David Bruce: 250 Music Anecdotes — Riot Grrrl, Somewriters

Riot Grrrl

• Both punk and riot grrrl music believe in Do-It-Yourself (DIY) when it comes to creating music and other art. In 1994, a drunk and enthusiastic 16-year-old girl named Lauren Goften approached Rachel Holborow, who worked for the English record label Slampt. Lauren told Rachel about her riot grrrl band Kenickie, which she said she had formed with some schoolmates. Rachel was so intrigued by what she heard that she asked for a demo tape. Actually, the band existed only in Lauren’s head. Also, Lauren and her schoolmate Marie du Santiago did not know how to play musical instruments. No problem. They learned how to play two chords and started writing songs and recorded their first tape: Uglification. They then learned to play a third chord and started playing in public. Lauren, whose band name was Lauren Laverne, remembers that she forgot how to play her guitar solo while on stage, so she sang it instead. Basically, the band learned how to play by playing on stage and they learned how to write songs by writing them. So what happened? Alan McGee, head of Creation Records, took a plane to see them. He liked what he heard and offered to sign them to a record deal. They turned him down. Kenickie was active from 1994 to 1998, recorded for Fierce Panda and EMI, and when they broke up, lots of female fans mourning the breakup sent letters for months to the music magazines NME(New Musical Express) and Melody Maker.

• Frequently, the question “Stones or Beatles?” comes up in discussions about music. Someone asked that question to record producer Guy Picciotto. He replied, “The Smiths.” Beth Ditto, lead singer of Gossip and a supporter of riot grrrl music, has two good answers to the question “Ramones or Sex Pistols?” One answer is this: “The Slits.” Another answer is to ask this question in reply: “Heavens to Betsy or Bratmobile?”

Songwriters

• Country songwriter Harlan Howard knew that the young Hal Ketchum was planning to come to Nashville, Tennessee, and so he invited him to stay at his house: “I know you’re coming up. You’re trying to get a publishing deal or a record deal. So just stay at my house.” Staying at Mr. Howard’s house had some major benefits, such as hearing people such as Mr. Howard, Waylon Jennings, Allen Reynolds, and Jim Rooney talk and play music. Mr. Howard told the young Mr. Ketchum, “Listen twice and talk once; maybe you’ll learn something.” Mr. Ketchum played a couple of songs that were clever rather than honest, and then he played a folk song titled “Someplace Far Away.” Mr. Howard listened to the song and then told Mr. Ketchum, “That’s it — that’s where you need to go.” He added, “One thing you need to bear in mind as a songwriter is that it’s all been said before. If you can just learn to say it from your own perspective in some kind of honest fashion, people will gravitate toward it. […] we’re all telling the same story, but if you do it from your own heart and your own perspective, people will get it.”

• So where did the title of John Lee Hooker’s song “Boom Boom” come from? He got the title from a bartender named Luilla at the Apex Bar in Detroit. Mr. Hooker was playing with a band, and he always arrived late. Whenever that happened, and it always happened, Luilla pointed at him and said, “Boom boom, you’re late again.” Mr. Hooker recognized a good song title when he heard it, so he created a song, and it was a hit first for him and later for the Animals. What about Luilla? Mr. Hooker says, “She went around telling everyone ‘I got John Lee to write that song.’ I gave her some bread for it, too, so she was pretty happy.”

• Steven Tyler of Aerosmith is a hard-working man. For a while, he and the band spent so much time on the road that even when he was home he would wake up and automatically telephone for room service. By the way, he wrote all the lyrics to the songs on the AerosmithROCKSalbum, but accidentally left them in a manila envelope in a taxi. Mr. Tyler says, “I lost the whole thing — all the words to the songs. I had to go back to the Ramada Inn on 8thAvenue and sit with the headphones and bring it all back. I got about 50 percent of it. Can you imagine what was in that cab that went into the wastebasket?”

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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Modern necromancy

t r e f o l o g y

The restless spirit of the

Spanish ventriloquist, Senor Wences

has begun communicating through me,

using my hand as a vehicle, just

as he once did his famous characters.

ii.

I say this to you, confidentially, &

only because, Senor Wences, has intimated 

that he has something very important

to tell you …

about the future!

iii.

So, pull up a chair, as I

don’t want you miss

a single word.

iv.

But before you do,

let me first apply some lip-stick to

my thumb and forefinger.

v.

Because, friend,

there is something else I should tell you,

Senor Wences —

wants to kiss you!

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davidbrucehaiku: use it or lose it

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Use it or lose it

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Writing good haiku

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