Protest Music Now

In case you thought that protest music was dead – take a look at this YouTube video for evidence that artists are working hard to protest the current administrations.

And for the history of protest music in America – take a look at this:

The video above leaves them out, for some reason, but here is a video of one of the greatest protest bands of all time. Yeah, I said it, all time:

And let us not forget Ani:

The Tape

How often do you hear a song on the radio that can take you back to a specific place and time in your past? A song that is so indicative of a specific memory that you can, even if just for a moment, feel like you are instantly transported to a happier moment. This morning, on my way to work, the Billy Joel song “Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song)” came on the radio and that feeling rushed over me. Most songs by Billy Joel, from his 1970s phase, will transport me through time, but this song has special meaning.

When I was a teenager I was obsessed with music from the 1960s and 70s. Billy Joel was one of my favorites because when I was a child my parents would play him, along with such greats as Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd, Supertramp, Yes, Carly Simon, Chaka Kahn, Jackson Browne, Chicago, Hall and Oates, Fleetwood Mac, Carole King, Queen, Jethro Tull, The Doobie Brothers, Stevie Wonder, and James Taylor, on heavy repeat. As you can tell from this list, which is just the tip of the iceberg, my parents loved music. My whole family was musical and that was one of the reasons I ended up eventually pursuing a degree in music, but that is for another post.

Getting back to Billy Joel, in 1999 I was living on Elmwood Avenue near Summer Street. At the time there was a Bakerman’s Donut Shoppe and a Wilson Farms directly across the street. Bakerman’s was not a good place to hang out at night. Things went down on that corner that most people in the neighborhood did not want to be involved in. At the time, I was working an overnight shift, so I was rarely at home during the nighttime hours, but on the weekends I would be off for 3-day stretches (working 4 by 10 is actually the best – I miss it) beginning at 10 am on Fridays and ending at 8 pm on Mondays. I would spend Friday trying to adjust back to a ‘normal person’ schedule and by Saturday evening realize that my adjustment had failed and simply return to the vampire life.

During this time I was driving a Toyota Corolla that I bought when I was in college (new!) and, by this time, had about 100K miles on it, easily. It was a huge upgrade from the 1985 Ford Escort that had a push button radio where the dial would shoot across to the set radio stations. Actually it was a 1985 and and a half (the 1/2 year changed over to flat headlights – hello Jeopardy – I’m ready for my appearance!)! Automatic locks, along with electric windows and cd players, were not yet standard in the 92 or 93 (my memory fails here) Corolla but I did, however, have a radio with a tape player!

I carried all my mixtapes around with me at all times, housed in one of those metal lunchboxes that many grrrls in the 1990s carried in place of purses. This one came with a CKOne set that I was given for Christmas one year so I just used it to store the tapes, never as a purse. It fit about 30 tapes at a time, so I had to place my tapes in a rotation from bedroom wall to silver lunchbox and back to the wall. The cassette player also had the flip feature, so when the tape got to the end it would flip over and start playing the other side. This was, truly, advanced technology for the time, which quickly became old news a few years after I bought my car.

One tape, in particular, was a favorite of mine and the Grunge Doctor‘s. And this, my dear readers, is what we now affectionately refer to as “the tape”. One night, after going out with the doctor (long before he became a doctor!) and his brother, I had dropped the brother off at home and returned to our apartment. This was a Saturday night and my plan was to park the car on Elmwood and not leave the apartment for the rest of the weekend. We had stocked up on the essentials from Wilson Farms and made sure that the beverages were filled to the appropriate levels. I arrived upstairs, threw off my shoes, sat on the couch and proceeded to loaf for 3 full days. (Ahh, my twenties were a wonderful and lazy time!)

