Jul 8, 2009

State Control and Rock and Roll Are Run By Clever Men

Summertime makes me a little nostalgic for Portland and full of punk coming of age tales, so I've been doing some more punk music revisits lately.

I was remembering how at 20, I was so fed up with bullshit dynamics in the punk scene and how totally excited I was when my gf at the time introduced me to the Poison Girls, a British band that formed in 1976 and was fronted by Vi Subversa, a middle-aged mother who followed her two grown children into the punk scene.

"I reject the system that murders my children." Vi must have figured that punk music had a lot to learn from mother love. She played music for moms to dance to (regretfully I couldn't find, "Jump Mama Jump") and sang songs about mental health, loneliness, and the forgotten and invisible: "housewives and prostitutes, plumber men in boiler suits" and anyone "dying in secret from poisons unknown."

I really like how this video, "Real Woman" kind of reminds me of the eight minute abs workout video and features so many women playing at a carnival. It recalls for me a "fuck if I care"/"the world is my playground" punk ethic, but kind of demonstrates that rather than this being super entitled and problematic it can also look like a bunch of ladies just taking some time out to enjoy each other's company inside a bounce house.

I prefer not to read the lyrics as anti-femme, but more an embrace of failure, a cashing in of chips on compulsory femininity ("I'm not lemon, so squeeze your own instead"). But it's not all bounce houses and joyous refusal. I always thought it sad how the song talks about lonlieness and inaccessibility, the parts women just learn to keep for themselves ("Don't be surprised, if I don't look into your eyes, my eyes are on a million miles away.")

Anyway, I think the Poison Girls were important, if goofy and irreverent, in refusing to be jacket-holders in an hyper-masculine early British punk scene. Did I mention PG were blacklisted by the Socialist Worker's Party, who thought the song "Bully Boys" was talking shit on them?

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