There was an Instagram post showing the photo above, where people in the comments were saying it was “false” or “misleading”, and they're right. The photo is misleading. We're shown women wearing t-shirts of mostly all girl punk rock bands from the early 90s, insinuating the bands mentioned “invented punk rock”. But to understand the phrase “women invented punk rock”, you need to understand the history of women’s involvement in music and the 3rd wave movement of feminism. I spent some time talking to people and responding to their comments, and I felt an urge to write an article about it. So here I go, regurgitating my views on another platform.
Although the punk bands listed most definitely didn’t invent punk rock, they were some of the first who fought for the recognition of women in the genre. The slogan seemed to be passed around zines in the early 90s, and it ended up landing on Kim Gordon’s t-shirt in a popular Sonic Youth picture, though her shirt said “Girls invented punk rock not England”. It was a phrase made to encourage and empower women to participate in the punk rock scene. Girls were getting hurt, sexually assaulted, and felt disenfranchised, while they watched from the back as boys moshed. Women were fed up with the political climate and overall treatment of women, and they chose to riot. Ergo: riot grrrl.
This still doesn’t deal with the statement fundamentally, because “wasn’t it The Ramones who first started the punk rock genre?” To answer that question we need to ask, “What’s punk rock?” This is where things get a little unclear. If we want to find the roots of punk rock, we need to look to garage rock or proto-punk. But I mean, shouldn’t the people who predated garage rock be credited as well? Well, okay then. Let’s take a look at surf rock, beat rock, psychedelic rock, and blues. Should I go on? A genre is not a fixed idea. We’re not talking about who discovered a certain planet. Art (i.e music) builds on inspiration from previous artists, decades, genres, etc. So, to say women had no part in the creation of punk rock, is to negate women’s participation in any genre that predated punk rock.
If it really makes you feel better, let’s just say “Women invented punk rock (too)”. The “too”, however, is completely unnecessary. The statements are logically equivalent with or without it. The “too”, however, implies women inventing punk rock is affirmative to men creating punk rock (i.e. they helped out). Please visit dictionary.com for more information on the word “too”. Let’s try “Women (helped) invent punk rock”. Yeah, this also implies women didn’t have a key role in the creation of the genre.
Women invented punk rock. Men invented punk rock. It’s a genre that has been snowballed for decades by people of different races, sexualities, generations and genders. Patti Smith, dubbed the punk poet laureate, came up on the New York punk scene before the Ramones and remained along side them at the iconic CBGB rock club, spewing a unique garage rock sound that would be an important proto-type for the punk genre. She wasn’t alone; there are countless garage rock bands including and not including women who were crucial for the development of the punk rock genre. But that’s not even the point of the slogan. It’s not about who invented punk first, and it most certainly isn’t about boys vs. girls. It’s about empowering women and reminding the world that women had played a huge role in the beginning of the punk genre and every other genre for that matter. This is much bigger than punk rock; it’s the celebration of women’s involvement in music, during a time when women were not given the same recognition as men.
Throughout this post I refer to “women invented punk rock” as a slogan. I do this, because it’s so important to understand the phrase in the context of the political climate of the early 90s and third wave feminism. I didn’t coin the phrase. I’m merely interpreting it in context of when the slogan was created and offering answers to people who say it’s “misleading” or “false”.
Let’s talk about the origins of the word “heavy”. It was a word closely associated to hippie and psychedelic culture in the late 60s to describe something that had great emotional weight. Although the word heavy is no longer a term we often use in our day to day, it’s used (almost exclusively) to describe music in the metal genre. I mean, I get why; it’s literally in the genre’s name. Let’s also not forget Steppenwolf single handedly named the heavy metal genre with their track “Born to be Wild(1968)” with the mention of “heavy metal thunder” in the second verse, and ba-da-boom-ba-da-bang, heavy has been super glued to metal ever since. But the truth is metal heads don’t deserve exclusive rights to the word. Some of the heaviest songs come from bands that aren’t even metal or hard rock, and some of the heaviest songs don’t solely rely on darker chords to convey heaviness.
