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What Are the Most Essential Clash Tracks?

Tuesday, November 18th, 2014 - by Allston's Afternoon Rockout

A “by request” by Kathy Shaidle.

2. Topper Headon (with the Clash) – “The Magnificent Seven

Editor’s Note: Over the spring and summer we launched the PJ Lifestyle Music at Midnight feature, highlighting reader suggestions for great songs worth featuring. One contributor’s infectious enthusiasm and good nature won us over. He’s since expanded his music recommendations to a series of list-article-mix tapes. Now in this daily feature we’re going to start drawing from his lists (and growing an archive of them) to discuss the songs and artists included. Who should be included next? What ideas do you have for music or other culture or lifestyle ideas you’d like to see discussed at PJ Lifestyle? Get in touch DaveSwindlePJM AT gmail.com or @DaveSwindle on Twitter. Here’s Allston’s archive so far, but he’s got more list-mix-tapes in the works:  

The New War Music Series

By Artist and Band

By Decade and Era

By Genre

By Instrument

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An Alternative History of Rock’s Most Iconic Photograph

Monday, November 17th, 2014 - by Kathy Shaidle

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See Part 1 in Kathy Shaidle’s series exploring punk rock here: How the Sex Pistols Made History by Lying About It

Let’s get this out of the way:

Randal Doane is an assistant dean at Oberlin.

Politics aside (and he doesn’t shove it up your nose), this means you’ll trip over academic, culture-critic jargon — “codes” and “gestures” abound; “Eros” crashes the party — while otherwise enjoying his new book, Stealing All Transmissions: A Secret History of The Clash.

And there’s a lot to enjoy.

Stealing distills one fan’s decades of wide reading, deep listening, and just plain thinking into a multi-faceted gem.

In the hands of a less skillful writer, this book would feel like an out-of-your-league sexual pass, an awkward attempt to squeeze too many topics — the evolution of punk music (along with the etymology of the word); the rise and fall of AM and FM radio; the underground scenes in New York and California, to name but three — between only two (virtual) covers.

Somehow, though, Stealing works, distinguishing itself from similar titles by piling on plenty of original insights; for one thing (a bit like the recent How the Beatles Destroyed Rock ‘n’ Roll), this book explores how the medium changes the message — that is, how the technology we employ to consume music alters music itself, along with the culture at large.

(To cite a particularly cliched example: The LP made it easier to have sex to music, as one didn’t have to leap up to change the record, or worry that a radio DJ might ruin the mood with the wrong selection. How many children were conceived as Frank Sinatra’s Songs for Swingin’ Lovers spun away on the other side of the room– besides me, that is — I couldn’t begin to guess.)

Doane also demonstrates, in pointillistic detail, how a tiny band of now-forgotten local DJs championed (today we’d say “curated”) punk, and “broke” The Clash and other English bands in America.

In doing so, he reveals what we lost when that free-form radio format was killed off.

(P.S. — A note about audio that follows throughout: These interviews with Joe Strummer were recently uploaded to YouTube by HazyRock.com. While the date is unknown, they seem to correspond roughly to the “early days” period Doane focuses on in his book.)

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How the Sex Pistols Made History by Lying About It

Monday, November 10th, 2014 - by Kathy Shaidle

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“…the stage where Johnny Rotten unveiled his baleful stare has given way to a Harry Potter section.”

The venerable St. Martins School of Art having moved to a new campus, another esteemed institution took over its old building this year:

Foyles, one of the many beloved book merchants that line London’s Charing Cross Road.

Traditionalists grumbled that this new Foyles was altogether too slick, nowhere near as dusty and quaint as the original store.

But when discussing this doubly-historic move, the one talking point almost everyone settled on was revealing.

St. Martins School has, over the course of 150 years, produced a number of distinguished graduates.

Its sculpture department was once called “the most famous in the world.”

Yet headlines trumpeting the famous building’s transformation from respected art school to glossy media megashop were almost all variations on a single theme:

“Foyles to open new flagship bookstore on site of Sex Pistols’ first gig”

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Which Tracks Define the ‘Proto-Punk’ Sound?

Wednesday, November 5th, 2014 - by Allston's Afternoon Rockout

Punk rock didn’t just appear from nowhere — we had our 1970s “proto-punk” as well.  The Tubes, Lou Reed — you could hear the future sound in their songs.  A few years later, our running joke was, we were “White Dopes on Punk.”

11.  The Tubes – “White Punks on Dope” (1975)

Editor’s Note: Over the spring and summer we launched the PJ Lifestyle Music at Midnight feature, highlighting reader suggestions for great songs worth featuring. One contributor’s infectious enthusiasm and good nature won us over. He’s since expanded his music recommendations to a series of list-article-mix tapes. Now in this daily feature we’re going to start drawing from his lists (and growing an archive of them) to discuss the songs and artists included. Who should be included next? What ideas do you have for music or other culture or lifestyle ideas you’d like to see discussed at PJ Lifestyle? Get in touch DaveSwindlePJM AT gmail.com or @DaveSwindle on Twitter. Here’s Allston’s archive so far, but he’s got more list-mix-tapes in the works:  

By Artist and Band

By Decade

By Genre

By Instrument

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Blondie’s Chris Stein Shrugs Off Iran’s Violent Treatment of Women

Monday, November 3rd, 2014 - by Kathy Shaidle

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Debbie Harry’s ex-boyfriend and Blondie co-founder Chris Stein has just released a photography collection, featuring his lifelong muse.