Earlier in the year, my car was parked in the back parking lot at our building and it had been broken into. The drivers side window was shattered and the aforementioned silver lunchbox was stolen. I always believed that the people who stole it (they didn’t take anything else from my car) probably got super pissed when they got down the street and realized it was not a purse, but a box full of tapes. And MIXTAPES at that. Not even valuable outside of the sentimental value I had placed in them. Having had a break in happen to me already on this stretch of Elmwood Avenue, you would think that I would have been extra careful, but, this particular weekend I was more concerned with being off from work than worrying about my car. I left it parked on Elmwood for 3 straight days and never went out to check on it.

Little did I know, the brother had left the back passenger side door unlocked. He was already used to people having cars that locked automatically and did not know that he had to manually lock his door. Since he did not lock the door, it was available, on Elmwood, for 3 whole days and nights, to any passerby that decided to rifle through it. And rifle through it they did. When I returned to my car on Monday night to go to work, there was a distinct level of disarray that I noticed well before entering the car. The passenger side rear door was open, not just unlocked, but open. Everything that was formerly in my glove compartment was strewn across the front and back seat. Everything that was in my back seat was thrown all over. A blanket, 2 hats, a pair of gloves, a scarf, bottles from different beverages (maybe mine, maybe not), an umbrella, 2 ice scrapers, a snow brush, and various other bits of papers were scattered throughout the car. All of this was no big deal. Other than the violation of people rifling through my things, I had learned from the first break in to not leave anything valuable in the car, so I felt good about the fact that there were no broken windows and nothing major was missing.

Just as I was letting out a sigh of relief, I sat down in the driver’s seat, turned my head toward the center console, and saw it. My tape deck – my prized possession in the car – had the face ripped off. The person that was trying to steal the radio obviously didn’t realize that it was the manufacturer model, which meant that it was pretty securely in the dashboard, and really only the face was detachable with a great deal of force. I could tell that they had tried to pry the face off with my ice scraper and were unsuccessful. It was half off, so I ripped it the rest of the way. It was either that or leave it hanging there while I was driving and potentially have it fly off half way to work. I sighed again and started the car. After all, I had to go to work. As I started to head north up Elmwood to get to the 198 I noticed that the cassette tape that was in the player, prior to the break-in, was still there, in the player. And it was playing. This, I thought, was actually great. At least the cassette player still works. (Even though I was goth back then I still tried to look on the sunny side of these situations.)

After a few days of driving back and forth to work with “the tape” playing, it started to skip. Halfway through a song, it would stop and flip over and start playing the other side. In order to stop this from occurring, I shoved a matchbook above “the tape” to steady it, which appeared to work. After a week of listening to “the tape” over and over, I finally got bored with it and decided to eject it so I could listen to the radio. But, of course, that was not possible now since the face was missing from the cassette player and I had no way to get to a station. I also realized I could not put in another tape because the eject button was gone. “The tape” was the only thing I would ever be able to listen to in the car, ever again. It would be either “the tape” or silence in my Corolla henceforth. A break in that didn’t seem like that big of a deal became a really big deal in a matter of minutes in this realization. Now I would have to listen to my hits of the 1970s for eternity.

Oh right – I never told you what was actually on “the tape”! So, as you may have guessed, the first song on side A was “Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song)” by Billy Joel. The first song on side B was “The Tide Is High” by Blondie. These two songs were the most frequently listened to due to the constant flipping. I went through a multitude of matchbooks to try and make the flipping stop, but in the end, the cassette player won that battle. Other songs that graced “the tape” were “Come Sail Away” by Styx, “Rhiannon” by Fleetwood Mac, “Aqualung” by Jethro Tull, “The End” by the Doors (of course) and many others that I cannot recall. I am sure that the doctor remembers more than I do, since he was my most frequent passenger during “the tape” years. Yes. Years. He actually got so annoyed with this situation that, for the holidays one season, he headed to The Stereo Advantage (now defunct) and bought me a new cassette player for my car.

