Girls were experimental, in a creatively unstructured and sometimes disorderly sort of a way. “Our music was turning out strange,” Lance conceded. “We had a great performer in Vi and we wanted to make a go of it without funds or any kinds of backing.” A set by the band Wrist Action (playing support to The Buzzcocks in The Vault) was a personal turning point for Lance. The group impressed Lance with “their fuck off attitude and dangerous energy. They didn’t give a fuck what they were called [‘punk’ or anything else]. I said ‘yes’ to punk that night.” Recently posted on Facebook by Pete Fender, a fantastically evocative early photo of the band from 1978 shows Lance ripping loose, in some madcap costume at the front of the stage, as the band (featuring mother and son, Subversa and Fender) provide the suitable musical accompaniment. “Gary’s song ‘Radio City’ closed the set,” Fender recalls. “It’s about humans being ‘work androids’ and he loses control at the end and freaks out robot-style!” It’s a joyous image, but even there there a sense that Lance might best enjoy occupying the front spot as a prank, a stunt, a magical and fleeting ‘moment’ rather than as a career choice. He did not possess the natural temperament of a ‘front person’.
In the early years of Poison Girls he was, though, a song writer. Angered at being on the receiving end of a real-life drugs bust (a minor possession charge), he penned the early punk thrash “Busted”. Amongst a slew of his songs that the band never recorded were “Massacre of the Flowers”, “Wallpaper Rock”, the aforementioned “Radio City”, and the enigmatically entitled “Green Vinyl Burns”. Two d’Boyle songs that were honed into a shape to record were the inspired and caustic “Political Love” which featured on Hex (“I’ll release my locked lust with you, animal in my brain. I must put my trust in you, take you in my pain”), and the impassioned, righteous polemic of “Dirty Work” from the All Systems Go seven-inch (“We won’t make your dirty weapons, to defend your dirty cause. All that’s left is dirty water. We don’t want your dirty war… Ask yourself what else.”).
As a drummer, Lance always chose techniques and patterns that were to the left or to the right of the obvious ones. On songs like “Statement” and “Dirty Work” he showed just how brilliant he was at handling the tight “stop-start” timing and pin-point rhythms that those songs demand. Yet given sufficient space to manoeuvre, in the band’s more open numbers, his expressive and inventive style was immediately in evidence; as he sought out the unexpected, the undercut, or found a way to play through, around or against the beat. His military-style snare switches lit up “Piano Lessons” and “Crisis”; his love of weird rhythms held together songs like “Ideologically Unsound” and “Daughters & Sons”; he held back on “Cry No More”, accentuated the power of “Cream Dream” and let rip on “Fucking Mother”. He was also naturally generous when encouraging other (usually younger) drummers in and around the scene to hone their skills and experiment with percussive techniques. “Gary showed me it wasn’t all about the bell on a ride cymbal and lent me a flat ride cymbal that was amazing and got me into Buddy Rich and the elusive one-handed roll,” reflects Sid Truelove of Rubella Ballet.
Lance sought out the unexpected, the undercut, or found a way to play through, around or against the beat
“I first met Gary in Ladbroke Grove, maybe 1981, in a café around the corner from the Rough Trade shop,” recalls Hugh Vivian of Omega Tribe. Vivian and bassist Daryl Hardcastle had arranged to catch-up with Lance and future Omega Tribe guitarist Pete Fender. “Daryl and I were meeting Gary because he was helping with the printing of Daryl’s fanzine The Realities of Society, which included an interview with Poison Girls.” Printing and publication were quickly sorted, but the contact with Lance grew into long-term friendship.
“I spent a lot of time with Gary over the coming few years, growing close, sharing a lot,” Vivian adds. “He was very generous, with his time, his wisdom, his pleasures and his enthusiasms. I grew to love him and really enjoyed spending time with him.” As well as sharing insights into anarchist ideas and history, Lance encouraged Vivian to explore other more spiritual and esoteric ways of thinking. “He was a great one for ceremony, and there was something of the Shaman about him,” Vivian suggests. “Gary introduced me to magic, the I-Ching (Book of Changes), and tea ceremonies. I have never got anything from these things with anyone else, it was only Gary’s energy that made them work.”
