Category Archives: Music is Everything

Conceptualizing Groupies, Bad Boys, Wonderbread and Water Sports.

In theory, I am writing a chapter proposal on Bad Girls this weekend. Whether or not this will come to fruition is a question that will best be answered on Monday. When the proposal is due.

My academic career and research curiosities (okay, so that comes out really badly) have led me to skirt around the subject on a number of occasions, riffing off of the stories of Lilith, the Queen of the Night, assorted fairy tales, video characters and Diamanda Galás at various times. There exists a thread between these fictional and real women, but I’ve never attempted to suss it out clearly, and I am not certain that what the call for critical responses to the “bad girl” in popular culture is looking for is this binding. I have the shape, the notes, but not that…whatever it is the yanks this together (that isn’t Benjamin).

(Before I move on. Diamanda Galás: “This is the Law of the Plague” and “Skótoseme“. Oh, hell…”Do You Take This Man“, for sport, particularly if you want to go for something more…straight. And the last two are with John Paul Jones. Plague Mass is also worth a listen. You’re welcome.)

Certainly there are elements of the big theme–redemption–is here, though that goes in dozens of directions (though, having typed it…this could be the starting point I was looking for. Violent redemptions. Redeeming bad girls–or not, as is the case so frequently, etc. ACK! I know what the damn thread is! I knew I’d find it if I stopped looking).  I was looking for a story about Joan Jett that I ran across a dozen or more times in the punk oral histories, and damned if I can’t lay hands on it this time.

What I kept returning to as I worked through an outline without the hook (I knew I should freewrite) was the narrative of the groupie.  I even reread parts of Roxana Shirazi’s book, Last Living Slut, reminding me just how degradation was framed throughout. Specifically, I reread a scene I have written about before (misspellings and all), when she depicts encouraging Synyster Gates to urinate on her breasts. (N.B.: Piss is apparently a theme for them. There is something here to unpack, but I suspect it ends around egotistical assholes who know how to play the roles. I swear, if the porn remark on the second link doesn’t scream “no, really, trying to be bad boy,” I’m not sure what does)**. She describes them, on the one hand, as so frightening that she can’t look at their pictures for long, particularly Shadows’ (Matt, though the stage name does seem relevant here). She does note that “though their look seemed aggressive at first glance, their reputation for excessive behavior unfortunately reeked of public-relations press release” (171).  See also, “World’s Most Dangerous Band” motifs.

Though she twice uses “serial killer” to describe one or more members of the band, she also uses “instant cake batter”, “cute as puppies” and “soft, Cheerios-fed, California beach boys,” which may be my favorite description ever. Brian gets an additional nod toward “blue collar machismo” (which is interesting in light of the rest of the chapter). With respect to Matt, she later remarks “[his] face was actually less of that of a ravaged serial killer than that of a lovely little boy. That damn marketing department didn’t do them justice” (173).  I’m still trying to figure out the ravaged serial killer bit–that marketing department (and the band) was never unaware–no matter the characterizations–of the, um, attractiveness of the band members (for the love of Pete, you need only see them once to recognize that they are perfectly aware of it too. Watch Brian identify the young ladies who are seeing the band for the first time. Trust me, he can. He flirts shamelessly and wins their hearts. Every. Single. Time. Man knows how to perform. Then there is that vocalist and his dimples. He can get away with pretty much anything with just a smile. I feel certain he’s known that since childhood).

The chapter’s structure seems to bear some of the dichotomy of bad boy/wonderbread out: Brian and Roxana go off alone, engaging in an act neither have done before and subsequently return to the bus in silence.  Her following descriptions of her infantilize him: “He was mumbling, and I just wanted to hold his hand and tell him it would be okay” (179). Here, she sees herself entirely empowered in the situation–he is merely following her lead. He subsequently disappears only to return in a bizarre…not sure what to call it here…Brian ex machina?  He stands at this point as the confirmation of the archetypal PR-created bad boy (heart of gold near the surface, of course) that she thought they would be in the first place.

He comes of as so much the little boy, which was, I suspect, the point, particularly as he serves as the foil to the Rev in the next scene. While the first scene was shrouded in sort of privacy–though outside, they were alone–this sequence is public (even though on the bus). She follows the Rev and her friend Lori upstairs… I can’t do justice to this paragraph in summary, so…here:

I can only describe what ensued in the next half hour as nerdy frustration. The Rev tried to fuck me while the singer, M. Shadows, watched [***]. When Synyster showed up, though, The Rev’s dick died. He kept trying to fuck, but his dick was spaghetti limp. He tried to shove it in again and again. (179)

That “nerdy frustration” apparently comes out as a fairly violent, perhaps drug-induced assault on Roxana by The Rev. She grabs Lori and her clothes and leaves furious…”because I hadn’t got proper sex’ (180). I don’t even know where to start with this. The humorous: where exactly was Lori (who goes unmentioned between upstairs and exit)? Unless bus lounges have gotten somewhat less cozy, we’ve got a considerable number of people stuffed in here. Not going to touch the Magical Brian ™ arrival. And then there is the obvious thing–she brushes off having had her head slammed into the ground, angry instead at sexual frustration. Granted, I’m making a judgement here about how she “should” react–certainly she has her own agency, but it’s troubling, particularly as it is hardly the only denial of violence.

