Tales From the Drop BoxEpisode #99! We are approaching 100 episodes of this podcast in just two years and, looking back, I note that this podcast has covered a tremendous amount of musical ground. I am truly looking forward to Episode 100 because it feels like I have reached an important milestone in bringing to you the music I love – really love. Unlike morning radio where the DJ has no interest or clue about the music being played, I personally select every track. I personally do the research for every podcast. I am learning and then sharing. Clerks at record stores used to provide this function i.e. the sharing of secret information about cool music. The late 1970’s and early 1980’s was magic time because record stores were everywhere. This was a time when you could go down to your local store just to hangout and whomever was working would just say – hey – have you heard the K-Tel’s record? How about the Modernettes or Pointed Sticks? Let me play them….. . I had several stores to choose from in Vancouver B.C. and I shopped in them all – Quintessance, Friends, Zulu, Kelly’s, Collectors R.P.M., A&B Sound, and my favorite – Track Records. I must give a special shout out here to Phil S who was the owner of Track Records. I spent literally thousands of hours in his store when I was in college. Thousands of hours. While Phil may not have enjoyed them all, he was the best example of someone who actually cared about the music, was willing to spend time talking about all kinds of music, and who introduced me to numerous bands that I still love today.
As for this podcast, this is my effort to recreate that experience. I would love to actually have a discussion, but in the absence of a personal connection, this is my naive effort to do precisely what Phil did for me a long time ago – introduce you to a variety of new music and some old tunes so you can share with the people you know and care about. If you go way back in this blog, I used to write reviews for my friends of records I was listening to so they could also check them out. As technology progressed, so did I. Writing reviews is time consuming, and this podcast is my shorthand effort to say to my friends, and to you – hey, have you heard….?
Doing anything 100 times and enjoying each moment of the process just feels good. As Episode 100 is going to be one of those special episode dedicated to one artist, and in this case, dedicated to my favorite band of all time, I figured these notes would be a good time to reflect on the previous episodes of this podcast and where we have traveled in the past two years. Politically, there has been an evolution of the podcast notes that really caught me off guard. I never thought that I would be so overtly political as normally, I have little interest in politics. It has always been music. Not because I am not willing to give an opinion, but rather I never thought that I would be compelled to publicly add my voice to those who protest the treatment of fellow Americans by a president that has no moral compass. I think I have documented the sea-change in the political discord and discourse.
As I look back on the sheer number of unique artists that are represented in these podcasts that are not played on commercial radio in the U.S. (FM or Satellite) and are from around the world, I am most proud of the diversity encompassed by the more than 1450 different artists I have played on these podcasts over the 100 Episodes. While I haven’t gone back and added them up by number of artists per country, a scan of the track lists reveals that the majority are from the U.S. but there are healthy slices from the UK, Australia and Canada. Not to be left out, I have also featured a number of bands from the rest of the EU and multiple artists from Germany, France, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Poland, Belgium, and Finland. There have been a couple of artists from Japan, and one from China. Every episode of this podcast has featured a female fronted band or artist at the beginning and end of the show and a number of them sprinkled in the middle – except 1 (which was truly an accidental omission. I thought the vocalist was female, turns out I was wrong. Darn Yawpers!).
I hope the massive variety of bands, many of which release albums and tracks on vinyl and through Bandcamp, are not only interesting to the listener, but such interest also compels you to seek out and find these records and then support these artists. I believe these podcasts provide ample evidence that there is a tremendous amount of exceptional music produced by amazing artists that is not only available but is worthwhile to purchase.
Finally, as it is Thanksgiving this week, I am very thankful for my supportive and caring family, my staff (at my day job!) and the tremendous people in my life. I am truly blessed to be surrounded by so many kind, caring, and loving individuals, who give me much more than they receive and I am humbled by these relationships.
Happy Thanksgiving to all of you!
Here is what you’ll find in Episode #99:
Nail Art – “ Barbara Goldin” (Nail Art)
Gold Class – “Bully” (Drum)
Gun – “She Knows” (Favorite Pleasures)
Crooked Colours – “Flow” (Vera)
Quiet Hollers – “Broken Guitars” (Amen Breaks)
The Loranes – “Get Free” (2nd)
Mando Diao – “Good Times” (Good Times)
Gang of Youths – “The Heart Is A Muscle” (Go Farther In Lightness)
Les Tigres – “Coral Blue” (Who Called?)
