Tag Archives: Guns N Roses

Induced Euphoria: Yet More Fangirling

(Warning for the faint of heart: what you are about to see may forever warp your vision of/for me.  Continue at your own peril.  And certainly mine.)

This is a sobriety post, though it may take a while to look like one.  It’s also a bit all over the place.  Apologies for the scatteredness.

A few months ago, I wandered into tumblr.  I don’t recall now how it happened.  Probably it was some sort of livejournal bourne accident…though, having said that, I’m not so certain that is a rational assumption.  Livejournal is far more engaged in navel-gazing than tumblr, so the link going that direction seems somewhat unlikely.  Tumblr posts can manage to mention livejournal, insanejournal, greatestjournal, journalfen (okay, so probably not this one), mibba, and facebook in a single rant. LJ does well to post about other LJ communities [and this from someone whose own LJ points specifically to a number of fanwank communities (best non-LJ example)] .

However it happened, I stumbled in and upon in.  Around that time, I began posting my horror via Twitter*–horror mostly at the fansites I was tripping across and the…um…how do I put this?…internal logic that drives them.  Internal logic like:  Why do people mourn band member X; he wasn’t Kurt Cobain.

Actually, the internal logic is rather more closely akin to the internal logic of, say, Twilight.  For those of you blessedly unfamiliar with Twilight (how??), here’s an example of Meyer’s, er, logic, courtesy of one of my favorite, terribly amusing tumblrs, Reasoning with Vampires:

 

Meyer is scary, no?

 

 

Tumblr–perhaps because, in part, of the particular nature of the microblogging there–tends to have this kind of logic floating about (Meyer’s book, not Reasoning’s).  Not exclusively, mind; I’ve seen a number of awesome feminist debates and some excellent addiction support.  I’ve also seen a professed desire to be “raped” by (fillintheblank celebrity).  And a whole kettle of “OMG, I hate this fandom!” wanks.

One other thing I’ve noticed is my own tendency to retract from laying claims–including to my own desires and opinions.  Increasingly, I’ve noticed myself doing it in my real life (that is, I’ve noticed it more, I don’t think the overall rate has increased).  I’ll make a claim and then hedge to make the other person comfortable.   And I do it all the damn time, even on subjects about which I am both knowledgeable and confident.

Part of this is an honest desire to refrain from steamrolling conversations.  Much of it stems from fear and shame.  And those habits of mind, I have to remind myself, are the same ones that drove me to drink.

The feelings of fear and shame associated with elements of my life I adore have been around for a long while–at least since 8th grade (I distinctly recall being rather more bullheaded in earlier years, and I’ve nothing specific to point to–like getting my ass kicked (though I did get a fairly solid punch to the head on about 8th grade)–as the cause of this switch, not even boy-craziness, because I was pretty far gone in that regard well before age 13.  Many of the early exchanges were about music.  While my experience in that matter is hardly unique, it was memorable–getting yelled at (why did we rely so heavily on raised voices?) classmates for my music obsessions (GNR included).  Sadly, I came to be at once strident and ashamed about my musical habits (I could get into knock downs, but eventually learned to hide names and favorites unless I meant to be deliberately provocative).  Well, when in public, music was a guilty pleasure.  My bedroom walls told a different story (both in what covered them and what they “heard”–I imagine that those walls still retain the memory of Appetite for Destruction, for as often as they heard them).

Those habits of mind, I have to remind myself, are the same ones that drove me to drink.

The door-length Skid Row poster on my closet door that was, as it turns out, completely visible to those on the street below, is another story.  I’m sure you can imagine what else, as it turns out, was completely exposed.

Rather than own up, I turned bandom into innuendo,  like the time three of us stayed overnight in Trixter’s hotel rooms (they guys had moved on to the next city, but took pity on our not-even-18-nevermind-the-21-needed-to-rent-a-room-there selves and left us with the keys).   I vividly recall how I told that story after T and I waltzed in during 3rd period, and I assure you the parenthetical remark was not included.  I elided my shame about the band I was then obsessing over by turning to allusions to sex–because it was more comfortable to be imagined whore (for there was little in the way of sex-positivity among the seniors of my high school class)–than fan.

Better whore than fan.

You should hear the Danger Danger story sometime.

Better whore than fan.

Jeez.

Those habits of mind, I have to remind myself, are the same ones that drove me to drink.

So, when I read the groupie-blogs (of which there are many) or the naming-themselves-as-wanting-to-be-groupies blogs (of which there are more), I get it.  I get the drama and the cat fights.  I get the odd pieces that look a bit daft to the outside world.  Trust me.  Been there.  Moreover, I understand why it happens in a semi-anonymous environment.  When I read the fangirl chatter, I get it.  I even sort of get the absolutely-hysterical-now-that-I’m-here-but-probably-was-just-as-bad reactions to band marriage and (as happened this summer) the dreaded thirtieth birthdays.

As a result of whatever drives my habits of mind, even in my adult life, I tend to separate my desires from my reality.  The difference is that I now correct people who call me a groupie (seriously.  At least two colleagues, in perfect innocence, replied to my remark that I was going to follow Avenged Sevenfold for a couple of nights by remarking with glee “oh, you’re a groupie??” In high school, I might have said yes.).  I maintain separate blogs that, in theory, won’t meet, so that I can fangirl away in one and remain relatively academic (if occasionally fangirling.  and academic is likely the wrong word for this joint) on the other.  Tumblr is a neat, strange world (as is Twitter, if you dig too deeply), full of imagination (and role-playing–fascinating.  Also, terrifying) and play.  But it is also a place of fear and shame–hiding and pretending and hoping never to be discovered.

Those habits of mind, I have to remind myself, are the same ones that drove me to drink.

Music is essential for me in sobriety, both the aural and physical sensations.  I mentioned this here before–and to my class this week–that music is very much a physical experience for me.  I need to feel it.  And in my descent into alcoholism went alongside a separation from music–particularly live music.  When I am in the moments of my music, I don’t feel fear and shame.  I feel…whole.  Together.  And not because my brain turns off (though that is clearly true at times).  I was very much engaged in music and–yes–fandom before I went off the rails.  In some ways, it answered the nagging lack–performed what AA calls the spiritual awakening–in my life for years.   I need music in the way I need meditation and community.

Another colleague mentioned last night that she’d heard an Avenged Sevenfold song on the radio for the first time in the days before–she’d simply never heard them before (and how, after knowing me, I’ve no idea).  She asked her husband, before hearing who it was, if this was a Dream Theater or Rush (?).  She then looked at me levelly and said “I can see why they appeal to you.  The drums.  The dramatic guitars.  It’s so you.”

