photo manipulation & text by nacrowe
this was a fun film.
BAD REPUTATION (MAGNOLIA, 2018) is a recent documentary that examines the career and cultural legacy of legendary badass musician JOAN JETT. she is that rare icon where labels like "trailblazer" or "pioneer" dont really do her legacy justice. she is basically an institution unto herself, from her late 70s all-female band THE RUNAWAYS, to her production work with the likes of BIKINI KILL, CIRCUS LUPUS, THE GERMS and, of course, her successful solo career with numerous hit singles.
but what really defines her career are the glass ceilings she shattered. its absolutely staggering to consider the intestinal fortitude it took as a female teenager in the 1970s to start a band. this was during the peak of the GLAM ROCK/GLITTER scene in HOLLYWOOD and the industry was geared towards an industry that saw women more as accessories then equals on the stage. this was ROCK AND ROLL and not FOLK MUSIC from the 1960s, so JETT and her bandmates went full bore into and took the full brunt of CHAUVINISM and outright MISOGYNY head on. as teenagers. just blows my mind.
and its that passion, determination and authenticity as a ROCK AND ROLL lifer, notwithstanding her own innate talent, that her public persona is built upon and has garnered her respect from generations of musicians including a murderer's row of notable participants documentary including former and current BLACKHEARTS members as well as IGGY POP (THE STOOGES), DEBBIE HARRY & CHRIS STEIN (BLONDIE), KATHLEEN HANNA (BIKINI KILL), IAN MACKAYE (MINOR THREAT, FUGAZI), MILEY CYRUS, BILLIE JOE ARMSTRONG (GREEN DAY), ALISON MOSSHART (THE KILLS), PETE TOWNSEND (THE WHO), PHANIE DIAZ (FEA, GIRL IN A COMA), MIKE NESS (SOCIAL DISTORTION), LAURA JANE GRACE (AGAINST ME!) and ADAM HOROWITZ (BEASTIE BOYS). likewise the film also includes interviews with those that have commented on her LGBTQ and ANIMAL RIGHTS activism over the years including MICHELLE CHO (formerly of PETA) and GENE BAUER (FARM SANCTUARY), MICHAEL J FOX (who co-starred with her in LIGHT OF DAY) as well as notorious graffiti artist SHEPARD FAIREY. for some unknown reason disgraced TRUMP ADMINISTRATION official NIKKI HALEY was interviewed as well (?), which was more than a little weird and i may or may not have thrown up in my mouth, but thats neither here nor there.
the focus of much of the documentary is JETT's post-RUNAWAYS career and her involvement with the unlikely producer and former BUBBLEGUM POP songwriter KENNY LAGUNA, who was both her confidant and familial support system throughout the rest of her career to date. theyre an odd couple of sorts, but that level of platonic intimacy and constant arguing and bickering is entirely endearing as they both care about one another. that core supporting relationship (which also included LAGUNA's wife MERYL) was what turned her career from what possibly could have been another cautionary tale to one of hard fought and enduring success. it must of been so difficult to stomach and push ahead despite male rock critics and DJS publicly debasing her work (and her physical being) along tired SEXIST tropes. and she pushed forward with such a sense of confidence and cool. i cant imagine.
for me the other artist that comes immediately to mind with a similar revolutionary career trajectory is that of LITTLE RICHARD who fought his way out of MACON, GEORGIA in the 1950s as a GAY, BLACK musician and ultimately became an architect of ROCK AND ROLL itself. and i think there is reason that the JETT and RICHARDS are so cherished by ROCK AND ROLL fans beyond their music, its that idea that they fought and suffered for their art. they both had that sense of determination, passion and sheer defiance that allowed them to make their mark despite the odds.
and how can you not love that. like i said, i really enjoyed this film. definitely required viewing for all music lovers.
all hail JOAN JETT!
parodies by nacrowe
check out HERE this recent streaming video episode of DEER GOD RADIO focused on the massively influential RIOT GRRRL movement of the early 90s which brought a long overdue message of FEMALE EMPOWERMENT and GENDER EQUALITY with a decidedly DIY ETHIC in the best tradition of the HARDCORE PUNK ROCK and INDIE ROCK movements that preceded it.
past episodes of DEER GOD RADIO are available here at the DEER GOD website as well as in the MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC archives.
and if you haven't done so already get the FREE PHONE APP for IOS/ANDROID and enjoy listening to MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC 24/7 at your convenience!
the following bands are either adjacent to, influenced by or
were themselves influences on the RIOT GRRRL movement
photo & text by nacrowe
L7 is the shit.
