Monday, May 18, 2009

Bad to the Bone playlists & thoughts on punk rock

Today would have been the fifty-eighth birthday of Jeffrey Ross Hyman, better known as Joey Ramone, had the world not lost him to lymphoma in 2001. (By the way, if you're in New York City, there's a Birthday Bash for Joey tonight at the Filmore--click on that link for details.)

I bring up The Ramones to highlight an aspect of Bad to the Bone I haven't discussed much, what with all the attention on vampires and dogs and, well, vampire dogs.

The music.

Like Wicked Game, Bad to the Bone is steeped in rock 'n' roll. It plays an integral part, not only for the characters' internal wellness, but in the plot itself. Songs are used to send messages, including a life-saving one, when our heroine Ciara is in the worst jeopardy.

(Speaking of music, before I forget, Shane McAllister will be live-tweeting the rebroadcast of his "Whatever" radio show tonight from 6-9pm Eastern in honor of Bad to the Bone's release. Stop by if you want to see what he plays and what he says about it.)

After completing the playlist (the songs that actually appear in the book, not the songs I listened to while writing it), I realized that nearly every era/subgenre of punk rock was represented:

  • Classic (The Stooges, and the Sex Pistols on the Chapter Title playlist)
  • Reggae Hardcore (Bad Brains)
  • DC Hardcore (Minor Threat)
  • Cowpunk (Meat Puppets)
  • Riot Grrl (L7, Bikini Kill)
  • Emo-core (Thursday)
  • Punk-inspired Grunge (Nirvana, Hole, Garbage)

Of course, every other kind of rock (blues, psychedelic, goth, etc. ) is also represented, and the Chapter Title playlist skews much more mainstream (there's even a disco song and a Plain White Ts cover of "Do You Hear What I Hear?").

Here are the playlists, for your release day enjoyment and beyond. If you'd like to put them on your own page, go to the playlist page and simply click on "Get code for your own site" at the bottom of each playlist.

BAD TO THE BONE Playlist ("Soundtrack")

Get a playlist! Standalone player Get Ringtones

BAD TO THE BONE Chapter Title Playlist

Get a playlist! Standalone player Get Ringtones

Why I Love Punk Rock

Despite my harmless exterior (seriously, no one ever looked LESS punk on the outside, and I am completely incapable of changing this), I'm a pretty angry person. I don't know why. I've had a good life. No major traumas beyond the usual. Maybe it's brain chemistry.

Or maybe it's because when I was a teenager it became obvious that there are plenty of things in this world to be pissed about. Things that pop stars wouldn't sing about, like dictators and domestic violence. Things like rape and global warming and the systematic disempowerment of the poor and middle class. Things like--okay, I'll stop. Point made.

But it's not just the socio-political elements of punk that I love. I love its sound, the lack of pretension, the straightforward making of noise for the making of noise.

Like Shane from Bad to the Bone, I have musical skeletons from high school. For him, it was heavy metal hair bands; for me, it was progressive rock, or "art rock." I would actually measure a song's worth not by how much it moved me viscerally or emotionally, but by how many key and tempo changes it had.

(I won't list the bands I loved then that I hate now--I'm much less willing to offend than Shane is--but one of them worships Ayn Rand, and the rest had members who went on to become partners in the law firm of Anderson Bruford Wakeman & Howe.)

What I don't love about punk is the scene, the cliqueishness, the pervading sense of judgment over whether you're "punk enough." I wouldn't last a minute in a hardcore club like Bad to the Bone's Outlander, because I'd be judged based on what I wear and how well I carried the 'tude. Since I'm only punk on the inside (where I keep it warm and safe), I'd be a total failure.

But that's okay. All by my little self I jam to new and new-ish bands like Anti-Flag, Flogging Molly, Bouncing Souls, NOFX, and Rise Against. I got all giddy over the new Green Day release last week (and oh please don't start the Green-Day-isn't-real-punk argument).

Frankly, I fret over the future of punk under an Obama administration. Not that there are no problems left to get mad about, but there's more a sense of everyone seriously trying to solve them in a mature, reasoned manner. Most people, I think, are willing to pitch in and figure a way out of our messes, rather than simply raging about them.