As a matter of being honest, I do have a tumbleblog (or however the fuck you spell that), and it can be found here.  Should you be brave enough to look, you will note a decided, though not exclusive, influence.  I apologize for nothing, including (especially?), the rather untoward fangirling over a non-curl.  And over a vocalist, a fact I simply don’t know what to do with.

That said, the blog is, like A7X for my colleague, so me.


*Clearly I am playing the “how many social networking sites can I mention in a single blog post” game.

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A Few of My Favorite Things

I suspect yesterday’s “Postsuburban Youth” post and several of the next few posts should be gathered under the title “things I don’t normally do.”  Or, at the very least, “random shit intended to make me write.”  This list comes from a friend who has worked through the same list already, calling it, in her case “This I Love.”  So, ten works of art that Kitsch loves, not in any particular order.  I’m glad I went back to her original post and got the correct phrasing (works of art) because “thing” was what was coming to mind and it was waaaaay too broad and I kept wanting to include people (who aren’t things, but…eh).  These pieces have shaped and molded and, on occasion, broken me in ways I can only imagine managing to capture here.

So, in no particular order other than “hey this fits on a page.”  It should be of no surprise to anyone who knows me personally or through this blog that I am obsessed with words–both the content and the organization of sound (which is part of the other obsession with music), so it follows much of this list is a celebration of art through word and sound. (Edited to add: forgot to say 1-5 is below, 6-10 will follow, since this was getting a touch long)

1.  “Die gerade Linie ist Gottlos…”

Hundertwasser, 1972 Munich Olympics

My blog subtitle references the above remark from Hundertwasser, whose works I first encountered in KunstHaus Wien in 2000, when I spent a summer living in a vet dorm in Vienna.*  The image at left is of his lithograph for the 1972 Munich Olympics.  His painting tends to leave me cold (except for the spirals)–I’m a fangirl of his art theory and his architecture, but this piece sat me down hard when I saw it.  I don’t know if I had been reading about the massacre (it’s entirely possible that I was, though I didn’t mention it in the diary), but I recall being heartbroken when I saw this–the hope and quelled by violence, maybe.  Whatever it was, it hit me hard enough that I completely rewrote my thesis, sitting right in the room with the picture (a good thing, since I was in Vienna to rewrite and recontextualize the bloody thing).  Something in the art and the violence that would necessarily become attached to it moved me–finally–and pushed me to rewrite the beast (successfully, I might add).  Also developed an idea for a book on opera on film apparently.  So glad to see I followed through.

2. The next should probably be filed under “goes without saying,” but I cannot

Duff McKagan, "Paradise City" video

understate how much Appetite for Destruction means to me now and how much it affected me when I heard it way back when.  I was hooked, horrified, amazed and wanted nothing more than to be Duff McKagan.  Well, and see the band live.  I knew it was radically other than what I had been listening to (save possibly for my then early forays into punk), and I knew if my mother heard the album I was done for.  It was, so far as my teen mind could tell, the epitome of what rock n’ roll was supposed to be doing.  Angry, aggressive, obnoxious, terrifying.  Also, excellent when played very loud.   The screen capture comes from the video that most astonishes me now (though not at the time)–“Welcome to the Jungle” is the song and video that grabbed me.  “Paradise City,” though is remarkable for what it says about the band and, more significantly, how it says it (I’ve written about this before).

3. I’m trying to recall the first time I saw body modification of the tattoo/piercing stripe, and I can’t.  It seems like it’s always been “there” (perhaps because my mother had my ears pierced when I was 9 month old or younger, when she grew tired of people asking if her cue-ball bald child was a boy or a girl.  Best part of the story:  the very next person exclaimed over how interesting it was to pierce the ears of a boy.  Serves mom right), and I was always wanting to be more of a part of that particular brand of art.  I can get sucked into studying a sleeve or a backpiece or an intricate piercing to the point of, I suspect, causing the wearer some concern.  A body that can be read–especially one where the stories are well-told, though frequently they require extensive footnotes–is a thing of beauty.**

4.

Maria Callas as Tosca

I can’t pick a single opera–that I could pick a single rock album still feels false, even if I picked the absolute obvious one.  But, if I had to note an icon, it would be Maria Callas, and Tosca (for which she is dressed in the pic at left) would certainly be among those that slapped me across the face–to the point that it is one of the pieces I have a difficult time writing about.  Der Ring des Nibelungen is featured in my thesis on opera, violence, and politics, but Tosca I struggle to write about because musically it means so much to me.  Likewise with Callas–she astonishes me in her performances (especially, of course, the early ones).

5. I am a professor of English, so it seems reasonable to include fiction, though picking one that shaped and centered me is all but impossible.  Should it be Shelley’s Frankenstein or Goethe’s Faust or perhaps Beowulf, as each has had a significant and lasting impression on me?  Were I to look over my bookshelves,

Mda, Ways of Dying

what single one would I pick?  One that made a profound impression on me (and manages to weave music, visual art, literature, violence, and politics into one beautifully wrought novel) is Zakes Mda’s Ways of Dying.  The particulars of his subject–South Africa during the period in which Apartheid is collapsing–are compelling enough, but the lilt of his tone and the dance of hope he generates in a place that should have been utterly barren of such.  The novel is simply lovely, even as much as it is heartbreaking.


*To get all this, I dug my trip diary, which begins with “I love New Jersey” (no, I don’t know why) and quickly turns to the hot guy who was in front of my in the check-in line for my flight to Amsterdam.  Apparently he was an “intelligent looking rocker type” (whatever-the-fuck that meant), and I was irritated that I was too much a coward to do anything like..oh..speak to him.  And I was wearing a fake wedding ring (I was single at the time), apparently to reduce the potential for…I have no idea.  I’d forgotten I’d done that.

**As I typed this, it dawned on me that all bodies can be read, just as all lives have a story to tell.  I suppose the difference I would draw is the investment in telling the stories on skin–in ink and metal (or wood or whatever).

Postsuburban Youth Culture

I really, really try not to write about books before I’ve finished mulling them properly, but the one I am picking my way through right now has me thinking so much that if I don’t get something written down, I’ll never get through to review the book.  Kids of the Black Hole: Punk Rock in Postsuburban California by Dewar MacLeod came to my attention by way of an email from my ever fabulous Librarian,* who keeps tabs on newly released books on punk, since I teach composition classes on the subject fairly regularly.  I was standing in the middle of a bookstore during December when my phone announced the incoming email (now, as to why I was in a bookstore AND checking email, I can’t say.  I can only assume it was destiny).   The title grabbed my attention, and I shot over to the music section in the vain hope the book would be there.   It wasn’t, so I ordered it and it has sat in my book pile, keeping a bio on Thelonious Monk company, while I wandered through several other texts before coming back to this one.

