“Women Who Rock” and wear sparkly things

Tina Turner, represented by two dresses. All photos on this page by Wendi Dunlap.

The new “Women Who Rock” exhibit opens today at the EMP Museum. I saw a preview this week, and though I enjoyed it, as I left the exhibit I had definite mixed feelings about it.

The exhibit opens with a great photo of Joan Jett with a “takes no shit from anyone” look and a guitar slung over her shoulder. The next thing you see is a timeline, then a piano — Lady Gaga’s childhood piano, as it turns out. Appropriately, the exhibit starts with the music, or at least, one of the tools to create it.

Around the corner you go, seeing memorabilia of some of the earlier influences including Bessie Smith, Sister Rosetta Tharpe and LaVern Baker. It’s good that the exhibit reaches into pre-rock history, though I wanted more of it, history geek that I am.

Turning to your right, you see an impressive US-flag-style dress on a headless mannequin in a glass case, next to another mannequin frilly black and yellow dress sprinkled with tiny musical notes. The flag dress was made for Wanda Jackson by her mom; the yellow one was worn by Ruth Brown. There are some other memorabilia pieces in the display — Jackson’s guitar, Brown’s record — but what draws your eye here is the costuming. And this focus continues through the rest of the exhibit.

Joan Jett has a “Bad Reputation” and also NO HEAD.

We see sparkly dresses worn by members of the Supremes, really short sparkly dresses worn by Tina Turner, and flowing dresses worn by Stevie Nicks, Mama Cass, and the Wilson sisters from Heart. Loretta Lynn’s dress is essentially a 1980s wedding dress in pink: sparkly beaded bodice, big puffy shoulders, and a chiffon skirt. And a nice guitar next to it, but the “ooh, shiny” steals its thunder.

Some costumes are less girly: Joan Jett, of course, with a leather jacket (sporting a Keep Abortion Legal badge), and the outfit she wore on the I Love Rock & Roll album cover. Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth is represented with a shirt bearing the phrase “Eat Me” and the Rolling Stones’ tongue logo.

The definition of “rock” is pretty broad by the time you get to the Britney Spears and Shakira outfits, basically sequined pants with bikini tops. Both mannequins have belly buttons. I think Shakira’s gets a six-pack; no such luck for Britney.

There is a case nearby with a mannequin wearing something that looked like something out of a horror film, red and gross. Yes, it’s Lady Gaga’s meat dress — “meat jerky by now,” we were told. At this point I heard one of the other reviewers mumbling thoughts similar to mine: “Why is it all clothes?” To be fair, it’s not all clothes. Quite a few of the mannequins come with guitars, and some have album covers or magazine articles on display showing the clothing being worn. A few have handwritten lyrics or letters. There is a wealth of text to read about each performer. But the fundamental format of the exhibit is basically mannequins wearing cool stage costumes.

Cyndi Lauper: “She’s So Unusual” because it is definitely unusual to have no head!

The focus on the costumes seems to be both a positive and a negative. On the negative side, the heavy emphasis on costumes seems to crowd out memorabilia that I have seen in other exhibits — more letters, press, vintage posters, tickets, etc. It tends to define almost all the artists by their clothing, displayed on those (mostly) headless, nearly interchangeable mannequins. (The only ones with heads were ones with hats. And those heads were generic.) What’s important, it says, is what’s below the neck. This is what defines each artist. And this is problematic.

Women in rock are not about their clothes — the clothes are a sideline and kind of a distraction. Show me more video, show me more memorabilia — how about the kind of display where it feels as if “you are there” seeing some of them perform, instead of dead faceless mannequins wearing pretty clothing? What was it like to see Ruth Brown sing “(Mama) He Treats Your Daughter Mean” at the Mambo Club in Wichita, Kansas in 1956? What was it like to see Blondie at CBGB’s in 1977? The display is more “Nordstrom window” than “rock and roll.”

On the positive side, seeing so many mannequins does give you a bit of a feeling that “hey, there are a lot of women in rock, and this is only touching the surface.” And at the same time, it gives you that sense that they are just people like yourself — maybe shorter than you are, maybe thinner, maybe not — not some onstage demigods glowing under a spotlight.

I must admit that I personally find costume interesting. I’ve researched it, and it’s one of the aspects of history that draws my attention, so I enjoyed seeing the clothing, but I did not like that it really seemed to be the focus. Having costumes there is good, but the exhibit seems kind of imbalanced.

That does not mean you shouldn’t go see it anyway, though. Imbalanced or not, the exhibit is still fascinating. I just wish it could have been more.

Is this the Nordstrom half-yearly sale? How much for the dress in gray?

24 years ago this week: YEAH! Magazine #5, Bumbershoot Preview

This week I’ve got YEAH! Magazine issue #5 for you: the 1987 Bumbershoot Preview. We posted capsule previews for all of the local bands playing at that year’s Bumbershoot festival. If you were around here in the 80s, these names should bring back a lot of memories.

This was the last weekly issue. The weekly grind was a bit much for us so we switched to biweekly after this one.

(Click on the cover to download the whole issue as a PDF.)

24 years ago this week: YEAH! Magazine #4 is missing!