The Rock Against Bush CDs brought a lot of exposure to many of this decade's biggest punk bands. The Iraq War is our generation's Vietnam, but the personifications of that debacle (Bush and Cheney) are gone (okay, just Bush is gone--Cheney is on all the Sunday talk shows for some reason). It would take a truly bizarre turn of events to engender a Rock Against Obama compilation CD.

But punk has "endured" Democratic administrations before. During the nineties, after the long, punk-nurturing Reagan/Bush/Thatcher years, the genre turned towards pop (Green Day, Blink 182) and towards the more internal, personal stylings of emo (Dashboard Confessional, Weezer, Jimmy Eat World). So maybe all is not lost. ;-)

Enough musing. I hope you enjoy Bad to the Bone (which by the way comes out today). Drop me a line and let me know what you think, okay?

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I'm with you on not fitting in to what all the punks think you need to look/act like. I have eleven piercings (including a lip ring, nose stud, and two guage plugs) but other than that, I mostly just look like a bum. When I'm not dressed up for work, I'm normally slumming it in a band shirt and basketball shorts. Plus, my glasses totally scream emo.

Anyway, I totally enjoyed this post. I also think that punk will persevere through the Obama administration. Even if there are no new major problems in our country to get angry and write songs about, there will always be problems abroad to sing about.

Green Day may not be typical hardcore, angry punk rock, but they definitely sing about the issues. I actually loved American Idiot for it's mainstream-ness (new word, yay!) because it got people who normally don't listen to punk to really think about things.

Posted by: Blogger Sara M at 5/19/2009 1:50 PM

I stole some of your songs for my playlist. Hehehe. I loved BttB, finally was able to finish the last 15 pages in relative peace. It was different than WG, in the fact that there wasn't a runaway romance. You surprised me a little at the end, not once, but twice.

Now I want a WVMP t-shirt. Rage against the dying of the light. - Carrie

Posted by: Blogger Carrie Clevenger at 5/19/2009 1:51 PM

Sara: Yep, there's a conversation in Wicked Game between Regina and Shane where she disses Green Day for not being real punk & he comes back with, "Yeah, because they can actually play their instruments. Whatever." Then he plays her "She's a Rebel" from AMERICAN IDIOT.

I think they're great--I'm listening to the brand-new album this moment. So far it sounds amazing.

Shadows: Thank you, and yes, get that T-shirt so you can be cool!

Shane and Ciara can only start their romance once, so by definition BTTB will be different. (I don't mean that sarcastically at all, it's just a fact of a continuing-relationship story. People who want a romance, well, it's not here. Just plain old love, if that's OK. :-)

Posted by: Blogger Jeri at 5/19/2009 2:03 PM

I have listened to punk since I was about 8 yrs old. I still have all my old cassette tapes and have bought cd versions of them. Although punk is the closes to my heart I also enjoy many other styles of music. I was never punk enough because of that for all the other punk kids. Even with my liberty spiked blue mohawk and painted up jacket, piercings and tatts it just wasn't enough because I owned Johnny Cash tapes who in my opinion was one of the original punks. To me punk isn't about fitting in with any crowd not even the outcast crowd. It's about saying and dong what you want even if it's not socially acceptable. I don't care what people wear or how much money they have or any of that, so Jeri if you ever want to sit around and listen to punk with me I'll bring some music and beer and we can both not fit in together. Maybe we can even practice our Sid Vicious lip snarl just to try and be more punk than the other ;) By the way I love the music you have on the play list. I will adding many that I don't already have to my list. Oh and the people that say Green day isn't punk are just mad because that can't make that kind of money doing what they love. Old school punk is still my fav but I own many newschool cds too I'm even sitting here in my NOFX hoodie as I'm type this. Congrats on you new release and I can't wait to read it.

Posted by: Blogger Carmen R at 5/19/2009 2:51 PM

I'm so glad you know what punk is. xD Though I don't agree that the "new" Green Day is punk, the old Green Day was. But it really doesn't matter.

I haven't listened to punk since high school. Which was really a couple of years ago, but I really listened to it alot. I went and saw a lot of local punk bands, especially the Mansfields who used to do a Joey Ramone Birthday Bash every year and cover all kinds of Ramones songs. That was fun. I even saw the Unseen! xD The only punk band I still listen to are the Distillers, who broke up.