And why not? No less an authority than rock photography guru Bob Gruen famously said, “You can’t take a bad picture of Debbie Harry.”

Unfortunately, Stein marrs the collection with a stunningly multi-level-stupid comment, regarding his famous picture, above.

Stein quips to who else but The Guardian:

UK tabloids don’t push the limits of credibility any more than their American counterparts, but in a way they got there first. Here, Debbie is reading about sexism under the ayatollah.

Get it? Decades of well-documented, sharia-inspired violence against women in Iran was probably exaggerated, according to Stein, because it was reported by a lower class “red top” English tabloid back in the 1970s.

Stein further ingratiates himself with his British host by slagging stupid, hysterical American “yellow journalists,” too, for no apparent reason.

Factor in the word “sexism” as his mealy-mouthed synonym for “rape, torture and murder,” and it’s quite breathtaking how much smug “enlightened” ignorance Stein managed to squeeze into two just sentences.

Especially the same week that Iranian authorities executed a woman for killing her rapist.

All this from a man I feel safe in presuming voted for Obama twice, and whose views on every subject are reliably, predictably “progressive.”

But of course!

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Can We Stop Calling Clash Drummer Topper Headon ‘Underrated’?

Wednesday, October 29th, 2014 - by Kathy Shaidle

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My PJ Media colleague Allston has just launched his call for your “greatest rock drummers.”

(Be sure to add your nominations in his comments.)

Allston will annoy a lot of people by saying that Keith Moon wasn’t a good drummer.

I’ll leave it to actual drummers and other musicians to fight that out.

As a fan of The Who, I don’t necessarily disagree; Pete Townshend has said as much, but added — and this is the key — that The Who wouldn’t have been The Who without him.

Even Moon himself acknowledged his technical limitations by joking that he was “the best Keith Moon type drummer in the world.”

But I wanted to get in on Allston’s round up early, by nominating someone who other drummers say was highly skilled technically.

They also insist on calling him “underrated” – there are 14,000 Google hits and counting — to the point at which that word has almost replaced his real nickname, “Topper.”

Surely being called “underrated” for 20+ adds up to The Clash’s Nicky Headon — “the human drum machine” — qualifying as one of the best?

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Vivienne Westwood: Dame Hypocrite’s New Clothes

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014 - by Kathy Shaidle

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Be honest:

Making fun of Al Gore, Michael Moore and Tom Friedman is getting stale.

Those liberal hypocrites are all so… ten years ago.

Luckily, veteran English fashion designer Vivienne Westwood has stepped into the breach, providing us with a brand new clueless, tone-deaf progressive do-gooder millionaire to make fun of.

Westwood first rose to fame in the 1970s, when she and then-husband Malcolm McLaren opened the King’s Road boutique Let It Rock.

Under various names — Sex, Seditionaries — the shop became one of two where British punk germinated, the other being Don Letts’ Acme Attractions.

Westwood created the rude, ripped, rubbery clothing forever associated with the movement, while McLaren tended the musical side, cobbling together a house band to publicize the store. (Hence the name Sex Pistols.)

As the group’s lead singer, Johnny Rotten (ne Lydon) recalled:

Malcolm and Vivienne were really a pair of shysters: they would sell anything to any trend that they could grab onto.

Fast forward to 2014, and imagine, say, Jimmy Swaggart getting the Presidential Medal of Freedom. That’s how weird it should be that Vivienne Westwood was named a Dame of the British Empire by the queen in 2006.

But no one seems to think it odd at all that “shyster” Westwood remains a powerful cultural force, having switched sides from pseudo-rebel to Establishment figure.

Or, to put it more accurately, for being both things at the same time.

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What Are the Most Badass Punk Rock Songs?

Friday, May 23rd, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Pop Culture Debates!

In partnership with the new fiction publishing platform Liberty Island, PJ Lifestyle is going to begin promoting and co-hosting a series of debates and discussions about popular culture. The goal is to figure out what works and what doesn’t so that in the future we can promote and create better fiction and culture of our own. These are public brainstorming sessions for writers and culture advocates interested in developing a more vibrant popular culture. You’re invited to submit your answers to any of these questions — or a related one of your own! — that interests you:

A) in the comments

B) Via email to PJ Lifestyle editor Dave Swindle.

C) at your blog, then let us know in the comments or via email. 

The most interesting answers may be linked, crossposted, or published at PJ Lifestyle. See this week’s previous questions, focusing on music: Thursday’s  Wednesday’s “Who Are the Greatest Female Vocalists Of All Time?“ Tuesday’s “Who Are the Greatest Country Music Artists Everyone Should Have In Their Collection?“ and Monday’s Are Black Sabbath and the Rolling Stones Better Than the Beatles?

