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Arbitrary, because Wednesday

Sorry for the very light blogging lately ... no, wait, scratch that, I’m not sorry at all.  Not at all!  I’m proud, proud of the very light blogging lately.  It has been some of the finest very light blogging this blog has ever seen, even if I do say so myself.

And it’s about to get even lighter (proudly, I say!) because I’m skipping out.  Leaving town.  Hitting the road.  Going on vacation.  Yes, even though I become the new Director of the Institute for the Arts and Humanities at Penn State at midnight tonight (the midnight change of command ceremony is an awesome, beautiful thing), I am beginning my new job by taking a vacation.  It’s the only way to set the right tone, I believe.

The truth, of course, is that I’ve been working on next year’s programming for the past few months, and working pretty feverishly on the transition for the past few weeks.  And most of all, watching one dystopian movie after another for my film festival, “Bad Futures” (name coined by the elusive Janet Lyon), which will take place at the State Theatre on October 15-17.  Thanks to Nick for suggesting Akira and thanks to Chloe Silverman for introducing me to Code 46!  I just ordered the soundtrack, because you know I love that spacy ambient dreamy stuff.

Oh, and it’s about the time of year that I remind everyone that I also love this:

Jamie does too, except that he thinks the lyrics are “hey, Jamie, it’s the Fourth of July.” “It’s about me,” he chirped from the back seat of the car last week.  And who am I to contradict him?

Besides, there are more important things to argue about.  Like, for instance, this travesty, this insult to all that is right and good, a ranking of the “100 best punk bands” in which X is consigned to the 51st spot.  WTF?  I’m sorry, but don’t These Kids Today listen to real music anymore?  Hard to argue with four of the first five, I’ll admit that (Bad Religion, meh), but the next five should obviously be X, Hüsker Dü (40th? are you people out of your minds?), Sex Pistols, then maybe Black Flag and Minor Threat.  And while it’s nice to see some love for Sham 69, the Minutemen, and the Dead Milkmen, there’s a lot of chaff in that top 50 ... and no Dead Boys? no Fear? no X-Ray Spex? no Flipper???  Doesn’t anyone listen to the classics anymore?  Sonic Youth, OK, but no Pixies?  Also notable for their absence: Nirvana.  I haven’t been so depressed by a discussion of music since someone responded to this epic thread by complaining that I’d overlooked Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.  Which reminds me: no Johnny Thunder and the Heartbreakers?  Really?  Really?

I’ll be back in mid-July.  In the meantime, feel free to suggest more revisions to this sorry list.

Posted by on 06/30 at 12:40 PM
  1. This list clearly sucks. The Ramones ahead of the MC5 and the Stooges?

    The Ramones are a cover band compared to the Detroiters.

    BTW, the captcha is “new,” which The Ramones were not.

    Posted by  on  06/30  at  02:13 PM
  2. Yikes!  Usually you have to wait til comment five or six before someone plays the MC5 card.

    Posted by  on  06/30  at  03:39 PM
  3. Yes, X was a great band and severely underrated, in part because they were a West Coast band and the punk “scene” was primarily an East Coast thing, and in part because (imo) of a feeling that they couldn’t truly be rebels because they were produced by someone—Ray Manzarek—who represented those against whom punk was supposed to rebel.

    Or maybe no one liked Exene, who knows… Zoom could play, though, couldn’t he.

    Posted by  on  06/30  at  04:22 PM
  4. Fear are #71.
    I don’t think I’m clear on where the borders of punk lie. Sonic Youth, the Velvet Underground, Patti Smith and the MC5 are a yes. But no Elvis Costello, Joy Division, Camper Van Beethoven or Meat Puppets?
    Les Savy Fav gets my vote.

    Posted by  on  06/30  at  05:16 PM
  5. From TFA—#79, the Germs:

    Mediocre LA punk band whose lead singer is worshipped by the same morons who worship Sid Vicious, and for similar reasons, for being a dead junkie who was pretty much useless to the music world.

