Mike Skinner signed off what was to be his final interview as the Streetswith the comment: "I've got fans with a lot of tattoos, you know." It got him thinking. Why would anyone get an artist inked on to their skin? How do they feel years later if their fandom has slipped? And why the hell would anyone want Bruce Springsteen in 3D glasses tattooed anywhere on their body? He wanted answers. And so, as part of his guardian.co.uk/music takeover, he sent Rosie Swash on the hunt for people with band tats. Here's what she discovered ...
Ryan Duffy, 28, New York, originally from New Jersey
Tattoo: Bruce Springsteen on calf
The Boss enjoying Avatar in 3D, perhaps? Photograph: guardian.co.uk/music
I've thought about getting a Springsteen tattoo since I was 18 and moved from NJ to NYC. I'd always thought about a Bruce tattoo because growing up in Jersey, he was a huge part of my childhood. He was handed down to me from my Dad. The design went through various iterations in my brain: "Someday we'll look back on this and it will all seem funny" across my chest, a simple Jersey state outline with a Bruce banner across, etc. But I never got around to it until I was 25.
My friend Scott Campbell is an unbelievably talented artist who got his start tattooing, but has since moved on to fine art. He's hands down the best tattooist I've ever come across. Anyway, he sent out a note to a group of friends saying that he was preparing a piece for Art Basel in Miami and did we want to get our favorite celebrities tattooed on us, by him, for free. Only catch was they had to be wearing 3D glasses, which obviously wasn't a catch for me at all. So Bruce is part of a larger 3D-glasses-clad army: Frankenstein, Michael Jackson, Liza Minnelli, etc.
The Boss reminds me of everything I loved – and still love – about New Jersey. Bruce obviously became a bit fashionable a few years ago with bands such as Arcade Fire and the Hold Steady citing him as an influence, but the reasons for it are undeniable: unbelievable songwriting, evocative lyrics and an enduring image.
That said, most folks love the tattoo, but some people seem to think it's the guy from Loverboy, which is OK too, because its a nice litmus test. If you can't tell the difference between the Boss and the guy from Loverboy, you can fuck right off. Do I regret getting it done? No, I love it.
Natalie Briscoe, 26, teacher, from the Wirral
Tattoo: Modern Life Is Rubbish (Blur) on left wrist
A no-nonsense reminder of teenage fandom Photograph:guardian.co.uk/music
Although the album Modern Life Is Rubbish was released in 1993, I only had this tattoo done a few weeks ago. I like tattoos that mean something to people, rather than just a random picture or symbol, and I've been a huge Blur fan since I was eight. I grew up listening to them. Not only was I too young to see them the first time round, but I was struck down with ME when I was 11 and was housebound for many months. It took years to get my life back. While I was recovering, I used to play Modern Life Is Rubbish all the time; it made a horrible time more bearable. Plus, the older I get, the more I understand how true the saying is.
I finally got to see Blur play Manchester in 2009 when they re-formed, which was an amazing night. It seemed fitting to make Blur a permanent fixture on my body, but it took me a while to get it done. I just decided one day to go ahead, so my decision was pretty spontaneous – but the idea had been in my head for a long time. I played around with fonts first because I wanted it to look a specific way and asked my Dad which type he preferred. My Dad is pretty laidback and he likes all my tattoos. My Mum was convinced I was going to get blood poisoning. She appreciates it, but she still doesn't like tattoos. But I don't have any regrets at all about getting this done. I love it.
Bryce Franich, 29 years old, from Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Tattoo: Willie Nelson, right arm
Bryce models ... Bryce? Willie Nelson? Photograph: guardian.co.uk
About four years ago one of my good friends was working at a tattoo shop in Brooklyn. I spent a lot of time there and the owner (who couldn't remember my name) kept calling me Wyoming Willie because of my resemblance to Willie Nelson. My buddy thought that would be a hilarious tattoo and drew it up. He said he would never tattoo me again if I didn't get it right then and there ... so I did.