 Also check out the previous weeks’ writing prompts and email in your thoughts on any questions that strike your fancy: 5 Geek Questions To Provoke Debates About the Future of Sci-Fi and Fantasy5 Controversial Questions To Inspire Spirited Debates About Music.

Kathy Shaidle: Miley Cyrus: Punk of the Year? Almost. (Seriously.)

Kathy Shaidle: Vampira: Beatnik, Goth, Punk

This concludes our week of music genre debates. Next week’s theme is still up for grabs but after 2 weeks of music-themed discussions perhaps it’s time to look at a different medium. TV shows? Books? Internet Culture? Movies and Video Games? Please submit your suggestions.

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Patti Smith: The Paula Deen of Punk?

Friday, January 10th, 2014 - by Kathy Shaidle

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My high school dropout mother taught me to read when I was three.

I soon acquired what I presumed would be a lifelong habit/talent: the ability to read with almost complete attention and retention for hours at a stretch.

Then I sidled up to middle age, and noticed to my horror how long it took me to get to the bottom of a book’s first page.

And when I did make it, realizing I didn’t remember what I’d just (supposedly) read.

That was when I wasn’t dozing off or daydreaming after three sentences.

This means I can still recall large sections of a TIME cover story on Woody Allen just after Manhattan came out, but don’t recall a single word of Liberal Fascism.

I’ll confess something else: I still barely know the difference between Shia and Sunni, or the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists.

Sometimes I think Paul Krugman and Thomas Friedman are the same guy.

This year I’m turning fifty.

And I’ve decided I just don’t care.

So what to buy with my Christmas Amazon gift card?

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‘Give ‘Em Enough Rope’ Turns 35 (Part Two)

Friday, November 22nd, 2013 - by Kathy Shaidle

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Returning to our look back at The Clash’s second, and “half great,” album, Give ‘Em Enough Rope (1978)…

One of the album’s biggest flaws is that too many of the songs touch on similar themes, to the point where they begin to run together in your memory.

For instance, both the powerful “English Civil War” and the less successful “Last Gang In Town” tackle violence in the public square:

The former warned that the neo-Nazi National Front was on the rise; the latter concerns the often violent British teen subculture rivalries between mods and rockers, punks and teddy boys, and skinheads vs. everyone else.

In retrospect, it’s hard to calculate whether or not the National Front was ever a serious threat to the social order, or just a jack-booted boogeyman whose influence was exaggerated by far left “anti-racists.”

Regardless, “English Civil War” was one of numerous anti-Nazi songs of the era that collectively reduced the NF’s “cool” factor and helped hasten its decline.

As for the latter song: For the average North American listener, “teds” and mods were even less familiar creatures than Nazi street thugs, and their battles a baffling phenomenon — one familiar, if at all, from listening to The Who’s Quadrophenia.

However, in the England of The Clash, subculture rivalries were very real and often bloody, as Joe Strummer learned when he attended one rockabilly concert too many in working class “teddy boy” territory. He was sniffed out as “a public schoolboy playing at being working class, so [they] gave him quite a pasting.”

Strummer shrugged off the incident, telling chief roadie “The Baker” that it was all part of suffering for his art.

(The Clash front man’s bone-dry sense of humor, as well as his compulsive self-invention, can make it annoyingly hard to tell when he’s kidding around. He probably wasn’t sure himself sometimes.)

(Alas, too many earnest fans continue to take his off-hand remarks as holy writ, even though they surely know by now that “Joe Strummer” — down to his name, age and accent — was as much a creation as any of his songs.)

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Feminist Punk Rock Vs Communism

Friday, August 17th, 2012 - by PJ Lifestyle News

via Russia’s Rock N Roll Riot « Acculturated.

By now it’s an established fact that the punk revolution of the late 1970s led to a genuine artistic achievement, as the movement and its Do It Yourself (DIY) ethic gave bands like U2, Green Day, and Radiohead the ability to create their own sounds in unique and imaginative ways. Incredibly, punk is still producing exciting art; one of the best bands I’ve heard recently is Neon P*ss. I know, I know–the vulgar names do get tiresome, but a lot of the music is still very cool. It remains one of the joys of life to come across a talented young band and watch them flourish.

Although it puts on an angry and nihilistic face, punk, or the best punk, is about trying to live a virtuous life in a world that often seems compromised by commercialism, war, and a basic lack of integrity. This is the 30th anniversary year of the punk magazine Maximum Rocknroll, and leafing through the anniversary issue it’s clear that punks today value what punks back in the 1970s and 80s valued: honesty, community, art for art’s sake, and real friendship.

That said, MRR has certainly fallen short in its lack of support for the band P**** Riot, a Russian all-female punk rock collective. Three members of the group were sentenced to two-year prison terms today by a Moscow court for “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred”. This for performing a song at the Cathedral of Christ the Savior which asked Mary, the Mother of God–or  “Theotokos”–to “drive Putin away.”

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More on art against totalitarianism at PJ Lifestyle:

10 Badass Moments from Bosch Fawstin’s The Infidel #2

The Dark Knight Comes To Life

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