Let’s take for example “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” (1969) by the Beatles. When I first heard this song, I fell in love with the Beatles; the track is pure genius. I mean between the cosmic back and forth between the synth and bass, the entrancing loop of electric guitar, and lyrics that are so simple yet so effective, this song is PERFECTION and the epitome of HEAVY. BUT maybe someone is reading this right now and disagrees entirely. Maybe they think that the Beatles only scratched the surface of hard rock and will never be thought of as “heavy”. This then begs the question: Is heaviness something we can even agree on? The heaviness a metal head feels on a Metallica track could never beat “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” in my mind. Yup, you heard it here. I believe the Beatles have a heavier track than any [insert metal band here]. Because if we go back to the very definition of the word it is “the emotional weight a song has”. Just like how a love a song doesn’t need the word love splattered all over it, a heavy track doesn’t need mammoth riffs or dark subject matter. And maybe it does, FOR YOU. But for me, I’ll take my Beatles track any day of the week.
SO, I guess what I’m really trying to say is. Reclaim the word heavy, and start using it to describe music that puts you in ~~aLL tHe FeEls~~. Fuck all those foo foo lame hoes that say heavy is synonymous to metal. Scratch that. They’re technically right. *sighs HEAVILY* I’m not going to go around in circles anymore. The argument isn’t “which song is heavier?” It’s “what’s heavy?” And, this my friends, is up to us. Call a song a heavy or don’t. Do whatever tickles YOUR kosher dill pickle. But let’s not forget that this word exists outside the heavy rock/metal world, and we need to start using it as such because that definition is just too damn beautiful.
HEAVY: THE EMOTIONAL weight something (i.e. a song) has, and don’t you music nerds forget it ;)
"I guess I should consider myself lucky we're that kind of band," he said. "There's a lot of emotional attachment. I think when there is a woman involved, there is more emotion involved. I don't know about you, but I feel more emotional about women, know what I mean? I went and saw 'Gravity,' and I probably couldn't pick Sandra Bullock out of a photograph but I'm emotionally attached to everything going on with her in that movie. What can I say? I don't know. People feel emotional about our band and its magical lineup, Kim Deal especially."
"Kim Deal only has to play one fucking note," he laughs. "She walks out there puffing a cigarette and everyone goes, 'Yeah! I wanna marry you!' That's the reaction, you know? I can scream my brains out, lay out all this pathos, expunge my soul in front of everybody, but they just go, 'Yeah right, that's a pretty good trick but where's Kim Deal?' I'm just saying."
I didn't see much wrong with this quote, except till I got to the second paragraph. Frank Black, lead singer of the beloved Pixes, finishes his thought by saying that all Kim had to do was “play one fucking note” to receive the admiration she received, which is a gross oversimplification of what Kim Deal did for the Pixies. I’m tired of people attacking artists, especially women, for playing “easy” and “simple” parts. When are people going to realize that fast and complex doesn’t equal amazing and talented?! What Kim Deal brings as a bassist is space and tone. Some of the most memorable moments of Pixies songs are her basslines. But sure, let’s just say she’s well admired for providing emotional attachment via her womanly magnetism.
Is Frank Black incredibly underrated? Yes. Does that give him the right to dismiss the possibility that Kim may just be a good bassist? No. Are rhetorical questions a lame way to get your point across? Fuck you. Maybe Frank is right. Kim's presence in the Pixies provided something magical to the lineup. I'll admit there's something magnetic about her personality as seen in interviews, live performances, and documentaries. But her personality doesn't overshadow the fact that she's an incredible vocalist, lyricist, guitarist, and bassist. These are the reasons she's so admired and loved by contemporaries and fans alike. And to oversimplify Kim's abilities to "playing one fucking note" and attributing the rest of her appeal to her "womanly presence " is utter bullshit.