My tattoo is also a self portrait, although it's commonly (and fittingly) mistaken for Willie Nelson. And honestly, what isn't there to love about Willie Nelson? He was just busted for pot possession – again! – and apparently with no real legal repercussions. His weed knocked Toby Keith and Johnny Knoxville on their asses. He declared bankruptcy while owing something like $1.5m to the IRS, then put out "The IRS Tapes". And with all proceeds going directly to the IRS the debt was payed off in three years! Amazing.
I've never met Willie but I've seen him play a handful of times, including last year in Wyoming. I sat at the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar (where he played in the 70s) for a couple of hours hoping he'd come in for a beer. No such luck. I don't regret my tattoo at all, most tattoos I love started as the absolute worst ideas.
Tony Sylvester, 37, label manager, writer, and singer in a band called 33, from London.
Tattoo: Johnny Cash/C.R.E.A.M.
Johnny Cash Rules Everything Around Me Photograph: guardian.co.uk/music
It was either me or tattooist Chad Koeplinger who came up
with the idea; Johnny Cash came first and the Wu-Tang Clan pun seemed too good to resist – C.R.E.A.M. stands for Cash Rules Everything Around Me, from 1993's Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) album. It works because it appeals to my sense of humour, and I have a genuine reverence for both parties. There's something nice about making hitherto unseen connections through lightheartedness.
It probably took me minutes to decide to get it done, certainly less time than it took to do the actual tattoo. Why Cash and Wu-Tang? I admire the simplicity of Johnny's delivery and arrangements and the moral ambiguity in his storytelling; sometimes sacred, sometimes profane,
always entertaining. Shame they had to ruin it with that rotten film,
but that's the way of the world.
With Wu-Tang Clan, I'm a fan of their occulted view of the mundane and everyday, specifically seeing the trials of streetlife through the prism of martial arts and Oriental philosophy. But they never let these elements weigh down a good track. They're unparalleled in hip-hop.
There's certainly a connection between outlaw country and hip-hop; the central theme of both is money and women. The Wu and Cash could be seen as offering a little broader scope and a spiritual dimension to the mire; some content beneath the braggadocio. I'm not about to get a Gucci Mane tattoo, put it that way.
In my questionable yearn to look like a French criminal from the 20s, I'm steadily covering my body with tattoos that mark important events, people, rites of passage and sometimes just jolly nice imagery. I don't love all the tattoos I've had done, but the person who lives without regret is either shallow or lying. The tattooist Thomas Hooper once told me that you have to make sure you like what you have tattooed on the front of your thighs as they're the first things you see every morning when you get out of bed. Actually, he might have said when you sit on the toilet, but the point is the same. I've never regretted this tattoo for a second.
Sam Hart, 23, writer, from Brighton.
Tattoo: White Stripes lyrics, forearm
White Stripes Photograph: guardian.co.uk/music
My tattoo reads: "The coldest blue ocean water cannot stop my heart and mind from burning," from The Same Boy You've Always Known bythe White Stripes. I knew I wanted lyrics as a tattoo because music is a huge part of my life, and these lyrics just spoke to me more than anything else I could think of. It was always going to be something Jack White had written as he is my musical idol and the White Stripes are my favourite band. I love the idea behind the name of the song as well, so it all just came together perfectly.
There are two meanings that I take from the lyrics. Firstly, it means that no matter what difficulties and hardships come my way (the cold water), nothing will keep me down. My heart and mind will always carry on through. And secondly, to flip it around, it can mean that no matter how much you can try and sooth a situation, to forget or try to move on, whatever is hurting you might never go away (the burning of the heart and mind, the pain). Sometimes it's just not right, or possible, to forget. So it has both positive and negative connotations for me.
I have a couple of tattoos (and I want more), but this one I regret the least. I think because it is relatively ambiguous and unknown it doesn't seem too corny, which can be a problem with a lot of tattoos. It only means something to me, which I like.
As told to Rosie Swash.