Posted by: Anonymous Anonymous at 5/19/2009 5:07 PM

I really, really enjoyed this post. Same here about having the look, I've never had it for any music genre. But then again I've never tried for look, I just enjoyed the music. I listen to what ever I feel is me for the moment, whether it's jazz, classical, punk, or hardcore rock. I think music can give people a better quality of life, IMHO.

Happy Release Day! I know BTTB will do real well, the WVMP series is just fabulous.

Posted by: Blogger Donna at 5/19/2009 9:51 PM

Great blog, Jeri. I wrote something similar a little while ago when I got kind of fed up about hearing whether or not my book, I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone, is punk enough (it's on MTV Books, how unpunk is that, sell-out!). Even though I do look punk on the outside to a degree (tattoos and pink and blue hair), I never ever felt cool enough or punk enough when I was a teenager. I was really self conscious about it. I tried to ignore it and focus on the politics (one of the biggest things that brought me to punk as well) and the way it made me feel inside (it released my inner rage and made me feel stronger as the kid who was always picked on, I guess. That's really boiling it down, but you get what I mean). The reason I abandoned punk briefly and went goth (Regina from your books would have totally been my idol at 18) is because I was so sick of punks pretending not to be pretentious and all about the image, so I thought I might as well be goth where they don't even pretend that it's not all about the image :)

Eventually I got out of that. I hit my early twenties and lost most of that insecurity of not being punk/cool enough (most of it, since I do still bristle when people judge the punkness of my book). Also I discovered a lovely little band called The Distillers who reminded me of everything I love about punk. The song I am Revenant. Damn.

I've also come to look at punk my own way. As someone who was part of the riot grrrl scene toward the tail end and who saw it fail to reach its full potential mostly because people were so concerned about keeping it underground, I *like* it when I see punk infiltrate the mainstream. I am so proud of my hometown boys Rise Against. I love hearing them sing about politics on mainstream radio. And Green Day--- the evolution of that band is SO awesome. I absolutely still adore their snotty pop punk from their Lookout! Record days and it is not like it changed that much when they went major label with Dookie. But now they are writing punk rock operas. Shit! How cool is that?

And I think their latest album shows how punk will carry into the Obama administration, the same way grunge bled into the Clinton adminstration. There is still so much fallout from what Bush did and so much discontent and distrust. Maybe we trust and are hopeful of Obama, but look at the situation with the banks, etc. There is still so much rage. The other day my fiance and I were listening to the Transplants (rap-punk?) song "we trusted you" and he said "this song reminds me of the banks." And I was like "'We line em all up and we gun em all down and we all celebrate when they all hit the ground?'" Wow, yeah there is still plenty for punks to be mad about in America.

Sorry for the diatribe. Loved the post sooooo much and the book too!

Posted by: Blogger Stephanie Kuehnert at 5/20/2009 1:47 PM

Carmen: I totally agree about Johnny Cash! And am envious of your NOFX hoodie. I think you're right that true punk doesn't care about any of the outer stuff.

Nozomi: I keep hearing the Distillers mentioned--I'm going to have to check them out. Thanks for the rec!

Fantasy Dreamer: Absolutely--I think love of music should come from inside us, not from what we are told is cool. The older I get, the less I care what other people think. :-)

Stephanie: I remember that post very well, and I was thinking of it when I was writing this, because I feel so much the same way. It sucks that people judged your book on such a bogus criterion. It felt so real to me and to so many people, what other basis is there for judgment? Grrr.

And yay for Rise Against and Green Day! I'd rather think about what mainstream is gaining rather than what punk/indie/alternative is losing by independent artists making it big. If it can open up the minds and hearts of the masses, that's a good thing. There'll always be a new band for us indies to "own" next week. ;-)

Thanks for all your comments, everyone! I love to hear your thoughts.

Posted by: Blogger Jeri at 5/20/2009 8:57 PM

Oh, I looovve the Distillers. Especially their last album, Coral Fang. It's not as punk as their first two albums--it sounds like Nirvana's Bleach with a better Courtney Love on vocals. A better better better voice. Brody Dalle is currently working on her new band Spinnerette that is obviously influenced by her husband Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age, but I love it.

Posted by: Anonymous Anonymous at 5/26/2009 2:41 AM

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