Some of my favorite and classic basslines from Kim:
Surfer Rosa: Bone Machine, Gigantic, Tony’s Theme
Doolittle: Debaser, Wave of Mutilation, I Bleed, Here Comes Your Man, Monkey Gone to Heaven, Mr. Grieves, No 13 Baby, Hey, Gouge Away
Bossanova: Is She Weird, Velouria, Ana, Dig For Fire, The Happening
Trompe Le Monde: Planet of Sound, Alec Eifel, Bird Dream of the Olympus Mons, U-Mass, The Navajo Know
Xx Ana Tame Xx
P.S. Link to article is below.
It gets so easy to become so wrapped up in my own opinions, wondering sometimes why they aren’t deemed important enough, and why people don’t feel the same way or as strongly as I do. But the truth is everyone experiences music in their own way. Music is subjective. You’re welcome for stating the obvious. But what may not be as obvious is that this statement comes with a paradoxical truth: Your opinion matters and your opinion doesn’t matter.
When someone disagrees with a musical opinion that I hold to be a golden rule, it irks me. I mean when someone talks shit about my favorite band I have to say something right?! It’s almost an attack on me when someone says the band or artist I love isn’t that good. It’s baffling, and it doesn’t make sense to me. I can only imagine someone telling me that the Smashing Pumpkins suck. I would lose my shit, but I would like to think that eventually, after trying to convince the other person otherwise, I would come to terms with the fact that this person will probably never understand why this band means to much to me. This is why my opinion doesn’t matter in that moment. I can scream my opinion till the end of time, but they simply won’t understand me. Maybe one day they'll decide to listen to the Smashing Pumpkins, giving them another chance with a different head space or perspective, but even then, the love I have for that band still might not click for them too, and that's okay.
I will forever know that nobody can make me feel any different about the bands I love. Because when I’m alone in my car listening to Hummer by the Smashing Pumpkins, and I almost cry thinking “wow, this is the greatest band ever.” I am alone with Billy Corgan, D’arcy Wretzky, James Iha, and Jimmy Chamberlin. No one else matters. No one else’s opinion matters. In that moment I don’t care if I’m the only one in the world who likes this band because I know how great they are. I am one with the band, and I don’t care how corny or cringey that sounds because it’s so damn true, and that’s when my opinion truly and only needs to matter.
Xx Ana Tame Xx
A lot of us stick to music that resonates with who we think we are because music is what made us "self-aware" in the first place. But I'd like to sidekick you into a different mindset, a new musical paradigm. Using music to find yourself in middle/high school worked, for the time being. But you're an adult now and know life is bigger than you and whoever the hell you think you are. Music becomes a different animal. You've got to hop on her back and let her take you places you have no money or business going to. So, here's a concept I'd like to share with you. Music is not about finding yourself (although it can be a useful tool during moments of introspection). Music is about exploration, and a record store is a library.
Some people will read a book they really like twice. If you're me, maybe five times. But after that, it's time to get a new fucking book. The same goes for music. Get in there and pick something you've never heard before! Get into music from a place you've never been, or completely ditch that advice and get local! Instead of paying for a thirty or twenty-dollar record of your favorite band that you've probably heard to exhaustion anyway, why not cruise down to the "used records" aisle. Most record stores let you try them out in the store, so quality is not a gamble. Did I mention the prices are fuegooo?! Most used records are between two to fourteen bucks at most. If I had neglected the used aisle I probably would have never discovered Syreeta (Stevie Wonder's ex -wife). I heard her sing "Blame It on the Sun" and for the first time in my life fell in love with my eyes closed. Then I opened my eyes and fell in love again because she's beautiful. I kid you not, she actually looks like the sun. If I didn’t do my fair share of digging I would have never found Carl and Carol Jacob's "We Wanna Live", a badass reggae album. I've never jammed so hard to music that made me think the way I did listening to "Savage". Exploration will squash your ego and ignite your passion for music by fueling your desire to learn about it. Approach each record/ album like Miss Frizzle from "The Magic School Bus", and you won't be disappointed.
