Posted tagged ‘1990s’

Not Just White Noise Supremacy: The Diversity of the Underground Punk Network in late 1970s-early 1990s America

2012/01/22

Recently, a book called White Riot: Punk Rock and the Politics of Race, edited by Stephen Duncombe and Maxwell Tremblay, was released. Race has been at the forefront of debates on punk, probably before, and definitely since, Lester Bangs wrote his article “White Noise Supremacists” in the Village Voice in 1979. Reactions to White Riot reveals the diversity of opinion on race and politics in punk milieux, especially this review of the book in Maximum Rocknroll, White Riot: Another Failure.”

Discussions on punk and race instantly brings to mind not only the Clash song “White Riot,” but also the Minor Threat song “Guilty of Being White.” The song was written by Ian MacKaye, who was frustrated by being mistreated, because of the color of his skin, by black youths in the community he grew up in. Highly contentious, debate and different interpretations continue to surround the song. As the book White Riot and the reactions to it show, this contention extends to the issue of race and punk as a whole.

The thing about punk is, as D. Boon said: “punk is whatever we made it to be.” From the late 1970s to the early 1990s, punk was a melange of not only different races, but also voices, messages, outlooks and ideas. Music scenes sprung up across the United States (and parts of Canada), forming an underground network where people could raise voices differing to the status quo of the mainstream.

In the following, I try to touch on the diversity that existed in the underground punk network in the United States. It is by no means comprehensive, but should provide a taste of what was happening, and how the varying elements of that diversity mixed together.

Well, except for Diversity being an old wooden ship from the Civil War era

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London Bridge is…opening its doors

2011/05/03

London Bridge Studio in Seattle. It’s where bands like Mother Love Bone, Pearl Jam, Blind Melon, Alice in Chains, and Soundgarden all went calling to record. And now, it’s opened its doors to tours:

Visit with one of our engineers and see where the iconic 90′s records were recorded. See the small vocal booth where Eddie Vedder, Layne Staley, Andrew Wood, Chris Cornell and Shannon Hoon all recorded their epic vocal takes. Hang out in the lounge where these bands spent weeks on end living while recording. View the Wall of Fame (wall of gold records) and the Wall of Shame (wall of scraps left behind by bands). See the autographed drum heads and LBS guest book.

Looks like another research trip to Seattle might be in order.

More information on the tour here.

And here’s the London Bridge Studio website.

Happy Birthday to Sub Pop – April Fools to Everyone Else!

2011/04/01

So they did it on April 1st so it could be called a joke if they failed, but really they were serious. Today is the anniversary of the day Sub Pop Records officially opened its office doors, way back in 1988. With a knack for self-deprecation, the independent label also had a talent for combining innovation, timing, and marketability – not only for its bands, but for the label itself.

Sub Pop developed a unique image based around hype that became the straw that broke the camel’s back – that is, if you can call the wall that was blocking underground musicians from having mainstream success in the United States a camel – and thereby caused a major shift in American glamour. Nevermind the make-up and leather outfits, here’s the flannel.

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Here we are now. Entertain us: The politics of boredom

2011/03/15

Late 1991. A couple kids from an affluent family gets picked up by their parents from soccer practice and are chaffered to their safe suburban home. While the youths are waiting for dinner to be ready, they turn on MTV. But instead of MC Hammer dancing around in really baggy pants denying them even the chance to touch…this…they see something different but at the same time familiar: kids that are waiting for something to happen. Kids that are disaffected and bored. Kids just like them. And then there’s a guy with a guitar on the screen, not wearing Hammer pants or dressed like Gene Simmons or Vince Neil or even Axl Rose.  Hold on  a second – he’s just like them. And he’s screaming out the words, “here we are now, entertain us.”

It seemed like in an instant, these kids finally had a soundtrack for how they felt about their lives.

The beginning riff in the Nirvana video for their song “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was the exact moment that the politics of boredom hit the mainstream. They’d been around in the underground for ages before that though. Let’s go for a listen through history and see what that tells us.

copyright John Mostrom 2003

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Transmissions from the Punk Heart

2011/02/02

When the music scene in Seattle exploded in late 1991, bands from everywhichwhereplace rushed to the Pacific Northwest to try and get in on the buzz. This wasn’t how things usually went. Normally, a musician had to leave the Emerald City in order to make it big. Heck, even Jimi Hendrix had to do a reversal of “follow the yellow brick road.”

Example of a brilliant scientist

Here’s some other examples of people that had to ditch Seattle to order to find “success.” I put success in quotations because it can be a pretty subjective term, and the following musicians certainly achieved different levels of it.  Of course, the examples given will then be combined into a trifector (trifecta?), because science has proven that’s the best way to make an overall argument. Thanks in advance, science.

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Dropping the Iron Curtain

2010/12/29

Nowadays, American bands don’t just influence American bands. American bands also influence British bands, Canadian bands, Australian bands, heck, American bands influence at the very least bands all over the world, if not also in places that aren’t even planets, like Pluto. (sorry Pluto)

The same was the case during the Cold War. Despite the USSR’s official rejection of western culture, all things American were slipping through the Iron Curtain. Music was no stranger to this transmission into Eastern Europe and the USSR. Musicians picked up from acts like Iggy Pop and the Stooges, the Velvet Underground, and of course later punk bands like the Talking Heads. I know this to be true because I read about it in a fanzine called Flagpole Magazine, from Athens, Georgia.

BIX

In 1991, a band called BIX came across the Atlantic to perform across the United States. They were from Lithuania, a country that had just declared independence from the Soviet Union. Already veterans of playing throughout Europe, and at a short 1990 US tour including a stop at the New Music Seminar in NYC, BIX was back for their second tour of America.

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The Revolution will not be Blogged

2010/10/03

In 1970, Gil Scott-Heron proclaimed that “you will not be able to plug in, turn on, and cop out,” because the “revolution will not be televised..it will be live.”

A song that is more a poem and political declaration than a piece of music, “the Revolution will not be Televised” was written in the middle of the Nixon era – as the war in Vietnam, a conflict with a disproportionate number of African-Americans fighting,  still raged – and the counterculture of the 1960s had either burnt out or faded away.

It weaves together popular culture, civil rights, and the rumblings going on in the underground…and makes a statement for an entire generation.

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