Category Archives: music

Book Review: Under My Thumb: The Songs That Hate Women and the Women That Love Them – ed. by Rhian E Jones and Eli Davies

As a music lover with my fair share of songs that hate women that I love, I knew I needed to read this book. It is a lot of different essays covering a huge range of genres.

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I liked this book, and enjoyed reading all the essays. Though, as is to be expected when a book covers a very narrow topic, it does get a bit repetitive.  There’s hardly any resolution to the stories because of course, these are about problematic songs that the authors love. There’s not realllllly much to say beyond: I love this song, it is problematic, here is my justification for still enjoying it. Having said that, I still really liked reading it!

… how was I supposed to use my feminist ideals to fight the art which had already penetrated my core?

I’ve written before about my own problem music collection and how I listen to a lot of male artists and bands (here’s my post about it) and I also targeted the female artists and bands to watch, at a punk festival I went to in the summer (read about my Rebellion festival adventures here). I must admit, that post is my all time most viewed post ever by a very long way – it got shared amongst some punk fan groups on Facebook that I’m thankful I couldn’t see the comments on (I had a few reported back to me and they were not. very. pleasant.). This was my first little brush with getting negative comments for writing about feminism, and it just makes me admire the women who very publicly talk about these things even more – like the authors of this book!

It also reminded me of one of my favourite Onion articles: Woman Takes Short Half-Hour Break From Being Feminist To Enjoy TV Show. 😀

There are a lot of different essays in Under My Thumb – at least 25. I had an ebook version so it’s not so easy to just look at the contents and count. Some of my favourites are: From Enslavement to Obliteration: Extreme Metal’s Problem With Women by Jasmine Hazel Shadrack, I’ve Got Your Letter, You’ve Got My Song: On Pinkerton -by Marissa Chen, and Breaking Binary Codes: On Being a Female Fan Who Prefers Music Produced by Men by Larissa Wodtke. This last one starts with the line:

As a heterosexual female who often doesn’t identify with femaleness…

I get that and how this can make it easier to dismiss misogyny in music. I enjoyed this exploration of becoming more and more bothered by it and realising why it really does matter.

My own personal relationship with songs that hate women can roughly be summed up by:

  • Elvis Presley – but it was the 1950s so I justify it that way.
  • a lot of punk bands – I don’t listen to the main offending songs.
  • Slaves – a band I love, but increasingly I’m turned off by the number of songs that are really quite horrible about women. I’ve listened out for some positive lyrics about women and I’m not getting very far. It’s increasingly disappointing.

I feel better when I love bands that seem to either hate everyone equally, or write positively about women! Luckily there’s far more of these.

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p.s. I received a copy of this book free from netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Thanks netgalley!

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Rebellion Punk Festival, Blackpool, 2017

This year was the first time I’d attended Rebellion Punk Festival in quite a number of years. I attended every one of the first 10 festivals. It’s had a number of name changes over the years: Holidays In The Sun, and Wasted. It’s also changed places between Blackpool and Morecambe several times. I was 16 at the first one in 1996. Since then I’ve been to a few, but I haven’t been for about 8 years or so, until this year. I’ve fancied going back for a few years, and the addition of Slaves to the line up is what really convinced me this was the right year.

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a helpful sign

I approached it with caution because there’s a huge danger that this sort of festival is nothing more than a nostalgia fest with bands playing a set they perfected in 1978 and haven’t changed a note of since. That’s clearly quite unfair of me… but it’s not far wrong for some bands. And this is fine, if you want the nostalgia hit, the few days journey back to your youth. You can definitely get that experience here. With 5 stages , 4 full days of gigs, and most bands getting from 20 – 40 minutes a set, there’s a LOT of music to be heard. If you want your rebellion to be shouty, white, bald men in their 50s, you can probably get through the weekend seeing nothing but this. This is what I very much want to avoid. If that’s your thing – go enjoy, and have a great time!

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Shouty, feminist, hardcore punk from Petrol Girls. Brilliant. Note sequin shorts.

