28 April 2012

Henry Rollins on U2

During lunch Bono and Paul McGuinness ask me about the poetry slams in New York. An increasingly popular entertainment in the East Village is for poets to get up and recite their verse while audience volunteers judge them on a scale of one to ten, a sort of Olympic Pentameter.

"You hear some good stuff and a lot of bad stuff," I say. "The obnoxious thing is that a lot of them are desperate to prove that just 'cause they're poets doesn't mean they're sissies. They try to act punk, they try to dress tough. It's like those classical violinists who think dyeing their hair green will make them connect to the kids. It's hard to listen to spoken word by people who are so horny to convince you they're macho."

"Like Henry Rollins," Paul says.

"Ah, no," I say. "Henry Rollins is good." And I immediately wonder if I've put my foot in my mouth. Rollins has a monologue on one of his spoken word albums in which he mocks U2's fans, rags on the band, and rants, "They could never fool me! We always had to see over and over again on any television channel that shithead climbing up and down the P.A. at Redrocks! That guy with the bubble butt waving a white flag! A white flag says, Aim your crosshair sights over here! Kill ME! The one with the flag. Pop that guy. And Edge doing that fucking fake-ass pilgrim gig like, I'm so pious and low-key with my millions. I'll just play this one Enoesque chord. They've been milking that same bassline and the same guitar change for like five albums and the world kisses their ass and it is the biggest pile of shite I have ever heard!"

The air hangs heavy over the lunch table for a moment and then Bono says casually, "Henry Rollins--is that the vegetarian?"

Bill Flanagan, U2 at the End of the World, pp.333-334

Martin Newell on "Miss Van Houten's Coffee Shoppe"

This is a sort of Brian-Wilson-on-the-Village-Green thing. I really like cheerful pop songs and I hate nearly everything to do with rock and credibility. When I see some leather-clad wasted-looking gothic wretch posing in a club I always think, "Oh for God's sake go for a bicycle ride or something." I'm gradually becoming Julie Andrews....

from the liner notes to The Off White Album

"a more accurate national history"

In 1984, when I was asked by editors of the British journal Social History to write an article reviewing the field of American women's history, I was a young assistant professor with an agenda. Like most of my generation of feminist scholars, professional ambitions were fired by political awakenings. Converted, and I do mean converted, to anti-war politics and radical feminism as a first-year student at Smith College in the late 1960s, I became convinced that history offered a critical lever for opening the minds of women and men to the oppressive character of American military, political, and social institutions and attitudes. The American history survey course I took in my sophomore year, in which Dr. Allen Weinstein catalogued a national tradition of racism and militarism from the colonial era through the Vietnam War, convinced me that if Americans had truly understood their history, they would not continue to support U.S. interventions in the domestic and economic affairs of other nations. The consciousness-raising that would be provided by a more accurate--that is, antiracist, anti-imperialist, and feminist--national history was critical, I thought, to mobilizing movements for progressive social change.

Nancy Hewitt, "Beyond the Search for Sisterhood," in Unequal Sisters: A Multicultural Reader in U.S. Women's History (Vicki Ruiz and Ellen Carol DuBois, eds.), p.1

21 April 2012


"On the planet O there has not been a war for five thousand years," she read, "and on Gethen there has never been a war." She stopped reading, to rest her eyes and because she was trying to train herself to read slowly, not gobble words down in chunks the way Tikuli gulped his food. "There has never been a war:" in her mind the words stood clear and bright, surrounded by and sinking into an infinite, dark, soft incredulity. What would that world be, a world without war? It would be the real world. Peace was the true life, the life of working and learning and bringing up children to work and learn. War, which devoured work, learning, and children, was the denial of reality. But my people, she thought, know only how to deny. Born in the dark shadow of power misused, we set peace outside our world, a guiding and unattainable light. All we know how to do is fight. Any peace one of us can make in our life is only a denial that the war is going on, a shadow of the shadow, a doubled unbelief.

Ursula LeGuin, "Betrayals," in Four Ways to Forgiveness, p.1

16 April 2012

Ana da Silva

London, around Autumn 1976, was an amazing place to be. Gina had just arrived from Nottingham, and I had arrived from Portugal. The time leading up to our first album was really enjoyable regardless of predictable difficulties. It was a great period for learning and achieving the surprises that were our songs and our sound. The punk idea that you just needed to know three chords to start something, was a very encouraging concept, and I think it still stands. So, want to do something girls? Be bold, be cheeky, go for it. The efforts to open doors for women have been fruitful (though painfully slow) and we hope that, by having been there, we helped, not just ourselves, but others by means of inspiration.

Gina and I got our initial inspiration in 1976/77 from the groups we used to go and see--The Clash, The Sex Pistols, Subway Sect, Talking Heads, and particularly the women involved--Patti Smith, The Slits, Poly Styrene....They said it was easy, anyone could do it, so we decided to form our own group.

