FeaturesLOST TRIBES: Jersey’s vanished scenes of alternative music

LOST TRIBES: Jersey’s vanished scenes of alternative music

There are many things I love about my island home but if I had to draw up a list I don’t think “thriving cultural hotspot” would make the top 50, instead weighing in somewhere between #51 – “good place to look at migratory birds” and #100 – “statistically unlikely to be buried in molten lava”.

The various festivals make a good attempt at injecting some much-needed rowdiness, but there’s something about the possibility of bumping into my mum, boss and former PE teacher in the moshpit that stops me from letting what remains of my hair down.

Far too many Jersey people likes their music culture the same way they like TV dinners: reheated, served in disposable packaging and without any ingredients that are going to upset a sensitive digestion. As a result we’re a haven for dad-rock and slipper jazz, partial to polyester disco and soft house. We live in the sort of place where the Macarena caused a moral panic. If we had rappers, they’d be boasting about having a third parking space and threatening to mess up their rivals lawns. The genuinely, passionately alternative people are in a  minority, forced to indulge their pleasures in darkened rooms and out of the way venues, like members of a Scrabble club, but with more piercings. Today I choose to salute them, to reminisce about their efforts to deviate from the straight and narrow, and ask what on earth happened to all the goths.

Who were they?

Mods & rockers

Straight-laced Sixties Britain was scandalised by these two contrasting youth tribes, the denim-clad, motorbike riding rockers and the sharp-suited, soul-loving mods. Most of the British public would probably just have been bemused by the groups’ haircuts if not for their unfortunate habit of beating the p*ss out of each other via mass brawls in random seaside towns. Jersey had a small contingent of both scenes, but avoided any large-scale dust ups by dint of total infiltration of mods and rockers alike by the undercover wing of the honorary police. Some former honoraries from St Peter remain deep undercover as Paul Weller’s roadies.

What happened to them all?

They turned into cool dads, or possibly mutated into hippies if they were still young enough. If you’ve got a dad of a certain age with a collection of seven inch soul records, a dusty scooter and a framed picture of Roger Daltrey then he was probably a mod. If Dad still wears Brylcreem and knows how to fix an Enfield motorcycle, he’s probably a rocker.

Who were they?


Over on the mainland, the long-haired flower children were protesting against war, experimenting with free love and expanding their minds with a variety of illicit chemicals. There wasn’t much point protesting against war in Jersey, and we already had several Parishes that tolerated “unconventional” attitudes to sexual morality. However, growing your hair was and still is a reliable way to scandalise the grandparents, and mind expansion could be achieved by the burning of joss sticks, stolen horse tranquillisers and the odd afternoon stroll around Mourier valley.

What happened to them all?

If you were a proper hippy, you either joined a cult that lived in a pants-free compound in Arizona, or went to California to become an unscrupulous capitalist millionaire in the nascent IT industry. In Jersey you eventually got a haircut, trained as an accountant/lawyer and waited til you could bore your kids with stories about Jefferson Airplane and the time you tried to put on a version of Woodstock in St Catherine’s woods. Some hippies remained true to the dream, and have been forever quarantined in yoga studios and St Ouen’s bay.

Who were they?


Punks rejected polite society, spat in the face of authority and terrified grandmothers with their fuschia Mohicans and bondage trousers. They nurtured a still-influential DIY aesthetic that meant you were encouraged to try forming a band before you’d learned to play an instrument. A perfect fit for Jersey, where most forms of culture are already DIY because if you don’t do it yourself nobody else will.

What happened to them?

Those punks who survived the pitfalls of septicaemia from home piercings and were smart enough not to get tattoos on their face have blended into the background of the society they used to despise. Like studded butterflies they only emerge when the time is right – i.e. when punk music comes back into fashion for the eighth time and they need to lecture teenagers about why they should be listening to Crass instead of Green Day.

Who were they?

Goths / metal fans

Technically these are two different subcultures, but Jersey is so small that they have traditionally observed a truce based on a shared love of black clothing, graveyards and cider. They do both like music with guitars, but in larger communities there’s a deep schism between goths and metalheads over whether the lyrics should be about Satan or vampires.

What happened to them?

Even if you think you haven’t seen anybody with a Slayer T-shirt recently, heavy metal will outlast all other products of human civilisation, even in Jersey. The last man alive in St Ouen will probably be listening to Black Sabbath and Pantera before the mutant cockroaches take him down. Goths, on the other hand, are deeply sensitive and require careful protection. After years struggling to breed goths in captivity, Durrell plans to open a nocturnal habitat where their pale, beautiful faces can be observed in a candle-lit natural environment, decorated with ornamental skulls and Sisters of Mercy posters.

Who were they?


These insufferable, sockless, Noah-bearded know-it-alls appeared out of nowhere a few years ago and have infected coffee shops and university campuses everywhere with their ironic tattoos and pretentious retro lifestyles. Jersey is no different, even though it’s impossible to pretend you were “into that band before they were cool” when the island is tiny and everybody remembers that you used to be an emo kid or dress like a member of Limp Bizkit.

What happened to them?

No solution has been found. For every Jersey hipster who goes to art college or moves to Brighton to open a shop selling unicycles and vintage tweed, one more rises in their place, like a mushroom that only listens to music on vinyl. The government is considering a cull, achieved by distributing poisoned beard wax and exploding ukuleles. The stragglers will be mopped up by hipster traps disguised as poetry workshops or craft beer appreciation groups. 

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