 

So, I approached Rebellion with caution. And when I say caution, I mean with extreme levels of preparation that involved highlighters and codes. I prepared well and consequently had a Rebellion festival full of diverse, new, exciting bands. Bands full of women too. It was great!

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Poly-esters. A great group from Blackpool.

So what did I do? Firstly I made a spotify playlist with every band I could find that were playing the festival. A few issues:

  • some I couldn’t find on spotify at all (lots of quite small bands on the introducing stage),
  • some have a common band name and I couldn’t identify the correct band. Bands: name yourselves to avoid this! it’s really frustrating to want to listen to you but being unable to because of your common name.
  • some I just got wrong – seemed clear when I suddenly got rap or dance music.
    I listened to this for a few weeks and identified some must-see bands that I liked the sound of.
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Some morris dancers enjoying the sunshine.

I then looked up every band to just have a look at them, make sure I’d go the correct band and make sure they were on my playlist. I was looking for bands I liked the sound of, and I was also looking for any female musicians (I’d covered female singers in my first  listen through the playlist). I was also looking for any BAME musicians. Is this weird? No, it’s really not. I love punk, but punk is so very white and male. I want to support women and BAME artists. I want to make sure I’m there giving them more of a crowd, loving what I hear, and helping them progress higher up the billing so more people hear them. (I’ve looked at my sexist listening habits before – here, have a look.)

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Youth Man

When you do an analysis like this it’s quite shocking how most women in bands are billed in the first half of the day i.e. not headliners. And the number of BAME artists is embarrassing. Or it should be embarrassing, but you get the feeling a lot of people don’t think about it or don’t care.

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A pathological level of planning.  Don’t worry, I put the graveyard picture on facebook 😉

Now based on my knowledge about the bands and having listened to as many as I could, I identified bands I had to see, and ones I wouldn’t mind seeing. Because of my criteria a lot of the bands I wanted to see were on early afternoon, which is also great because you see loads of awesome bands, then can relax a bit and have a bit of a party without having to be Schedule Girl (yes, I mean you can have a few drinks). This may, or may not, be evidenced here:

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Me and Caz. I’m trying to get my eye make up in the photo.

What was the result? My Rebellion was all about Girls and Glitter and Sequins and (most importantly) new and diverse, brilliant music. I’m going to highlight a few stand out acts.

The Tuts are a fun, political, intelligent, poppy punk band. I adored watching them really early on the first day. Their lead singer was wearing what looked like a sequined ice dancers costume. The drummer had a fluffy pink outfit. Frankly punk rock could do with more sequined clothes and fluffy outfits.

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The Tuts. Fantastic and great of you like your punk with added pop!

Petrol Girls were another band I was very much looking forward to. I first heard about them when I was reading Nasty Women by 404Ink (link to review). Ren Aldridge, the singer from Petrol Girls writes one of the essays – one of my favourites – about gendered violence in punk. Loved them. They are shouty, feminist, political, activists, and sound great. You will get a bit of a talking to in between songs about important issues, and I love them even more for this. To take their platform and use it as they want. Excellent!

Youth Man remind me a bit of Death From Above 1979. They are probably the least stereotypical punk band I have seen at the festival and they were noisy and brilliant.

Slaves were spectacular. I heard a lot of people grumbling and worrying about Slaves headlining in the Friday night spot. There was much concern about there only being two of them. How will they ‘fill the stage’? With their energetic awesomeness of course! I told everyone they should put their worries aside and go and see them, though I was secretly hoping that everyone would give it a miss and I would have them all to myself… I think the real issue for a lot of people was that Slaves are relatively unknown in the world of punk, and that caused unease. The next day I spoke to so many of these worriers who were blown away by Slaves set. Epic.

I enjoyed the Blink-182 like pop punk of Fat Randall, who had travelled from Dubai. Scumbrians on the introducing stage delivered an energetic blast of hardcore punk to a packed room. Also on the Introducing Stage were Pizza Tramp. I mean, I’m sold on the name already. They were funny AND good, and so blinking fast. The room was full and I was glad I bought a tshirt before their set because the merch stand was heaving afterwards. They did one song five times. Five times, but it was ok because it lasted about thirty seconds.