Ah – sweet relief. I had the new player installed in January and the universe righted itself. When I went to pick up my car from the shop that installed it, the installer asked me if I wanted him to dislodge “the tape” so I could listen to it in my new player. I looked at him with a look of disgust that he probably thought was super rude and said: “um – no – I’m done with that.” And that was the end of “the tape”. But was it? I still love all the songs on that tape, individually, and I made a playlist that is a homage to “the tape” and my youth. So if you are looking for a fun trip down memory lane, instigated by “the tape”, check out the link below. You will NOT be disappointed.

Peace and happy listening,

Punkgrrrl

What happens when you realize your heroes are a bunch of wankers?

I know that rock stars and actors are people. I know they are real live people with families and their own opinions and that the person they portray on stage is just a character. I know this. Most of the time if the character they are in public is a misogynist or a jagoff, you can ignore it because that’s just their stage persona. That’s not the real them. But what do you do when they’re not really playing a character? What do you do when they’re an honest to goodness wanker?

Case in point: Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix and John Lennon, with their public peace and love and harmony façades, were not nearly as peaceful and loving in private. These men were physically abusive to the women in their lives. They mistreated their wives and girlfriends emotionally. They took advantage of the people around them on a regular basis.

Another example: I was always a big fan of the Eagles of Death Metal—a band fronted by Jessie Hughes. You may have heard of them because a year or so ago they were playing in a Paris concert venue when terrorists shot of the place. The band was barely able to escape. Weeks later Mr. Hughes told a reporter that “until nobody has guns everybody has to have them, because… I want everyone to have the best chance to live.” Okay I can give him a pass on that statement because he was just put through a distressing situation and he probably has some PTSD happening and yeah I don’t agree with him, but he was traumatized so I ignored it.

This summer, the lead singer of the punk band The Dickies verbally attacked a woman in the crowd because she held a sign up that read, Teen girls deserve respect, not gross jokes from disgusting old men! Punk shouldn’t be predatory! The Dickies are known to be misogynist and childish and vulgar, but the stuff he said to this girl was over the line. I’m not going to repeat what he said because why should I give his words any more press than they’ve already received? Screw that dude because he is not what the punk scene should be about.

Anyway, in early July Jessie Hughes took to his Instagram account to defend The Dickies and what the frontman said to this woman and wrapped it all up in a freedom of speech issue:

 

The Dickies forever! The Dickies for all time! Long live freedom of speech and long live the notion that rock ‘n’ roll is all about saying whatever the [expletive] you want! Especially if it’s offensive to people who are weak cowardly and can’t stand for anyone else to be free! …and PS a safe zone is a place that exists in your home not at the place you voluntarily drive to and walk into and sit in an audience of that exists in a public place… The enemies of free speech must be stopped at all costs!

 

I’m not going to quote much more because it is hard to read on many different levels. (I fixed the bit up above so it was readable.)

So needless to say I do not agree with what Mr. Hughes said there and I do not feel like he should get a pass for saying it. Okay rock ‘n roll has a history of being misogynist and rude and disrespectful to women. Does that mean that kind of attitude should continue? Does that mean we should all turn a blind ear to songs denigrating women or we should ignore when people treat women second class citizens? Absolutely not! If you don’t say something to someone who is being abusive, then you are allowing that treatment to continue. I believe SILENCE EQUALS VIOLENCE.

So back to my original question: What do we do when our heroes are wankers? One of the reasons the situation with Jessie Hughes bugs me so much is because I met him about a month before the Paris attack outside of a show in Cleveland and he was a super cool dude and super approachable and nice and welcoming and he gave me a hug and not all rock ‘n rollers are like that. But I cannot ignore the hate he spews on social or mass media. He doesn’t get a pass for that. But what do I do? Have you ever been in this situation before? Do I throw all his music out? Do I delete it from my iPod and stop buying his records? Do I separate his music from his real-life persona and keep listening to his songs?

Did people burn Hendrix and Dylan and Beatles records when they found out those dudes were abusive? Should they have? Do we need to investigate our rock stars before we invest our money in them?