CBGB was the product beyond somebody’s wildest dreams. That someone was Hilly Kristal. He had already filed for bankruptcy twice on two attempts to open his own bar. So what was the most logical thing to do with his broken hopes and dreams? Try again. This time it would be in a dirty old 19th century saloon in Downtown Manhattan. Hilly wanted to open a bar specifically for Country, Bluegrass, Blues, the music he loved. He thought it was going to be the next “thing” in New York. Instead, CBGB became the birthplace of the New York Punk and Art scene. In the seventies, rock music had become very, sophisticated. People like Rush, “Yes”, Pink Floyd, Led Zep, were writing songs, that were ten to twenty minutes long. They were technical musicians. They knew how to play well and thus created “Nerd Rock” (Rock music for the music nerds). But, what about the kids who don’t care about scales, arpeggios, or any of that shit? What about the kids who just want to jam out in somebody’s garage? The Ramones built their foundation on this nostalgia. The name Ramone, from the Ramones, was actually a pseudo studio name (Phil Ramone) Paul McCartney used back when the Beatles were calling themselves The Silver Beetles. Joey Ramone knew the Beatles weren’t great musicians separate from each other, especially not starting out. Paul McCartney like many other musicians at the time learned how to play guitar by talking to other people who were also teaching themselves how to play and sharing whatever they knew in exchange for something they didn’t. Music didn’t have to be complicated, what it needed, was to be fun again. So all four of them, Joey, Dee Dee, Johnny, and Marky changed their last names to Ramone and formed the Ramones. They had similar bowl haircuts with a bit of a dirty edge and wore matching leather jackets.
Hilly Kristal thought the Ramones sucked, but he liked their originality. He was pushing to do something that the hottest clubs in New York wouldn’t do, let artists perform their original songs. In Hilly’s CBGB, you weren’t allowed to play on stage unless your music was original. All kinds of artists, people like Blondie, Patti Smith, The Police, the Talking Heads, Lou Reed showed up and play at CBGB, for some it was their first time performing at all. The Crazy thing that always gets me about working class and self-taught artists is that Patti Smith was Patti Smith before people knew who she was, and she’d still be Patti Smith if we never got the chance to know about her. The Ramones, were the Ramones before the world knew the Ramones. If the world never knew about the Ramones, they would still be the Ramones. The same goes for Hilly Kristal. The man was not afraid of poverty, failure, or being looked at as a fool for following his dreams. CBGB eventually closed down in 2005 due to unpaid rent so yes, CBGB was could be seen as another economic failure, but it was a great success in human history. The world needs more “beautiful losers”, people with dreams who aren’t afraid of working really hard and still being seen as underachievers to the people around them. People who are concerned with winning in the ways that matter.
Band themed movies, or “Movies that Rock” are about the fans. Rock and Roll High School is a movie screen played by Joseph McBride, Russ Dvonch, and Richard Whitley, featuring the Ramones. Although the movie’s dialogue circles around the Ramones, and plays The Ramones’ music, it’s mainly about a girl named Riff Randell, who is their biggest fan and her best friend Kate, who is a geeky girl trying to find enough confidence to get a date with her high school crush. The movie does a great job of embodying two things: the magic life of being a devoted fan girl who believes in “her band” and what it’s like to be a kid in high school in the seventies with no other worries than “will my crush ever notice me?” Riff Randell, the hardest rockin’ roller, student at Vince Lombardi High School, is played by the beautiful PJ Soles. She finds out that her favorite band, The Ramones, is coming to her town and she decides to brush up her songwriting skills so that she can get them to play her music. She comes up with an instant hit she calls “Rock and Roll High School”. The only problem? Her dictator of a Principal is trying to get rid of rock and roll activity on campus and in the personal lives of students completely. Riff Randell has to try to find a loop hole with the help of her trusty best friend Kate to make it to the Ramones concert, so that she can give them her song! Meanwhile, Kate, her best friend who is totally beautiful, but painfully shy, has this debilitating crush on “Tom Roberts” (the clueless quarterback of Vince Lombardi High, who is kind of a nerd too).
