Sunday, August 16, 2020

Kat's Korner: Haim and how it took a lifetime to get here

Kat: Haim released a new album June 26th and I've struggled to write about it and to figure out why I was struggling?  Then, as with too many problems these days, NPR provided the answer -- count on them to reflect all that's wrong with this country these days.  (That includes when they program a pretend concert and supply 46 songs with only 3 of those songs being performed by women.)

I hate hype.  I avoid PEOPLE MAGAZINE as well as TIME and NEWSWEEK celebrity cover stories for that reason.  Nora Ephron wrote a brilliant essay years ago, "How to Write a Newsmagazine Cover Story" (collected in SCRIBBLE SCRIBBLE).  She boiled it down to six rules.  "Rule One: Find a subject too much has already been written about," "Rule Two: Exaggerate the significance of the cover subject."  She offers examples, including this from a TIME February 28, 1973 profile on Liza Minnelli:

Today, a few weeks shy of twenty-six, Liza has evolved in her own right into a new Miss Show Biz, a dazzling assured and completely rounded performer.  The Justice Department should investigate her.  She is a mini-conglomerate, an entertainment monopoly.

Nora provides a few other rules and many more examples.  We'll note one more example, NEWSWEEK on Robert Redford from February 4, 1974:

There are many things gorgeous about Robert Redford.  The shell, to begin with, is resplendent.  The head is classically shaped, the features chiseled to an all-American handsomeness just rugged enough to avoid prettiness, the complexion weather-burnished to a reddish-gold, the body athletically muscled, the aura best described by one female fan who says: "He gives you the feeling that even his sweat would smell good."

Or TIME on Margaux Hemingway from June 16, 1975:

Margaux is the American Sex Dream incarnate, a prairie Valkyrie, six feet tall and one hundred thirty-eight pounds. . . . Effortlessly, Margaux stands out in a gallery of fresh young faces, newcomers who are making their names in modeling, movies, ballet, and in the exacting art of simply living well.  They add up to an exhilarating crop of new beauties who light up the landscape in the US and abroad.

Nora points out that the hype written is so much that few will ever live up to it (think of the VANITY FAIR cover boys of the 90s and 00s who slept with that certain male director, got the cover when their film with that director came out and never lived up to the hype).  She notes that if you follow the rules:

You too will be able to take a subject, any subject, and hype it to the point where it bears no resemblance to reality.  Whomever you write about will never be able to live up to what you write about him, but never mind.  The important thing is that people will talk about YOUR STORY.  They will talk about it for years.  They will say how strange it was that the career of whomever you wrote about seemed somehow to slip after the cover you wrote appeared. 

I'd honestly forgotten that essay until NPR decided to remind me of it as July ended and August started. July 30th, we got a ridiculous story on the new documentary about The Go-Go's. July 31st, NPR reviewed the documentary.  The review read like it was longer than the documentary.  We got even more excess -- in volume and praise -- August 5th from NPR.

That's a great deal of coverage for an 80s band that long ago broke up and was bascially a two-hit wonder, four if you want to be generous.  "We Got The Beat" made it to number two on the top forty, their biggest hit, while "Vacation" made it to number six.  "Head Over Heals" would almost make it into the top ten (number eleven) and "Our Lips Are Sealed" would fall far from the top ten (number twenty).  Four years and two real hits -- four, if you want to be kind.  That's it. 


NPR's Alissa Chang offers garbage and see if you can catch her stupidity:

The Go-Go's are widely considered the most successful all-female rock group in history. And they're the only all-female band that wrote their own songs and played their own instruments to have a chart-topping album. That was their debut, "Beauty And The Beat," released in 1981. Now they are the subjects of a new documentary called "The Go-Go's."

[. . .]

Yeah. So as you guys were becoming more and more well-known, you started veering away from punk and more into pop. And I'm wondering - how did that feel? Like, did it feel that that was more about you guys choosing to go there or the industry choosing for you?


No, they did not veer to pop, you stupid idiot.  The Go-Go's were never really punk except in their approach -- they really didn't know how to play music and only drummer Gina Schock really knew anything about rock (or, for that matter, music).  They were not punk and they didn't move to pop.  They were what?

New Wave.

For those who remember the TV show SQUARE PEGS, you probably just said, as New Wave fan Johnny always did on the show, "It's a totally different head. Totally"  BILLBOARD gets it.