Single Mothers – “High Speed” (Our Pleasure)
Tracy Bryant – “Parachute” ( Parachute b/w Protect Your Head 7”)
The Shyness of Strangers – “Didn’t Mind” (Time)
Prawn – “Cricket In The Yard” (Run)
Gang of Four – “Damaged Goods” (Damaged Goods b/w Armalite Rifle/ Love Like Anthrax 7”)
Whitehorse – “Nighthawks” (Panther In The Doll House)
She’s like look at this pollution man it’s turning us to plastic we won’t even have to wait for AI isn’t that fantastic . . . I wrote a song on a broken guitar and I played it for them they told me it was out of touch but I thought I had my finger on the pulse of the nation’s youth, of a girl like you, of a few home truths I thought you already knew
Oddball episode today. A little all over the map, but it kind of all works in my biased opinion. Tales From the Drop BoxEpisode #98 is yet another excellent opportunity to hear some music that you likely have missed over the past several months. Short show notes today, as well. Not because I’ve run out of topics, but rather it is taking a little more effort to keep up with the various political investigations. I am currently highly interested in the Paradise Papers. ( Google it – there is a ton of information about the papers now). Fascinating how many rich people hide their money in the same way. Who would have guessed that the Queen of England was on the list! Here are two perspectives on the import of the massive data breach one from Canada and one from the ICIJ – the worldwide journalist cooperative that coordinated the effort.
Also, sad to hear of the death of Fred Cole. A Portland legend and best known for his work with Dead Moon and Pierced Arrows he will be truly missed.
Here is what you’ll find in Episode #98:
Kraków Loves Adana – Call Yourself New
Anti-Flag – “American Attraction” (American Fall)
Ty Segall – “ Is It Real” (Fried Shallots)
OCS – “Cadaver Dog” (Orc)
Part Time Friends – “Don’t Give Up” (Fingers Crossed)
Kooks “Junk Of The Heart (Happy)” (The Best of …So Far)
Tales From the Drop BoxEpisode #97 arrives this week in the aftermath of yet another tragedy. It seems last episode I was learning about the tragedy in New York and this week I’m reflecting on the tragedy at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Spring, Texas. It is weird putting out these podcasts in a time of turmoil. My purpose with these podcasts was to bring joy with a selection of new or fairly new music not heard on commercial radio. However, I also live in the world, and it is difficult to ignore the obvious chaos in the world around me and the eruption of evil in the world. I knew that evil was always present as it is inherent in man, but good was winning. I am not so sure now. It is inconceivable to me the amount of senseless cruelty and suffering that assholes such as the Texas shooter can inflict.
I have written extensively about gun control on this blog. However, on the theory that people gain understanding with repetition, what follows below, for those inclined, is a straight forward call to action. For those not into the “politics” of evil, enjoy this episode of Tales From the Drop Box.
So where do we begin our fight against evil?
We must not underestimate the power of evil and fight against those individuals and groups who would normalize the actions of these assholes i.e. the politicians who refuse to tackle the issue and bring sanity to a growing and lethal problem. To be clear – we, as a nation, must confront the growing mental illness problem and remove the ability of anyone to engage in mass killing. I get it. Guns don’t kill people, people kill people. But we don’t have to give these evil monsters access to weapons of destruction. Given that there are an overwhelming number of legal and illegal weapons in the possession of so many people, perhaps eliminating the most lethal of these weapons would be a start. Really, what is the hunting purpose of an AR-15?
There is much written about so called “sensible gun control.” This is a freaking myth. There will never be sensible gun control so we should all stop wasting time discussing what that would look like. Either we have gun control or we don’t. Gun control won’t likely occur in this political climate, because we are saddled with a populist as President who is as gutless as he is stupid.
There is lots of evidence of this stupidity, but even today we have this inciteful statement from Trump:
So, apart from the fact that Trump is in charge of our country’s gun policy, gun control cannot happen because, in all honesty, each State would have to significantly change the way that it does business. Guns are money. If there is one thing that Trump understands is this fundamental truth: don’t f_____ with guns because that’s what his fans want. Trump’s fans want the right to possess as much firepower as possible. Trump doesn’t have a “base.” He has fans are watching the shit show he is producing and gun control would lessen his impact with his fans. Therefore, not one single effort will be made by Trump to eliminate gun violence because Trump absolutely and positively does not give a single shit about anyone other than himself. His self-interest and ego govern policy decisions. This lack of character apparently makes for compelling television but also for lousy government. It is not helpful that Trump is also a liar.
So where do we go from here? The chronic gun violence problem is a consequence of a political system that is perhaps irreparably broken. What kind of democratic society permits mass killings? Why do politicians refuse to tackle the underlying causes of violence – mental illness, homelessness, drug addiction, gang violence, etc?