That’s enough plot talk though; I don’t believe in spoiler alerts! I will say this, in order to fall in love with music, or specifically a band, there has to be something that exists previously in the individual that is being spoken to in order for that admiration to exist. The things one admires says a lot about who they are as a person. This is why Riff Randell is so magic! Her love for the Ramones shows in the way she likes to dress, the way she writes her songs, and the way she carries herself. But it’s her love for individuality and freedom of expression that drew her to the Ramones in the first place. She doesn’t seem to be looking for a relationship as a high school girl; she just wants to rock! She doesn’t seem to care about her grades at school; she just wants to rock! She doesn’t want to dress like anyone else, SHE JUST WANTS TO ROCK! It’s who she is. The evidence is in how she introduces herself:
Principal Togar: “Who are you?”
Kate: “Kate Rambo.”
Principal Togar: “AND WHO ARE YOU?”
Riff Randell: “I’m Riff Randell, Rockin’ Roller.” *sticks out hand for a sarcastic shake*
“You can bet your last money it’s all gonna be a stoned gas honey.” Don Cornelius’ deep smooth voice would say at the end of every episode of the hippest trip in America, Soul Train. Before Cornelius created and hosted Soul Train, he was a Sports Anchor in Chicago on WC IU TV. WC IU TV was one of the only channels that broadcasted black people in a positive way. Even though the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964, racial discrimination, segregation, social mobility, and social inequality was still an issue. Black people still lacked employment opportunities, especially in show business. When African Americans were shown on television, they were playing a character that was uneducated, poor, or a maid, or a nanny working for a white person. Before Soul Train was a hit, there was American Bandstand. It was a show where young couples would come and dance live band music. The show’s chief purpose was to be a representation of American youth’s culture. However, all the dancers and musicians on American bandstand were white. Even after segregation was made illegal, black artists, dancers, and musicians didn’t feel safe or welcome enough to come on the show. This upset Don Cornelius and he wanted to create a platform where black men and women be seen in a positive light, black culture could be showcased the right way (by black people), and to create a window of opportunity for black artists, dancers, and musicians to succeed in show business.
Don Cornelius created Soul Train with the purpose of representing black culture in America the way American Bandstand showcased white youth. He wanted to create a bridge between people who had no idea about black culture, or had never met a black person before and tear down the stereotypes and lies that White American Television had been selling its people up until that time. He also wanted to create a show by African Americans for African Americans to enjoy. This is exactly what he did on August 17th 1970 when he was able to air the very first episode of Soul Train on WC IU TV, in Chicago. He paid for his pilot episode with his own money, four hundred dollars. “When it came on, it was almost overnight hot. Almost in minutes, every black person knew about it. Not because it was such a wonderful show, but because it was theirs.” (Don Cornelius, Interview) The show consisted of local black Chicago artists such as BB King, Curtis Mayfield, the Staple Singers, and more. Cornelius had all black dancers on his show and would even hand pick local teenagers who came running to volunteer after school to dance on Soul Train. Through this platform, America fell in love with black music, black fashion, black dance moves, black power.
When the show became successful, Cornelius took the Soul Train from Chicago and made a stop at Los Angeles, California with the dream of mainstreaming his hot steam machine. Even though he moved his show to LA, he remained loyal to his Chicago roots and continued to invite local Chicago dancers and musicians to star on his show. This helped him keep his old audience while building a new one. Once the show got big in LA, EVERYONE wanted to a chance to ride the hippest trip in America. Cornelius no longer had to ask people to star on his show because artists like Aretha Franklin, Gladys Knight and the Pips, and the Jackson 5 asking him to be on the show. Later on, White artists like Elton John and David Bowie would make an appearance on Soul Train as well. Stevie Wonder, like many black artists, thanks Soul Train for giving him a platform where he could succeed in show business. Don Cornelius’ Soul Train kicked racial inequality in the ass with badass music, badass dancers, with bad ass attitude. Thank you so much dude! And as the man-man would always say “You can bet your last money, it’s all gonna be a stoned gas honey.”
“Don Cornelius.” Biography.com, A&E Networks Television, 2 Apr. 2014, www.biography.com/people/don-cornelius-273681.