Realizing Alissa and NPR are dumb asses, I immediately went to WIKIPEDIA to see if that's where they got their dumb-assery passed off as expertise?  Sure enough, CRAPAPEDIA tells you that The Go-Go's "are widely considered the most successful all-female rock group in history."  The exact words that Alissa Chang 'borrowed' are at the CRAPAPEDIA page and they are 'credited.'  The words appear in a February 2020 piece at 'noted' music source LBGTQ NATION.  A music site?  No, of course not.  The 'author' of the article has written 15 pieces for the site and there's not another one about music.  Of course not, he doesn't know a damn thing about music and he's pimping what he saw in the documentary on The Go-Gos that he caught at a festival.

That's the brain dead leading the brain dead.

The Go-Gos weren't pop, they weren't punk, they weren't rock.  They were New Wave.  New Wave sprung from punk -- around the time Rev Jessie Jackson showed up to denounce punk as racist, by the way.  NPR want to tackle that aspect?  Didn't think so.

The Go-Gos did hit number one -- on the album charts.  At a time when albums weren't selling and at a time when ROLLING STONE put the pud-teasers on the cover in their underwear.  I love how some liars want to blame ROLLING STONE for that cover photo.  Like Annie Leibovitz barged into their hotel suite and caught them off guard in their panties?  They posed for it.

They are liars and I hate liars.  They claim they did it because Annie was "an icon" that they'd loved since they were 12.  Shut up, liars.  Annie's John Lennon and Yoko Ono photo ran on the cover of ROLLING STONE's January 22, 1981 issue.  Now I know this and I know other things that liars like Kathy Valentine can't tell you.  As long noted here, my career is in what?  Photography.  Annie shot an amazing photo.  And I knew that when I first saw the cover of that issue.  I did not, however, know Annie's name and she'd been working for years.  Annie's name, in fact, wouldn't become known until she started working for VANITY FAIR (1983) and shooting their covers as well.  

It's amazing how the bitches in The Go-Gos have blamed Annie -- for years now -- for the photo which was cute, by the way, and not as slut-shaming as the article (that Annie did not write) which was entitled "The Go-Go's Put Out."  Notorious woman hater (read anything he ever wrote about Stevie Nicks, for example) Steve Pond wrote that article.  How bitchy of them to blame a woman when a man wrote the text that called them pud-teasers.

And are we also supposed to forget that the cover of the album BEAUTY AND THE BEAT shows all the gals sporting towels?  

I hate bulls**t and I hate hype.  I am to the point that I can't listen to the shlock rock classic "I Love Rock And Roll" due to all the lies trying to make Joan Jett into an artist -- when she's barely a guitarist -- and, as I think about it now, I remember NPR was part of the b.s. as well.  Check out Ava and C.I.'s "TV: Telling stories" for more on that.

Now NPR's lying for The Go-Gos.  They were a minor group.  They had two top hits.  That's all they had.  Oh, the biggest selling album of all time!  No, they didn't have that.  That's what implied by NPR but it's not true.  Not even when you reduce it to just all female bands and just those who wrote their own songs.


The group's debut album sold two million copies.  Not a great sum.  Their second album the next year went . . . gold.  Half-a-million sold.  The third album?  It didn't even go gold.  The group was over by the first album. 

And they couldn't play instruments except for Gina.

Grasp that.  Another important detail that gets left out in NPR's lies.  They sounded like s**t onstage.  They love, now, to go back and lie that drugs made them sound so bad on SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE.  No, if you caught them in concert, I did, you know that's how they sounded.  They couldn't get it together to play well onstage.  The reality is that only Gina could play.  Charlotte could write some catchy tunes and the boys either lined up behind Belinda or Jane.  Kathy was ignored by all. They couldn't play.

And they aren't the most successful female band of all time.

The most successful?  That would be the group that sold three million copies of an album in the US -- one more than The Go-Go's.  

What I hate about lies and hype is that it steal real achievements away from women.  The Bangles, the band that NPR ignores.  DIFFERENT LIGHT (with the hits "Manic Monday," "Walk Like An Egyptian," "Walking Down Your Street") sold three million in the US alone.  They outsold The Go-Gos.  Also, unlike The Go-Go's, they had a second million selling album in the US: EVERYTHING.  And a third: GREATEST HITS (released in 1990, long after the band broke up).   That same year, 1990, The Go-Go's also released a GREATEST HITS, it didn't sell half a million copies.


 Stealing from CRAPAPEDIA which stole it from a non-music source, Alissa Chang insisted, "The Go-Go's are widely considered the most successful all-female rock group in history."  Lie!

The Bangles have three million selling albums and DIFFERENT LIGHT sold three million in the US to The Go-Go's two million.  That makes the Bangles the most successful all-female rock group in history.