Continued gun violence is the consequence of failed gun policy and a failure to take action – some action to reduce the supply of guns in commerce.
The approach to violence, gun or otherwise, must be holistic and synergetic. It is not simply about taking away guns from citizens. However, taking away guns that are capable of killing many people rapidly is a terrific start.
Write your legislators – your Senators and Congress persons – and tell them to get off their fat asses and work together to begin solving these issues.
Here is what you’ll find in Episode #97:
Ruelle – “Dead of Night” (Rival)
Weirds – “Past Life” (Swarmculture)
Gary Numan – “Me, I Disconnect From You (Live)” (Live at Hammersmith Odeon 1989)
The Jade Shader – “Secret Truths” (Sea Stacks and Sleestaks)
Together Pangea – “Peach Mirror” (Bulls and Roosters)
Barns Courtney – “Never Let You Down” (The Attractions of Youth)
Lillingtons – “Until The Sun Shines” (Project 313)
TV Haze – “Under The Couch” (Scrap Museum)
The Districts – “Salt” (Popular Manipulations)
Nightmen – “Last Time” (C’est La Vie EP)
Teen Vice – “Anti-Privilege” (Saddest Summer)
Junior Astronomers – “Body Language Pt 2” (Body Language)
Theo Verney “Mind Fire” (One Small Piece)
X – “Soul Kitchen” (Los Angeles)
The Yawpers – “Linen For The Orphan” (Boy In A Well)
I think something might be wrong ’cause it’s been dark out far too long … In a pitch black world, anything goes, no telling where the wind will blow.
So, here we are again, with Tales From the Drop BoxEpisode #96 hitting your in box with some new tunes to explore. This one is a little sweet – more pop oriented indie rock confection than punk rock, but the Bronx tune should give you some punky enjoyment. Another completely accidental pattern is also evident in this episode – several of these tracks are by solo artists who are essentially one man bands, producing and playing every track on their albums by themselves and in the process creating some huge sounding records.
Thought today would be a more pleasant day, being Halloween. However, my thoughts and prayers go out to those affected by the tragedy in New York today. Another tragedy in a long line of tragic events throughout the world these past couple of years. We live in a world that has gone absolutely mad.
Here is what you’ll find in Episode #96:
Shilpa Ray – Rockaway Blues” (Door Girl)
The Pure Conjecture – “Knock Four Times” (No Ghosts)
Waters – “Secret Weapon” (Something More!)
Braggarts – “Exploring New Stars” (Exploring New Stars)
We Are Monroe “White Lights” (White Lights)
Lovely Bad Things – “Teenage Grown Ups” (Teenage Grown Ups)
A short break between episodes this week because I had a little extra time and, more importantly, it is also my twin boys’ birthday today so I spun this Episode #95 out in celebration. This episode is also a return to form after Episode 94’s all-female vocal episode. What does that really mean to you? Nothing much really. Like Episode #94 this episode is also filled with catchy, fun, and truly interesting musical gems that are highly unlikely to be played anywhere else. There just won’t be all female vocals. In a perfect world everyone would get the pleasure of listening to and fully experiencing these tracks! For now, it is just you. So spread the love. Buy the music from the artists, share the podcast with only your friends! Make new friends by sharing and discovering new music – together. Tales From the Drop BoxEpisode #95 is truly a magical tool that everyone should have and use. It is very powerful. Listening to this podcast can help you make new friends, brighten your day, and lift you from the day to day sameness that threatens happiness. Think of this podcast as your safe place to experience freedom and joy and after you’ve had the pleasure, go forth and be happy!
The focus of today’s episode is on your happiness and what experiences make you smile – the terrific people in your life and some terrific tunes. I have both in mine!
Happy birthday J&K – I love you both!
