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Monday, April 26, 2010

Rock History Is Written by the Victors

Posted By on 04.26.10 at 09:25 AM

The second thing I needed to ask Jackie Leven, after he'd told me how he came to collaborate with David Thomas of Pere Ubu, was how he accounted for and felt about the almost total erasure of his old band Doll by Doll from pop-music memory. He responded with what I think is a really funny and intriguing contrarian version of rock history in the 70s and 80s, wherein punk is the corporate side of the coin rather than the countercorporate insurgency:

"The main problem we had when Doll by Doll first came onto the scene was that it was a very punk-dominated moment and we just weren't a punk band. We liked the energy of a lot of punk, but we didn't listen to punk for ideas. Also our stage act was, I'm told, very violent and disturbing, but in a way that was most contrary to what I call the cartoon violence of punk. Punk had lots of aggression in it, but it was kind of a cartoon aggression. It was a bit like watching Tom and Jerry: if you saw people doing that, it would be very heavy, but because it was a cartoon it was not heavy.

"We were attempting to say serious and disturbing things about the human condition and it just turned a lot of people off, because it pointed in a direction in which punk had no interest whatsoever. And therefore the media that were attached to punk for a living as a belief system, if that's not too grandiose, just couldn't take it. But there was a lot more happening at that time than now is apparent—a much broader spectrum in terms of a proper uprising of ideas and intent and expression, the general energy of which punk managed to commercially annex. But I can think of quite a few other bands who nobody's got any memory at all of right now—the Homosexuals, the Yachts, Scars, Punishment of Luxury, probably many more—who had a strong moment of being revered for excellent songs and great performances. They couldn't all be famous I guess, but they were all as good, and a lot of them clearly better, than the acts that did break through. But sadly, the way it's remembered is the corporate way, and that's the punk and new wave thing."

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