The Bangles are no one-hit wonders. They had eight top forty hits.  The Go-Gos never had a number one hit.  The Bangles?  They have two: "Eternal Flame" and "Walk Like An Egyptian."  The Go-Gos only hit the top ten twice.  In addition to their two number ones, the Bangles also hit number two twice -- with "Manic Monday" and "Hazy Shade Of Winter."  "In Your Room" also hit the top ten (number five).  By any standard, the Bangles are the best selling.

NPR pushed its usual garbage -- and stole uncredited from CRAPAPEDIA which, ha ha!, got it wrong.  What fools, what idiots.

The Go-Gos are not the best selling female band.  They do deserve credit for being a New Wave group that made it to number one (with a lousy album).  Kathy couldn't play her instrument, Jane couldn't play hers, Charlotte would grow to show skill (and she could write songs) while their singer, Belinda, couldn't sing (Madonna's TRUTH OR DARE has a hilarious take on Belinda singing her solo hit "Heaven Is A Place On Earth").  Only Gina was a musician when the band was together, a musician worthy of praise.  (And Gina continues to deserve praise.)  

What The Go-Gos did do was carry the baton a little further.

Not only did NPR disappear the Bangles, they also disappeared all the women who came before The Go-Gos.  


Has anyone been watching HBO's PERRY MASON?  There's so much wrong with it -- see Ava and C.I.'s "TV: Putting the 'BO' in HBO" -- but I Matthew Rhys is sexy and I keep hoping the show has to get better.  It wrapped and it didn't.  It only got worse.

In their final scene together, Della Street tells Perry that she will do the basics of answering the phone, etc (secretarial work) but will also draw up wills and do this and do that and will get this amount of money once money starts coming in and he will pay for night school so she can get her law degree and . . .  It never ended.  But I could go along with it.  Up until Perry says she'll become a "lady lawyer" and then she not only has wants but needs to take a moment to turn Perry 'woke.'


Okay, Hollywood uses the resources of the Pentagon and gives them control over their scripts in return and the reason the studios give is: Realism.  They need those carriers and ships and blah blah blah to look real.  But they film a show set in the 1950s and make Della a Woke Warrior?  

In terms of drama, before she gave her little lecture, she had made the point.  Now she was just annoying as hell.

That's how NPR comes off when they run with these lies: not at all realistic and annoying as hell. 


The Go-Go's did not create something unique or novel.  In the thirties, for example, you had all female jazz bands (yes, just like in the Marilyn Monroe film SOME LIKE IT HOT -- where do you think that they got that idea, from what had already happened).  That included Neliska Ann Briscoe's band The Harlem Play Girls (she was billed as Baby Briscoe and she and Eddie Crump were front women for the band).  The Melodears was another successful all female jazz band -- and the first to record in a studio (VOCALION RECORDS and RCA).  In 1964, Patti Quatro formed the all female band Pleasure Seekers -- band members included Suzi Quatro. They recorded "Never Thought You'd Leave Me'' in 1964.

It's been a long road and a lot women paved the way.   From Patricia Kennealy-Morrison's "Pop Talk: Rock Around The Cock" (JAZZ & POP MAGAZINE, October 1970 -- also gathered in her compilation ROCK CHICK: A GIRL AND HER MUSIC: THE JAZZ & POP WRITINGS 1968-1971):


On the other hand, there appear to be only two roles for women rock artists to play.  Joan Baez and Judy Collins and Laura Nyro can get away with much, under the cover of "art songs," but where does that leave Grace Slick and Tina Turner?  Filling the -- needless to say -- male-specified roles of (a) Ice Princess, or (b) Down-Home Ball.  So there we have Grace, gelid, brittle, bitch goddess incarnate -- interestingly enough, she has never made any formal statement of position on the function of women in rock -- at the one extreme, and Tina, or Janis Joplin -- interestingly enough, neither have they -- at the other, as the earth-mother, scratch-your-back, tiger-lady stone soul f**k.  Not much in between, not much choice.


Paving a road, breaking new territory, has been hard work.  From Ellen Willis' "But Now I'm Going To Move" (THE NEW YORKER, OCTOBER 1971 -- also collected in OUT OF THE VINYL DEEPS: ELLEN WILLIS ON ROCK MUSIC):

The classic statement of the rock attitude toward women appeared in a ROLLING STONE supplement on groupies.  It seems that rock bands prefer San Francisco groupies to New York groupies: the latter, being coldhearted Easterners, are only out for conquests; Bay Area chicks really dig the musicians as people, not just bodies, and stay afterward to do their homework.  This sort of disingenuous moralism offends me much that the old brutal directness.  At least, the Stones never posed as apostles of a revolutionary lifestyle. 

[. . .]