Here is what you’ll find in Episode #95:
Gordi – “Can We Work It Out” (Reservoir)
Levellers – “Before The End” (Letters From The Underground)
Black Swells – “Beautiful Lies” (Quiet Life)
Wavves – “No Shade” (You’re Welcome)
Battleme – “Testament” (Cult Psychotica)
Bill Baird – “Graveyard Dawn” (Baby Blue Abyss)
Death From Above 1979 – “Freeze Me” (Outrage! Is Now)
The Tissues – “Morning Light” (Veil)
Buttertones – “Two Headed Shark” (Gravedigging)
ViceVersa – “Love The Way” (The Electric Flame)
Jungle Giants – “Used To Be In Love” (Quiet Factory)
The Babe Rainbow – “Johny Says Stay Cool” (The Babe Rainbow)
Fake Shark – “Cheap Thrills” (Faux Real)
Alex Chilton – “All Of The Time” (Live At The Ocean Club NYC 1977)
Juliana Hatfield – “Sunny Somewhere” (Pussycat)
You know I shake like static underneath a T.V my thinking’s in the attic and it’s no use to me . . . Just one kiss to build our dreams upon, it’s just one kiss, to build a dream upon
Truly, life is all about changes of pace. There is a problem in one going through life at one speed. Without variety, we all die. Tales From the Drop BoxEpisode #94 is another change of pace. This all female vocal version of Tales From The Drop Box has a number of twist and turns and is melodramatic in presentation not unlike the best kinds of movies. I’m yielding the rest of my time to Senator Flake, the senator from Arizona, as I think my Canadian friends would appreciate at this republican viewpoint of the current state of the U.S. Presidency today:
Mr. President, I rise today to address a matter that has been much on my mind, at a moment when it seems that our democracy is more defined by our discord and our dysfunction than it is by our values and our principles. Let me begin by noting a somewhat obvious point that these offices that we hold are not ours to hold indefinitely. We are not here simply to mark time. Sustained incumbency is certainly not the point of seeking office. And there are times when we must risk our careers in favor of our principles.
Now is such a time.
It must also be said that I rise today with no small measure of regret. Regret, because of the state of our disunion, regret because of the disrepair and destructiveness of our politics, regret because of the indecency of our discourse, regret because of the coarseness of our leadership, regret for the compromise of our moral authority, and by our — all of our — complicity in this alarming and dangerous state of affairs. It is time for our complicity and our accommodation of the unacceptable to end.
In this century, a new phrase has entered the language to describe the accommodation of a new and undesirable order — that phrase being “the new normal.” But we must never adjust to the present coarseness of our national dialogue — with the tone set at the top.
We must never regard as “normal” the regular and casual undermining of our democratic norms and ideals. We must never meekly accept the daily sundering of our country – the personal attacks, the threats against principles, freedoms, and institutions, the flagrant disregard for truth or decency, the reckless provocations, most often for the pettiest and most personal reasons, reasons having nothing whatsoever to do with the fortunes of the people that we have all been elected to serve.
None of these appalling features of our current politics should ever be regarded as normal. We must never allow ourselves to lapse into thinking that this is just the way things are now. If we simply become inured to this condition, thinking that this is just politics as usual, then heaven help us. Without fear of the consequences, and without consideration of the rules of what is politically safe or palatable, we must stop pretending that the degradation of our politics and the conduct of some in our executive branch are normal. They are not normal.
Reckless, outrageous, and undignified behavior has become excused and countenanced as “telling it like it is,” when it is actually just reckless, outrageous, and undignified.
And when such behavior emanates from the top of our government, it is something else: It is dangerous to a democracy. Such behavior does not project strength — because our strength comes from our values. It instead projects a corruption of the spirit, and weakness.
It is often said that children are watching. Well, they are. And what are we going to do about that? When the next generation asks us, Why didn’t you do something? Why didn’t you speak up? — what are we going to say?
Mr. President, I rise today to say: Enough. We must dedicate ourselves to making sure that the anomalous never becomes normal. With respect and humility, I must say that we have fooled ourselves for long enough that a pivot to governing is right around the corner, a return to civility and stability right behind it. We know better than that. By now, we all know better than that.
Here, today, I stand to say that we would better serve the country and better fulfill our obligations under the constitution by adhering to our Article 1 “old normal” — Mr. Madison’s doctrine of the separation of powers. This genius innovation which affirms Madison’s status as a true visionary and for which Madison argued in Federalist 51 — held that the equal branches of our government would balance and counteract each other when necessary. “Ambition counteracts ambition,” he wrote.
But what happens if ambition fails to counteract ambition? What happens if stability fails to assert itself in the face of chaos and instability? If decency fails to call out indecency? Were the shoe on the other foot, would we Republicans meekly accept such behavior on display from dominant Democrats? Of course not, and we would be wrong if we did.
When we remain silent and fail to act when we know that that silence and inaction is the wrong thing to do — because of political considerations, because we might make enemies, because we might alienate the base, because we might provoke a primary challenge, because ad infinitum, ad nauseum — when we succumb to those considerations in spite of what should be greater considerations and imperatives in defense of the institutions of our liberty, then we dishonor our principles and forsake our obligations. Those things are far more important than politics.
Now, I am aware that more politically savvy people than I caution against such talk. I am aware that a segment of my party believes that anything short of complete and unquestioning loyalty to a president who belongs to my party is unacceptable and suspect.