Trying to Process

 

In my shoes, a walking sleep
And my youth I pray to keep
Heaven sent hell away
No one sings like you anymore

I’ve had a few weeks to deal with it and I don’t think I’ll ever process the fact that Chris Cornell is dead. I’ve read posts on social media, articles on the Internet, and even listened to interviews of those who claim to be close friends or family. None of that has helped any. Talking about it has made it more real rather than provide any kind of distance. Absorbing all of the music he produced in his short life is the only thing that truly helps, but I think that’s only because that fools my soul into believing he is still alive. He lives on in my speakers and my headphones. He can still affect us when we hear him sing and he can fool us all that he’s doing just fine.

His death gave me an opportunity to revisit the music of my youth: grunge. When I was a teenager, one of the reasons I loved this genre is because there wasn’t a clear definition of it. Those who didn’t know would never know and that was fine by me. I knew that us insiders were in the know and this music was ours. We didn’t need to define it or explain it. We just listened to it and that was enough. Twenty five years later, I am trying to create a playlist on my computer I aptly named GRUNGE4LYFE and I have to be honest—I am struggling with deciding which bands should be included! Why wasn’t there a clear line delineated so we knew who was grunge and who wasn’t?

The obvious components are included: Mother Love Bone. Pearl Jam. Soundgarden. Temple of the Dog. Nirvana. Screaming Trees. Alice in Chains. Mudhoney. Hole. But it’s at this point I get stuck. STP? No—they weren’t from the Pacific Northwest. Scott Weiland only sounded like Eddie Vedder; he wasn’t actually grunge. Billy Corgan did not play grunge music so the Smashing Pumpkins are out. Who else? Do I put the Lemonheads in? What about Bush or L7 or the Foo Fighters? Was grunge over by the time Grohl started his band? Wikipedia has a list of American Grunge Bands, but I don’t follow that, mainly because it doesn’t follow the classification of grunge I have in my head.

My categorization of grunge is: a subgenre of alternative rock that began in the early 1990s in the Pacific Northwest. While many traditional definitions of grunge embrace the style or fashion that includes baggy or torn clothes, I do not. So bands that were founded in Los Angeles or London or New England are not included in my definition of grunge. Maybe my characterization is too narrow. Maybe I am not being inclusive enough. I don’t care. I am not saying that anything outside of this definition is not worth listening to—far from it. I am just saying this is what grunge is and this is whom I included in my GRUNGE4LYFE playlist. Needless to say Mr. Cornell was featured quite prominently in my list.

As I said earlier, it has taken me a while to get over Chris’s death. And I use his first name because although I did not know him personally, he has been a part of my life since I was a teenager. He and I are part of the same generation. He came with me on road trips; he motivated me when I was feeling apathetic; he stuck by my side when other people in my life didn’t. And all that being said, I don’t think I would have counted Soundgarden and Audioslave as my favorite bands. Back in the day the argument was always Pearl Jam versus Nirvana. You were on one side or the other. Soundgarden was in the background just rocking the EFF out not caring which side you were on. And Chris was in the front belting his words out as softly or as brutally as we needed. As we now all know, he carried the weight of his life on his shoulders. He wasn’t healthy. He was in pain and he needed help. Eventually that all became too much and he needed out. Maybe the reason I haven’t been able to come to terms with this death is because he was the one who stuck around. He was able to drop the drug habits that killed Kurt and Layne in one way or another back in the mid 90s. He made it through his twenty-seventh year. He spoke for Generation X when others were not able to and in a way others just couldn’t. Soundgarden broke up and he was still able to go on to do other amazing things and then ultimately get back together with his bandmates. He made it to his fifties. He would be around for the long haul. Obviously I was wrong.

He left us with hundreds of songs and maybe even a handful more that we haven’t heard yet. After I collected all of my grunge tunes into one list and hit shuffle, the first song that came on was “My Wave” from Superunknown. These words seem somehow fitting:

Cry if you want to cry, if it helps you see; if it clears your eyes…

 

Cheers to you, Chris.