Many years later, Vivian visited Lance in his Spanish home. “I remember the most beautiful time, a month in the mountains at his home in Orgiva – August into September,” he recalls. Vivian’s snapshot memories are evocative: “Gary, Splinter the dog, the tree that would drop its ripe fruit during the the hours of darkness (‘the Fig Monster’), the dying donkey, the water in the night… The soundtrack was the brothers Neville, Isley, Triano, reggae and a track by Jon Secada that we happened upon called Otro Día Más Sin Verte.”
Lance was a natural advocate for the outsider, the deviant, the disaffected, and the rebel. He had an innate affinity for those refuseniks and malcontents whose objections to the way things were were implacable and obstinate. After the band’s relocation to Burleigh House in London, Lance was centrally involved in setting up the place as a rehearsal space and an impromptu rehearsal studio. It was Lance’s work as a tutor at North London Polytechnic that led to the discovery of Poison Girls’ new base of operations. “Finding Burleigh House, and subsequently meeting ‘that band from North Weald’, was a result of the DABS course using Burleigh House as a weekend retreat,” Famous confirms. It was no accident that the name the band chose for their label was Xntrix. The label and its activities were eclectic, its identity obstinately independent, its interest in producing ‘more of the same’ limited. But the work that it produced on the shoestring resources at its disposal was impressive.
As other artists passed through or took up residence at Burleigh House, Lance was a continual source of support and encouragement to a younger generation of musicians and performers. As Rubella Ballet wondered how they might DIY release their debut mini-album on no budget, it was Lance who suggested that they adopt the Ballet Bag format: cassette, poster and lyric book in a resealable plastic wallet; a truly innovative format at the time, which several other bands then emulated and adapted. As members Zillah and Sid acknowledged from the stage on the ‘Vi Day’ of the 2017 Another Winter of Discontent, without the encouragement and support of Poison Girls there would have been no Rubella Ballet. They are far from being the only band who could make the same claim.
The lines in a person’s character that separate passion, eccentricity and independence of spirit from obstinacy and awkwardness can often blur, and there were times when Lance’s enthusiasm for mad schemes and impossible dreams could pose challenges for those around him. “Lance could be a difficult and infuriating man,” says Richard Famous, “but could also be relied upon to be honest, warm, funny and dependable.” If Lance’s view of the world sometimes left others floundering, that was in the end evidence of the “special take on reality” he possessed, Famous suggests.
His work on The Impossible Dream enabled Lance’s creative artistry to come to the fore. The first black-and-white issue was convincingly strong on ideas, but it was the first of three colour issues that showed him at his most confident. At a time when the majority of ‘fanzines’ were simple A4 monochrome photocopy or duplicated affairs, the glossy, A2 colour canvases of The Impossible Dream were a revelation. “I had been inspired by John Heartfield’s photomontages and the Dada and Surrealist manifestations of the 1930s and 1950s,” he said later. This was propaganda, pastiche, homage, humour, whimsy and rage bundled into just a few sides of bold colours, big designs and elegant typography. “What I wanted to do was to illustrate Vi’s lyrics and set them in a wider context, and to include the work of other writers and artists,” he explained. His work, though, ranged much further than the visual representation of the band’s songs.
