Murray Bookchin, in praise of hippie “Youth Culture” and “life-style” (1970)

hip cultureWe must break away from the traditional Marxian outlook, with its limited interpretation of the class struggle, of the motive forces for revolution, and of the revolutionary process, to understand the revolutionary implications of the Youth Culture. …

Nourished by the relative abundance produced by a new, potentially revolutionary technology, young people began to develop a post-scarcity outlook—however confused, rudimentary, and intuitive its forms—that has been slowly eroding the ages-old psychic complicity between oppressor and oppressed—a complicity that had made hierarchy, domination, patriarchy, renunciation, and guilt a condition of the human spirit, not only the institutional and psychological instruments of class-rule and the state. It is difficult to convey what a historic breach this emerging Youth Culture produced in the social desert that was once America. …

The explosion of the Youth Culture shattered this decade-long edifice and its mythology [i.e., the social conformity of the 1950s—RA] to their very foundations and, almost alone, is responsible for the massive alienation that permeates American youth today. For the first time in the history of this country, every verity not only of bourgeois society but of hierarchical society as a whole is now in question. Mere critique of the kind so endearing to the orthodox Marxists might have produced nothing more than a sense of cynical engagement, so similar to Salinger’s young hero in “Catcher in the Rye.” But the Youth Culture went further—into the realm of positive, utopian alternatives. In its demands for tribalism, free sexuality, community, mutual aid, ecstatic experience, and a balanced ecology, the Youth Culture prefigures, however inchoately, a joyous communist and classless society, freed of the trammels of hierarchy and domination, a society that would transcend the historic splits between town and country, individual and society, and mind and body. Drawing from early rock-and-roll music, from the beat movement, the civil rights struggles, the peace movement, and even from the naturalism of neo-Taoist and neo-Buddhist cults (however unsavory they may be to the “Left”), the Youth Culture has pieced together a life-style that is aimed at the internal system of domination that hierarchical society so viciously uses to bring the individual into partnership with his/her own enslavement. …

The Youth Culture has spread from the Haight-Eastside axis into the most remote towns of the United States, areas that no radical movement in the past could have hoped to colonize, disrupting all the time-honored ties, institutions, and values of these communities. Owing to its increasing influence on working class youth, the culture has now begun to rework the labor reserves of bourgeois society itself—the reservoirs from which it recruits its industrial proletariat and soldiers—until recently, perhaps the most intractable element to radical ideas and values.

= = =

Murray Bookchin, “The Youth Culture: An Anarcho-Communist View,” in Hip Culture: 6 Essays on Its Revolutionary Potential; Yippie, Third World, Feminist, Marxist, High School Student, Anarchist (New York: Times Change Press, 1970), 54, 55, 58–59, 60.

RADICAL ARCHIVES NOTE: Bookchin became quite well-known late in life for his scathing attacks on a bogeyman he called “lifestylism”—a ridiculous strawman composed of wildly disparate parts of the early 1990s anarchist milieu, united mostly by the fact that he didn’t like them. But Bookchin’s early, favorable view of the 1960s counterculture made a coherent argument in favor of its potential, and, if it had a failure, it was that it was too uncritical in its assessment.

When Taco Bell Promoted Fanzines (1993)

I’m not sure if it’s easier or harder to believe today, but in 1993 the grunge-driven corporate cooptation of the 1980s underground music scene – now watered down and repackaged as “alternative” – had reached such a level that even fast food was getting into it. Taco Bell issued a paper placemat, apparently based on a piece from Spin, so their customers could familiarize themselves with important aspects of the “alternative” culture, including fanzines.

‘Zines. Now that an entire overqualified-but-unquenched generation is firmly entrenched as self-hating clerical, word-processing, and proofreading drones (just ask Douglas Coupland), everybody’s getting access to office Xerox machines, fax machines, mail rooms, cool computers, etc. Technology has fallen into the wrong hands, and as a result, fanzines are everywhere – thousands of pointless, stapled pages of goo-goo-ga, written for losers by losers. Nor surprisingly, the best of the batch over the past couple years have not been music-intensive. It’s not yet a revolution, but it’s cheaper and more fun than therapy.

It was strange days, indeed.

Taco Bell - back

Taco Bell - front

Ron Asheton on New Order and Rock’n’Roll Nazi Chic

RON ASHETON [ex-Stooges guitarist, 1975]: I’d made contact in L.A. with Dennis Thompson of the MC5 and we put New Order together. I found a backer and guys started filtering in and we found a place to practice. The downside was the trend of music was changing so dramatically that we got caught in the middle of a shit storm. It was disco time, and people weren’t going for the hard-rock shit anymore, so it was like, “Uh-oh, screwed again.” Plus, we’d play gigs in front of my big swastika flag. I wasn’t a Nazi, the flag was just part of my collection . . . I had Jewish girlfriends and black buddies. It had nothing to do with promoting Nazism or condoning it. I just enjoyed flash uniforms. But other people freaked–they were like, “It’s fascist.” New Order didn’t mean to put out a Nazi vibe at all. I knew it was probably a bad idea … how not to get a record deal in an industry run by Jewish people. “New Order? Let’s sign ’em up right now.”

= = =

from Marc Spitz & Brendan Mullen, We Got the Neutron Bomb: The Untold Story of L.A. Punk (New York: Three Rivers Press, 2001), pp. 30-31.

RADICAL ARCHIVES NOTE: Nazi chic probably has a long history in rock’n’roll, especially via biker culture, but this is the first description of band I’ve run across that seemed to have intentionally presented themselves as a Nazi rock group, even if it was cartoonish play. [later RA note: I have since found at least one earlier band.] There is no reason to think that New Order was meant in an ideological way; Asheton’s Nazi fetish is well-known. But the circulation of Nazi imagery and themes in rock’n’roll had gone on at least for a good chunk of the 1970s — so when actual, ideologically neo-Nazi punk bands emerged at the end of the decade, was it really a surprise?

Not one to let sleeping dogs lie, after New Order, Asheton played in a band called New Race.

Interview with Nervous Gender (2015)

Formed in 1978, Nervous Gender was a pioneering queer synth-punk band from Los Angeles. They’re easily identifiable by their aggressive punk sound played on all synths, as well as transgressive sexual subject matter and visual style–the latter which presaged the goth scene. While many post-punk and new wave bands adopted synths soon after, almost none continued in the punk vein that Nervous Gender and the Screamers had originally explored.

The band went through a number of permutations before breaking up after the death of founding member Gerardo Velazquez in 1992. In 2007 the band reformed with old and new members, and I caught up with them in December 2014 after their first-ever show in New York City. We talked about the evolution of the band over the years, as well as former members like Phranc; their relation to the LA “art-damaged” scene as well as to No Wave, industrial, and goth/death rock; the question of fascism, homophobia, and what it meant to be queer in the ’70s LA punk scene; and their mention on the 700 Club.

They have recently remixed their 1981 studio album, and released three live recordings, documenting  different periods of the band, including a 1979 show with Phranc and a 1986 show with Wall of Voodoo members. These can be purchased via their website http://nervousgender.com.

DISCOGRAPHY

Live at Target (Subterranean Records, 1980), compilation with Factrix, uns, and Flipper
Music from Hell (Subterranean Records, 1981)
Live at the Hong Kong Cafe 1979 (Nervous Gender Archives, 2006)
Live at the Whiskey A Go-Go 1980 (Nervous Gender Archives, 2006)
Live at the Roxy 1986 (Nervous Gender Archives, 2006)
Music From Hell, 2009 Remixed / Remastered (Nervous Gender Archives, 2009)
“Gestalt” / “Green Tile Floors” (Test Tube Records, 2011), 7″

This is an edited version of a December 7, 2014 interview at the Box Hotel in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

Band photos are from Evil Tracey. Please contact her for reprint permission: eviltracey at yahoo dot com.

SPENCER SUNSHINE: So I’m in Brooklyn with Nervous Gender. What’s the name of everyone in the band today and what’s everyone’s history with the band?

Edward Stapleton

Edward Stapleton

EDWARD STAPLETON: Me and Michael Ochoa are the original members. Joe and Tammy were friends from the very beginning, but they weren’t in the band. [Turns to Joe and Michael] How many years ago did you guys start it up again?

JOE ZINNATO: ‘89? I’ve been in the band since ’89, Tammy’s been in the band about…

TAMMY FRASER: I was just the manager and then I became the fill in…

JOE: Like two years ago?

Michael Ochoa

Michael Ochoa

MICHAEL OCHOA: I had a stroke four years ago.

TAMMY: Was it four?

MICHAEL: Yeah.

JOE: So she was in the band for four years

MICHAEL: So I wasn’t able to play, and they had a show, so they got Tammy sucked in.

Joe Zinnato

Joe Zinnato

JOE: Yeah and Tammy actually knows how to play keyboards…

MICHAEL: …which we don’t…

JOE: …and read music, so it was kinda no-brainer. We had a show lined up, so she became our pinch hitter.

SPENCER: So the band has an odd history. The original form was between ‘79 to ‘89, and then Gerardo—this is what I read online—had a trio from ‘90 to ‘92.

Tammy Fraser

Tammy Fraser

TAMMY: It was Joe, Michael and Gerardo.

JOE: The original lineup was from like ‘78 to ‘79. These two, and Phranc…

MICHAEL: …the lesbian folk-singer…

JOE: …and Gerardo. And Phranc left, and there was also a drummer, Don Bolles. That was the original lineup, which lasted about a year. And then after that, people rotated in and out. It was never—except for the first year—it was never a consistent lineup.

SPENCER: So that was one of my questions, there was so many members of the band, like Paul Roesseler, most of Wall of Voodoo, and an eight-and-a-half year-old boy named Sven, sometimes I wonder about bands—was it more like an arts collective then if people are just rotating in and out, or did it have the consistency?

Continue reading ‘Interview with Nervous Gender (2015)’

Chumbawamba, the Pentagon, and the Bombing of Iraq (1998)

“Martial Music”

The tentative U.S. military campaign against Iraq already has its own unofficial theme song. Last week, senior Pentagon staffers privately circulated an audio-file E-mail with a pro-war parody of “Tubthumping,” a hit from the British band Chumbawamba. The blend of drinking song and rugby cheer (“I get knocked down, but I get up again”) has been transformed into a jingoistic war cry: “Let’s hunt him down and shoot him in the head, / Let’s beat the crap outta Saddam…. And if he won’t let us look for all his nerve gas / The U.S. Army is gonna kick him in the a–.” An ethereal voice chimes in with “Don’t screw with the U.S.A.”

= = =

U.S. News and World Report, March 2, 1998

Deleuze: Nietzsche is “the dawn of counterculture” (1973)

“Probably most of us fix the dawn of our modern culture in the trinity Nietzsche-Freud-Marx. And it is of little consequence that the world was unprepared for them in advance.  Now, Marx and Freud, perhaps, do represent the dawn of our culture, but Nietzsche is something entirely different: the dawn of counterculture.”

= = =

Gilles Deleuze, “Nomad Thought,” in David B. Allison, ed., The New Nietzsche: Contemporary Styles of Interpretation (New York: Delta/Dell, 1977), page 142. Translated from the French by Allison; original is “Pensée nomade,” in Nietzsche aujourd’hui (Paris: Union Générale d’Editions, 1973).

Ian Bone: How Crass’s Penny Rimbaud Saved EP Thompson from Being Decapitated by Class War

[Ian Bone describes how Class War is being confrontational towards speakers at a CND rally in Hyde Park in October, 1983]

Next up is silver-mained EP Thompson, author of The Making of the English Working Class, a book we all hold in great esteem and whose mob traditions we even feel we’re part of. But no matter—[Class War’s] Doc Whelan’s limited patience threshold has well and truly been breached. He has a glass cider flagon which he was reserving for Kinnockio [Neil Kinnock] but decided ‘some fucking professor’ will do just as well for a target. He has a sighting heave with a piece of concrete which whistles past EP Thompson’s locks on a still rising trajectory. He starts to spin like a hammer thrower with the flagon as the hammer. EP Thompson’s health is seriously at risk, and I’m doing fuck all to protect one of my favorite writers from decapitation. Thankfully, others aren’t so paralyzed. A firm arm grabs Doc’s wrista move usually likely to incur the dreaded Whelan forehead crunching down on the bridge of your nose. Doc recognizes the owner of the arm as Penny Rimbaud. ‘He’s not the one that deserves that,’ says Penny, ‘save it for later.’ Wise words and Doc concurs.

= = =

Ian Bone, Bash the Rich: True-Life Confessions of an Anarchist in the UK (Bath, UK: Tangent Books, 2006), pp 139-40.



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