Friday, June 22, 2007

How did I miss this?

When I opened Google Reader this morning, I read, with interest, about local blogger Stacey's involvement in what might be the most awesome thing this summer.

Rock & Roll camp for girls (ages 10-17). Stacey, a 'zine publisher and enthusiast, shared her mad zine-making skillz with the girls all week, and it looked like everyone had a great time. If my daughter and her friend are cooperative tomorrow night, we'll find out just how much fun the girls had, when they have a concert on the rooftop of the Gibson Guitar building.

I can't begin to tell you how envious I am of the girls who got to participate in this camp. When I was that age, I wasn't athletic, and our family moved so much (four states, six schools, from 10-17) that my involvement in school activities was somewhat limited. It's impossible to be in the audition-only choir, for instance, if one did not attend school in order to audition the year before.

Music was so very important to me in my teen years. The music I listened to (and continue to listen to) defined who I was in many ways. My parents never had much appreciation for rock music of any type, My teen angst was salved, or sometimes fueled, by my ever-present life soundrack of Depeche Mode, The Cure, Echo and the Bunnymen, New Order, The Smiths, Siouxsie & Banshees. As my relationship with that music, the new wave/post punk that thrived in the 1980's, grew, so did my sense of who I was and how I wanted to be perceived. I didn't want to be like the preppy kids, like the popular kids. I wanted to be different. I wore black on the outside, as Morrissey said, because black was how I felt on the inside.

And, looking back, I see that the music did have an influence. The lyrics of these semi-alternative bands were often razor-sharp in their criticism of the mainstream. They decried the cruelty of indifference, of cookie-cutter life. These British musicians (there were a few Americans thrown in, but the vast majority of my adolescent record collection hailed from the import bin) advocated a life lived genuinely. They told their listeners to question authority, to question the dominant paradigm, to question what we were being sold. Some were more overt than others (Public Image Limited's John Lydon was anything but subtle in his criticism of mainstream culture, government, and values, while Howard Jones was sweet and positive and encouraged his listeners to see the beauty and goodness in the world).

Those messages mixed into a gumbo in my mind. The politics of justice from U2, a bit of hedonism and fantasy from Echo and the Bunnymen, the dark satire of the Smiths, the emotional evocativeness of New Order, and the lush, angry sensuality of the Cure. They all shaped my life and my memories of my teen years are soundtracked by them.

But, with very few exceptions, these musicians are men. I didn't discover female alternative acts until years later. In the mid-1980's, pop radio had no lack of female singers, but their music was throwaway, bubblegum, shallow. (In retrospect, some of it was better than I gave credit, but I was an adolescent who saw the world in black and white.) My canon of musicians didn't include women.

I'm trying to present a more gender-balanced picture of rock music to my children. My daughter has stolen all my Shonen Knife CDs, and I'm letting her keep them. And when she gets older, there will be plenty more awesome, strong female artists to share with her. I hope she'll catch the bug.

So yeah, next year I hope my daughter goes to rock and roll camp. And maybe I can live vicariously through her just a little.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

As you know, you are the only other living soul on the planet I'm aware of who shares many of my musical preferences. I loved all the bands you mentioned, all in their own way.

But I never realy got into Siouxsie, and the Cure was oads more depressing than the Smiths. I thought Morrisey was hilarious, actually.

At the time I was very aware of the maleness (and ENglishness) of all the bands I loved. And in my head I was BFF with the musicians in them. Never thought of sex symols (in some cases, really groooosss), just as some blokes to have a beer with.

And then I saw Sinead O'Connor in concert. And I got the chick thing. The woman's pride thing. It was awesome and defining for me as a young woman. I don't give a flip about whoe pix she tore up of if whatshisname paid or her return ticket to where she flew in from. Her song writing is exquisite and thoughtful, and she has a range that could pull taffy.

Sinead's my girl.