If I have been critical, it not because I relish criticizing the behavior of the president of the United States. If I have been critical, it is because I believe that it is my obligation to do so, as a matter of duty and conscience. The notion that one should stay silent as the norms and values that keep America strong are undermined and as the alliances and agreements that ensure the stability of the entire world are routinely threatened by the level of thought that goes into 140 characters – the notion that one should say and do nothing in the face of such mercurial behavior is ahistoric and, I believe, profoundly misguided.
A Republican president named Roosevelt had this to say about the president and a citizen’s relationship to the office:
“The President is merely the most important among a large number of public servants. He should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able, and disinterested service to the nation as a whole. Therefore, it is absolutely necessary that there should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and this means that it is exactly as necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile.” President Roosevelt continued. “To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public.”
Acting on conscience and principle is the manner in which we express our moral selves, and as such, loyalty to conscience and principle should supersede loyalty to any man or party. We can all be forgiven for failing in that measure from time to time. I certainly put myself at the top of the list of those who fall short in that regard. I am holier-than-none. But too often, we rush not to salvage principle but to forgive and excuse our failures so that we might accommodate them and go right on failing—until the accommodation itself becomes our principle.
In that way and over time, we can justify almost any behavior and sacrifice almost any principle. I’m afraid that is where we now find ourselves.
When a leader correctly identifies real hurt and insecurity in our country and instead of addressing it goes looking for somebody to blame, there is perhaps nothing more devastating to a pluralistic society. Leadership knows that most often a good place to start in assigning blame is to first look somewhat closer to home. Leadership knows where the buck stops. Humility helps. Character counts. Leadership does not knowingly encourage or feed ugly and debased appetites in us.
Leadership lives by the American creed: E Pluribus Unum. From many, one. American leadership looks to the world, and just as Lincoln did, sees the family of man. Humanity is not a zero-sum game. When we have been at our most prosperous, we have also been at our most principled. And when we do well, the rest of the world also does well.
These articles of civic faith have been central to the American identity for as long as we have all been alive. They are our birthright and our obligation. We must guard them jealously, and pass them on for as long as the calendar has days. To betray them, or to be unserious in their defense is a betrayal of the fundamental obligations of American leadership. And to behave as if they don’t matter is simply not who we are.
Now, the efficacy of American leadership around the globe has come into question. When the United States emerged from World War II we contributed about half of the world’s economic activity. It would have been easy to secure our dominance, keeping the countries that had been defeated or greatly weakened during the war in their place. We didn’t do that. It would have been easy to focus inward. We resisted those impulses. Instead, we financed reconstruction of shattered countries and created international organizations and institutions that have helped provide security and foster prosperity around the world for more than 70 years.
Now, it seems that we, the architects of this visionary rules-based world order that has brought so much freedom and prosperity, are the ones most eager to abandon it.
The implications of this abandonment are profound. And the beneficiaries of this rather radical departure in the American approach to the world are the ideological enemies of our values. Despotism loves a vacuum. And our allies are now looking elsewhere for leadership. Why are they doing this? None of this is normal. And what do we as United States Senators have to say about it?
The principles that underlie our politics, the values of our founding, are too vital to our identity and to our survival to allow them to be compromised by the requirements of politics. Because politics can make us silent when we should speak, and silence can equal complicity.
I have children and grandchildren to answer to, and so, Mr. President, I will not be complicit.
I have decided that I will be better able to represent the people of Arizona and to better serve my country and my conscience by freeing myself from the political considerations that consume far too much bandwidth and would cause me to compromise far too many principles.
To that end, I am announcing today that my service in the Senate will conclude at the end of my term in early January 2019.
It is clear at this moment that a traditional conservative who believes in limited government and free markets, who is devoted to free trade, and who is pro-immigration, has a narrower and narrower path to nomination in the Republican party — the party that for so long has defined itself by belief in those things. It is also clear to me for the moment we have given in or given up on those core principles in favor of the more viscerally satisfying anger and resentment. To be clear, the anger and resentment that the people feel at the royal mess we have created are justified. But anger and resentment are not a governing philosophy.
There is an undeniable potency to a populist appeal — but mis-characterizing or misunderstanding our problems and giving in to the impulse to scapegoat and belittle threatens to turn us into a fearful, backward-looking people. In the case of the Republican party, those things also threaten to turn us into a fearful, backward-looking minority party.
We were not made great as a country by indulging or even exalting our worst impulses, turning against ourselves, glorying in the things which divide us, and calling fake things true and true things fake. And we did not become the beacon of freedom in the darkest corners of the world by flouting our institutions and failing to understand just how hard-won and vulnerable they are.
