Posted tagged ‘Generation X’

The History of Punk, Class #23

2014/04/07

The History of Punk
Monday 7 April 7:00PM
Location: Humanities Centre 1-14, The University of Alberta
All-Ages & All-Welcome

“Kurdt”

Kurdt

One day in the summer of 1983, a band called The Melvins  put on an impromptu event called The Them Festival in Montesano, Washington. This was near a place called Aberdeen, a town of 17,000 people 108 miles from Seattle. The ‘festival’ consisted of a free performance in the parking lot of a Thriftway supermarket. A teenager from Aberdeen was in the audience, and later wrote in his journal that “the stoners were bored and kept shouting, ‘Play some Def Leppard,'” but this was “what [he had] been looking for.”

In this class, we’ll take a look at the legacy of this teenager, Kurt Cobain, who felt isolated in his hometown – from mainstream society, other youth, and his family. We will trace his participation throughout the underground music community in Washington, from Aberdeen to Olympia to Seattle, while examining his influences and values.

Finally, we will discuss Cobain’s lasting impact 20 years after his death, and why he still resonates with a generation that found what it had been looking for, in Nirvana.

Readings:
“Nirvana Photographer Charles Peterson Reflects On Kurt Cobain’s Life & Legacy”
“Notes from Seattle: 20 years later, what is Kurt Cobain’s legacy?”
“Kurt Cobain’s overlooked legacy: Guitar teacher for a generation”
“Kurt Cobain’s hometown no ‘nirvana’ 20 years after death”
“Here We Are Now”
“Kurt Cobain, Seattle 1993 Complete Interview”
“Kurt Cobain’s Interrogation of Hegemonic Masculinity”

Playlist:
The Melvins – “live-in-the-studio, circa 1984
Beat Happening – “Our Secret”
The Go Team- “Scratch It Out”
The Go Team – “Bikini Twilight”
Nirvana – “Smells like Teen Spirit” (first time live)
Nirvana – “Live at Reading, 1992” (full concert)

upside down

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2012 Festival of Ideas: The Importance of Music Communities

2012/10/24

On Wednesday, 24 October, I’m helping launch the University of Alberta’s 2012 Festival of Ideas at Edmonton City Hall. It’s free and open to the public, and runs from Noon-1:00PM:

Here’s what my talk is about:

When it comes to research, my interest lies in the relationship between music and society. The best way to do this is to study music communities. So, in this presentation, I’m talking about 3 different scenes from Seattle history, and each can tell us something about the past. Seattle was far removed for the traditional music centres in the United States – cities like New York, or Los Angeles. But that didn’t stop the kids living there. Youths making music can spark big change in culture – and kids participating in music communities allows them opportunities they wouldn’t otherwise have.

Take a kid named James for example. He grew up in the Seattle ghetto in the 1950s. At this time, Seattle was still inherently racist – blacks couldn’t live outside the Central District, a section of town only a few square miles wide. They couldn’t work outside of it either, or go to school. It was an amazing music community though. Folks might not have had good jobs, but that didn’t stop them from playing jazz, the blues, or R’n’B. And despite the intolerance, it was still part of a network that spanned the entire continent. Locals were exposed to some of the greatest musicians in the world.

Now James, at first he couldn’t afford a guitar – so he played a broomstick. When he finally saved enough money to buy one, he was taught by the other players in the community – the ones who had nothing to lose by passing along their knowledge. This kid James? He’s better known as Jimi Hendrix!

Have you heard of the Baby-Boomers? They’ve probably made sure you have! If not, chat with your grandparents. They’re the HUGE generation that came of age in the 1960s. When it came to music in Seattle and the Pacific Northwest, these youths went out and did it themselves. They created a successful teen dance network throughout the region, where everyone participated by attending the shows. They had FUN. Friendly rivalries between bands meant that if a band’s members went to the same school as you, you had to get out there and show your support. As the Baby-Boomers grew up, they moved out of the community halls and went on to dominate mainstream culture.

When the next generation was coming of age, the Baby-Boomers didn’t pass control of mainstream culture over to their descendants. Instead, they held on to it. This meant the next generation, Generation X, had to create an alternative to the mainstream. They were a small generation, and didn’t have the same opportunities of their predecessors. So, they worked on a shift underground. The foundation of this was personal expression. In music communities across North America, participants developed their own cultural institutions, and  throughout the 1980s built a stronger and stronger network. This all culminated with the Seattle music scene, and the band Nirvana – whose song “Smells Like Teen Spirit” finally brought the cultural spotlight onto a generation. If you don’t know Nirvana you might recognize the name Dave Grohl, who went on to form the Foo-Fighters. Also, you might be hearing “Smells Like Teen Spirit” a lot in the near future, since it’s the name of a sitcom being created by the writer of Big Bang Theory.

The 3 examples from Seattle show that youth create change by participating in music communities. And each shift meant this was no longer their parent’s music. For Jimi Hendrix, it was helping him overcome a life of poverty. For the Baby-Boomers, it asserting cultural dominance, and having fun doing it. For Generation X, it was speaking out against the status-quo and doing something different.

It might just be for themselves, or it might spark ideas that impact the whole world. If you have different ideas, your local music community can do the same for you. For example, in Edmonton, there’s record labels, music venues, and magazines. The only thing a local scene doesn’t have is an excuse NOT to participate. So go get your ideas out there!

