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liner notes

by lynn rapoport

My mistake

THERE'S SO MUCH hate in the world. And one of my coworkers has started making fun of the way I dress. And I heard on the news that we almost got hit by a meteorite the size of a mall (only 336 shopping days till Christmas!). So why does Spin want to stir up more trouble with February's naughty little dick-filled list ("guaranteed to start fights!") of the 50 greatest bands of all time? Counting backup singers, 11 bands have women members; New Order keyboardist Gillian Gilbert is mentioned in an inglorious parenthetical; and when it comes to glory, it pretty much comes down to Kim Gordon, Patti Smith, Deborah Harry, and Chrissie Hynde. And going by the "Influenced" category, very few female musicians have been listening to music over the past four decades. Yes, I counted. I also bite my nails.

Now, as we all know, bands with women in them are generally inferior, as they tend to be driven by hysteria, lunar cycles, and intuition-based decision making. However, the absence of, say, Sleater-Kinney does seem a little strange – unless maybe the primary goal is to start fights with Greil Marcus. Granted, the list gives weight to longevity, but such young stripes as Pavement, Rage Against the Machine, and goddamn Korn were invited to the party.

Mom would say to ignore the editors and writers at Spin – it's like the boys on the playground who were just pulling your hair out 'cause they liked you. Except, of course, that executive editor Sia Michel presumably had some say in the process, and maybe it's more like the bruises you acquire when you're drunk: you can't remember how you got them, and that's probably not a very good sign.

I get this list. It's easy to look back on 40 years of music industry and see how we got here. But where is the planet on which Rage is not only more important than Sleater-Kinney but also important enough to crowd them out? Right here, I guess. Where's that meteorite?

I want to bang my head into a brick wall. Instead I use the pages of Spin to clean up after my dog in the park and vow not to start any fights this month. But who am I kidding? Spin doesn't care about me or my influences or my dog. I'm not an 18- to 34-year-old male, and when I die, I will be buried in the tomb of the demographically irrelevant music listener. And really, a lot of my great bands never influenced me to do anything other than dance badly at Rebel Girl and complain about my unsatisfying life. I still don't know how to play bass, and I keep skipping Ladyfest Bay Area meetings.

We all make mistakes. In fact, I'm paying for one this week. Back in school I called the Throwing Muses the Throwing-Up Muses. I can't remember why, and it's not really that funny, but talk to my dad, from whom I inherited my "sense of humor." What if I'd run away from home more often? Maybe I wouldn't have come up with that stupid joke. Maybe I wouldn't have had to buy eight Kristen Hersh and Throwing Muses albums in one day last week in a sad attempt to make up for my miserable, museless existence. I was looking for Hersh's ballad album, Murder, Misery and Then Goodnight, but instead went home with last year's Sunny Border Blue, on which the first track, "Your Dirty Answer," is a livid unraveling I can't stop listening to and Hersh plays virtually all the instruments. Then I borrowed my housemate's The Real Ramona. Then I began to worry about my misspent youth.

It's not as if I'm suddenly ready for the Throwing Muses. I would have loved them in high school if I'd ever picked up one of their records. I would have loved them in college, mostly because of Hersh, whose voice just tears me up. How fun can it be to lose it in public, catching on corners and ripping apart? She sounds like a bell about to break, pealing out extreme grief, sexual obsession, and sights unseen by others with an emotional recklessness that makes me think of Mia Zapata or Thalia Zedek or Carla Bozulich, speaking of influences. Hersh sounds like she knows all about waking up to mysterious bruises.

I really wish I hadn't waited so long. Making up for lost time is a difficult business. It's bad enough to know how many bands I should be listening to but might never hear because they're out of reach, across a continent, unsigned, about to break up. It's a different kind of shame when they've been pulling their hearts out within shouting distance all this time, and for no good reason I crossed them off my list.

Ladyfest Bay Area 2002 is looking for volunteers and submissions. For more information go to www.ladyfestbayarea.org. E-mail Lynn Rapoport at lynn@sfbg.com.