The visual and textual components of The Impossible Dream were as inspired as they were innovative
More than three decades on, those works continue to stand out from pretty much everything that was being produced by their peers at the time. The visual and textual components of The Impossible Dream were as inspired as they were innovative. “They were so inspiring because they said ‘look again at everything’,” says Easton. “I believe they took a long time as well, it taught me to never be casual with images, each one can be a bomb.” Collages blended and juxtaposed media images of gender, consumerism and alienation. ‘Well? You wanted full employment’, read one slogan beneath a compound rendering of the Nazi’s Nuremberg rally (as a delighted Thatcher and Howe look on, as Hitler appears to be ‘preaching to the converted’). ‘Pleasure not shame – desire not jobs’ read another two-page spread which mixed images of industrialism and punk, with the form of Adam torn from Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel fresco. (Adam is no longer pointing towards the heavens, but is now holding an oversize feather with which to swat away giant flies). The surreal in the service of the subversive. “Those magazines are iconic and timeless; or rather ahead of their time,” suggests Vivian. “His paper collages were fabulous compositions, fine art from torn strips of magazines. He was a ground-breaking artist. His designs were superb.”
In one issue of The Impossible Dream there’s an intentionally disorderly interview/conversation between Lance d’Boyle and fellow percussionist Penny Rimbaud. In some respects, it’s perhaps surprising that, given the things that they had in common, the pair were not closer or did not collaborate more widely on joint projects. “I think I was sort of prepared to meet Penny, especially since I had been part of the anarchist movement… so we were on the same page politically,” he suggested later. “I was interested in avant-garde music and, in fact, I was in another band called called Sigmoidascope… at the same time as Penny and Bernie (our subsequent bass player for the next two years) were doing their thing as Exit at Dial House just down the road.” This pair of thirtysomething drummers went on to share the same spot on the stage for the 100+ gigs that their two bands played together (even if they each preferred to use their own drum kit, rather than share) before they went their separate ways.
What is clear is that, as the early 1980s progressed, and the political temper of Rimbaud’s band darkened, Lance (and the rest of Poison Girls) were did not want to find the band consumed by an incredulous (if understandable) sense of rage. There was a determination not to allow the band not simply to be defined by the expression of anger. Even in the realm of political action, Lance preferred the ridiculous, the absurdist and the impractical over the doctrinaire or the formulaic. The abortive efforts of his troupe of “Kamikaze Kultural Warriors” to closedown the operation of all record stores on London’s Oxford Street (in the midst of the pre-Xmas rush) through the deployment of stink bombs gives a “whiff” of his self-mocking Situationist style. That contrast between such “childish pranks” and the seriousness and sophistication of Lance’s own political worldview was, of course, another exercise in deliberate Dadaist misdirection.
Lance preferred the ridiculous, the absurdist and the impractical over the doctrinaire or the formulaic
It’s not difficult to see the connections between the sensibilities of The Impossible Dream and the later experiments with the ‘Big Brother is Watching You’ and ‘Cabaret of Fools’ tours. Poison Girls leave behind the novelty of the rock emporium in a determination to explore the atmosphere of the nightclub and the cabaret circuit. This was the realm of the unexpected and the unpredictable, where interaction between performer and audience afforded a degree of intimacy that the full-on projection of punk performance could rarely hope to emulate.
The cabaret sensibilities of Poison Girls seemed to hold more attractions for Lance that the more distant and didactic approaches of the monochrome strands within anarcho-punk. It fed directly into his appreciation of the ridiculous and the absurd and the bizarre and the subversively surreal. Never one to hold back from the opportunity of dressing up, or using costume or make-up, parody or pastiche, Lance was more fired up by the warmth and the richness or openness and the idea of ‘total exposure’.
Together with Richard Famous, Lance d’Boyle’s cultural-political identity was bound up with a sense not always present in the lexicon of anarchist punk – that of gentle man. Foursquare behind the anarcha-feminist and radical gender politics of Poison Girls, the male members of Poison Girls were proud to project a sense of vulnerability, of tenderness and of emotional literacy, as well as identities of anger, defiance and personal strength. Theirs was a reading of punk masculinity that, in a scene defined by the imperatives of angry, aggressive thrash, stood out, and became a key influence on and huge (and an underappreciated) inspiration to other artists, of all genders and identities. Poison Girls could rip it up and tear the roof off with the best of them (as the uncompromising attack sounds of Total Exposure attest), but Poison Girls decision to refract their sound and practice through other styles also reflected a sense that the audience of hardcore punk was not the one which any of the band felt that they were most obviously in tune.