Final shout out to Screech Bats. I saw some of their set and they win the award for Band I Most Want To Be In. They were all dressed in black, with tattoos, amazing make up, and they were just so punk rock glamorous.

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Slaves did not disappoint.

I missed a lot of bands I would quite like to have seen – this is the nature of having fun at a festival! I was gutted to miss The Kenneths. They were on super early one day and I just didn’t realise how early until it was too late.

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Lovely Blackpool. May have forgotten to mention it’s my home town!

I had a lovely time at Rebellion. It landed just after I’d had a huge bereavement and so I was very worried I wouldn’t get through the whole weekend. I was prepared to leave if I needed to (and I did miss the Sunday evening) but actually it was a welcome escape from the general state of my head at that time. I would definitely recommend a visit if you like the genre, and if you just want a big nostalgia experience then you can do that too, there’s a Rebellion Festival for everyone!

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Frankly rocking my Sleaford Mods tshirt. They would make a great headliner for next year Rebellion! I’m so punk rock with my tomato and avocado toast in a lovely cafe: Shaw’s on Clifton St. Best cafe in Blackpool that I’ve ever been to!

 

Full list of bands I saw:

  • The Soap Girls
  • The Tuts
  • Army of Skanks
  • Pears
  • Revolt-chix
  • Evil Blizzard
  • The Jellycats
  • Rubella Ballet
  • Teenage Bottlerocket
  • The Pukes
  • Poly-esters
  • Brains All Gone
  • Screech Bats
  • The Featherz
  • Youth Man
  • Petrol Girls
  • Fat Randall
  • Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes
  • Real McKenzies
  • Slaves
  • Radical Dance Faction
  • Citizen Fish
  • Anger Flares
  • Duncan Reid and the Big Heads
  • Scream
  • Angelic Upstarts
  • Jordan (interview)
  • Buzzbomb
  • Headstone Horrors
  • Pete Bentham and the Dinner Ladies
  • The Franklys
  • Scumbrians
  • Band For Disease Control and Prevention
  • Pizzatramp
  • The Creepshow

 

 

 

Book Review: Anger is an Energy – John Lydon

I like John Lydon. He is straight to the point and I agree with a lot of his core attitudes and beliefs. That’s not to say I agree with everything he says, and boy, does he have a lot to say. At almost 520 pages this is no quick read. Still, I loved every minute of it. You are fully getting his no holds barred opinions here. Or if he is holding back, you certainly can’t tell!

If you stand up for whatever it is you really believe in, if you really stand up, and be accounted for, people will rate you highly.

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Anger is an Energy on the kindle with some other punk books!

His account of the Sex Pistols days is fascinating and quite sad. He felt alone and disregarded and/or ignored by the rest of the band most of the time. It comes across that the other three (Glen Matlock, Steve Jones and Paul Cook) never really accepted him fully into the band, as they already formed the band before John came along. I have no doubt that John, as he freely admits, isn’t the easiest person to get along with! and he just rubbed them up the wrong way (a theme throughout the book). I would definitely like to read some other accounts of that time period to get some other perspectives on what happened. As you can see from the picture above, I have Steve Jones’ book ready to go.

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L-R Glen Matlock, John Lydon, Steve Jones, and Paul Cook.

 

It is fascinating though. That band were truly at the heart of an amazing moment in history. It probably helps that I’m a fan of punk rock. I love his scorn of the majority of punk bands. I share a lot of the same views. So many identikit bands trying to out macho each other. Repulsive. The bands he praises are all stand out bands like the Buzzcocks. He hates that punk quickly became very narrow in its definition: there’s a certain uniform, a haircut, a way of treating people, a sound – and woe betide anyone who doesn’t conform. John refuses to be narrowly defined – especially musically, but actually in every aspect of his life, and so he gets constant abuse in his life beyond the Sex Pistols. A constant minority who seek him out and are angry because he ‘sold out’. In other words, he dared to move on and try new things that musically interest him.

