Silence is my metier, and in it I am not always certain rock and roll is good for girls. In spelunking around the intarnets, I discovered the International Association for the Study of Popular Music, its conference, its publication, which is on the right track if not, in major ways, persuasive.
One graf from the IASPM call for papers for its March, 2012, conference:
–Ladies on the Town: Cities have always been sites of female empowerment and risk taking, where the village daughter becomes a Bollywood star or a budding feminist forms an all-girl band. If this has stimulated fears of “women adrift,” free of small-town norms, from Dreiser’sSister Carrie to the girls who “need blinders” in Jay-Z’s “Empire State of Mind,” it has also incited celebrations: Beyonce’s single ladies, “up in the club, doin’ my own little thing.” How, within music, has the city made women, and how have women made the city?
Hmmmm. Beyonce made it on her own? Budding feminists form all-girl bands? Do they now? Or is that the sell-out?
I’m inclined to think that’s part of the Art School Confidential scam. Indeed, the biggest art school confidential scamster I have encountered was [redacted], forming rock bands, posting pictures of her [redacted] boyfriend’s poop, writing artist’s statements enough to put you off art until the end of time, and getting a fine arts degree from Pratt, in the 21st century, with a senior project — her collection of plaster casts of penises. Been done, dude. Baby boomers beat you to that one too. What’s new, and awesome, is you call it art. And it empowered you. Rilly.
And then there’s Alice Bag. And the indies. A whole nother can of worms.
You know, that political agency in rock and roll only exists when subcultures make the music. And it better not just be Suzy Creamcheese whining.
Always mindful that David Bowie and Mick Jagger together watched Leni Riefenstahl’s masterpiece of fascist art together. Fifteen times. And declared Hitler the first rock star. Yay, political agency. So transgressive! For a quick rundown of the elements of fascist art, including sexual*, you might want to check out this and also this:
The squirmin’ dog who’s just had her day
Under my thumb
A girl who has just changed her ways
It’s down to me, yes it is
The way she does just what she’s told
Down to me, the change has come
She’s under my thumb
That marimba? I can tell you from the way it took me in 1966 it is rock and roll for sure. But is it too fascist for girls? Probably. Am I sorry I danced? Probably not. It is essential to know how the predator moves.
I am thinking of the eyewitness account in the bio of Pauline Kael I’m reading, previously in my reading referred to apocryphally, of a Hollywood producer going through head shots of actresses for a part.
He sorts them into two stacks. Fuckable. And un-.
Grace Slick, who was and is beautiful, if unfuckable, has recently said in her day you didn’t have to be good-looking because there were no music videos.
Mmmm-hmmm. I’m not sure it’s possible to be anywhere near hip, much less empowered, anywhere near rock ‘n’ roll. Patti Smith’s memoir, Just Kids — along with the great biography of de Kooning, the manifestos of the East Village and hipster life, ca. 1945-80 — makes one thing very clear. It was all about being fuckable, about Allen Ginsberg’s — and Mapplethorpe’s — thinking she was a beautiful boy. That’s why they call it rock ‘n’ roll.
And making a living on your back, as Anne Boleyn, say, among the married ladies, or Fakhra Younus, among the dancing girls, or the Eagles will tell you, is the very hardest way to go.
We can beat around the bushes;
we can get down to the bone
We can leave it in the parkin’ lot,
but either way,
there’s gonna be a heartache tonight….
*Umberto Eco discerns 14 signs of a fascist, including:
12. Since both permanent war and heroism are difficult games to play, the Ur-Fascist transfers his will to power to sexual matters.
This is the origin of machismo (which implies both disdain for women and intolerance and condemnation of nonstandard sexual habits, from chastity to homosexuality). Since even sex is a difficult game to play, the Ur-Fascist hero tends to play with weapons — doing so becomes an ersatz phallic exercise.