just wanted to get that out of the way right at the beginning. i got their album BRICKS ARE HEAVY (SLASH, 1992) my senior of high school in the early 2000s after reading somewhere that BUTCH VIG produced them and that they were part of the early ALTERNATIVE ROCK scene before it blew up. when i first heard them i remember thinking that this band is so heavy, so political and just so incredibly badass. like i stumbled on my new favorite band. specifically songs from that album like "SHITLIST," "WARGASM," "EVERGLADE" and, of course, "PRETEND WE'RE DEAD" as well as "FAST AND FRIGHTENING," "FUEL MY FIRE," and "ANDRES" from other albums just made me so content as an angry recently relocated teenager stuck in a boring suburban hell-hole. it was just the aggression, attitude and assault of their sound. very similar experience to when i discovered THE GERMS a few years before and GG ALLIN a few years later.
i recently came across this documentary L7: PRETEND WE'RE DEAD (BLUE HATS CREATIVE, 2016) which follows their career from navigating the concurrent LOS ANGELES 80s SUNSET STRIP / HARDCORE PUNK scenes to riding the ALTERNATIVE ROCK wave of the 90s as it ebbed and inevitably waned. interviews with band members DONITA SPARKS, SUZI GARDNER, DEMETRI PLAKAS and JENNIFER FINCH as well as the likes of SHIRLEY MANSON (GARBAGE), ALLISON WOLFE (BRATMOBILE/SEX STAINS), LYDIA LUNCH, VALERIE AGNEW (7 YEAR BITCH), JOAN JETT, LOUISE POST (VERUCA SALT), EXENE CERVENKA (X), ALLISON ROBERTSON (THE DONNAS), CSS, BRODY DALLE (THE DISTILLERS/SPINNERETTE), KRIST NOVOSELIC (NIRVANA) provide context to their ability to conquer the competition and, even if misogynist fans or music magazine editors couldnt get past their gender. it sucks having to even bring up gender at all, since it has literally nothing to do with their musicianship, but the fact is that stories like theirs is long overdue within the context of music history. it is too often overlooked. hopefully this and other documentaries that have popped up over the past decade (THE PUNK SINGER: A FILM ABOUT KATHLEEN HANNA, JOAN JETT BAD REPUTATION, PUSSY RIOT: A PUNK PRAYER, PATTI SMITH: DREAM OF LIFE) will begin to reshape that unfortunate narrative.
i remember watching an interview with GARBAGE once where they described the beginning of the millennium as a pivotal moment in their career, basically because file-sharing had cut into their record sales. L7 ended in 2001 but little mention is made regarding such factors as widespread piracy. sales dwindled after HUNGRY FOR STINK (SLASH, 1994) only matched its predecessor, BRICKS ARE HEAVY (SLASH, 1992) in sales and they were eventually dropped. i mean it all makes sense that they were never huge because of said reasons earlier, they were authentically aggressive with attitude and a bludgeoning sonic assault. they were too original i guess. i thought it was real interesting that the only mention of technology was how fans gathered online and effectively forced the band to reunite in 2015 and tour.
this is mentioned in the film, which released in 2016, but it also makes sense that they released a new album in 2019 on JOAN JETT's label. women supporting and promoting women. L7 did the same when they started ROCK FOR CHOICE nonprofit back in the 1990s to promote FEMALE REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS, they just put themselves out there. im glad that they are similarly being supported by the wider rock community writ large in recent years.
that and they came back to take on TRUMP with their latest album and how can you not love that?
photo manipulation by nacrowe
i came across GIRL IN A COMA years ago in the late 2000s when JANE'S ADDICTION guitarist DAVE NAVARRO spoke about them in an interview. i think he may even have a tattoo of them for some reason.
anyway, this NINA DIAZ-fronted trio from SAN ANTONIO (an yes there name is a reference to THE SMITHS track "Girlfriend in a Coma" - so kudos if you caught that) has released a three stellar rock albums via JOAN JETT's BLACKHEART RECORDS and they have really evolved as songwriters over the past 10 years.
their track "Smart" from their latest EXITS & ALL THE REST (2011) was my soundtrack to being a PEACE CORPS volunteer years ago. to me it just captured that vibe of being both hesitant and excited by a new environment. by nature i'm a reluctant, shy person but being tossed into a small albanian community with a strong distrust of foreigners forced me out of my shell and make connections with my neighbors, some of whom i still communicate with via social media (which is crazy).
their sound is a mixture of INDIE, SHOEGAZE and meat & potatoes ROCK N ROLL, but what makes the band for me is frontwoman NINA DIAZ's ability to let her vocals go where they want, sharp or flat or whatever she is feeling, even if that means coming off as a whine. to me that vocal choice is totally authentic to their vibe as a band, which is loose but deliberate and cutting. almost like they are inviting you to critique them.
i always appreciate it when musicians, especially women, make choices that go against gender prescriptions. there is a whole littany of male artists that have successfully done this from LITTLE RICHARD to DAVID BOWIE to PERRY FARRELL. with regards to women i'd say musicians like PATTI SMITH, BJORK or PJ HARVEY come to mind when i think of artists that consciously attempt to expand their audiences gender prescriptions.
i'm not putting GIRL IN A COMA on that level, but in their own way they are going for it and i definitely appreciate that. in a way they are the manifestation of JOAN JETT and her legacy as well.