I was a mite surprised to see Exene Cervenka gracing the cover, largely because my initial impression of the title had me thinking several years beyond the advent of SoCal punk–I assumed that the book would trace, at the earliest, the decent of the HB hardcore crowd into the scene.  My completely wrongheaded thought was this would look into the more recent punk phases in SoCal–primarily because I kept seeing phrases like “neglected episode in rock history” associated with the book (that phrase is off the back cover).  Since it covers the advent of punk in Los Angeles, we aren’t talking an area that is completely neglected, even in academic circuits (or, at least, I spend so much time with my head buried in that period that it doesn’t feel like it to me).  A jolt of honesty:  the band that first came to mind upon reading the title (and, indeed, the first chapter–I’m further along than that, but I keep tripping over my own thoughts) was (and this is where the “that’s not punk” arguments begin) Avenged Sevenfold.**

Just hang with me for a moment.

In his introduction, MacLeod notes “In the post-war era alone, Orange County (south of L.A.) went from rural to suburban to post-suburban.  The new types of localities contained industry (increasingly information-technology oriented), office parks, services, and shopping centers, as well as housing tracts.  For bored teenagers, though, this new type of psychogeography represented the worst combination of suburban exile with posturban desolation” (3-4).  I was a little surprised by this, in no small part because I needed to spend sometime boning up on my geographical terminology.  My experiences with human geography have tended to deal with rural areas, not terribly surprising given that I live in the South (which is obsessed with its own real and imagined “ruralness”).  I deal with cities on occasion, usually when dealing with, yes, punk, but I was out of my league here.  I wouldn’t have posited any form of “postsuburbia” any earlier than the 90’s, so I was well and truly confused.

So, to research.

According to the editors of Post-Suburban California: The Transformation of Postwar Orange County, California,:

Postsuburban regions have distinct locations for commerce, recreation, shopping, arts, residences and religious activities. These activities are often all conducted in different places which are linked primarily by private cars. This fundamentally decentralized arrangement makes postsuburban regions complex, incoherent, disorienting, dynamic, and lively. Postsuburban regions cannot be easily understood with traditional categories of suburb and city or by focussing on one city, such as Irvine, since residents of any one city travel throughout a post-suburban region for work, shopping, worship, recreation, and arts. (Kling, Olin, and Poster)

The key elements of the postsuburban experience include the spreading out of services and experience–not insignificantly– a nightlife.  Private cars are a necessity; often the post-suburban environment lacks significant (or any, in some cases) public transportation.  If I am imagining this properly, we’re looking at rhizome (Dear god, Deleuze and Guattari find me here too??)–multiple population centers without any single one being the “center.” I’m familiar with the set up–it’s more or less how my hometown is organized, though in the last few years (I think the plan existed for 20 or more, but I don’t recall), there has been the artificial creation and placement of a “downtown,” which cannot hope to actually function as a “center” in any traditional sense, as all the same things: food, hotels, shopping, recreation, etc. are available in places throughout the city–in various segments we loosely referred to as neighborhoods.

Anyway, what struck me in MacLeod’s remark was the word bored, one often associated with suburbia and, I take it, with post-suburbia; certainly that seems to be part of his claim about Orange County.   Suburban boredom came from exile–“there’s nothing to do here.”  One fled to the city for recreation and the vaunted nightlife.  So what of the post-suburban, when recreation moves home, though not necessarily next door (“over there” always has better stuff to do, more danger to find.  Ask any 80’s or 90’s Virginia Beach kid where the best drugs  and parties were, and my high school was always named.  Except by us.  Well, except for the parties.  We’d claim those, but “they” always had far better access to far better drugs.)  So what generates the boredom and the frustration in this environment?  And why the heck did I keep thinking about Avenged Sevenfold, even as I read about X, the Screamers, and the transformation of one Jan Paul Beahm into Bobby Pyn and then to Darby Crash (who, let us agree, manages to focus me and is an interesting example in MacLeod’s work that I will look at later)?

Or, to be more precise, why did I keep coming back to the band members’ collective backstories, which are replete with arrests, fights, expulsions, and general mayhem, other than the two obvious things–OC and my own misapprehension about timing.  The Orange County band has a heck of a backstory at that–ones that practically scream PR (and, are often dismissed as such), but not atypical, necessarily.  Good kids who found trouble and turned that trouble into art.  Kids with violent streaks, drug habits, and penchants for not always knowing where those fine lines between teenage misbehavior and troubled really were:

Shadows played basketball, earning a few scholarships – but only after years of run-ins over drinking. Vengeance was placed in honors classes, all of which he quickly flunked.  Seward simply dropped out. “If it weren’t for this, I’d probably be working a normal job and playing on the weekends for 10 people at the Irvine Spectrum,” he says.  Gates, who describes his divorced parents as “very supportive,” was still “tossed out of my home a couple of times. I was living out of my truck for a short while. My dad wanted to emancipate me at 16 and send me to music college. “But school never worked for us. We failed miserably, got expelled, you name it.” “We were all bad kids,” Sullivan says. “So, we stuck together. But what I got kicked out of my house for I make a living at now.”(Wener, OC Register)

Or this, which recounts Sanders’ (well, more to the point, his parents’) experiences.  By their own accounts, he was pushed into basketball and practice (and if this didn’t remind me of more than a few friends over the years) by his parents.  His rebellion?  Alcohol.  Fighting.  Arrests:

“This is how nightmares arrive. They walk up your driveway in a pack. With knives and chains and baseball bats. Twenty, maybe 25 kids. All of them high on rage. Most of them high on something else, too. They are here, at your so-straight two-story, in your so-straight neighborhood, with one so-twisted mission – spilling your son’s blood.” (Miller, OC Register, Feb. 2000. Link points to blog with full-text.  Register site wasn’t cooperating)

I’m not getting into the particulars of the parenting experience recounted in that article (my heart goes out.  There are phone calls no parent wants to make and no parent wants to get.  And damn near all of us get one or the other.  My heart still leaps to my throat when the phone rings, unless TG is in the house with me.  And even then sometimes.  Miller follows up 7 years later, noting “And you just learned that, two weeks after the story appeared on these pages, Dad was summoned to the police station, where he found his son bloodied and handcuffed to a post. Arrested again.” (Miller, OC Register, 2007. Links to a blog with the article.  Grrr.) .  The articles–the second from well before A7x was of note outside the OC–strike me as capturing a question–something that hasn’t changed, why are they so angry?  In this case, at least, boredom is not the word that comes to mind; if boredom, that perhaps it’s the boredom with false choices–be the basketball star or be the rebel.  Be good (successful??) or be pierced and tattooed (guitarist Vengeance (Zack Baker) articulates this particular idea fairly often, actually, even now–wanting to be both the success and the guy no one would look at and think successful).  If suburbia bored teens to untoward escapes to the city, what in the world did postsuburbia do?

The question of anger is one that comes up time and again with respect to punk (and metal, though they are handled rather differently).  Often, the anger that fueled punk is regarded (by punks then and by academics now) as righteous–American punk responding to the failures of the Reagan administration, for instance, just as their British counterparts responded to their own failing economy.  But, just as often, someone (yes, even the academics–and nearly always my students) asks–why so angry?

More than just a PR blitz for another angry metal band, the stories of the members of Avenged Sevenfold seem to tap at something essential, though I’m having a hard time articulating exactly what that is at present.  They strike me as archetypal experiences–and not just for the subset who would get to ride off into rockstarland (the determination, drive, and, (occasional–more so now–less so in some early encounters with the British press.  Oy.  Youth.) professionalism of the band is another story entirely).  Archetypes for a youth culture that has twisted and shifted and de-politicized (and repoliticized when useful) stylized themselves away from the youth culture of the 70s–but the anger has not abated, even if it has shifted–and, in the case of this band, perhaps shifted into a rejection of some proscribed visions of what success is supposed to mean.  I see it in my responses as a youth (and I am all of 6 years older than the majority of the band, after all, so it’s not that unlikely), though less so in my son’s generation, who, at least the ones I interact with, are chafing for a fantasy world of yesteryear, where success followed a certain script (that script having long since been destroyed).

Or something.


*Bonus points to anyone who pictured Noah Wylie just then.  More bonus points to those who know why that would be appropriate.

**Hokay, let me put my prof hat fly my geek/freak flag for a moment.  No shit, not punk–metalcore band, initially.  Metal, by their own estimation and by style (though with considerable punk influences.  Another post?).  Waking the Fallen and Nightmare are my favorite albums, in no small part because of the thematic similarities (go ahead, listen to Waking (ahem, WtF), you’ll hear the roots of virtually every theme (lyrically and musically) that the band works through in a more mature fashion on Nightmare.  Got away from them in City of Evil and went WAY the hell away on Avenged Sevenfold (though, I am enamored of that album as well) . Seriously, same themes.  Even the same fucking phrases.  I probably should write through that some day too).  Anyhoo, what I hear in Waking (and Nightmare and my favorite tracks on AS) is a persistent punk influence (not that this should surprise anyone and, lest anyone be under the impression that I’ve forgotten, such music exists on a continuum.  How do you pick a punker from a metalhead circa 1983?  Measure the hair), particularly in the speed of the drums.  I didn’t go see them when Jimmy was still alive; figured I had time.  I’d get around to it.  That, by the way, is what being a Guns N’ Roses fan does to you–I mean, if those 5 can still be kicking…

Drama Queens and Riot Grrrls

Apparently, according to my less-than-subtle subconscious, my mind regards me as something of a drama queen.  I’m not altogether surprised by this, mind you; I indeed fit the description from time to time.  However, I’m not sure I deserve what my brain chose for last night’s dream.  I mean, Rachel Berry?  Really?  I’m as bad as a teen drama queen from Glee???  Shopping for furniture? I figured out the Rachel Berry part–anyone with insight into dreaming about furniture shopping, feel free to analyze as you will.

For the record, I reject this characterization.  I am no Rachel Berry.

*********

Over the break, I read Sara Marcus’ Girls to the Front: The True Story of the Riot Grrrl Revolution, and I’ve been pondering it ever since.  Now, I typically avoid books with the phrase “true story of,” unless I am buying a bit of true crime  schlock (since one knows more or less where the bias will lie with those writers), but I was intrigued enough by a relatively concise history of the movement from someone who was not busily trying not to be a leader of said movement (there was a fair bit of that–I understand why, but it often ended up clouding the situation needlessly).

For those who are left clueless or struggling to recall what in the world Riot Grrrl refers to at this point, here’s Kathleen Hanna’s manifesto for the movement and Allison Wolfe’s response to Marcus’ book, which provides further context.  Even from my limited perspective, Wolfe is correct in her assessment that there are some dissonant moments (I’m trying to recall which one made me stop and stare at a wall for about 10 minutes, trying to figure out if I had completely lost my mind in my recollection of the history of American punk, but it was apparently insignificant enough in the end that I neither wrong WTF? in the margin nor can I come up with what the factoid was.  Assume that the triviality of it is indicative of the level of geekiness involved here).  And, while I’m not altogether thrilled at the dismissal of those who “sold out,” that’s one of my personal irritations with much of punk, though, again, I get it.  And the dismissals are often veiled or incidental; Marcus notes, for instance, that

L7 played second.  The LA band–whose breakout album, Bricks are Heavy, would drop the following week–had recently founded Rock for Choice, an organization that sponsored benefit concerts to support abortion rights.  L7 was also the only group that hadn’t objected to MTV’s designs on the night. (116)

The “designs” to which Marcus refers was MTV’s request to film the show in question.  For Bikini Kill and Fugazi, in Marcus’ words

But it was still the organ of commodified youth culture, and true punks* would have nothing to do with it.  Plus, the channel wanted to install tracks for its camera in front of the stage, cutting off the audience from the musicians.  There could be no better metaphor for the sinister reach of the spectacle, trying to butt its way into the middle of a human interaction, to turn an authentic exchange of energy into debased image-production. (115)

I feel certain that it is obvious why L7 might have acceded to MTV’s request, with their album set to hit the market.  By 1992, the relationship between artist and MTV was fairly well sealed (though, one might argue, it would become both murkier and more problematic in coming years–I’m looking at you TRL).  I get the point–MTV in the middle (literally, in this case) of audience and artist does change the dynamic–it has to, insofar as the physical separation, and, of course, to whom do you play on stage–the human audience sweating in front of you or the camera’s eye for the audience at home?  That choice is not insignificant; even as far back as Pirandello we were aware of that distinction (I don’t have a copy of Shoot in front of me, or I’d quote the matter right now).   Cell phone cameras (video and otherwise) have likewise altered the dynamic, even if the means of production are no longer in the hands of the devil, er “organ of commodified youth culture”.

In the main, Marcus’ book is well worth the read, at least from where I sit.  I learned a bit of context I’d never gotten before, and I realized a few odd, odd connections.  Her analysis of the media’s representation of Riot Grrrl is particularly worthwhile and noteworthy.

As I wasn’t part of the movement (though, as they say, every girl is a riot grrrl), it was the media representation that I was first met with.  I didn’t even hear the term “Riot Grrrl” until around 1993, likely after I was pregnant with my son, despite living only 3 hours from one of the revolution’s epicenters–Washington D.C.   Part of this comes from cultural context; Riot Grrrl had a hell of a time laying tracks period, but in an area culturally subsumed by large military bases and the headquarters of the Christian Coalition, feminism had an odd role in my hometown.  And my own head, which was largely pointed toward “getoutofheregetoutofheregetoutofhere” up until I discovered I was pregnant, left something to be desired when it came to listening to what was going on around me–particularly if it was something I might have regarded as helpful.

