While I was interviewing Derv Gordon of The Equals, I mentioned that I was a fan of the band and he laughed and shared that the first record he ever bought growing up was Johnny & The Hurricanes "Red River Rock" saying "You're not the only one who's a fan!" He went on to say he finally got to meet Johnny Paris some years later in Hamburg where both bands were performing.
The idea of fandom has always fascinated me. As a fan of ska and a ska musician, I've been privy to a unique musical subculture with its own dress code, rules and structures. I recently scanned "Popular Music Fandom: Identities, roles, and practices" which is a collection of essays on what it means to be a fan of popular music (yes, this is actually an area of legitimate scholarly research!). It made me reflect on my own experiences as a music fan and to consider that an early love of music via the radio, records, concerts and shows is the starting point for what becomes a strange but enjoyable process of building both a personal fan identity (I'm a rude boy) and a shared community fandom experience of seeing a concert (I'm a ska fan).
One of the best examples of this comes from Suggs of Madness, who was quoted in an oral history about 2-Tone in Spin Magazine:
"Going around school with a record under your arm sort of said who you were. You’d go to school with a Bob Marley record under your arm all day. We listened to vintage music and wore vintage clothes. It was our own thing, our own identity. Amongst the wrath of Fleetwood Mac and all this global corporate rock music, punk was starting to happen. At the Roxy, they were playing reggae as they were playing punk."To that end, I recently came across the wonderful photo of a young Gwen Stefani getting her Synchronicity poster signed by Sting before a concert by The Police at Hollywood Park in Los Angeles on September 6,1983, which included openers The Fixx, Thompson Twins and Berlin. It's a great visual depiction of fandom. A young girl is getting an autograph for a musical hero. But then an amazing thing happens. That young girl goes on to start her own successful band. And then twenty years later, she has the honor of inducting one of her favorite bands into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame. Watch Stefani's speech and hear her tell the story of the photo and then watch her sing "Message In A Bottle" during a sound check with Sting!