Saturday, August 04, 2007

Now They're Household Names

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Girls night out! Belinda Carlisle of the Go Go's, and friends, backstage at the Whisky


I remember when my mom casually mentioned to me that she saw my friend Belinda on television, "She's a Go Go girl?" Pretty funny. For people in my mom's generation (born in the 1920's), nice suburban girls did not become pop stars, and worse yet, they did not form punk bands.

Celebrity is an odd thing; always has been. But in the 1970s, there started appearing canonical texts on "stardom" from cultural critics and the Ivory Tower. Nowadays, there's even an entire academic discipline devoted to the study of celebrity. Its in Scotland at the University of Paisley (and you thought that was just a cool fabric design and rock n roll movement!)

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Debbie Harry of Blondie, 1978 at the Starwood - before "Heart of Glass"

Its not hard to imagine that some of the people fronting punk bands would find themselves on the pages of magazines. Some of them were quite attractive. But they were playing a whole different kind of music than was popular, and were in a milieu that had disdain for the mainstream, and the mainstream disliked them back, or worse - ignored them.

But from punk rock beginnings come many household names and even Rock n Roll Hall of Fame inductees! I just enjoy reminding myself that the category of misfits and outcasts to which I belong have made a mark on mass popular culture! Today's pictures are not new ones found in the old archive, but rather a collection of punk favorites who just happen to enjoy international celebrity and have sold a few million records.

Joan Jett & Nigel Harrison
Joan Jett and Nigel Harrison of Blondie, backstage at Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, 1978

Chrissie Hynde
Pretenders founder and frontwoman, Chrissie Hynde in Los Angeles at the now-defunct Tower Records


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Joan Jett and Billy Idol in 1978

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Billy Idol tries to go home, but even this stranger knows he's SOMEONE

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Rodney Bingenheimer, Mayor of the Sunset Strip with Go Gos guitarist Charlotte Caffey

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the late Bruce Gary of The Knack, who played that signature drum beat on the smash hit, "My Sharona" with Plimsouls drummer, Lou Ramirez, 1980

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His "Lust for Life" with all its references to sex and drugs and rock n roll is now the soundtrack for family vacations on television commercials. Iggy Pop may have inadvertently invented punk rock in the 60s, with his antics, his anger and his iconoclast performances and recordings. When he appeared on the mainstream and even conservative Dinah Shore Show in 1977 together with David Bowie to promote the album The Idiot, my father watched it - because he watched Dinah Shore. Later he told me this "Iggy fellow was rather indecent. Taking your shirt off on television is rude." Oh well...how does a 20 year old girl tell her dad that this indecent fellow was the hottest thing alive?

All these punks made an impression. Blondie and The Pretenders are even in the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame! Quite a few punks are - The Ramones, Sex Pistols, Patti Smith, Clash and proto punks, The Velvet Underground, to name the most important punk rock inductees (to me).

I guess the question - if there really is one - is: did the world get punk'd, or was it just about time that punk got its just due?

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