by tobi vail

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

"6th Grade Enthusiazm!?!" baby, i love you

an essay from jigsaw #2 (1990)
Jigsaw# 2: essay pt 1
In my neighborhood the middle school kids didn't get to have their own bus because our school was on the same road as the high school. This was kind of scary and hard to get used to after being the big fifth graders of the elementary school bus and being the girls who always got the back seat. I remember it also really sucked too because on the grade school bus, we were the first stop but on the other bus we were the last stop and the bus was always too full and we never ever got to sit in the back seat and we never even got to sit with our friends because it was so full we had to sit three to a seat and sometimes, when everybody rode, (remember sometimes kids would get kicked off the bus) a few people had to stand up...and so in the morning, me and my friend Heidi would try to get up early so that we could be the first kids at the bus stop to make sure we wouldn't have to stand up...or sit with a gross boy...but this never worked because at the last minute all these big kids would start a new line and our line wouldn't count anymore...it totally sucked and there was nothing we could do about it. And these big kids were stupid. They weren't cool like the big kids from my old school who were nice and would talk to us and would always bring their kiss 8 tracks to play...these other big kids were mean and snotty and they listened to QUEEN and AIR SUPPLY.
Anyways, needless to say, I had some major trouble adjusting to the hierarchy of the big kids. One thing they used to do was yell out the years of the class that they were going to graduate in. One afternoon, me and Heidi, feeling pretty daring, started yelling "87 Rules!" and the whole bus gets totally silent...we were ridiculed, and told that junior high kids didn't count because that was so far off it was just too pathetic...(after all it was only 1980) But then this one big kid goes, "Hey it's 6th Grade Enthusiasm, ain't that cute!" and everybody started laughing. The bus stopped and me and Heidi got off. We were pretty upset. But then we realized something. What was so great about graduating anyways. We would rather be 6th graders than seniors any day. Maybe 6th Grade Enthusiasm could be looked at as something good. The next day instead of yelling "87 Rules" we decided to yell "6th Grade Enthusiasm". It was great. We told all our friends who didn't ride the bus. We wrote it on our peechees. After awhile we got sick of it and wrote band names on our peechees. And you know, when I became a big kid, everyone yelled out band names instead of classes.
So the name of this column is 6th Grade Enthusiasm in honor of this spirit...I don't know...think about it...So in the context of underground music you're supposed to be cool. Like a big kid. You are always supposed to be kind of reserved and act like you know everything. But if everyone always acted like that nothing would ever change. And it would probably be pretty boring. But there are some things that really blow me away and I don't care who knows it. And I'm not going to refrain from saying the obvious because I don't believe in holding back...it just don't seem to make sense....So Here It Goes...

Jigsaw# 2: essay pt 2
First of all, I would like to inform you that the Go-Go's don't suck so stop putting them down. YES that means you mr/ms rock journalist. I'm so sick of hearing about how this or that girl band AREN'T THE GO GO's--because they rock! I mean come on, the Go-Go's, compared to what's on the radio today, were not wimpy...they were five women who wrote some cool pop songs and got famous on a fluke...and they rock. Check out the first LP if you don't believe me...and they were more than competent musicians too...Secondly that kind of thing is just so typical--of course if there ever was a good girl band--and they were A BAND--in the Top 40, of course it would be likely to get a bad name...because girls + guitars is equal to sex + power...which is something that is not supposed to be associated with women in our culture. It is threatening to the powers that be. Of course we are told that there are never any good girl bands and deprived of our heroines! Like Chrissie Hynde for example. This photo (of Chrissie Hynde) is from the Rocket after they played in Seattle in 1984. I cut it out and taped it on my folder after the concert. Anyway, what I'm trying to say is that even if you aren't a big Go Go's or Pretenders fan there is a whole history of Women in Rock that exists that isn't as easily accessible as maybe it should be. I mean maybe there is a whole bunch of you out there who have never heard the Slits or the Avengers or the X Ray Spex. Maybe you don't realize how great the Patti Smith records are. I mean I was lucky, growing up in Olympia, with a cool radio station that played a lot of female artists and I didn't even hear the Rough Trade compilation "Wanna Buy a Bridge" until two years ago (1988). Young Marble Giants, Kleenex, Delta 5, Raincoats, Slits--listen to it. And then there's the Marine Girls and Pylon. And Poly Styrene from X Ray Spex was so fucking cool. All that stuff was so punk rock and revolutionary. It doesn't deserve to be obscure. So what if it was ten years ago. Nothing like that is really happening today anyways. Oh yeah and what about Girlschool or the Pandoras?!!!! And please listen to the Avengers...they're one of the greatest.

Um...there's a book called "Signed, Sealed and Delivered" about Women in Pop...written by two women from England--Sue Steward and Sheryl Garret--1984 South End Press, Boston. It's amazing. Girls rock. Do you wanna trade tapes?