Being open-minded to all kinds of music was Lesson One in punk, but that didn’t seem to be understood by many of the alleged punk bands that followed on after, who seemed to be waving this idea of a punk manifesto. I’m sorry, but I never did this for the narrow-minded. I was horrified by the cliche that punk was turning into.

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The Sex Pistols after Sid Vicious had replace Glen Matlock. L-R Steve Jones, Sid Vicious, John Lydon, Paul Cook. 

Earlier in the book we get some of his home life growing up. He’s from a very working class London background. His descriptions of himself at school were great and really clear – I know EXACTLY what sort of student he would have been in my classroom – one of those cheeky, annoying but lovable ones! Frustrated with their lack of effort because you can’t follow their particular interest all the time. Full of questions that are related, but are a distraction to what you actually need to teach that day. Oh, sorry, just having high school teaching flash backs there!

His move from a school to basically a technical college for naughty kids chucked out of school is interesting and there he meets Sid. I love this quote about his time at the technical college. The idea that he still wore his school uniform is absurd, and says so much about his personality!

It was basically just school by any stretch, so I wore my William of York uniform still, because I didn’t want to wear anything that I liked. But it was a bit of a fashion parade. Sidney certainly used it as a catwalk.

After Glen Matlock leaves the Sex Pistols, Sid is brought in and the break up of the band seems almost inevitable at this point. It’s such a dysfunctional relationship they all have.

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Sid Vicious and Johnny Rotten (aka John Ritchie and John Lydon)

After the Sex Pistols you get a lot of details about line up and management changes for Public Image Limited (PiL). I’m not familiar with the musicians from this band, and didn’t know any of the many people discussed. It’s still interesting, but in more of a vague way of seeing how all over the place the band and John’s life was. This continues up until the later 90s where you get a Sex Pistols reunion tour. Then in the 2000s there is I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here – which I remember watching because Lydon was on it. Followed by a few nature programs he makes. And of course the infamous butter commercials!

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John Lydon by Paul Heartfield from http://www.clashmusic.com/features/in-conversation-john-lydon

At this stage you discover that Lydon, and his wife Nora, begin to parent Nora’s grandchildren. It’s a sweet part of the book where he explains how they had to change their lives to give everything they could to these wild teenagers that they were suddenly responsible for. All the parts of the book where he describes his love for Nora are quite beautiful. They fell in love when they met during the Sex Pistols time, in 1975, and they are still together today.

Overall, this is a great book. It possibly helps if you have some interest in Lydon to begin with, but I imagine you must if you are considering reading 520 pages about him! It’s glorious that there is a note from the publisher at the beginning basically begging you to not sent in grammatical errors from the text – Lydon has his own way of using English and the ‘mistakes’ are just how he is talking!

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‘Don’t let tiffles cause fraction’

Lydon is upfront, unapologetic, harsh, and uncompromising. But he’s also a family man, loyal, a supporter of education, and interested in everything the world has to offer. There’s a place for him at the table of my imaginary perfect dinner party anyway.

Where are the women… in my music.

I’ve been using Last.fm to track my listening habits for almost a year. I love a few stats on my life. My most listened to person is Tim Timebomb, he of Rancid fame. They are number 2. I like my music mostly loud and shouty, but also quite poppy, and a bit indie. Never really dancey, in a dance music way, though I love music you can dance to. And it turns out I like it really male too – well if you look at the stats I do, but this isn’t the full story. I love plenty of female artists, but on a shuffled playlist they lose out to the men on quantity of artists and output volume.

It really hit home when Tweekly.fm started making a visual, of your 16 most listened to tracks over the last seven days, available to any user. When I looked at this last week, it was unsurprising, but also a bit shocking at how male the visual was. There was the Distillers, and Britney Spears just nudging in at number 16 (I love Britney. Get over it quickly!).

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ALL THE MEN – this was actually taken after my experiment. I lost the original pic I took. sad. 