Youtube, 15 Apr. 2013, youtu.be/yDCokBrXefs.
The Museum of Broadcast Communications – Encyclopedia of Television – Soul Train, www.museum.tv/eotv/soultrain.htm
“You feel like underappreciated scholars so you shit on the people who know less than you, which is everyone.” (Louis, High Fidelity)
Every music nerd knows what it is like to love band, album, or song, so much it hurts. We know the time we invested reading the history of the band, their process, and their philosophies towards music. We also like to pretend that discographies were subliminally planted in our brains from birth; to us, it is commonsense. But the truth is, it’s not. It was hard fucking work impressing the people you thought knew more about Zeppelin than you did. That’s why when you see hot girls in band tees from Forever 21, you question their authenticity, as a fan and as a person. This is why when you see a kid get a guitar for his birthday, who never felt moved to teach himself at least three chords, looking through a Sam Ash magazine searching for the next six-sting he wants to add to his collection, you die a little (on the inside). I mean, HELLO, Paul McCartney took a bus to meet up with a fellow guitar player so he could learn one chord; B7. We don’t have to take buses anymore dude! We have YouTube!
Our identities get tangled in the religion of rock and we forget to stop. We forget our “uncool” parents who don’t understand, heard this shit when it was fresh. It was their ears that were “thunderstruck” by ACDC. It was their Partridge Family childhood set on fire by Alice Cooper a rebellious preacher kid from Michigan. We forget music is supposed to make everyone feel fucking cool, and that great rock artists are some of the most “uncool” people. I mean take rock away from Tenacious D’s JB and Kyle Gas and they are powerless man. I get it. Rock music is supposed to make you feel strong, makes you sexy. It makes you feel different from the people in high school who used to look down on you. But as you grow, rock should inspire you to embrace your humanity and see the humanity in others (*Flips Willy Nelson’s braids behind shoulders*). Music is free man, and her fruits are to be enjoyed by the people who get her. People who don’t get it are missing out, but it’s our job as lovers of music to spread the love instead of discourage and shame people who haven’t discovered it yet.
The nineties was a dream and we all woke up January 15th 2018 when Dolores O’Riordan was announced dead. The hearts of many crumbled, every cool parent who played The Cranberries’ CDs in their car, or in the kitchen, the children of those parents, every girl who listened to linger and dreams. It’s still a mystery how she passed, but it’s also none of our fucking business. Our only job is to sob, and look really ugly while we do it. The Cranberries was a band with a heart of gold. They made music because they loved it, and it was the only thing they felt as individuals, they were good at. They weren’t concerned with the business of music but the process of creation. Dolores once said, “You sell records because you proved a point to yourself-we weren’t concerned with business.” They had a high personal standard for music they appreciated and applied it to their own sound. Although many of us saw Dolores as a punk rock fairy with excessive beauty and grace, she hated to be the center of attention. None of them did. In many interviews she states, in the beginning she never realized people were looking at her. She was so into her music and the band, she didn’t understand that the audience was looking at her. They were so blinded by their passion they didn’t care what journalists, show-goers, anyone said about their sound or look.
The songs Dolores wrote were all about her life experiences, every single one of them. In an interview she opens up the “Linger”, the song that kicked off their band’s fame, was about her first kiss. She says she didn’t have her first real kiss until after she was fifteen or sixteen. Linger was about her first real kiss. Her second album was about her first real adult relationship. The reason why many of our parents still listen to the Cranberries, even after they “grow-up”, get jobs, and have kids, is because the Cranberries' music is about everyday life. It’s fucking relatable. Money, fame, sex, and drugs, is not only a rock and roll clique, it’s not a real life. It’s boring, and lonely. The Cranberries write about their feelings on life and death, mental health, life’s curves, family, falling in love for the first time, and wondering if true love is real in five years because your mom is getting married for the third time. They make you think being a human being and waking up in the morning is fucking magic. Thank you Cranberries for being yourselves and showing us that we don’t need to make up lives and make up ourselves, we are all magic! Thank you for your music. Thank you Dolores for the time you spent with us.