In an overwhelmingly male atmosphere, female performers have served mainly as catalysts for male cultural-revolutionary fantasies of touch chicks, beautiful bitches, and super-yin old ladies. Janis Joplin half-transcended this function by confronting it, screaming out the misery and confusion of being what others wanted her to be.  But she was a genius.

Of course, contradictions have a way of resolving themselves, as a nineteenth-century revolutionist pointed out.  The same social events that produced a sexist "cultural revolution" produced a sexist radical left, which, in turn, gave rise to the women's liberation movement.  Rock has been particularly resistant to the inroads of a resurgent feminism, but it is not impervious.  A year ago, there were probably fewer female rock performers of stature than at any other time in the past decade; today, there is a noticeable influx of female singers and composers, and they are finding a receptive audience.  More important, women are beginning to break away from the hip stereotypes.  Carole King is scarcely a counterculture heroine, and Joni Mitchell's latest album, BLUE, makes me wonder what ever happened to the sweet folksinger who used to talk about baking cookies to the crowd at the Bitter End.  For a long time, I didn't listen to Alice Stuart's album but its title, FULL TIME WOMAN, turned me off; when I did, I discovered that the title song starts out "I hear you've got a full-time woman now,/ Does she love you like I never could?" and ends "You gotta set me free./ I'd do it for you, baby; now do it for me."  Deliberate or not, the reversal of expectations was in itself a statement: things are seldom what they seem.  

Women musicians are also starting to emerge.  A number of all female-rock bands have formed, some actively feminist, but as yet this remains almost entirely a local, ''underground'' phenomenon; the main exception is Fanny, which has put out two disappointing albums.  The most exciting female musicians to surface so far belong to a mixed group.  They are Toni Brown and Terry Garthwaite, the leaders of a Berkeley quintet called Joy of Cooking.  Toni writes most of the group's material, plays a conspicuous electric piano, and sings; Terry sings lead and plays guitar; they are backed up by three men including a conga drummer.  Joy has made two excellent albums -- JOY OF COOKING, which came out last January, and a new release, CLOSER TO THE GROUND -- and is a popular performing band on the West Coast.  Now that it is making a major tour of the East and the Midwest, its audience should begin to expand.


The all female rock band Fanny, they deserve their footnote, they earned it.  Lillian Roxon reported on Fanny in 1971 and wondered whether women were finally making it in rock? "Charity Ball" made it to number forty on the top forty -- the first time an all female band could make that claim.  It's a long, long road.


Or, as Diana Ross, leader of one of the most successful girl groups ever, said at her Central Park concert, "It took me a lifetime to get here, I'm not going anywhere."


We deny all that came before when we play NPR's revisionary b.s. game.  And so many women -- working with other women, working solo -- brought us to the point we're now at.  

I won't take part in erasing them.

Women In Music Pt. III


WOMEN IN MUSIC PT. III.  That's the name of Haim's new album.  I got the idea -- wrongly -- that they were Australian at one part when their previous album was getting them airplay and attention.  The three are Californians -- three sisters from San Fernando Valley, Este, Danielle and Alana. They're still making music baked in the California sun but there's, as Sting might put it, a little dark spot on the sun today -- in fact, several dark spots.

This is less of a carefree album.  Take "The Steps."

So, baby, when I'm near you, you can't feel me. 

I'm lightning. 

You used to come by and sit down on my side. 

You would come in close and take off all my clothes. 

Every time I think that I've been taking the steps, 

you end up mad at me for making a mess. 

I can't understand why you don't understand me, baby. 

And every day I wake up and make money for myself, 

and though we share a bed, 

you know that I don't need your help. 

Do you understand? 

You don't understand me, baby.

Or listen to "Gasoline."

Those are two great songs.  And they pull you in, but the mood is darker or at least more mature.

This is a strong album with eleven songs proper (there are bonus tracks for some editions).  It's tight and it feels like an album, a theme of summer in its dying days.  Or maybe just all of us in the pandemic?

I would have left off "3 A.M.," it's my least favorite song on the album.  But it's a strong album and one of the best.

It's not going to change the world -- not even the world of music -- despite some of the hype (from NPR and others) on this album.  But it's a strong album.  It lives up to what Courtney Love promised in "Malibu" and Sheryl Crow in "Soak Up The Sun" -- promised but never delivered.  It's an album of music you can drink booze to, you can use as the background to a party or you can lay out in the sun, swearing that tan, and pondering what the sisters are singing about.  It works on many levels.

So does Haim.  They carry the baton a little further, yes.  But they're also a solid band -- regardless of gender.

If you doubt that, check out their live performance below.