Because, at it’s heart, it would have been–a group of people who saw the world in similar colors and shapes to me?  Yeah, that would have been quite the lifesaver at the time.  And the things the members of the movement were regularly accused of–manhating feminists and the like–yeah, I heard that.  Often.  Usually from football players, but not exclusively.  I heard it from teachers who thought I had no place in a Physics class and friends who thought that picking me up in the air when I had said no already or me–ardent feminist and self-avowed bitch that I was–barefoot and pregnant was the funniest thing ever.  It took me far more years that I think I want to admit to realize the levels of fucked up I was not to see how insulting that was.

But, in reading Marcus’ book, I see some of what my friends and I were doing was similar–even without the context of Riot Grrrl, not incidentally “Girls to the front.”  Ladies of my general age, tell me if this sounds familiar to you:

There they’d stand, planting their legs in broad Vs and linking arms with each other or balling their fists at their waists, daring anybody to challenge their right to the space [at the front of the stage] where moshing usually held sway. (124)

Mosh pits in my hometown were not as wildly violent as such could become, at least until Desert Storm.  There was, at least from where I was standing (up front, of course) a pretty significant change around that time, not surprisingly.  The most notable experience I encountered was not in a club, but at an arena–at a Guns N’ Roses show in 1991 (I’m sure I mentioned this before), where the pit got so violent that scores and scores of people were pulled out.  Had the few women in the pit been able to lock together (as we did in other situations–usually smaller venues–and often not so much to hold back moshing as to hold back the jackasses who were trying to feel us up), we might have collectively been able to hang on that time.  As it was, I ended up–by chance, by height, and by broad shoulders, to be the last female standing on my side–and that by the end of the opening band.  My much smaller friend had to get out far earlier, for her own safety.

Little things.  Little connections.

********

Finally, a funny.  The search term that led some poor soul to this blog recently: “gravity’s rainbow coprophagia.”  There’s meaning there somewhere, right?


*ARRRRGH.  True. Punks.  *bangshead*

Be Here Now

That title haunted me all weekend, which something of a conundrum I suppose, since the haunting propelled me to a place I simply couldn’t be at that moment (no opportunity to blog).

****

Aaannnddd….that was the end of what I wrote in July. I *think* I tried to blog once after that point, but I also think I got about that far. I’ll not bore you with the tales of why I couldn’t write then and am forcing myself to do so now, but I’m sure the time will come when I can fess up.

Lord knows I usually do.

So, I’ve been forcing students to read old posts lately–those on the punk project that–embarrassingly–I never finished. Never really got good and started, for that matter. Reading through them reminded me of the other music project I intended to follow (well, one of them), and as fortune would have it, a book landed in my lap of late which recalls that particular project.

I wanted–once upon a blog post–to explore the gender identities in both punk and glam music cultures. I did look at some elements of gendered fantasy in glam, but I never finished (at least as far as I recall) the arc. I do believe I’m going to make myself get back on this particular hobby horse.

Last week, I was busily and happily buying books, and the following was recommended to me: Roxana Shirazi’s The Last Living Slut: Born in Iran, Bred Backstage. A number of sources have reported on this book since it’s publication in June (the linked article in Bitch has a host of links to other reviews and comments or, hell, just google it–warning–many of the pics posted on reviews and blogs are NSFW). Why was the book recommended? I’ve no idea–I assume it has something to do with the cover, which includes a certain GNR logo (the stories include a handful of GNR members and former members as well).

I don’t disagree with Shirazi’s “academic introduction,” “A Few Thoughts on the Word Slut,” at least in theory. I can get behind an attempt to reclaim “slut” from it’s derogatory usage,* in ways similar to “bitch” (a term she does not reference as a comparison). Should sexual double standards die an unseemly death? Sure–why leave all the fun to the cis, straight, sexual male folks? I am down with female sexual empowerment (and queer, and asexual, and….you get the idea, right?)

Only…I’m not sure that’s what I read here.

See, I can’t really disagree with Zeisler’s skewering of Shriazi’s book either. I found the autobiography to be extraordinarily depressing (which is saying something–it made me feel worse than I was already feeling!), in no small measure because of the conflation of abuse and debasement with empowerment. Now, it appears that in other sources (I’ve scanned, not read, them, so no linkage here), Shirazi clarifies some of her points about feminist empowerment, which is lovely, but as a feminist, empowerment tome, this book really doesn’t cut it for me.

A couple of things it does reveal, though. First, Nikki Sixx is, like, real man. Totally. Like, a person and everything. Who digs gardening! Shirazi reads this is boring and…ohmy!…not very rock. As you might imagine from the post linked there–I kind of disagree with her assessment and am baffled by her surprise, since, you know, there are these deliberate projections that are employed to sell music. And then there are the men behind the projections.

Projections and the humans associated with them are not identical–even if said humans do occasionally believe their own PR, and I think it safe to agree that Sixx has likely done just that from time to time in his career. Granted, the gardening-desirous human she encountered was decidedly not who she wanted that day, and her perceptions–misguided as they might be–are hers to own.

None of which changes how morbidly depressing this book seemed to me. The childhood setting (Iran) seems more exotic than significant. The childhood events, are curiously understated, particularly given other topics she addresses much more directly and without the soft-focused lens that glosses the exploration and abuse that marked her childhood– a “divine euphoria” during a Persian evening with her grandmother (38) or “duck-shaped bread,” the waiting for which caused her to shake “with uncontrollable joy” (23). Like the gardens of Nabokov’s youth in Memory, her childhood Iran was not perfect by any means, but her voice treats it with undeserved reverence (realizing that this is often true of childhood narrative–and more because it is her childhood than because of the setting. I think. The last remarks in the book suggest otherwise to me) that belies the remainder of her narrative. That’s intentional, I’m sure (I hope); I can’t imagine that the final evening of group sex with Buckcherry was intended to be a parallel to her childhood. If it was, it fails in every direction, as she had no power in her childhood, and I’m not sure she demonstrates that she had it in her later years either, especially not in the last bits about the politician.**
For the most part, her sexual encounters are…well, let me quote April Levy here on the subject of “sexy” versus “plastic erotic” from her book Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture:

I don’t feel titillated or liberated or aroused.  I feel bored, and kind of tense (81).

That’s pretty much how most of the encounters she described left me feeling (though, in truth, so did much of Dirt, to which this is frequently compared.  I can’t recall feeling as put off by I’m With the Band, but that may be a case of failing memory).  Some of the events are outright abusive–cases in which she was in no condition to consent, for instance.  Some are just…odd.  Some are so hyped up as to look comically banal in the end–such as her watersports with Synester Gates from Avenged Sevenfold (and that she seems delighted in his later discomfort is just disconcerting and irritating).

That she was absolutely obsessed with Axl was, admittedly, a bit heart-warming.  Her allowance that VR-era Duff is hot [she dismisses Appetite-era Duff as “essentially a subservient drunk” (105)] also gets a nod from me.  For reasons that are a tad unclear, Slash is dismissed as “not her type” at one point, and later she looks for him desperately.  Her accounts of interactions with Matt Sorum and Scott Weiland are..well…let me put it this way, I can’t say that is the first such description of Matt I’ve encountered and her accidental dismissal of Scott just amused me.

Shirazi and the other women she describes seemed determined to embody a particular image of rock woman–in one of the opening sections, she looks around, sorting through the particulars types of woman (BTW–“fat” women and “old” don’t come off well.  Are you surprised? I used the scare quotes here because I can’t really tell what either means for her) at the show.  I won’t say that guys necessarily come off much better (especially if “fat” or “old”), but they do get more of a pass than the women, especially if “fat” or “old” or otherwise “not my type” comes equipped with–and I feel it necessary to quote her here, but I can’t find the page–a huge penis–she refers to one man’s as a “museum piece,” if I recall correctly.  This image of women (my that was an impressive digression, wasn’t it?) is angel and whore–all corsets, lace, denim, and leather.  Breasts are large (“watermelon” perhaps being her most often used descriptor) and hair silky and highlighted.  Oh, and women are thin, though exactly how she means that is a bit unclear.

It is from this angle that I hope to force myself back into writing–the mythic construction of the rock n’ roll groupie.  So, I hope, here we go…I’ll try–try–try–to make the title post the truth.


*OED sidenote: favorite meaning for slut? “Foul Slattern.” Huzzah.

 

**Her article in HuffPo damn sure doesn’t. Goats. Seriously?  Yes, I get the joke, but the rest of the article leaves me as listless as her book.

The Ethics of Paradise

Sounds like one of those deeply etho-philosophical posts, doesn’t it?

Eh, not so much.

R. and I were chatting the other day (poor man made the mistake of asking me what I thought of Chinese Democracy (the album)*–I don’t, whenever possible), which led me on to the merry path of the wonders of AFD. During said ramble, I began to wax philosophical about the treatment of GNR in the “Paradise City” video, wherein the boys are featured in front of a cast of thousands of screaming fans–at Castle Donnington and at Giants Stadium. We’re talking over 100,000 fans in total. Now, bear in mind that GNR was the OPENING ACT in each case, but the video treatment is masterful. Our leather-bound heroes cavort

**Drift: TG just called me on the telephone. He’s in the basement….of the same house in which I sit, typing. Is this a case for justifiable homicide?**

ANYWAY, our leather-clad heroes cavort on the stages, framed to demonstrate their absolute control over the legions of fans at their mercy. R., who was one of the reasons my film class rocked last year, notes as I describe the way in which the video works as a kind of propaganda on the band’s behalf, lifting them from opening act to commanders of thousands, that the film, then, seems to follow Riefenstahl’s model in Triumph des Willens (which I had inflicted on the class). And, you know what? He’s dead on.

If you’ve never seen Triumph, you should. It is a masterpiece of propaganda, and film students, in particular, have no excuse for never having seen it. While her film is certainly one of the most frightening I have ever seen, Riefenstahl’s manipulation of the audience is nothing short of masterful. Take this scene, for instance, of the funeral for Reichspräsident Paul von Hindenburg in 1934. The high, long shots capture the sheer number of people surrounding Hitler and represent a piece of cinematic mastery that has been copied time and again, including in the final scene of Star Wars IV, where we see three figures, again surrounded by lines of evenly spaced figures in vaguely militaristic garb, parading toward a distant dais. Riefenstahl’s images are nothing if not imposing here. The scope of power held by the growing Nazi Socialist Party is, according to the image, immense. These shots, along with those of the adoring crowds that line the streets for the various parades included, are far more terrifying than the words of the speeches, in large measure because we have history to tell us exactly what such adulation would allow the Nazi Socialist Party to achieve and destroy.

Nigel Dick uses similar techniques in the video for “Paradise City” to demonstrate the relationship between stage presence of Guns N’ Roses and the crowd, who are, of course, not nearly as well-organized or controlled. And that, of course, was part of the point. Look at the frenzied madness this band generates! Now, unlike the scene in Triumph above, the band is never featured as the “small figures” in the center that grow ever larger until we are forced to look up at the podium in hero worship, as happens in Riefenstahl. Dick generally allows us to be level with the band, often participating from their point of view toward the crowd. The lore of this video is significant as the video was shot over two days, one day at Giants Stadium and the other (complete with footage of the band getting on a Concorde flight) at Castle Donnington for the Monsters of Rock Festival, where, during the concert and video shoot on August 20th, 1988, two fans were killed in the muddy melee of the festival, during Guns N’ Roses’ set. The story goes that the band decided to include the Donnington footage as a tribute to the two dead fans.

Consider that choice though in a different light. Some 107,000 people were said to have participated in that festival–an absolutely enormous number of folks moshing about in the muddy flats and pushing toward the stage. Two kids slip, go under, and are crushed. The band then includes footage of the event. Yes, it does work as a tribute, in so far as one might expect that the dead fans would have been mightily proud to have been included (however incidentally), but, if one takes a more cynical approach–the footage goes to show the bands’ power in the situation. So much energy is generated–instead of the ranks of controlled German militaristic columns, we have barely controlled chaos generated by one group–and the deaths of two fans serve to emphasize the chaos and the danger of “the world’s most dangerous band.” Mayhem, destruction, and death, the very stuff of rock-n-roll legend; in the lore of this video, those legends become quite real in the figures of Guns N’ Roses.

Dick’s footage (all of which, he notes on his website, was “directed entirely by phone and headset,”) further pays homage–and I’ve no idea if it was intentional or not, or if Dick studied Triumph directly or merely it’s myriad followers–to Triumph in the shots of the empty Giant’s stadium, which he then shows filling up, much as Riefenstahl does with her focus on the massive structures that were filled with or surrounded by the people involved in the shoot. Look, the images encourage, look at what we can fill with people. The empty-to-filled arena symbolizes power through the ability to call the masses forward. Riefenstahl has similar footage; take the one at left here, for instance; the crowd fills in a mammoth structure–notice how the long shot (here and in Dick’s video footage at left) dwarf the structure, which is clearly quite large, and that serve to illuminate (again) the massive number of people involved in both cases, though even here Triumph illuminates the control over chaos, where “Paradise City” encourages, exposes, and revels in the chaos. And that make sense, of course, as in the first case, the government entity would desire to demonstrate their absolute authority through the images of marching rows and columns of people and flags, just as the film underscores the party’s support of the German worker in the utterly bizarre (yet wholly regimented and controlled) chant sequence. Guns N’ Roses, on the other hand, has no such need; in fact, it does a rock-n-roll band, particularly one that had already made its name synonymous with danger and madness through the stories of fights and drug/alcohol use and abuse (those stories would likewise be part of the Monsters of Rock legend), great good to whip chaos into frenzy. This demonstrates a form of control, but the control is not manifest here in lines, but as throngs of moshing fans who worship at the stage and threaten to break lose at any moment. “Look what we can do. Look what excitement and danger we generate.”

The film and video both use air travel, interestingly enough, to underscore their themes. One of the first scenes in Triumph is an extended one shot from an airplane, showing the city below. While we are fairly used to such in 2008, imagine the power conveyed in those shots in 1934. These are ways of seeing that humans had never had ready access too; the paradigm shift involved with seeing a city from above is similar to that of the ability to see the Earth from space after 1946. And the group able to display that shift has great power. GNR, on the other hand, is working in 1988, long after such images are available, so the video instead shows the Concorde Jet, preparing to whisk the band off to Europe after the Giants Stadium show. How does this demonstrate power? The jet itself is pretty impressive, what with being both supersonic and supremely expensive to travel on, but bear in mind this little nugget: in August 1988, Appetite for Destruction had been out for only a year and a month.

The first album.

The opening band.

Thirteen months.

Follow the lore: 13 months from the streets of L.A., these guys are commanding thousands and flying the fucking Concorde. That’s a suggestion of significant power in a materialist world. The way in which Dick conveys this story is a masterpiece of subtlety. The Concorde shots are crosscut with flashier, color shots of Slash’s solo. We see first the very recognizable nose of the plane in Black and White (pictured at left) and then we return to Slash on stage. We cut back to the side of the British Airways jet and pan along the length of it, until we see the nose again, here centered, and, in the right front of the shot, members of the band walking toward the plane (we later see them boarding). Dick doesn’t need to tell us who we are watching. Look at the picture at right; Steven, Duff, and Slash walking toward the Concorde. Slash’s omnipresent top hat is visible against the white truck behind him. 6’3″ Duff, easy to pick out in most cases, is made more visible by the white cowboy hat he wears throughout the Giants Stadium scenes; by this point in the video, we are entirely familiar with the garb. No need to zoom in on the band here, we are simply given the opportunity to watch the exodus to the Concorde. Quiet power here.

That Axl shows up late in the video with symbols associated with the Third Reich is, I suspect, coincidental to my premise, but not to the band’s consideration of its power. Propaganda, after all, drives the legends of Guns N’ Roses and the Third Reich, doesn’t it? And Axl is hardly the first rock musician to play in Nazi garb; Darby Crash, anyone? The chemistry of crowd control is similar in these situations; the personalities on parade, combined with a message that speaks to a working class (the GNR lore often posits the band as working-class heroes of a sort, though, according to Duff and Slash, they were the only two to hold “legitimate**” jobs during the band’s formative years). We are one of you, screams the propaganda from both the film and the video, and, more importantly, we can provide control or chaos…whatever you desire.

So, what are we suggesting in this video? Certainly, one cannot credibly claim that GNR aspired to Nazi Power or were somehow influenced in that vein. The power of a stage presence that Triumph presents for Hitler and a score of GNR videos present for Axl–those are undoubtedly similar, and Dick uses a number of Riefenstahl’s techniques in order to convey such.

So what is the ethic “Paradise City”? The melee and power over chaos, themes that would continue throughout much of GNR’s oeuvre–consider the Wedding Party in “November Rain.” The excess, then, is a part of the power and control. Huh. What that says for the 17 year wait for a certain CD (the album) and the excess and control exacted there, is anybody’s guess, but, clearly, the video here serves to predict it.


*CD (the co-conspirator) wins for best review of “CD” (the song) (oh my):

As for the GNR…my first thought was, holy crap this song blows goats. I listened some more and reassessed my view on it. My first assessment was insulting to goats. There isn’t a creature that deserves such treatment. So, my final judgment on the song is that it sucks more than a black hole.

** I feel it necessary to point out that my use of “legitimate” may be problematic. Even Slash called Duff’s L.A. job “phone theft,” but that’s, again, part of the lore just as much as the “Izzy the Heroin Dealer” is.

Rock N’ Roll Fairy Tales

Once upon a time, a naive young scholar wrote a Master’s Thesis on Walter Benjamin and Opera. In the course of preparing said thesis, the scholar found herself gravitating toward Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte coloratura, the Queen of the Night. The final product did not delve into her initial concerns about the figure, as the committee was far more interested in the theory of allegory than in the reinvention of the figure of the witch-woman in Mozart and later operas. Naive though she was, said scholar was not stupid and chose to complete the thesis on allegory and opera, rather than following the development of the Queen in later texts.

So, the Queen has been resting quietly for some 7 or 8 years now, and I think she’s ready to make her return. Sort of.

Queen, if you’ve never met her (and you should), is a rather complex and, let’s be charitable, unpredictable character. During the intermission, she undergoes a transformation that moves her from what first appears to be a worried, if controlling, mother-figure to a manipulative bitch, the BPD mother from hell. She manages to embody the mother/bitch role in a single opera, though admittedly, this could be a failing on the part of the librettist, Emil Schikaneder, as much as a plot device: if you pay too careful attention, the Queen’s character makes no sense. She is, of course, a coloratura role, and such roles are conventionally associated with the psychologically unstable, but the transformation between acts is almost untenable, even by coloratura standards (heh, that was a fun phrase).

The figure of the Queen as damaged mother reappears throughout opera’s major female roles; again and again we meet the figure of a fallen or defeated woman, many of whom embody the most beautiful tones of their respective works. Catherine Clement, in her Opera, or the Undoing of Women, associates the gorgeous songs with the elimination of language for the women, particularly for Queen: “She speaks a language that terrifies and seduces, but do we have any idea at all what she is saying? She speaks not at all to reason…Coloratura is repetition stretched out on a flashy melody, in a register where the voice can do no more than emit—meaningless syllables, note after note” (73). Attempts to communicate while disassociated from languages are endemic to feminist text—see Gilman’s “Yellow Wallpaper” for a particularly noteworthy example. As for opera’s women, we watch the figure follow Benjamin’s prediction: “Prostitution…appears to contain the possibility of surviving in a world in which the objects of our most intimate use have increasingly become mass-produced…the woman herself becomes an object which is mass produced” (40). By the time we arrive at Berg’s Lulu, the bold figure is a prostitute.