 

The History of Punk, Class #8

2012/07/06

The Edmonton Free School
Saturday 7 July 1:30PM
Location: Humanities 1-14, The University of Alberta
All-Ages, All-Welcome

“Punk, Grunge, and Selling Albums vs. Selling Out”

This seminar will discuss whether or not bands such as Mudhoney, Nirvana and Beat Happening were part of the underground punk community. Moreover, while viewing it as a social and cultural construct, this seminar will debate if the grunge movement, was, in fact, an extension of the norms, values and practices of punk culture.

Spoiler: I argue that grunge was an extension of punk, and when it hit the mainstream, there were all kinds of resounding implications for the mainstream music industry, underground culture, and a generation known by the letter X.

Once again, we’ll start with a short lecture, and then transition into our intellectual picnic format – so bring food to share if you can!

Reading:
I’m Just Selling Albums, I’m Not Selling Out

Not Required Reading:
This is Not For You: The Rise and Fall of Music Milieux in Seattle and the Pacific Northwest, 1950s -1990s

Playlist:
Mother Love Bone “Crown of Thorns”
Jane’s Addiction “Had a Dad”
Soundgarden “He Didn’t (Live from Seattle Bumbershoot Festival 1988)”
Mudhoney “Touch Me I’m Sick”
Ronald Reagan “Morning in America”
Fugazi “Waiting Room”
Hüsker Dü “Eight Miles High”
The Replacements “Unsatisfied”
Scream “Came Without Warning”
Martha Quinn “MTV VJ 1982”
Mötley Crüe “Girls, Girls, Girls”
The Dead Kennedys “Pull My Strings”
Mr. Epp and the Calculations “Of Course I’m Happy, Why?”
Rodney Bingenheimer “Rodney on the ROQ Theme”
Wipers “Doom Town”
Beat Happening “Black Candy (live on TCTV 1998)”
The U-Men “They”
The Melvins “Happy Grey or Black”
The Fastbacks “Swallow My Pride”
The Gits “Insecurities”
Skin Yard “Skins in My Closet”
Green River “This Town”
Malfunkshun “With Yo’ Heart (Not Yo’ Hands)”
The Posies “Ontario”
The Young Fresh Fellows “Amy Grant”
The Green Pajamas “Kim the Waitress”
Screaming Trees “You Tell Me All These Things”
Nirvana “Spank Thru (1/23/88)”
Tad “Loser”
Sonic Youth “Kill Yr. Idols”
Sonic Youth “Teenage Riot”
Alice in Chains “We Die Young”
Pearl Jam “Why Go”
7 Year Bitch “M.I.A.”
Bikini Kill “Double Dare Ya”
Nirvana “Smells Like Teen Spirit”

 

Do-it-Yourself Dutch Punk

2012/07/03

“The New Messiah” was recorded in 1986 (or maybe ’84 or ’85) by two friends in the Netherlands. Music and background vocals, Joost Maessen. Lyrics and lead vocals, Tibor van Rooij.

It’s DIY, political, and an example of youthful self-expression. The song highlights what kids outside traditional punk centres were up to, and it also shows punk as an attitude rather than a specific sound.

Listen to it over here, on the Tumblr:
http://thepastisunwritten.tumblr.com/post/26424505052

“Kony 2012:” Our Generation’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit?” Or is that still around the corner?

2012/03/08

Yesterday afternoon, I watched a 30 minute video. You’ve probably heard of it. It was slick, pressed all necessary emotional buttons, focused on an important topic, and carried a clear message. Since it also utilized all the right social media innovations, it was clear the video was going to go viral. It even said it would. Participation in the video event was based simply upon sharing it. By nightfall, it seemed like everyone with a computer had watched and passed it along. By morning, debate had polarized over what its popularity showed about an entire generation.

I’m not going to add anything to that discussion here, but what I am going to bring up is the other thing that is clearly on everyone’s mind: the music industry.

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are you listening? one more time with feeling

2011/10/28

So just in case you didn’t know – the lyrics sung by Paul Westerberg of the Minneapolis band the Replacements delve deeply into the theme of yearning. Now, maybe not as popular as the feelings “hungry,” “envy” or even “love,” this was a still a feeling many kids across the United States were feeling in the 1980s. And I’d bet that even GOB Bluth at some point in his life  has yearned for something too….probably.

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“Somebody needs to figure out a new way to smash a guitar”

2011/08/04

it’s been a while

In the 1950s, we had beatniks and rebels without a cause.
In the 1960s, we had mods and hippies.
In the 1970s, we had glam rockers and punks.
In the 1980s,  we had metal and…other stuff.
In the 1990s, we had flannel and more flannel.

not just for lumberjacks

Then starting in the 2000s, we had…everybody dressing up like their favorite character from the last fifty years. The fashion became the passion, and folks with no connection to the subculture those styles came from regurgitated rather than invented something of their own. Often, these styles drew from music communities that formed around a particular grievance or attitude, – a relationship that can be symbolized by, say, reggae music and dreadlocks. Of course, the foundation for both of those was Rastafarianism, and anybody that knows anything about that branch of Christianity knows how stupid an affluent white person with dreads is. Or at least they should be stupid for not being informed on their stylistic choice, but nowadays there’s no meaning behind the styles – the superficial is all that matters.

This may be the reason why I’m still wearing the same clothes I had in high school.
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