DJ Aphasia, 18 Sept set

Happy Wednesday readers! After close to eight years away, I got back in the DJ booth last week at WOBC, our local college and community radio station, for an hour of “The Spirit of ’77.” I’m rusty, and It’s a mixed bag, of course, with great tracks from ’77 and after, some of the tracks that inspired all that gorgeous noise in ’77, and a few foils, too, just to remind us what that joyous ruckus was about.

 

Do get past the first 45 seconds certainly, which is a non-punk prelude, and then you’ll encounter a host of fun items without DJ patter this time, including The Au Pairs, the Dolls, Costello, The Clash, Scritti Politti, Pixies, Public Image Ltd., Patti Smith, Lorde (yes Lorde!–outside of hip hop, she’s best we’ve got today on social class), Television, Sleater-Kinney, and Gang of Four. Send me a note if you need info on any particular track. I’d post them in order, but that prevents a bit of serendipity, yes?

And here’s a link to a show that just went up in NYC, with great images of the Beasties, Madonna, and others, as just kids. And some of The Clash in various iterations, too.

BAD --
image by Josh Cheuse, used without permission.

Thanks for tuning in. I’m back on the air Thursday, 5-6pm, EDT, at wobc.org, and 91.5 FM in Northeast Ohio. Thanks for checking in!

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au pairs reprise — new punk (gender) history book

Greetings, all, with a special shout-out to those of you tuning in from Slovakia, Argentina & Peru!

It’s been quite a weekend, with yours truly performing his debut as a wedding officiant for some former students of mine. It was a delightful affair, and if you’ve got secular friends in the region of northeast Ohio looking for an officiant with punk historian credentials, I’m your man.

After Wednesday’s entry for post-punk gems, I simply can’t get The Au Pairs out of my head, and found that there’s even less information about them than most female-led punk combos, alas. I did track down this feature in Mother Jones, from June 1982, on lead singer Leslie Woods, in which she affirmed the punk credo of DIY: “The message we put over is anybody can do it.”

Mother Jones Magazine - June 1982 -- 28

Few bands, though, left us with as many danceable, aesthetically effective, and politically astute songs as “We’re So Cool,” “It’s Obvious,”   and “Pretty Boys”–to name just a few tracks off Stepping Out of Line, the 37-track collection on iTunes for a modest $17.99. A host of these tracks combine the propulsion of The Clash, the melodic funk of Gang of Four, and the feminist urgency of The Slits.  Woods is a big part of it, of course, but bassist Jane Munro (later Nick O’Connor) and drummer Pete Hammond work beautifully together, and on “wax”–a la  their Birmingham comrades The English Beat–the bass is kept high in the mix, and to good effect.

And yet: yesterday I picked up Punk Rock: An Oral History (2012), by John Robb, of Membranes fame, and long-time contributor to Mojo and Louder Than War (in which Stealing All Transmissions was recently reviewed). Give me a few weeks with this impressive beast, and I will offer a more elaborate impression, but it looks to be a solid UK complement to the Big-Apple-centric Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk, by Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain, and a solid contribution to punk rock historiography. The book devotes 400 pages to 1950-1977, and only the last 160 or so to 1978-1984, so perhaps we Au-Pairs aficionados should be satisfied with a fleeting mention as an example of a female-fronted band. Certainly a lot of forces weigh upon a figure like Robb when he’s assembling a doorstop-sized collection of this sort, and odd omissions are endemic to the process. As Jacques Lacan once noted, “I always speak the truth. Not the whole truth, because there’s no way, to say it all. Saying it all is literally impossible: words fail.”

And yet, as the Situationists implored, “Be reasonable, demand the impossible!” So it’s up to folks like you and me, when we’re putting ink to paper, or fingertips to keyboard, to recuperate the histories of our finest “Three Minute Heroes.” See you, Wednesday!

post-punk gems, v. 20 — au pairs

Hello readers all over, and welcome back to radio-SAT! It’s Wednesday, and it’s underheralded post-punk gems time again. The Au Pairs got their start in Birmingham in 1978, and released their first single on 021 Records. It featured “You,” “Domestic Departure,” and “Kerb Crawler.” As other bands did back in the day, they have a bit of fun with the format, and scratch “sink into his arms” and “arms in the sink” into the vinyl.

NME’s Paul Morley caught their 2 Sept 1980 gig at the London ICA, and offered prose that echoed earlier impressions of The Clash: “The group are out to shatter prejudices, challenge your sanity, patience, complacency. They perform with an almost mad commitment that makes all their songs riveting.” Their debut LP, Playing with a Different Sex (May 1981), includes a re-recorded version of “It’s Obvious,” and draws rave reviews. Sounds’ Dave McCullough regarded the LP as “a truly sensuous didactic record … [it] strikes a magic modern chord of common sense.” Playing climbed to #33 on the UK charts, and “It’s Obvious” reached #37 on the club play singles in the US. The album itself remains a real post-punk gem, and is worth checking out on the anthology of all their recorded output on the Au Pairs anthology on iTunes. iTunes may be an imperfect distribution system, but I give them credit for dealing with all the necessary lawyers to get a package like this to the marketplace.

Here’s a taste of what they were capable of live, where they really solidified their reputation. While the sound isn’t bad, it’d be great if some punk-o-phile sound engineer could get ahold of the Hurrah masters and clean things up just a tad.

Have a reverb-filled week, and we’ll see you Sunday!