So, I was thinking about the Queen and wondering recently about the imagined-female figures in 80s rock, where we find a great many completely voiceless, mass-produced women, and it dawned on me that she’s still around in my musical habits. I’m going to begin with the lyrics by all-male bands, but I will turn to the female groups as well, eventually (I never worked through female-composed operas…I need to do that sometime). I’ve identified several figures within 80’s rock, but I’ll begin with the one who seemed most prevalent and who charted highest: the Fallen Angel. She’s not a new addition to our modern consciousness; the good girl gone wrong (even Queen follows that trajectory in her attempts to keep Pamina from doing so) is endemic to literature and music: the simple soul taken advantage of, the prostitute with the heart of gold, and so forth. The 1980’s glam period of rock is replete with mythologies that are at once misogynistic and homophobic, and yet simultaneously androgynous. One myth particularly omnipresent in post-punk glam lyrics and videos is that of the “fallen angel”: the sweet young girl (usually Midwestern) who arrives in the big city (usually Los Angeles) only to have her dreams of stardom corrupted. We’ll look at three sets of lyrics and videos from the period: Ratt’s “Dance,” Poison’s “Fallen Angel” (duh), and Guns N’ Roses’ “Welcome to the Jungle*.” Scores of others exit—feel free to suggest.

The first of the standard markers is the establishment of the innocence/naivety of the featured “angel,” who is most often a “small town girl” with big dreams about (usually) Hollywood. Take young Susie, from Poison’s “Fallen Angel,” who begins her video career at her family dinner table. She is a stereotypical pretty blond, looking for a way out of what is, at least according to the lyrics, her small town life. The lyrics describe her initial arrival as “she stepped off the bus out on to the city streets/Just a small town girl with her whole life packed in the suitcase by her feet” (Poison). Her innocence is further confirmed by her apparent bafflement in the face of the Hollywood’s reality: “But somehow the lights didn’t/ Shine as bright as the did/On her Mama’s TV screen” (Poison). The term “mama” and the failure to recognize the difference between the real city and the imagined one serve to paint her as the innocent arrival. Ratt’s angel has a similar arrival, coming off a “Greyhound bus,” the young woman is “not a big city girl” but has “dreams to make it big” and “have [her]self some fun” (Ratt). Unlike Poison, Ratt’s video does not feature the Angel (though it may be featuring the “fallen” ones; the video is primarily about the band, not the song’s story); instead, the video features scores of women bouncing to Ratt’s joyful beat, all the while being ogled by the men in the club. Of the three narratives, Guns N’ Roses presents the most unusual motif; in the video, the fallen angel is Axl himself, rather than the young woman referenced in the song’s lyrics. Unlike “Fallen Angel” and “Dance,” “Welcome to the Jungle” does not specifically make reference to the innocence of the angel tempted by the city, though she is apparently a fairly recent arrival, given that the lyrics suggest that she “can taste the bright lights/but [she] won’t get them for free” (Guns N’ Roses). The video, on the other hand, prominently features Axl’s “hick” arrival, complete with hayseed in teeth; Susie (no, I don’t know why I insist on calling her that***) likewise arrives in Hollywood, right off the bus. The images are remarkably similar, so much so that I would love to suggest that the Guns were poking fun at Poison, but the video for “Jungle” was shot nearly a year before “Fallen Angel.”

The second marker is the city itself and its deceptive practices that will eventually corrupt the angel. Poison suggests that the imaginary images that lured Susie to Hollywood in the first place collapse quickly, leaving her aware that “The work seems harder/ the days seem longer/ than she’d ever thought they’d be” (Poison). Later, she “turns her back on her best friends and let[s] her family slip away,” while becoming “just like a lost soul/so caught up in the Hollywood scene…hiding all of her pain/trading her memories for fortune and fame” (Poison). The city, acting the part of Mephisto, draws her in first with the television images and keeps her with the “scene”: the “parties and limousines” (Poison). Ratt’s girl appears to fare somewhat better, though loneliness is similarly present: “It’s getting late to worry ’bout a date/Still you have no one/Twist of fate you know it’s too late/you turn on everyone” (Ratt). Of course, this angel need only “Dance” to eliminate her loneliness, whereas Susie ends up (in the video) riding off with motorcycle-taxi driver Bret. In “Jungle,” the city’s deceptions are omnipresent, and there appears to be little chance of escape (both in the lyrics and the video) except through madness or–perhaps–drug-induced escape (the video opens with drug-dealer Izzy attempting to sell to young Axl and ends with Axl, now all glammed up, walking away from a bank of TVs–yes, for the first MTV generation, TVs were quite the deceptive little devils, weren’t they?– that had formerly been featured behind a drunken Slash). The city, in “Jungle” makes any desire readily available (as is apparently true in “Fallen Angel”), providing “whatever you may need/if you got the money honey/we got your disease” (GNR). Later, we hear that the city will “make you bleed” and you’ll “learn to live like an animal” before it “bring[s] you down” (GNR).
As the Mephistophelean images of the city might suggest, the Faust-angels can be redeemed or damned, based on choices they make or the overall assumptions of each lyricist and videographer. Susie, once again attired in her small-town sweater, is apparently rescued by motorcycle riding Bret (well, perhaps rescued–I think we’re meant to see him as the prince, rather than the devil. He is wearing red and sunglasses, after all), which flies in the face of the lyrics, wherein “when her ship came in/she wasn’t there and it just wouldn’t wait” (Poison). Ratt’s dancer apparently needs only to dance, where she’ll “never be alone” (Ratt). “Jungle,” of course, ends with a threat–that “you’re gonna die,” and the transformation (via electroshock therapy) of the Axl-angel seems to suggest the same. The Axl-angel we initially meet, who refuses Izzy-dealer’s advances, is apparently dead and gone, replaced by the harder and more made-up Axl that ends the video; this Axl has experienced the violence and other treats the city has to offer**.

Now, I don’t mean to suggest that these women are “Queens of the Night,” but their dual roles of angel/whore do seem to emulate the dual role she played, and, as constructs of masculine fantasies, these angels are even more “unvoiced” than their predecessor. I plan to look into the constructions of femininity in other 80’s glam lyrics, especially those of female bands, in the not too distant future. Our fairy tales, it would seem, haven’t come particularly far.


*No one will be surprised to note that I find this one to be the most interesting.
**All of the band members appear in the “Story.” Slash, as I mentioned, is drunk on the street, and Steven and Duff appear in a room with Axl (who is consumed by TV) and a woman with whom Steven is sharing a bed. Now, exactly what the scence is meant to indicate is a tad unclear. Yes, it’s obvious what Steven’s getting up to, and Axl is having his breakdown, but WTF is Duff doing in there?
Edit to add:
***Well, glory be, I remembered why I keep calling her Susie. It’s the actresses’ name. Go figure.

Works Cited
Benjamin, Walter. The Origin of German Tragic Drama. Trans. John Osbourne. New York: Verso, 1998.
Clement, Catherine. Opera, or The Undoing of Women. Trans. Betsy Wing. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota, 1988.