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Posts Tagged ‘The Ramones’

Punk Love

May 8, 2013 | by

Zandra Rhodes

Zandra Rhodes.

At the age of fourteen, one year removed from the forced tribalism brought on by being a bar mitzvah–age Jewish boy, I decided I wanted to define myself by something besides my recent readmission into the Chosen. Your typical suburban weirdo, I started to use the rudimentary sewing skills passed down by my grandparents to attach silkscreened patches to my L. L. Bean backpack and zip-up hooded sweatshirts. I bleached my hair, and quickly hid my CDs by contemporary “alternative” groups like Third Eye Blind and the Smashing Pumpkins, replacing them with albums by bands like Minor Threat, Bad Religion, and, my favorite, the Descendents.

29. Gallery View_DIY HARDWARE_Gianni VersaceI was punk; at least, I thought I was punk, until an even older punk asked me if I actually knew what punk was, thus sparking a volatile internal dialogue inside my head. This was my first experience with the Talmudic-like discussion that surrounds punk: What did punk actually sound like? Was punk a philosophy? When did punk start? Did it start in America or England? Was Emma Goldman punk? Were the Situationists punks? Was the Velvet Underground punk? Were the hippies in the 1960s actually punks before punk was a thing? Was garage rock the original punk? I meditated on these questions and made very little headway, until one evening when I saw a kid at a punk show wearing a shirt with “Jesus was the first punk” scrawled on it in Magic Marker, and I had to admit the very act of wearing that shirt seemed pretty punk, even though I wasn’t ready to confirm punk’s existence. I also had to admit to myself, as I looked around the Chicago bowling alley-turned-venue, that for the most part, for a bunch of nonconformists, us punks all looked pretty much the same.

Questions of what punk is aside, it’s difficult to deny that, other than the crude beauty of the Ramones, the noisy dirges of bands like Flipper, or the shouts that “Civilization’s Dying” by the Indianapolis band Zero Boys, punk is best explained by its style. It’s hard to say whether somebody thinks like a punk, but if you see somebody with a red Mohawk and a bullet belt, chances are you will make assumptions as to which subculture that person best relates. And while people who might identify as punk will probably tell you they aren’t into high fashion, it is hard to ignore the profoundly impactful relationship between punk and fashion, intertwined since Dame Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren turned their Kings Road boutique into the iconic SEX store in 1974. And now everything that Westwood, McLaren, Johnny Rotten (née Lydon), Richard Hell, Patti Smith, and a host of other punks wore, and everything that followed, is getting the high-art treatment with the Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibition PUNK: Chaos to Couture. Read More »

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Television Man: David Byrne on the Couch

September 5, 2012 | by

I was born in a house with the television always on. The lyric comes from “Love For Sale,” a song penned by David Byrne and recorded on the Talking Heads album True Stories, but the same could be said for where I grew up, in suburban Philadelphia. My dad watched television even when cooking dinner, which seemed crazy to me, minding an open flame while keeping one eye on some “reality” courtroom drama—not sure you can rightfully call those staged scream-fests real. Judge Judy was such a constant presence, she feels like a family friend. I hear her gravelly voice chewing some idiot out and smell Dad's stir-fry.

Our house was small enough that, unless I played music, I couldn't escape the tube's empty murmuring, not even in my room, which abutted my parents'. As a teenager, then, it made sense that I'd fall in love with Talking Heads' song “Found A Job,” from their 1978 album More Songs About Buildings and Food. David Byrne, the band's vocalist, guitarist, and songwriter, doesn't so much sing as sing-narrates the story of a couple, Bob and Judy, frustrated watching television because “nothing's on tonight.” Byrne as narrator intrudes upon this domestic scene like one of those omniscient charlatans on infomercials—But wait! There's a solution to their problem!—suggesting they “might be better off... making up their own shows, which might be better than TV.”

By the song's end, Bob and Judy are collaborating, creating their own TV program, a show that “gets real high ratings.” They've saved their relationship and turned their whole lives around. “Bob never yells about the picture now, he's having too much fun,” the narrator tells us. He wraps it up like a fable, inviting the listener to “think about this little scene; apply it to your life. If your work isn't what you love, then something isn't right.” While Byrne tells the story, his guitar noodles on the edges of a funky, bass-driven rhythm, until, at the end, a six note melody emerges like an epiphany over the groove. Bob and Judy have learned to sing a new tune.

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