Poison Girls were keen to use the platform of the music and mainstream press where they judged that that engagement could help them get their message across. If either Lance or Richard felt uncomfortable at the recognition that Vi Subversa attracted more immediate attention and became the clearest ‘face’ of the band, they never expressed it.
This rethinking of gender relationships, this reimagining of the dynamics of home and of family, this exploration of different ways of existing together as lovers and as partners remained integral to Poison Girls’ creativity throughout the band’s life. But as the band sought to explore how the shadow of the ‘war State’ was refracted through the prism of personal relationships, the group’s lyricists readily acknowledged uncertainty, and even contradiction, alongside the assertion of concrete political imperatives.
This embrace of the roles of the ‘tender lover’ and of other ways of being a ‘real man’ did not, of course, insulate the group in any way from the perils of being a radical political band out on the road. Members of the group experienced being attacked and assaulted, were targeted by leftist and rightist gangs, and (as the association with “trouble” hit hard) found some gigs were cancelled. During pre-planned attack on the band by a rightist hit squad at The Theatre Royal, Stratford, Lance recalled that he was “pushed off the stage and our roadie was beaten to the ground and had his ribs broken. We were all over the papers the next day. The incident I’m sure affected people’s willingness to ask us to play.” As well as the high profile incidents, such as the violence attack on gigs at Conway Hall and at the Stonehenge Festival, there were many smaller scale incidents. “We had a few scuffles,” Lance suggested later, somewhat downplaying the band’s experiences. “I was held in a half-nelson and punched in the stomach. It was some of the darkest time, at some cost to our wellbeing and that of our children. Something we hadn’t bargained for.”
Theirs was a reading of punk masculinity that, in a scene defined by the imperatives of angry, aggressive thrash, stood out
Lance was also an enthusiastic (if not exactly a prolific) filmmaker. “He worked in 8mm film,” recalls Pete Fender, “memorably producing a couple of short surrealist films with Mark Easton, Neil Mouat (Moet the Poet) and Lee Gibson, one of which involved stop-frame animation.”
“Gary understood the power of images more than anyone I had ever met,” says Mark Easton, who collaborated with Lance on the 8mm film project Do You Love Me? in the early 1980s. The central theme of this work was the representation of masculinity in advertising, “a subject which dominated much of his collage work too of course,” says Fender.
“Although I had more technical knowledge of filmmaking it was Gary who really directed the film,” Easton explains. “For some of the film he suggested we re-film adverts off the tv screen with the Super-8 camera, I would get it processed then cycle the 12 miles to Poison Girls house in Leytonstone where we would watch the rushes,” he adds. “Weeks later I would cycle back and he would settle us down with cups of tea and then explain what he had found through viewing the material.”
Lance possessed a keen ability to ‘read’ film and TV; a literacy in the narrative of the moving image. “He analyzed the adverts’ film language, because he had a filmed copy of it he was able to very slowly run through it and re-edit it to change the meaning,” Easton remembers. “We would try to subvert the intended meaning of the adverts very carefully, he would suggest a few frames more or less when we were editing the film and it would increase the tension.” Lance was an excellent teacher and creative collaborator, as well as a highly focused practitioner. “The film was a journey for me into exploring what it was to be a man, he helped me understand sexual politics and was always mentioning people or movements I should look up,” he says. “But just as much he taught me to laugh at myself and others, he was never too serious, always demanding that things be looked at with stunning clarity, never accepting what they tell you is true.”
Do You Love Me? became a labour of love for the pair, although few people got the opportunity to see the completed work. “In the end the film took seven years to make and only lasted 15 minutes,” says Easton. “I remember it being shown at CopyArt, a community arts project in London’s Kings Cross, to a good crowd, but this was before internet and it never found an audience.”
I have many memories of my own from my all-too-brief and infrequent encounters with Lance. The two I’ll mention here are not particularly ‘significant’ in themselves, but they are, I think, illustrative of aspects of Lance’s character. I was never quite sure if his comments on finding the exertions of drumming more difficult as the 1980s progressed were entirely true, or partly for effect. But I can remember the morning after one superb performance at The Mermaid pub in Birmingham in 1983 (Al from Toxic Shock ran me off a copy of her surprisingly good quality Walkman recording, which I’ve played countless times over in the intervening years), walking with Heff to a Moseley bus stop to get Lance under way on his journey. Feeling the effects of a series of live dates, Lance joked that when executing an extended drum roll, and ending up pounding his sticks on the floor tom and, looking longingly back at the snare and hi-hat, think that it seemed like a really long way back across the kit and that he’d wondering if he’d make it back, or whether this would the time that he wouldn’t. Unselfconscious self-deprecation honed to a fine art.
The cabaret sensibilities of Poison Girls seemed to hold particular attraction for Lance
At a packed Poison Girls and Omega Tribe gig at the Queens Walk Community Centre in Nottingham in 1984, Lance took on the impromptu role of master of ceremonies. Introducing Omega Tribe from the centre of the stage he declared to the audience simply (I’m paraphrasing, from memory, of course): ‘Let’s not have this empty semi-circle at the front of the stage nonsense. No standing back. The evening starts now, get involved and let’s not have that distance. Fill the space.’ And, of course, the people at the front did exactly that. It was a simple (though, clearly a memorable) change that lifted the reception for Omega Tribe and changed the dynamic of the ‘show’. He also provided the drumming accompaniment for the more physical (Max Wall-inspired) sequences in stand-up performer Tony Allen’s act.
In 1983, Poison Girls attempted to launch a raiding party into the cultural mainstream with the singles Are You Happy Now and One Good Reason. Lance had little truck with any accusations that such an approach risked the band ‘selling out’. He would have been far more amused by the ridiculousness of the idea, the presumption of even attempting it, and the mischievous qualities of the whole endeavour. He did express his clear disappointment, not in the ambition of the commercial foray, but in the fact that the cultural gatekeepers of ‘pop’ radio and TV (the only shows in commerce town in a still-analogue era) so effectively repudiated the incursion.
During 1984, Lance took the difficult decision to stand down from the Poison Girls’ drum stool, although he remained closely involved with the band’s activities thereafter. Familial responsibilities had loomed large, and Lance needed to take time out to care for the elderly and ailing parents. “I went to live with my Dad for about a year and it became clear that I was seriously impeding the progress of the band,” he explained. “Agent Orange took my place. I stayed in touch and carried on working with Xntrix publishing.” There were plans to expand the scale of the operation of the “vinyl wing” of Xntrix, and provide a platform for other artists, but this did not progress in the way the band had envisaged and hoped for. As with the way that band had presented the frequent change of bass players that they had managed over the years, Lance’s retirement from active service was not widely publicized. For that generationally-comparable Epping punk band, the departure of a founder member became (it was said) the catalyst for that band’s dissolution, but Poison Girls kept trucking on. In many ways, it was a decisive turning point, and as incoming bass players were replaced (and keyboard players were not), Vi and Richard remained the core. Nothing should detract from the reputation of incoming Poison Girls’ drummer Agent Orange (aka Dave Bennett), who provided powerful and driving percussion for the remaining years of the the band’s life, returning to the Poison Girls’ drum stool for the reunion gigs in London and Berlin in 1995. But his drumming was markedly different for the inventive and unusual stylings of Lance d’Boyle. (Agent Orange, who also drummed for The Cravats, subsequently fell out of touch with former band mates, many of whom only became aware of his untimely death, some time around 1999-2001, many years later.)