I went to scan YEAH! Magazine #4 today, and was disappointed to find that I don’t have a copy of #4. I thought I had a complete run of the ‘zine, but apparently not. I’d like to appeal to anyone who may have a copy of #4—I would like to copy it if you have one.

Since I don’t have this week’s issue for you, here’s a review of YEAH! #3 from the September 1987 issue of Blue Suede News instead.

Next week: The YEAH! Bumbershoot ’87 issue!

(Click on the image to see a larger copy.)

24 years ago this week: YEAH! Magazine #3

Following up on last week’s post, here’s YEAH! Magazine #3, featuring the Life, the Young Fresh Fellows, Sam Smith, the PopLlama Picnic, and more. (Click the cover to download the whole PDF.)

YEAH! #3, featuring The Life

This issue was reasonably solid, I think. The magazine’s volunteers weren’t burned out yet, and we were all pretty motivated. Some of the highlights this time around included another episode of Rob Morgan’s Two Katz and a Toaster, several references to Stump, The Band, and an early review of Soundgarden, sort of (as Sound Garden), by Danimal:

“Chris Cornell and Matt Cameron from Sound Garden, along with original Garden drummer Scott on bongos, were up next. Chris and Matt both played acoustic guitars; Chris played one of those with way too many strings. They played ‘Train Train,’ and a song, probably from this here new album, called ‘Painting My Face.’ A Syd Barrett tune and a great Zeppelin medley, then Scott got to sing Sonny Boy Williamson’s ‘Sloppy Drunk Blues.'”

Notice also that “Sound Garden” is listed twice in the week’s show listings—both times, as an opening band at a club show. Ah, the old days.

A famed Squirrels performance was also immortalized in this issue—the PopLlama picnic show at which the band jumped into the lake.

24 years ago this week: YEAH! Magazine

What were you reading 24 years ago this week? If you were in Seattle at the time, it might have been this:

Or this:

YEAH! Magazine was published off and on in 1987-88. I founded the magazine during the summer of 1987, after a long conversation with friends at the Hall of Fame club in Seattle’s U District. I had just gotten back from touring with Prudence Dredge as a vocalist, and a few of us were bemoaning the state of local music-oriented media.

The Rocket, where I had been writing for a couple of years, was good, but only came out monthly, and included a lot of national and international acts, not just local bands. That year, an issue of The Rocket had Bruce Springsteen ocn the cover, and some of the locals were not pleased. Springsteen didn’t need the press, they felt. Why not feature the local talent? The Rocket was great for what it was, but a lot of people felt the need for more. There was so much talent in the Seattle area, and so much going on.

So I figured there was room for a “local music supplement,” as it were. Something that would come out every week and list all the upcoming shows in the area, and write exclusively about local bands. Let The Rocket have Springsteen and U2—we’d write about the Squirrels and the Fastbacks.

One of the bands I was peripherally in at the time (Prudence Dredge) was on Green Monkey Records. Other bands I saw a lot at the time, such as the Young Fresh Fellows or the Fastbacks, were on Popllama. The Popllama/Green Monkey groups tended to have a common fan base, and most of the volunteers I was able to scrape up for YEAH! were friends or fans of those bands, so we tended to have an (unhealthy, probably) emphasis on that aspect of the Seattle scene. There was a lot happening elsewhere, and perhaps if I’d kept publishing longer I would have improved the ‘zine by covering the rest of the scene a bit more. But it was difficult to do when I was relying so strongly on friends/fans of the bands I knew well, and my own limited experience. Later that year Dawn Anderson’s Backlash started publishing, and it covered the Sub Pop groups and other stuff that YEAH! wasn’t doing a great job of covering.

We introduced YEAH! to local music fans by showing up at one of KJET’s Mural Amphitheater shows and distributing as many of them as we could. (I think we only had 250-500 copies of the first issue.) It was fairly well-received. The next week, we did it again, and people were actually waiting for us to show up. It seemed as if we were a success, but then again, the magazine was free.

I continued publishing YEAH! through the fall and early winter that year. We did manage to keep up the weekly schedule for a while, but it was grueling, and no one—including me—was getting paid. Ad sales were eventually enough to pay for printing, and nothing else. (The early issues were mostly printed for free or cheaply via several kind benefactors. The first issue was printed secretly overnight on a heavy-duty photocopier at someone’s workplace. A few more were printed by someone with access to an offset press, for a small fee. Later we went to an actual printer in Snohomish and printed on newsprint like a real newspaper. But the cost was high.) I couldn’t manage the weekly issues anymore, and had to print less frequently. I think my day job that fall was occasional temping or part-time work. I don’t remember for certain. I think I was barely surviving, and it was stressful.

Along with the logistical difficulties of publishing came the problems of publishing a ‘zine about your friends. I should have expected what happened, but I did not. Feelings got hurt, people started to fight, and eventually I decided I had had enough. I packed up my stuff and made plans to move to Minneapolis.

I moved to Minnesota in early 1988. Before I moved, I sold YEAH! to Holly Homan and Joe Davenport for $300. I still contributed occasionally after that, but I was no longer the editor.