    In the punk universe being “pretty much useless” is enough to keep one out of the bottom quintile of punk notability.

    I recognize only four names in the whole list, two of them being MC5 and the Ramones. What are the odds of that? (Something like 4/100 * 3/99 with an adjustment for the mention of the Stooges. Stats were a vision in my rear view mirror by the time they got around to explaining that.)

    It is because of this humble blog that I recognize Ramones. They remind me of Neil Young’s Living With War.

    Captcha: asked. Answered.

    Posted by  on  06/30  at  05:52 PM
  6. Despite recent surgery for prostate cancer, Zoom still can play! X played a private show at the Roxy in LA this past weekend! They’ve been playing on and off since getting back together about twelve years ago. Hell, the wife and I celebrated our twelfth wedding anniversary last year at an X show in Baltimore that was poorly attended but kicked ass despite. Exene and John did a beautiful acoustic “4th of July.” DJ had enough energy for ten percussionists. Go out and see them if they come around wherever you are. You won’t be disappointed.

    Also, in case you don’t know, Exene was diagnosed with MS last year.

    Posted by  on  06/30  at  05:57 PM
  7. "a ranking of the “100 best punk bands” in which X is consigned to the 51st spot.”

    And Buzzcocks at 69? New York Dolls at 57? BEHIND AFI????? DEAD KENNEDYS OVER THE CLASH?

    Talk about things my heart and blood pressure did not need.

    captcha: heart, as in attack.

    Posted by Mr. Trend  on  06/30  at  06:51 PM
  8. Of course like so much of culture the list is so so US centric. Inwhat world is the Clash not No1. However the biggest ommission is the 2 classic Australian bands the Saints and of course the unbelivably brillian Radio Birdman. I encourage you all to trawl the the tubes and catch a performance. Be prepared to be blown away.

    Posted by  on  06/30  at  06:52 PM
  9. Blogging like the new person you are, carrying much less weight and unhampered by cords and sharp-bladed objects.  Most excellent!

    X with Exene has always been in my standard play list regardless of genre.  Then again, i am originally from LA LA land, and have greatly enjoyed most of the music that came from there (especially except of course for Lawrence Welk and his minions).  And X was just one of many punk bands that grew up in the SoCal scene beginning in the early 70s (The Zeros, The Germs, The Weirdos, The Dickies, The Bags, The Screamers). 

    When Television and Velvet Underground make a list that specifically rejects Green Day, i say pshaw.  The fact that they appear 20 places higher on the list than Patti Smith is a travesty.  And what, no Violent Femmes, Meat Puppets, etc?

    The captcha is “peace” so peace out y’all.

    Posted by  on  06/30  at  06:56 PM
  10. Maybe you lose points if your music is still listenable after a generation. Sustained relevance is so not punk!

    At any rate, take solace. Ranking the unrankable, especially when ranking the rank, is one of those internetty things we have to live with. It keeps the Borgs busy during lengthy connection flights between galaxies.

    Besides, the list is null and void. “. . .  DJ Bonebreak on drums . . .”? The name’s Bonebrake. Sorry, but the punkiest thing in the world is to be in a punk band while your real name out-punks most stage names.

    Posted by David J Swift  on  06/30  at  09:36 PM
  11. To be clear: X is among my Top 10 Greatest Bands Ever, Any Ilk Div.

    Posted by David J Swift  on  06/30  at  09:44 PM
  12. Fear are #71.

    Phew.  Now I can feel like an extra extra fool for typing “no Fear.”

    And yes, that “DJ Bonebreak” is a handy credibility-killer, isn’t it?

    Posted by  on  06/30  at  10:15 PM
  13. I may have linked this here before, but if I did it is more on topic this time, Jeffrey Lewis’s “Complete History of Punk Rock” (Prehistory mostly, and with a New York slant ... not that I’m sucking up to anyone)

    Posted by  on  07/01  at  01:07 AM
  14. The Ramones are a cover band compared to the Detroiters.

    As long as we’re mentioning Detroiters, although these guys apparently influenced almost precisely no one--Death.

    Posted by  on  07/01  at  01:55 AM
  15. You’ll be glad to know I saw X play live in San Francisco back in the early/mid 80’s. My good friend was a huge fan, so I went along with her. It was a small club venue and we were close to the stage - it was cool. But these days I must confess that when I think of X, all I can think of is that Exene Cervenka was married to Viggo Mortensen. And my brain just goes, “Wow. She was banging Viggo Freakin’ Mortensen. Daaaaammmmnnn. Respect.”

    And speaking of respect, I didn’t get none from you for my awesome comment @17 on that thread. I thought as a professional academic, you would have been more appreciative of the epic “yoink” knowledge I was throwing down. But I guess there’s no talking to music geeks about anything else when they’re in geek mode. I understand.

    Oh, and have a great vacation!

    Posted by  on  07/01  at  02:47 AM
  16. Arbitrary but not necessarily obscure (or is that elusive) punk rock trivia:  Craig Ferguson of Late Late Show infamy started out as the drummer of the rock band Exposure before his stint as drummer for the Scottish punk band The Bastards from Hell (later known as the Dreamboys?).  He is one year younger than MB actually; suggesting that those drummers of his generation may have more talent and skills than we imagined.

    Posted by  on  07/01  at  04:04 AM
  17. & I assume that you’ll be taking a copy of “My Pet Goat” with you on your vacation, because we all know that’s a must-read for leaders on leave.

    Posted by Bill Benzon  on  07/01  at  05:19 AM
  18. Sorry, Nirvana - never thought of them as punk

    +1 for both Radio Birdman and The Saints

    Captcha is “work” - avoid it and enjoy the holiday

    Posted by  on  07/01  at  07:36 AM
  19. The list is US-centric and perhaps a little male-heavy? I understand that this is part of the punk trademark, but a few screaming feminists might have made their way in, no? Le Tigre? Sleater Kinney?  These might have been too poppy to make the cut?

    Posted by  on  07/01  at  08:42 AM
  20. I feel it ought to be public knowledge that the current chair of the U.I.U.C. department of English is a huge fan of X.

    Posted by  on  07/01  at  09:53 AM
  21. And Exene and Patti are the only women on the list! Sigh.

    Posted by pmg  on  07/01  at  11:42 AM
  22. Setting aside the punk list (a phrase I will have to find a way to use in the course of my job someday), can Michael give us any more details regarding the midnight ceremony? Skulls and Bones - type details?

    As an engineer, the midnight change of command ceremonies for techies tend to be fairly mundane with ritual offerings of slide rules, protractors and the like...I’d be interested in hearing more about the Humanities side of things.

    Posted by  on  07/01  at  12:52 PM
  23. Just to be clear, “4th of July” was written by Dave Alvin and he’s one of the guitarists on it. Billy Zoom (who, I agree, plays his ass off) isn’t on the original. Alvin plays the hell out of the song live and on at least one album. In his reading, it’s more Americana or alt country than punk, which I guess speaks to the reality of these categories.

    Anne D. and others are right to decry the absence of women. Siouxie and the Bandits anyone? I’m totally down with Sleater-Kinney being the equal of any but the top five or ten on my list.

    In the US, I’ve always thought that “punk” meant “Fuck it, I can’t categorize this, and it’s loud.”

    Posted by  on  07/01  at  01:53 PM
  24. The New York Dolls at 57 but someone called Streetlight Manifesto is in the top ten? Sonic Youth consigned to the back 50 but Operation Ivy and Husker Du are in the top 20? That list is pure crap.

    Posted by Keith  on  07/01  at  02:55 PM
  25. The list includes the Dropkick Murphys (at #16?!?) but not the Pogues.  ‘Nuf said.

    Also: no Devo?

    Posted by Ben Alpers  on  07/01  at  03:26 PM
  26. Siouxsie and the Banshees, yes. Also, the Slits.

    Posted by Michael  on  07/01  at  05:47 PM
  27. Doesn’t anyone listen to the classics anymore?

    Thus i wonder where The Stranglers are in the minds of these children (albeit Brian Duffy is a friend of mine)?

    Posted by  on  07/01  at  06:31 PM
  28. It would seem to me that overlooking Nirvana is, um . . . what’s the expression?  Oh yeah! Punk rock!

    Can’t suggest much, because I don’t like punk at all, really.  However, I will say this: Arthur Lee was punk rock way, way, wayyyyyy before it was cool.

    Posted by J. Fisher  on  07/01  at  09:43 PM
  29. The biggest and most inexplicable travesty is not including Angry Samoans, who belong firmly in the top ten.

    Biggest travesties that should be much higher-

    Fear at 71
    New York Dolls at 57
    X at 51
    Stooges at 26
    Misfits at 19
    Black Flag at 6 (I realize that some might rate them lower; I think they deserve the top

    And where is the Anti-Nowhere League?

    And No X Ray Specs? No Siouxsie and the Banshees?

    No Bikini Kill, Babes in Toyland, or L7?

    No Meatpuppets?

    And speaking of Detroit, where is the great African-American proto-punk band Death?

    And you might all hate me for this, but where is Joan Jett, and (early) Adam and the Ants?

    Finally, I should say that I think that the Germs deserve to be where they are largely because of Pat Smear’s amazing guitar playing and Darby Crash’s lyrics. But they couldn’t write anthems (or really any catchy melodies), and every truly great punk band writes great anthems.

    word verification: party (as in “all tomorrow’s)

    Posted by jon Cogburn  on  07/02  at  12:24 PM
  30. "The punk scene would be very different, and lacking a lot, had Patti not come along and gave us her heart and soul in her poetry and punk music.”

    Which is why we put her at number 63…

    Posted by  on  07/02  at  02:24 PM
  31. Which is why we put her at number 63

    A forum *user* wrote that, presumably one who voted her higher, forum *users* votes determined the order of the list. Which is of course why ... eh, never mind.

    And speaking of Detroit, where is the great African-American proto-punk band Death?

    Comment 14. And they would almost certainly not make a list constructed by voting.

    Posted by  on  07/02  at  04:13 PM
  32. In other remiss oversights w/r/t women (and I’d honestly have Sleater-Kinney in the top 10), let’s not forget the Pretenders, the Raincoats, X-Ray Spex ("Oh Bondage, Up Yours!” is one of the forgotten great anthems of 70s punk), and Blondie, all of whom are more deserving than at least 40 other bands already on the list.

    Posted by  on  07/02  at  08:27 PM
  33. OMFG - why even give these people credence?. They are clearly cloth-eared idiots and a charlatans. Wot no Undertones? or Rezilos? or Ruts? or Siouxsie? Wot no 999 or Eater or Plastic Bertrand?

    I get all the what is punk stuff - that the list includes a bunch of those 2nd 3rd gen ska bands that scar (see what I did there? clever eh?) our modern ears, and a load of minor local US bands that aren’t really punk but post punk sub-genre representatives and even some suspiciously metal looking entries.

    But one description seems to think that ‘the working class music of Oi!’ is worth biggin up - skinheads, racism and bands like Skrewdriver included.

    What a div.

    Posted by  on  07/02  at  11:35 PM
  34. Everyone says that about “Oh Bondage, Up Yours,” which is indeed great.  But my fave has always been this catchy number, available on pink vinyl at a vintage record store near you.

    Posted by Michael  on  07/03  at  10:08 AM
  35. While i am fumbling about on this borrowed laptop whilst on tour, i did spend a full day rummaging through MOJO on one of the more high quality surround sound systems in the world.  Tom Petty has taken it upon himself to capture all of the greatest guitar band flavors in the world, and punk is only one of them.

    See you later in the summer!

    Posted by  on  07/05  at  01:08 AM
  36. I think the list is perfect.

    Posted by  on  07/07  at  06:29 PM
  37. Ryan J. R. Crowe is banned.  Forever.

    Posted by  on  07/08  at  09:59 PM
  38. I saw a Rate Your Music website drinking a piña colada at Trader Vic’s.

    Its list was perfect.

    Hey, has anyone noticed that MB, mds, and spyder are on holiday / tour at the same time?  Coincidence ... or conspiracy?  Anyway, I’ll be back in mid-July.

    Posted by  on  07/08  at  11:03 PM
  39. I would have the Pogues in the top 10 at least . . . but the list of course serves its purpose.

    I recall some years ago reading a list of the 100 greatest rock albums of all time.  Axis: Bold as Love was included, but Little Wing and the title song were dismissed as “second-rate Prince”.  I still get the urge sometimes to track down the guy who wrote that and punch him in the nose.

    Posted by  on  07/09  at  09:26 PM
  40. These lists are pretty worthless. Costello was angry and up there on punk playlists in the seventies, for ex, but is his body of work “punk”?

    Having been in the SF Bay Area when it was happening, it’s hard for me to ignore The Avengers’ “American In Me”, a truly great punk song. The Mutants, little known outside the Bay Area, had a great set of music (available on the CD “Fun Terminal"). X-Ray Spex were great. Did Pere Ubu make the list?

    Punk is not a category of music where you get a lifetime achievement award, so a “100 Best” list seems contradictory to the essence of punk.

    Agreed that Arthur Lee’s first Love album was punkish, halfway between The Seeds and The Byrds. But would you call “Forever Changes” with its strings and mariachi horns punk?

    Is punk attitude and not music? Or music and not attitude? All I know is I can make a a high-energy mix CD and have an early Kinks tune next to “Life Stinks” next to “Alex Chilton” next to “7 And 7 Is” next to “The Day The World Day-Glo” and it all fits.

    Posted by Bob In Pacifica  on  07/10  at  12:05 PM
  41. you know I love that spacy ambient dreamy stuff

    You know, I would be happy to recommend more of same (and yes, Code 46 is very nice), but not if you’re going to be all sarcastic about it.

    About this list: I was never much of an X fan, but even I know how to spell “Bonebrake.”

    And I second the Stranglers shoutout in 27.  I still have Black & White on black ‘n’ white vinyl.

    Captcha: Felt (close, but not punk)

    Posted by Dave Maier  on  07/11  at  12:20 AM
  42. You know, I would be happy to recommend more of same (and yes, Code 46 is very nice), but not if you’re going to be all sarcastic about it.

    Quoi?  That is, like, the least sarcastic thing I’ve ever written.  In fact, I’m home and listening to “Inside/Outside” from the Code 46 soundtrack right now and loving it completely.  So please, feel free, suggest more spacy ambient dreamy stuff, Dave.  If you can find some spacy ambient dreamy stuff that overcomes dualism, that would be even better.

    Posted by Michael  on  07/12  at  12:31 PM
  43. X was an instant favorite of mine, from the opening moments of “Johnny Hit and Run Pauline.” Exene’s singing took a long time for me to appreciate, but John Doe’s voice has always been one of the best in my opinion.  It’s been a pleasure hearing his recent solo work since it places that great voice in less raucous surroundings.  Not that I don’t love the “rauc,” though.  Long story short, X has to be top 20 at least, and I’d vote top 10.

    I read an interview with Billy Zoom a few years ago in which he explained how he made his playing “punk” (my word, not his).  When X was getting started most guitarists of the time would strike anguished poses and postures to make it look like what they were playing was really hard, which was rarely the case.  He decided to play parts they were actually fairly difficult (for example, Devil Doll) but make them seem like the easiest things in the world to play.  Never got to see them play live, but I did see a show DirecTV aired some years ago, and I could see exactly what he was talking about.

    Posted by  on  07/12  at  02:08 PM
  44. I see No Means No didn’t make the top 100 either.  They’re still making pretty good records that aren’t exactly easy listening from a lyrical point of view.

    Posted by  on  07/12  at  02:41 PM
  45. Sad day for the team as Tuli Kupferberg passes away. Nothing (mentioned in the video in 13).

    Posted by  on  07/13  at  12:03 AM
  46. We are waitng for new blogs, patiently but with curiosity… get busy. Thumbs up from fan.

    Posted by Mike Roberts  on  07/14  at  02:42 PM
  47. Okay, when you said

    you know I love that spacy ambient dreamy stuff.

    I didn’t mean to suggest that you were being insincere in saying you liked Code 46 (which, as we agree, is very nice). I simply noted the irony you seem to need to employ in expressing even this relatively straightforward fact: because as you very well know, we know no such thing about you, given that this is the first you have ever said about it, and that in a post which is mostly about how great X and Hüsker Dü and suchlike are.

    Anyway, while I could just mention a few of my fave spacy dreamy ambienteers—Tetsu Inoue, e.g. Ambiant Otaku or World Receiver, Alio Die, Chihei Hatakeyama (maybe Minima Moralia is an intruiging enough title ... ?), etc., I think it might be more helpful to direct you to these fine purveyors of free online ambient mixes:

    http://lowlightmixes.blogspot.com/ [this is not me, but another Dave M.]
    and (if you insist) http://www.mixcloud.com/duckrabbit/

    And one more (free download): http://www.dub-beautiful.org/netlabel/ishq.html

    Peace out, man.

    Posted by Dave Maier  on  07/14  at  11:53 PM
  48. Kurzleg @43: You hit a couple of points I like to dwell on, X fanboy that I am. Indeed, old clips of Billy Zoom (especially “The Unheard Music” DVD, a doc that has aged quite well) show him nailing his blistering breaks with total insouciance. Whotta cat.

    To be honest, I love X despite Exene. Her damned-near-on-pitch pitch and overall timbre is an acquired taste that I never completely acquired. I happily tolerate her simply by enjoying of the idea of Exene, and because X is perfectomundo in all other ways.

    Based on interviews, I get the feeling that Billy Zoom was too nice to say what he might be thinking: “X was going to be the biggest act ever. Then the girlfriend came along.” Extended Exene exposure is asking a lot of most people, leaving X destined for eternal love among we cultists.

    I highly recommend Terry Gross’ interview with John Doe, broadcast in the past year. He sings “A Little More Time” completely unadorned. Beautiful and heartbreaking.

    Posted by David J Swift  on  07/15  at  02:44 PM
  49. DJS @ 48: Listening to the interview right now.  Thanks for the tip.  Hadn’t heard about his new record, so that’s another bonus.  This is exactly the kind of musical setting that’s right for John Doe’s great voice.

    It’s hard for me to imagine X without Exene even if I might prefer that.  I can’t recall for sure, but didn’t Billy leave due to Exene?

    Posted by  on  07/20  at  06:16 PM
  50. DJS @ 48:

    If you don’t already have it, 1990’s “Meet John Doe” is very much worth the effort.  I think it’s his first steps toward the type of music he’s doing these days.  I absolutely love “Dying To Get Home.”

    Posted by  on  07/20  at  06:40 PM
  51. A list of punk bands without Johnny Thunder isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on - uh, strike that last part -

    Posted by  on  07/22  at  04:49 PM
  52. Isn’t it Johnny Thunders?

    Posted by  on  07/23  at  12:17 PM
  53. To be honest, I love X despite Exene. Her damned-near-on-pitch pitch and overall timbre is an acquired taste that I never completely acquired. I happily tolerate her simply by enjoying of the idea of Exene, and because X is perfectomundo in all other ways.

    Posted by jack  on  07/24  at  03:05 AM
  54. o be honest, I love X despite Exene.

    Posted by kreyzi  on  07/30  at  04:01 PM
  55. I absolutely love “Dying To Get Home.”

    Posted by Caldwell  on  08/05  at  03:36 AM





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