This spell will eventually break. That is my belief. We will return to ourselves once more, and I say the sooner the better. Because to have a heathly government we must have healthy and functioning parties. We must respect each other again in an atmosphere of shared facts and shared values, comity and good faith. We must argue our positions fervently, and never be afraid to compromise. We must assume the best of our fellow man, and always look for the good. Until that days comes, we must be unafraid to stand up and speak out as if our country depends on it. Because it does.
I plan to spend the remaining fourteen months of my senate term doing just that.
Mr. President, the graveyard is full of indispensable men and women — none of us here is indispensable. Nor were even the great figures from history who toiled at these very desks in this very chamber to shape this country that we have inherited. What is indispensable are the values that they consecrated in Philadelphia and in this place, values which have endured and will endure for so long as men and women wish to remain free. What is indispensable is what we do here in defense of those values. A political career doesn’t mean much if we are complicit in undermining those values.
I thank my colleagues for indulging me here today, and will close by borrowing the words of President Lincoln, who knew more about healing enmity and preserving our founding values than any other American who has ever lived. His words from his first inaugural were a prayer in his time, and are no less so in ours:
“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”
Thank you, Mr. President. I yield the floor.
I’m sure that a well-reasoned and articulate response will come from the White House – at least 140 characters worth of insults at least.
Here is what you’ll find in Episode #94:
Tired Lion – “Japan” (Dumb Days)
Liquids – “Heart Beats True” (Hot Liqs)
Francis – “Swing” (Swing)
Hardly Boys – “My Pool My Rules” (Dear Diarrhea)
Wet Lips – “Space Jam” (Wet Lips)
Mise en Scene – “Closer” (Still Life On Fire)
Waxahatchee – “8 Ball (Demo)” (Out Of The Shadows (Deluxe Edition))
Dead Cult – “We Bow To No One” (Fall)
Amy O – “Lavender Night” (Elastic)
Glare – “Cult of Culture” (Glare EP)
Sheer Mag – “Expect The Bayonet” (Need To Feel Your Love)
Siouxsie & The Banshees – “Suburban Relapse” (The Scream)
Alex Lahey – “Every Day’s The Weekend” (I love You Like A Brother)
Then something snapped, I had a relapse…a suburban relapse, I was washing up the dishes . . . It was kind of cold that night she stood alone on her balcony she could hear the cars roll by out on 441like waves crashin’ on the beach
A little faster. A little harder. Oh, and so freakin’ good! Tales From the Drop BoxEpisode #93 brings you another hour (almost) of faster songs approximating punk rock stylings. I recently read (yet again) another opinion by a punk rock veteran that there is no such thing as punk rock left in existence, that is, punk rock is dead. Okay. I disagree.
Unlike the President, I know that words have meaning to people other than himself. “Punk rock” in the general lexicon is a hyper-charged word, largely, I believe, because of the emotions tied to each individuals romanticized view of their punk rock history and experience. As these discussions often generate tons of hate mail, I hope these show notes, are read by you with the understanding that this essay merely represents my good faith attempt to formulate a clear definition of punk rock and then examine whether the term as defined is relevant today. I don’t think that punk rock is dead. Rather, I believe that punk rock is very much alive, evolving, and thriving. Let me explain.
First, you are likely thinking, what makes me qualified to opine on the question as to what constitutes “punk rock?” I believe that I am qualified to opine on the topic having observed, participated in, and experienced the humble beginnings of the punk rock scene from 1974 -1982 in two countries and from two different perspectives – as a concert promoter and as a fan. I am not an expert on the subject because the subject of punk rock does not need special skill or training to describe. Rather, I am giving this opinion based upon my own extensive experience with the goal to add to the discussion and I hope, bring some flavor in the form of an alternate perspective to a subject that was and continues to be hotly debated. Finally, I hope that my description of punk rock and its clarification will give you some insight to my use of the term in these podcasts.
I am also an avid reader of the “perspectives” of others on this same subject and in more than 40 years have witnessed the mental gymnastics of many as they also tried to define and answer the question: what is punk rock? Some of these perspectives come from individuals who were part of the same regional scene I experienced. Some perspectives come from other scenes that arose in the wake of the explosion of bands in the early 1980s as the original punk rock bands traveled from region to region exporting the message and the excitement. There is and should absolutely no doubt in my mind that the bands of that particular period of time that achieved escape velocity (i.e. were able to tour outside of their region) were groundbreaking and sowed the seeds for the avalanche of new participants in the punk rock experience and fostered the spread of punk rock throughout North America. For example, D.O.A., Black Flag, X, Dead Kennedy’s, Bad Brains, Dead Boys, The Replacements, Hüsker Dü, The Dicks, Ramones, Cramps, Avengers, Germs, Weirdos, Screamers, Stains, and the hundreds of other bands who booked tours and traveled throughout the U.S. and Canada from 1978 through 1982 – a magic time in the annals of punk rock – did so largely through the personal relationships they established in their own local scene and with the bands that they met, supported, and played with along the way.