Now, I’m quite sure this sort of statistic reflects the music industry more widely. Most artists and bands are male. Male voices dominate. I’d be happy to be shown this is wrong, but I’m going to take a guess that the music industry isn’t held up as the feminist ideal, with male and female voices getting equal amounts of record deals, and gigs, and support. Am I wrong? I’ve had a look at this years Glastonbury line up as an example.  I count 4 women in bands or as solo artists in the first four lines. 4 out of 16. If I counted how many women there were here versus men it would look a lot worse.  In fact, the BBC just had an article about this very thing.

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Glastonbury festival line up 2017 from the Glastonbury festival website.

So as a good feminist I would like to support more female musicians and singers. As a first step, I’m only listening to female fronted band or female singers for a week to see how it shakes up my statistics.

This isn’t a perfect approach. It’s clear a female solo artist is a female solo artist, but bands are more than a singer. Some are just female fronted, with several other male musicians, others are more balanced, or even entirely female. There are also bands where there are women in the band who are not the singer. For simplicity, I’m restricting this test to female singers – solo or in bands. Just for ease, hope you don’t mind 🙂

Day 1

I listen to a spotify playlist on the way to work called ‘Super Favs’. I line up a few tracks before setting off. Excellent. Then the prepared part of the playlist comes to an end and I have to skip tracks. I’m finding sometimes I’m skipping 20 tracks at a time!  Ridiculous. So for the journey home I make sure I’ve a much longer prepared playlist.

When I get home I create a new playlist and I chuck a copy of all the female fronted bands from the Super Favs list into it. The original playlist is 1236 songs long, the new one is 146 songs long. 11.8% female voices. Ouch.

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most listened to bands over the last 7 days – After experiment day 1.  From tweekly.fm

Day 2

Using my Women playlist. Better. I’m listening to it at home and no one has even noticed there’s anything unusual about it. This is great, and expected, because there’s still my usual mix of angry shouting, poppy dance worthy singalongs, and indie tunes.

I should have known that the Distillers would extremely quickly become my number 1 listened to female fronted band. Because they are awesome and I already have lots of their music! Raarrrr!

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most listened to bands over the last 7 days – After experiment day 2.  From tweekly.fm

Day 3

I’m going to have to expand the playlist because I’m getting too many repeat tracks. This is fine, I have other playlists with more songs I can filter into the Women playlist. Playlist is now at 345 tracks.

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We have reached equity, of a sort. most listened to bands over the last 7 days – After experiment day 3.  From tweekly.fm

Day 4

I need to investigate some new people to listen to. Today is all about listening to artists I’ve been meaning to find out more about. Kate Tempest and Patti Smith are first on my list.

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I clearly listened to A LOT of Kate Tempest today! From Tweekly.fm

Day 5

Why have I never listened to The Lovely Eggs before?!?

Why have I never listened to Patti Smith before?!?

Why have I never listened to Kate Tempest before?!?

Why?!?

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ALL THE WOMEN! from tweekly.fm

Day 6

Today I’m asking my friends to recommend me their favourite female solo artists or female fronted bands. It’s all gone a bit mad. 100+ responses. Mostly sensible.

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Day 7

I have had a marvellous week of listening to a lot of new to me music. I have listened to artists who will be some of my favourite artists now. It’s been great. There are artists I have been meaning to listen to who, for some reason I never got around to. Honestly, I think I have to put it down to internalised misogyny.

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Conclusion

After my week of only listening to female singers or female fronted bands, I have a lot more balance in my main play list. I’ve discovering amazing artists I should have listened to a long time ago. I still have a lot of people to listen to.

I feel great for supporting more female artists and singers. There’s still a big problem though. It has to be clear to anyone looking at these pictures that I have an even bigger problem than the one I’ve tried to address here. I have a ridiculous BAME problem. I’m embarrassed by how white these photos are. I can do better than this and there is a whole world of BAME singers and artists that I’m currently missing out on by virtue of most of the bands and exposure being given to white artists. Next mission set!

Also, the BBC Glastonbury website lets you make your own Glasto poster! Here’s mine! Looking forward to watching from my sofa this weekend.

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