8 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. here are some thoughts about this piece:
    I think it's funny that in 1990 I thought it was obvious that Queen sucked but Kiss ruled. In actuality, when we were in DC in fall 1989, Guy Picciotto gave the Go Team a Queen tape to listen to on tour. I was very confused by this, since I loved Guy and Rites of Spring and Fugazi, but had always hated Queen. So I had to reconsider them. I did reconsider them. I now have almost all of their records and listen to them a lot more than I get my Kiss records out.
    On the bus the kids would listen to "Another One Bites The Dust" and I would cry. I hated it so much. I remember seeing the Thrown Up's do a homophobic parody of Queen at the Showbox in Seattle around this time as "Queer" and they changed the words to "Another One Rides the Butt". At the time, though I knew this kind of humor was wrong, I also thought it was funny, because I had been so tormented by jocks loving this song and the jocks would so much have hated to know that Freddy Mercury was gay so the joke was on them. Anyhow, looking back this is all stupid right. Still the hierarchy of school--of the big kids and the little kids--of the "jocks" and the rest of us who would get called "fags" or "scum"was very fresh in my mind when I was writing this and to use it as a metaphor to discuss the gender imbalance of punk seemed to make a lot of sense.
    I was so happy when the Go Go's finally got some airplay, because something I liked and listened to a lot was being validated. I remember being on the bus, hoping that it would come on the radio. When it finally did come on it was totally derided by the big kids and even though they made Top 40 history and were a really great pop band, they were not taken seriously by anyone except their fans, who were mostly teenage girls and had very little, if any, media access.
    So it makes sense that when I finally got around to starting my own fanzine this would be one of the first things I would want to address. The Go Go's do not suck. They were a great band. They were dismissed because they were girls. Because they were girly. And that is wrong.

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  3. Don Smith (Teenage Gang Debs) is challenging my claim that the Go Go's fans were mostly teen girls. I guess in Bethesda, MD this wasn't the case. More on this later!

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  4. I found that book in a free bin when I first moved to SF-so rad...
    I read an interview with blink 82 where they were sort of talking about punk, and how they were such better musicians than the bangles, even tho they were a "punk" band-and used that as a tool to ridicule female musicians... like the bangles aren't as cool as the go gos in my eyes, but same thing, they were an all female pop/rock band in the top 40, and they totally were cool mod revival sound before they were huge... so in short, having an cool band idea is more important than being pro gear pro attitude. i remember when skinned teen would play wtih bigger bands like sonic youth and beck we got ridiculed by the big venue lunk headed sound guys constantly for not being their idea of what music is or should be... girl musicans have to carry so much weight! it's so boring!

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  5. i love that page.... have so fun to read it...
    Tobi V. you're such a great writer,and it's so cool that when you grow up in olympia, you have cool stuff on the radio !! and i LOOOOOOOOOVE x-ray spex a lot and girschool and Kleenex.....


    but the coolest is -i know it's,like, "the past" for you,maybe- but i cannot forget how great is Bikini Kill....... i'm 11 years old and Bikini Kill was one of my favorite band when i was like 7 or 8 and..... yeah. cannot forget bk and i'm obssessed with everything about bk and i write all this just for put this out,i just need to say it....

    it would be cool if you can write back

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  6. Hi Leno--I thought that I had written back to this, I'm sorry! It is cool that you were listening to us when you were 7 or 8, that is like my sister Maggie --she was into the Ramones and got to see them in concert when she was little--and before that she was into the B-52's and all the Two Tone Bands and she also loved Rock-A-Billy, very cool to see little kids into punk/new wave bands.

    During the 80's in Olympia after 10PM at night all the radio shows were good--the station had a policy where you had to play 80% independent artists but there was no playlist, so the DJ's would choose their own music. I had a show from 85-88 and then again in 90-1. The record library was great back then. I wonder if they still have a great vinyl collection--I know they have gotten rid of a lot of stuff.

    Layla I will have to write about my history as a Bangles fan now--maybe it will come up--I am guessing I didn't mention them here because their later Top 40 stuff was so cheesy and this was written while they were doing all that stuff. Does the MRR record library have any of their early stuff? I just have the one song, Bitchin' Summer off the Rodney and the Roq comp and the EP on Faulty Products--not sure but am guessing there were singles that I never saw/heard.

    I feel like I need to clarify the above part about lauging at The Thrown Up's homophobic parody of Queen. Well basically there were a lot of "offensive" joke type bands that would try to "push the envelope" of punk and get people to react--The Thrown Ups were one of those bands--there were many others, Tesco Vee and the Meat Men come to mind--anyhow I thought the Thrown Ups were funny but they would go to far at times--what I meant to say here was that they had gone too far, but that I understood their point was not to insult gay people, but rather to provoke the "jocks" by "outing" Queen--at the time , believe it or not, there were a lot of people who didn't know Freddy Mercury was gay. Anyhow, homophobia was also happening in this performance by reinforcing the idea that it's negative to be called a "fag" or whaever--so that is what I meant when I said "even though I knew this was wrong I thought this was funny"--at the time I remember I felt like a jerk for laughing but I did laugh and that is what reading this whole thing made me think about--how our perceptions change over time. Maybe I'll write more later about this.

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  7. PS Leno--I am talking about KAOS 89.3 FM

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  8. Hi! Sorry if I'm really late(like you post the last comments for me the October 22,but I didn't really think you would write back cuz sometimes I write to people on websites if they could write back but they never do...). But when you wrote that it is really cool to see little kids into punk/new wave bands, I just wanna let you know that I'm listening to punk music since that I'm 4! Like, I was listening to a band called Harum-Scarum when I was 4(it's punk rock with female singer) and start listening too Team Dresch when I was 6... I wrote that I was listening to BK when I was 7 or 8 but now I remember that I was 8. At this time,my mom gots the Reject All American LP and Pussy Whipped. My favorite was Reject All American and my favorite song was....Reject All American(I was always singing this song). And I remember that one day, I asked to my mom if we could go at a Bikini Kill show, but she told me that you broke up in '98(we was in 2004). I was so sad... And anyways, I wrote that it was when I was 7 or 8, but I'm still listening to it. I can't stop. I think I'm gonna have a tattoo one day with the front cover of the first LP...that's you!

    PS: Thanks so much for write back!
    And I know it's weird but sometimes I cry when I listen to your song "For Only"

    -Leno (my real name is Lenora)

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