There is also no doubt that the various music reporters i.e. Slash, Rock Scene, Trouser Press, New Musical Express, Melody Maker, Discorder, and the tons of fanzines that flourished in this early period also spread the word, providing “advertising” for the bands, and at times, the scene participants. I think that people forget that fanzines, written by people who themselves were participants, shaped the message and meaning of punk rock. There is no better example of this than Maximumrocknroll a publication that arose from a radio show in Berkeley CA in 1982 – late to the scene – but evolved into a force in the punk rock community largely through a single policy: MRR had a policy of not giving coverage to, nor accepting advertising from, bands that record on major labels. That policy extended to bands that are “produced and distributed” by a major label. The consequence of this policy was that early punk rock bands in both the U.K and the North America did not receive coverage in MRR because almost all of the popular “punk rock bands” prior to 1982 were on a major label. This was the most disappointing aspect of MMR’s no advertising policy and contrary to the original intent of the scene – inclusive, supportive and diverse. Thankfully, other publications were willing to cover all participants. I would have never discovered bands like Really Red, T.S.O.L, Channel 3, Minor Threat, etc. without these publications.
So, given that all of these very different types of bands, with widely varying sounds, styles, subject matter, and political views, from all over the world, were labeled as “punk rock” how can anyone argue that punk rock describes a type of music. For example, all of these U.K. bands were labelled punk rock, all of them recorded for major labels, and all were part of the initial punk rock explosion from 1976-1979: Sex Pistols, The Clash, The Buzzcocks, The Jam, The Damned, The Stranglers, Siouxsie & The Banshees, The Slits, Generation X, Stiff Little Fingers, Adam & The Ants, etc. They did not all sound or look alike.
And that is the point of this exercise – “punk rock” is a label that does not and cannot identify a type of music, although many commentators have tried to hang various musical characteristics on the term. For example, this is the current description of punk rock on Wikipedia:
Punk rock (or “punk“) is a rock music genre that developed in the early to mid-1970s in the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia. Rooted in 1960s garage rock and other forms of what is now known as “proto-punk” music, punk rock bands rejected perceived excesses of mainstream 1970s rock. Punk bands typically produced short or fast-paced songs, with hard-edged melodies and singing styles, stripped-down instrumentation, and often political, anti-establishment lyrics.
Does this description really describe “punk rock?” In my mind, the definition above is inaccurate, imprecise, vague, and truly only accurate in one aspect – punk rock bands, then as now, rejected perceived excesses of mainstream rock.
So, here is my perspective and my description: as utilized at the inception of the punk rock movement, and as I currently utilize and intend the term to mean now, “punk rock” is a shorthand label for “outsider” music, i.e., rock music produced by musicians who reject the imposition of limitations on all aspects of their art however expressed through their music, clothing, political views, interests, and ideas.
I’m good with that description and that description accurately describes the meaning of “punk rock.” This definition preserves the historical underpinnings, is accurate, meaningful, and promotes consistency.
To be clear, punk rock does not describe a type of music and does not actually describe any of the participants in the experience. Rather, “punk rock” describes a belief system common to participants and not the music. When I was a participant, I understood that punk rock was a “way of life” meaning that the path you took to explore the music was a path of your own choosing. There was a common DIY attitude amongst and between the participants and a belief that you had the freedom to control your expression and express yourself in any manner you decided was appropriate or inappropriate – it was individualism shared in a group setting.
In my experience, the most significant aspects of the punk rock scene had nothing to do with the sounds emanating from the band, the chaos in the pit, the variety of clothing, piercings, tattoos, hairstyle, or even the politics because all of these characteristics were mutable as was any ideology that punk rock was meant to exemplify. The participants in the punk rock scene changed, as did the sounds, but the belief system of the individuals comprising the community did not. What brought us all together was nonconformity and this willingness to be a nonconformist in the face of opposition and despite the efforts of many in the punk rock community to try to try to enforce conformity and apply rules to the scene. How could you be a punk if you didn’t have ______________ or believe in ___________. As you mentally try to fill in those blanks, try to remember that some participants in the punk rock scene were college educated, had long hair, didn’t have piercings or tattoos, didn’t all have left leaning political views, etc. The stereotype of a punk rocker, as imagined by the press, the general public, and later by individuals who claimed to like punk rock, deviated greatly from reality.