We felt amazed at our ability to write a S.O.N.G. with beginning, middle, and end. It sounded so miraculously complete that nothing would stop us from then on.

Ana da Silva, liner notes to The Raincoats

Kurt Cobain on The Raincoats

When I listen to The Raincoats I feel as if I'm a stowaway in an attic, violating and in the dark. Rather than listening to them, I feel like I'm listening in on them. We're together in the same old house and I have to be completely still or they will hear me spying from above and, if I get caught--everything will be ruined because it's their thing. They're playing their music for themselves. It's not as sacred as wire-tapping a Buddhist monk's telephone or something because if The Raincoats really did catch me, they would probably just ask me if I wanted some tea. I would comply, then they would finish playing their songs and I would say thank you very much for making me feel good.

Kurt Cobain, "From a Stowaway in an Attic," liner notes to The Raincoats

Steve Vai on his Audition for Frank Zappa's Band

So I was in that mode of being very hungry to rehearse and to learn, and that's really what you needed in a situation with Frank. Because with Frank you have to be on--I mean, it's a big boy's game--when Frank walks in, you just have to be on.

I remember my audition because he asked me to come down and learn all these songs--and obviously when I got there we didn't play any of the songs that he told me to learn, but I got through--but then he says to me, "Okay, play this," and he picks up his guitar and kind of cryptically plays a line--because Frank had a particular style and it wasn't of the virtuoso-type nature, you know what I mean? It was more visceral.

So he plays through something and says, "Now play it at this tempo," and snaps his fingers. And I'm watching closely because you got to get it right like that or you're out of there, and I say "Okay" and play it--and there's all these guys around and everything, and I'm 20 years old, and he says, "Now add this note here," and he plays a note, so I say "Okay" and I thought about it and I add the note, and he says "Now play it in 7/8," so I say "Okay" and play it in 7/8, and he says, "Now play it in 7/8 reggae," and I thought for a minute and I say "Okay" and I play it in 7/8 reggae! And it's this ridiculous line that should never be played on a guitar, and then he goes, "Now add this note," and he plays a note, and I thought for a minute and I look up at him and say, "It's impossible"--because it was! Nobody could do it, you know? And he puts his hands on his hips and goes, "Well, I hear Linda Ronstadt is looking for a guitar player...."

To watch this clip, go to Steve Vai Audition with Frank Zappa

Bruce Springsteen on Guitar Lessons

Well, I did take a lesson or two, but lessons were horrible in those days because the first thing they wanted to teach you was to read music and I needed instant gratification--I needed to rock now, not later, not after I learned the scales, not after I learned those notes and what their names were, not after I stopped the buzzing on the B string....I needed to make a horrific noise right now, and if you couldn't teach me that--and no one could in those days! Mike Diehl, the guy at Diehl's Music, was clueless as to the power of the instrument he held in his hands, and had no way of transmitting its significance to an incoherent nine-year-old. So the whole thing was ass-backwards and wasn't going to work.

from the interview with Steven Van Zandt on Little Steven's Underground Garage, April 4 2011

"we were there"

The settlement of the Farah strike in 1974 had, for many women, come at great personal cost. Few activists would enjoy the benefits since many of the most vocal were fired after a few months, ostensibly for failing to meet inflated production quotas; union representatives blithely refused to generate any grievance procedures to protect and retain these women. Mexican women have not fared well in their affiliation with mainstream labor unions even though they have contributed much of the people power, perseverance, and activism necessary for successful organization. As in the case of Farah, they typically have been denied any meaningful voice in the affairs of the local they had labored so valiantly to build.

Elsa Chávez is one of these women activists. After she was fired, Chávez began to work at another clothing factory, but came to the realization that she wanted--and could achieve--a college education. I first met Ms. Chávez when she was a student in my Chicano history class at U.T. El Paso; two former strikers had enrolled in the class, a fact I discovered as I lectured on the Farah strike and noticed the two reentry women, both bilingual education majors, sitting in the front row winking and giggling to each other. "Oh, we're sorry, Dr. Ruiz, but we were there." A bit nonplussed, I turned the class over to them.

Vicki Ruiz, From Out of the Shadows: Mexican Women in Twentieth-Century America, pp.131-132

La Nueva Chicana

She that lady protesting injustice,
Es mi Mamá.
The girl in the brown beret,
The one teaching the children,
She's my hermana.
Over there fasting with the migrants,
Es mi tía.
These are the women who worry,
Pray, iron
And cook chile and tortillas.
The lady with the forgiving eyes
And the gentle smile,
Listen to her shout.
She knows what hardship is all about
All about.
The establishment calls her a radical militant.
The newspapers read she is
A dangerous subversive
They label her name to condemn her.
By the FBI she's called
A big problem.
In Aztlán we call her
La Nueva Chicana.

Viola Correa, "La Nueva Chicana," in Ruiz, pp.169-170