Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Beginning to see the light

An essay (PDF) by Ellen Willis about feminism and punk. More on Willis, the New Yorker's pop critic in the late '60s and '70s, from Sasha Frere-Jones, New Yorker's current pop critic.

It's got some really interesting insights, as well as a perspective that seems bafflingly quaint — really, you thought "God Save the Queen" was from "All the Young Dudes"? — but part of the essay is how Willis came to really get punk (the Brits showed her how) and love it, and it gives a nice counterpoint to the general narrative of punk being the sudden blast that killed Prog or Arena Rock or whatever. (It didn't.) Instead, Willis complains of having to explain to editors that punk wasn't tragically retro, too passe for publication.

And along the way, she nails some themes (like the too-apologetic-to-rock female rock band or the brief suggestion of class issues in disco glam) that resonate with contemporary music pretty presciently, along with making me think more about one of my least favorite Sex Pistol tunes ("Bodies" always felt like a less funny "Belsen Was a Gas").

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