It started like it always does–this week something random piqued my interest, I clicked over to Wikipedia, that informational dump that always leads to more things piquing my interest, and the next thing you know I’m looking at all the Robert Mapplethorpe pictures I can find (not just the nudes) and ordering Patti Smith’s autobiography Just Kids.
Tracing my relationship to punk music and figureheads is like skipping a stone across a large pond–over time I’ve consistently stumbled across and appreciated random people tangentially related to the punk movement, like Janis Joplin, who died before punk ever got off the ground, and embodied more of punk’s spirit and ethos than it’s sweeping musical changes anyway. I’d say the most accurate way to describe my relationship to punk is that I’m moving backwards in time, working my way in reverse to the classics.
In high school, I was really into groups that would be classified now as pop punk or mainstream punk, namely Green Day, My Chemical Romance, The Ataris, and one of my all-time favorite, most nostalgia-producing, shameful-secret bands: Blink-182. I can’t even tell you how excited I was when I heard they were getting back together again. If you don’t already hate Blink and all they stand for, here’s a sampling of the type of criticism they generate: Christine Di Bella of PopMatters.com wrote a pretty scathing piece about Blink representing “new school bubblegum punk,” saying, “It’s punk taken to its most accessible point, a point where it barely reflects its lineage at all, except in the three-chord song structures and the prevalence of audience members with hair dyed in primary colors.”
Enter college life, when I started exploring musical genres that employ, if not fewer, less crude curse words. Another bonus: exposure to songs about experiences beyond breaking up with one’s girlfriend and other high school-ophilia. I inched closer to punk in that era by listening to a lot of bands Wikipedia classifies as “post-punk revival,” including The Strokes, Franz Ferdinand, Arctic Monkeys, and The Killers (yes, this is another example of my poor taste, and yes, The Killers are about 95% pop and maybe 5% punk, but I’m just going by omniscient Wikipedia here).
Then there was post-college and my familiarization with feminism (why that didn’t happen during college I have no idea; but I distinctly remember being invited to a feminist student group meeting and being like, “Eh”¦”). All of a sudden “grrrl” wasn’t just something I used as a greeting in middle school notes (“heeeeeey grrrrrrl!!”), it stood for a movement I was mad that I had missed, which made me determined to make up for lost time. So I listened to Bikini Kill and Sleater-Kinney and I read about Kathleen Hanna and zines, and somehow this all got mixed up with my love for Liz Phair and “Exile in Guyville,” and I decided it was a good time to be female.
In the past few months, I’ve watched The Runaways and been turned on to the wonderful fierceness that is Joan Jett (I could listen to her cover of Crimson and Clover for hours). I wasn’t quite as enthused by the actual music of The Runaways (this may be sacrilege, but Cherry Bomb makes me want to stuff my ears with Q-tips and scratch my eyes out), but the movie was great. And then there’s been the gradual addition of more Ramones songs to my iTunes line-up, my foray into and rejection of Sex Pistols music, and the very recent Patti Smith exposure (I had never seen or heard of her Horses album cover until a week ago, if you can believe it).
I’m still working my way back to the greats. Siouxsie and the Banshees is up next in my punk-exploration mission, and I have really high hopes for that group! Who do you recommend I listen to or read about next?
To set the mood:
Editor’s note: the blog ate Meghan’s original video, so I’m throwing my goddess Siouxsie up here. ~o