Wednesday, May 30, 2007
The Seventies and Punk Rock
A couple of weeks ago, Danielle tagged me with what I thought was a fun, innocent little meme: picking out five hit songs from the year you turned 18 and writing about my connection to them.
I actually had a little trouble with it: the year I turned 18, 1979, was a really bad year for music. I actually had to expand the meme a little bit in order to find music I liked from that year. I had to include songs that were not on the Billboard charts.
Bubs, one of bloggers I tagged, took another approach-- one I wish I'd thought of. He picked five of the lamest songs from his year and explained that those songs were what made him begin to dress funny and listen to punk rock. There were many of us in that boat. Barbara took an approach that was a little closer to mine-- stretching the meme to find some cool songs. Of course, she had a way cooler year to work with, 1976. Rock music hadn't been driven completely off the airwaves yet by the disco lemmings in 1976.
The whole thing brought me back to a series of conversations I'd had with a couple of barroom buddies I had in the late 1980's.
There is a bar in the Wicker Park neighborhood in Chicago called Danny's that used to be way-cool-- back when Danny himself still owned it. It was decorated in Elvis memorablia, had a member of Naked Raygun as a bartender (John Haggerty) and a jukebox that had Patsy Cline, Motorhead, the Sonics, Dwight Yoakam and Paul Butterfield-- how could you go wrong? And on top of that, $1.25 Leinenkugels?
I got to be buddies with a couple of regulars there, Jamie and Ivan. Over time, we developed a friendly argument about seventies music. I had, at some point, dissed seventies music. Jamie had countered that a lot of good music had come from the seventies: Iggy Pop and David Bowie had done a lot of their best music in that time. He eventually rattled off a bunch of punk or punkish artists that had done great work in the seventies: X, the Buzzcocks, the Dickies, Television, the Ramones, the Dead Boys, Elvis Costello and many others.
This period of music is nicely documented on the fabulous No Thanks! box set, a set I happened to get from my lovely bride our first Christmas together.
In any event, I backed off of that claim, realizing they were right. Eventually we turned to a discussion of local music of the seventies. The mainstream music coming out of Illinois sucked. REO Speedwagon and Styx were stinking up the airwaves. We did have a local punk scene that had thrived, but being under 21 and living in the suburbs, I'd had extremely limited access to it (i.e. zero access). Fortunately, WXRT, then a pretty cool radio station, had a show called "The Big Beat," that played punk and New Wave. They played a lot of the local bands, including a particular favorite of mine, Poison Squirrel. (they're mentioned in this article.)
I told Jamie and Ivan that there had been a Chicago punk band in the late seventies and early eighties that I loved called "Poison Squirrel" and that I'd only gotten to hear them on the airwaves-- I'd never gotten to see them live, unfortunately. Their jaws dropped, and they looked at one another with a look of shock.
Jamie and Ivan, it turned out, had been the bass player and drummer, respectively, for Poison Squirrel.
As you might have guessed, we continued to stay good buddies.