After the ending of Poison Girls in 1988, the band’s profile slipped for a time, in part reinforced by the band members’ own reluctance to be drawn back into the public realm to defend it. A good few years after the release of the retrospective Statement CD compilation in 1995 (which brought together the band’s studio and live vinyl releases on four discs), Lance and Richard worked to set up the long overdue official Poison Girls web site, which offers a history of the band and an honesty-box download platform for the band’s back catalogue. Lance had also begun to overcome the band’s signature reluctance to be interviewed about the story of Poison Girls. After accepting one of numerous such interview requests, Lance provided what was possibly the longest and most detailed reckoning of his own role in the life and times of Poison Girls for the (short-run, print-only-and-proud-of-it) fanzine Positive Creed.
Lance was also supportive of all the recent activities around Poison Girls’ back catalogue, including the re-releases of Hex and Chappaquiddick Bridge, and Where’s the Pleasure on Water Wing Records, and the reissue of Persons Unknown (and the accompanying badge set) on All the Madmen Records, pleased to see the renewed interest in the band that this was a reflection of. When Lance got in touch with me back in 2014, he was keen to stress that Poison Girls “were at the heart of the phenomenon that came to be called anarcho-punk” (and I was quick to concur). He expressed his frustration that “our place and presence in the movement is overlooked” (I said that I agreed). “I would like to redress that balance,” he added, simply (and I made clear that I was eager to help with that process in any way that I could). Lance went on to provide insightful and encouraging feedback on a draft of my article on the band for Punk & Post Punk journal, my own small contribution to that process of redress.
Lance was keen to stress that Poison Girls ‘were at the heart of the phenomenon that came to be called anarcho-punk’
After he resettled in Spain, Lance found a whole new network of friends and associates, and a new period of contentment of artistic creativity. After his passing, many of those (who only got to know Lance after he had parted company with Poison Girls) took to social media to celebrate his warm, witty and convivial nature and to reflect on his great company. He was understandably hit hard by the loss of Vi Subversa in February 2016, and was hospitalised after suffering the after effects of a fall late that year in which he damaged his spine. He was discharged, but sadly died whilst convalescing. “Gary died peacefully among loving friends in a beautiful place,” Fender affirms. His sudden passing was as unforeseen as it was shocking, and the speed with which his funeral costs were covered by donations from friends, fans and family was an immediate indication of the affection and regard in which he was held.
Lance d’Boyle made decisive contributions to the sounds, the politics, the design and the passions of Poison Girls, and helped to shape the contours of early British anarcho-punk culture. One of the more vibrant memories of his from the time was taking part in the Zig-Zag squat gig in London late in 1982. “The gig is very fresh in my mind,” he recalled in 2013, “and was something very special and unique… Leaving aside the political ambitions, one of the most important aspects of anarcho-punk was the feeling of being with family, and loved just for that.” That sense of the importance of community and of belonging (of the outsiders banding together in recognition of their exclusion) stayed with him throughout his life. In his later years, Lance took renewed inspiration from the experience of the Occupy! initiative, and from the continuing evolution and reconfiguration of countercultures the world over. As is the case for Vi Subversa, Lance’s own place in the history of ‘the punk that mattered’ is assured. For radicals and renegades of each new generation, their insurgency will always need fresh tunes of their own. It is for that reason, as Lance observed, that: “The music goes on.”
Contributions to the fund to clear Lance’s outstanding personal debts (owed to friends not to the bank) are still welcomed by way of donation on the Poison Girls web site. Download a digital version of a song (or an album) or two by way of thanks.
My thanks to Richard Famous, Pete Fender, Sid Truelove, Hugh Vivian and Mark Easton for permission to quote from their reflections on Lance d’Boyle. Thanks also to Pete Fender, Richard Famous and Phil Tonge for their insightful comments on an earlier draft of this piece.