Growing up in the Ottawa suburbs I used to watch MuchMusic pretty religiously. I still have a few VHS tapes kicking around from back in the day when I would tape videos off the television, VCR locked and loaded, ready to hit record when one came on I liked. A sort of visual mixtape really.
My introduction to a lot of music early on was through Much, particularly The Wedge hosted by Simon Evans and Sook Yin Lee, it was an absolute goldmine in the 90’s for Grunge and Alternative music.
It was on Much that I first saw Adam Ant, probably during one of their 80’s retro throwback weekends.
‘Stand and Deliver’ was unlike anything my little Doc Marten wearing, thrift store clad self had ever seen before. And while my Reality Bites cohorts killed themselves laughing at the campness of it all, I was absolutely mesmerized. The Dandy Highwayman had me hooked.
Years passed, my Adam Ant collection grew and I moved to the UK where Adam and the Ants were still relatively well known, even if by some on just on ‘fancy dress‘ sort of level. It was here where I met my good friend Emma and finally got to see Adam Ant in concert.
I’d been throwing about the idea for years of getting a music related tattoo but nothing stuck with me. Passing ideas ranged from the cover art on the Smashing Pumpkin’s Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness album to Robert Smith’s Boys Don’t Cry silhouette to something NIN related. And while I still love all those musicians, I’m glad I waited till I was certain what the perfect music geek tattoo was for me.
When I decided to move back to Canada from the UK, as a last hurrah together my friend Emma and I decided to get matching ‘Jolly Roger’ tattoos. The piece was so perfect on many levels, representative of all I loved about London and my friends there. The city is an absolute musical paradise, Punks, Post Punks, New Romantics, Goths and Death Rock kids knocking about Camden, Angel Islington and clubs in Soho. The vibrancy of different scenes, and the crazy energy of Adam and the Ants with their decadent theatricality rooted in punk and the Kings Road.
And hey. Pirates. Who doesn’t love a good skull n crossbones?
The design – a skull in a pirate hat with crossed flintlock pistols and a wee black heart, artwork used by Adam and the Ants in the 80’s.
As for having matching tattoos, I wrote a piece for Tattoo Hero last year on that subject – The Ties That Bind: My Matching Ink Story.
Both Emma and I have incorporated our Adam Ant tattoos into full sleeves since getting the original piece. We were tattooed at Evil from the Needle in Camden Town by Dave Byrant, after an absolutely surreal encounter with Amy Winehouse who walked by Emma’s car while we were blasting music from her “Back to Black” album.
My boyfriend Jeff also has music geek tattoos. And while he rolls his eyes a bit at his first tattoo now (the Led Zeppelin symbols on his back) because of the ubiquitousness of them, the placement is great and they’re executed well. His love for Zeppelin hasn’t faded and the tattoos still hold meaning for him.
The four symbols are a hugely popular music tattoo for people to get, and it’s not surprising given the popularity of Zeppelin, but I also think it’s due in part to the classic design of the symbols.
The four symbols came about in the wake of poor reviews from Zeppelin III. For the next album Page decided it would officially be untitled, using symbols to represent each band member instead. These symbols appeared in the records inner sleeve and subsequently would result in some fans referring to the fourth Zeppelin album as “the Four Symbols”.
The four symbols are:
Guitarist Jimmy Page – ZoSo, a symbol designed by Page with roots purportedly going back to a 1557 symbol for Saturn used by Gerolamo Cardano. Page has been resolute in not revealing what the symbol means, and to this day it’s uncertain as to its true origin or meaning.
Bassist John Paul Jones – a single circle intersecting with a a triquetra, chosen from Rudolf Koch’s Book of Signs.
Drummer John Bonham – three interlocking rings, also from Koch’s Book of Signs (and upside down they also happen to be the logo for Ballentine beer).
Singer Robert Plant – a circle with a feather in the centre, his own design.
There’s no definitive order to the symbols, though you’ll generally see them in the order listed above. I asked Jeff why ‘zoso’ wasn’t first for his tattoo, and quite simply he wanted Plant’s symbol first. The tattoo was done by James Sroga of Dead City Studios in North Bay, Ontario, Canada well over 14 years ago now.
The other music geek tattoo Jeff has is the Radio Birdman symbol on his forearm, tattooed at New Tribe in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Radio Birdman was one of the first Australian punks bands on the scene in the 70’s and are quite frankly fantastic.
The logo was originally designed by singer Deniz Tek, who was trying to develop a symbol for himself. When he formed Radio Birdman (awesomely named so after a misheard Stooges lyric), the symbol came along. With a professional graphic artist in the band – Warwick Gilbert. it was finally used for Radio Birdman after modifications by Gilbert.
If you’re considering a music geek tattoo we really love ours, and absolutely no regrets.
As with any tattoo – think it over well first. Music tastes can change, so you really need to know yourself well.
As to future plans for more music geek tattoos I know Jeff’s mulling over the artwork from the Beta Band’s Three E.P’s, and I’m seriously considering a piece inspired by artist Stephanie Pepper’s rendition of Adam Ant as a Dandy Highwayman.
If you were to get a music geek tattoo, what do you think it would be of?