Also…nerdy?

I confess that my recall of her depiction was off–I thought she had described Matt in some detail during this scene (including some reference to the omnipresent aviators), but I apparently made that part up. Which means I am rewriting this book in my head. I’m not sure I want to follow that too much further.  But, now that I think on it…The Rev and Brian are both framed as little boys, aren’t they?  One is shy and mumbling in the face of her empowered self, and the other is an angry little boy who doesn’t get what he wants (and, to that end, she doesn’t either). The whole damn chapter is about children, isn’t it? Right down to Matt as “lovely little boy.”

How in the blue hell did I end up here?

Well, at least it’s getting research out of my brain and into the ether. Even if it is research I would never submit.

Though apparently I’ll happily post it publicly.

W.T.F.


*What are the corollaries for bad girls on this? I suspect there are more similarities that I was assuming at first blush. Bad Boys with hearts of gold are, after all, stock in trade.

**Important reminder: immaturity. Eye-rolling, remarkable, immaturity. One hopes this is at least partially self-aware caricature. Actually, it’s damn difficult to ever read Zacky through any other frame. As the world’s finest internet troll (retired), he knows something about how to stay in character.

***Fits nicely with the porn remark, yes? Straight on, dude.

“There’s something in your eyes, a part of me that I recognize…”

Well, it must be getting on toward September, since I find myself wanting to write. Though, I admit, I haven’t the slightest idea what exactly it is I want to write about.  Perhaps I just need to hit the keys for a while (monkeys and typewriters and whatnot). 2014 has certainly been a hell of a lot more interesting than I thought it would be when I was pondering 38 and sanity last year. That I would be on the correct coast and in a new job, home, etc., would never have occurred to me, even as much as I may have wanted such changes. And here I am.

I’ve been trying to work through a call for a book chapter recently, and I have found myself stymied. I can’t even get pen to paper (or whatever the kids are calling it these days) to begin the damn thing.  Hell, I can’t even get my head around what it is I want to do, though I know what I want to do (these things are clearly related). It feels like starting my dissertation all over again (that right there is about the most terrifying sentence I have ever typed)–knowing where I wanted to go and getting stuck behind the first letter.

So, I’m here instead. Perhaps trying to tell any tale whatsoever.

Before I moved, I took a week to do something that could be regarded as absolutely nothing, but was something I’ve really wanted to do but never took the time nor had the money (well, the latter was probably still debatable).

Virginia Beach, May 2014

Virginia Beach, May 2014

I followed Avenged Sevenfold for 4 shows in 5 days, calling it something like “fangirl trip” as I posted pictures and the obligatory swoons. And then I got a chance to see them again in July. Twice. I’m familiar enough at this point to warrant being poked fun at by a certain vocalist, who (rightly) pointed out as he left the stage in that ever annoying “hey we’re done, bye-bye-get the crowd screaming before coming back for the “encore” we were going to do anyway” crap. Apparently, I made a face at them (lack of poker face?). Said vocalist looked at me and smirked, saying “you know we’ll be back.”  I am probably far more amused by this than I can or should explain, but I am. Seriously amused.

I’m grateful as hell that I’ve been able to follow them around so many places–even to Montreal, where they came on after GWAR (several hours after, but after no less). That was one of the first shows that I realized I had crossed into that familiar zone–hey, we just saw you… Only, I had pink hair from the stage blood (and, as it turned out, a considerable amount of said stage blood on my face. I was a hot mess. The dude at the sandwich shop after the show–well, that my French sucks ass did not keep me from being able to follow his remarks. At all), so I was on the receiving end of some very strange looks. And I really didn’t care.

Part of me wants to wander through these memories here, and part of me wants to keep them to myself. And I don’t know why that is. It is, however, strange.

At risk of running into the maudlin (I really need to find some topic to wander through that isn’t me), much of what has happened in my personal growth has come alongside various *things* (no idea what to say other than that) with respect to this band. It was extraordinarily difficult to make some of the choices I made to leave home to see them–ridiculous as it sounds, even to me,

 I’m not sure I could have made the steps to land here without having made the smaller ones that landed me in their pits over and again. Being able to say that I want this. That I am not too afraid to just launch myself in to whatever space or place is available and then just detach from the world for a few hours. That I can be a fan again. That I can be okay.

That’s not quite right. Not quite what I mean. It’ll have to do.

I’ve met some fantastic people in these travels. I have some wonderfully odd snapshot memories (I get so lost in the music that there is little space for more).

Montreal, August 2013

Montreal, August 2013

A squeezed hand, a laugh, an unexpected kindness, a hunt for a book, forgotten words, “you rock”–moments.

They are playing in Dallas in two nights, and I am not going, much as I want to. I need to settle in–wait until next Spring, when they’ll likely headline their own tour again (if they do more than one offs this fall–or even those, really–I’ll eat my still-dyed-pink hat). Be here now, in this gift. In this world.

And writing. Seriously, I need to get with damn writing.