There are some of you who will likely argue with the limits of my proposed definition, but if you step back from your own personal attachment to your individual construct of the meaning of punk rock, I think you will find the limits of the definition appropriate. Why? If you examine the lengthy history of bands that came out of the early nascent punk rock scene in any city, I think you will find that the term itself was not self-referential. That is, punks didn’t refer to themselves as “punk rockers.” The only practical application of the term was to describe a local rock scene comprised of very different people, all of whom appreciated the music, supported live performances and bought recordings by artists and musicians who created art and music that was different from what was being promoted by the mainstream. This combination of words conveyed that you listened to music that was outside the mainstream. Punk rock was not a term describing a specific type of music. It was not a genre. Rather, punk rock was a term that described a community of people, explorers, that believed in challenging convention – music, politics, thinking, whatever. This is not to say that some of those identifying with the punk rock community didn’t adopt a “uniform” to distance themselves from the mainstream, or promoted certain lifestyle or political choices that they argued were central to being a punk rocker (e.g. straight edge, anarchist, oi,). These efforts to structure the unstructured also are encompassed the term punk rock because it demonstrated their effort to give shape to music and art outside of the mainstream, the unconventional.
I lived in Vancouver, B.C. and regularly went to shows from 1977 – 86. I attended hundreds of shows during this period at a large number of venues, large and small, including the Commodore Ballroom, Smilin’ Buddha, Town Pump, Teamsters Local 31 Union Hall, New York Theater, Gary Taylor’s Rock Room, Japanese Hall, the Luv Affair, etc. and found myself at a number of basement shows. The Vancouver scene during this period was loud, aggressive, and truly diverse. Compare these legendary early punk rock bands from Vancouver: D.O.A., Subhumans, UJERK5, I Braineater, Dishrags, K-Tels, Young Canadians, Shmorgs, No Exit, Modernettes, Pointed Sticks, Active Dog, Tim Ray and A.V., Enigmas, No Fun, etc.). I saw them all. If you try to define “punk” by the music they all played, you quickly realize that you cannot. There is no common thread connecting all of these bands musically. What ties them together is a common love of music, a geographic location, and people who thrived outside of the conventional.
All I knew and understood at that time was that I could see music played live that didn’t fit in with Canadian commercial radio and was sometimes played on CITR – the radio station of the University of British Columbia which at the time had a very limited broadcast area. Most of the music played by these bands had obvious garage rock roots and was played faster than traditional rock and roll. Some of the music was political, some was not, but what all of the music had in common was that it was all awesome. Punk rock is a label that was rendered meaningless almost immediately to identify a particular type of music. It is similar to indie rock also a meaningless label, but unlike punk rock, indie rock truly describes nothing. Rather, punk rock started as a shorthand label for “outsider” to the rest of the world and “insider” for those who were its participants – fan and musician.
As I reflect on Vancouver’s punk rock scene, it was an exciting time, and if you look at the history of the scene, most of the bands were looking to connect with others – in the U.S., the U.K. and the rest of Canada. It was highly inclusive. So, 40 years down the road, after examining punk rocks’ roots and measuring the bands and the scene’s that exist in various parts of the country, it is clear that not only is punk rock is still alive but still as exciting, vibrant, constantly evolving, and fully encompassing the ideals of the past i.e. a vast amount of outsider music not characterized by a particular sound.
So, here is some punk rock for you.
Here is what you’ll find in Episode #93:
Sweet Diego – “Super Sadistic” (Kong’s Little Finger EP)
Itchy – “Knock Knock” (All We Know)
Muskets – “17 Years” (Chew)
Youth Killed It – “Fudge” (Modern Bollotics)
Bondage Fairies – “I Will Never Love You” (Alta Gaga Cp Wifi)
The Headlines – “In The End” (In The End)
Smidley – “Fuck This” (Smidley)
Los VVS – “Be Mine” (Tape 2)
Boo Hag – “Pop The Clutch” (The Further)
Silverstein – “Secret’s Safe” (Dead Reflection)
Trashed Ambulance – “Hangover Drive” (A Dime For Every Time)
Blood Command – “The Secret Impresses No One” (Cult Drugs)
Me First and The Gimme Gimmes – “Straight Up” (Rake It In: The Greatest Hits)
Theatre of Hate – “ Do You Believe in the Westworld?” (Westworld)
Wedding Camp – “Good To Know You” (Clear Fizzy Things)
From the south on a wind in walked a cowboy the saloon was dry but his guns were well oiled somehow he remembered when he kissed his wife and when he said goodbye . . . lost in a dream I don’t know which way to go.