I came back to Seattle six months later (long but not very interesting story), and soon ended up writing for Backlash.

Recently I was looking through my collection of YEAH! issues, and I thought it would be nice to get them scanned and online for people to enjoy and reminisce over. The first two issues are here, and I will try to get the rest of the issues from my tenure as editor posted soon. Perhaps I will post them on the anniversaries of their original publishing dates.

I am glad I published YEAH! I learned a lot and had a lot of fun doing it. It did cause a lot of upheaval in my life—much more than I’ve gone into in this brief post. Much of that time was very difficult and stressful. But the net result was positive.

I hope you enjoy this glimpse into Seattle in the late ’80s.

70s kids, check this out



Photo by Waffle Whiffer.

While browsing Flickr this weekend, I stumbled on an amazing photostream with lots of great pop culture stuff, particularly packaging and advertising characters from the 1960s-1980s. If you grew up in that era as I did, you’ll see a lot of familiar stuff in Waffle Whiffer’s great photostream. Look and reminisce. The photo here is just one example of the fun stuff found there: a late 70s Kool-Aid package with the classic Kool-Aid design, before the envelopes got busy and over-designed. I didn’t even like Kool-Aid that much as a kid, and yet the envelope always made it look so good! Heyyyyyy Kool-Aid!

Zelda hearts laptop sleeve

Becca used my Detlef-13 felted laptop sleeve pattern to make a laptop sleeve with Zelda hearts. Very cool idea. I love how the last heart is half-empty; I guess that had to be done, otherwise they’d just look like normal hearts. Lots of old game graphics lend themselves quite well to the pixelly quality of multicolor knitting. Perhaps I’ll create some game-related charts that I can include with the Detlef-13 pattern.

Random YouTube vid: Pee-Wee Herman and the Alien Invasion

I just stumbled on Pee-Wee Herman and the Alien Invasion, a very short super-8 film shot by an 8 year old (back in the 80s, I assume). Pretty well done, considering. The claymation part works nicely. It’s not all that exciting, I guess, but it made me smile anyway.

You can compare it to Pee Wee’s Brain, which was an actual clip from Pee Wee’s Playhouse, also with claymation.

Happy birthday, Slumberland BBS!

Today marks the 17th birthday of Slumberland BBS, the bulletin board system I started in 1991.

Slumberland is a Citadel board; that is, it runs one of the many kinds of Citadel BBS software. There was a time when the Seattle area had tons of Citadels. Mine is probably the last one standing. Up until only a few years ago, you could still dial in to it, using a modem and a voice line, but now it’s telnet only (if necessary, though, you can get there from a java applet on a web page.

When the BBS went up in March 1991, it was running MacCitadel software on a MacPlus. MacCitadel was OK, but it had some quirks (the kind of quirks that could eat your whole message base), and it could not network with the other Seattle Citadels. Which was important at the time, since most of us had no Internet access, so we used Citadel networking to send our messages across long distances. (As far as Texas and New York, which was pretty impressive at the time.) So I picked up a used 286 from my employer and started running TwitCit in July 1991. Later I switched to GremCit and eventually Citadel+, which is what the board runs today.

Slumberland, like most Cits, is a “message board”; it didn’t exist for games or file downloads, but for conversation. (Though we did have the odd file here and there.) We still post messages in the various “message rooms” (topic areas), and the software now also has live chat support, so many of us just hang out at Slumberland all day long, chatting when we can.

I wonder what I would have thought if, in March 1991, someone told me that Slumberland would be up and running 17 years later, and it would be the last survivor of the old Seattle Citadel network.

Anita Rowland, R.I.P.

One of the original Seattle bloggers, Anita Rowland, lost her battle with cancer yesterday. She was the host of the Seattle Weblog Meetups, and one of those people that it seemed everyone knew, either through blogging or through her activities in SF fandom. On Metatalk, Dylan said “She was a connector. Were it not for her, I wouldn’t know at least a dozen people here in Seattle. She was the ‘den mother’ of us Seattle bloggers.” And that is the truth.

Bloggers invade KOMO



Photo by l0ckergn0me.

Last night KOMO-TV hosted a local blogger get-together at Fisher Plaza. I was a little suspicious — after all, they promised us food, alcohol, and swag, and why would KOMO want to do that for a bunch of misfit bloggers? But it sounded interesting, and despite last minute misgivings (I am a major introvert), I attended. To my surprise, I had a pretty good time! I did not see some of the folks I expected to see there, but did run into some other familiar names. I also met a lot of really neat people I didn’t know of before, so now I’ll be adding a lot of blogs to the reading list.

The photo here is the group photo taken in the Northwest Afternoon studio. I have other photos in my Flickr stream.

Thanks to Chris Pirillo for organizing the event!

Possibly the worst music video ever

Someone on Metafilter mentioned this a few days ago, with a comment something like “what is up with this video?” But until I got around to watching it, I could not have imagined how weird the video really is. Someone on YouTube put it best: “I’m not sure if I just watched a music video or a prom clip of a transvestite hooker with her klingon date. A great song has just been ruined. But I might watch this video 500 more times, just to be sure.”

I bring you: Hall and Oates, “She’s Gone”: