Session/Séance 8a: IASPM Panel 1 Rethinking Origin Tales in Glam, Folk and Punk Rock

Session/Séance 8a: IASPM Panel 1. Saturday/samedi 27 May 2017. 11:00AM - 12:30PM, EJB 216.
Rethinking Origin Tales in Glam, Folk and Punk Rock
      Moderator: SEROUJ APRAHAMIAN (York University)


1. “Hey Babe, Take a Walk on the Wild Side”: A History of Glam Rock’s Origin (But with a Little More Glitter)
     Ryan Mack, Western University

Holly Woodlawn was from Miami. Candy Darling was from Long Island. Jackie Curtis indeed had an affinity for James Dean (Highberger 2015). Each of these transwomen moved to New York City and became an Andy Warhol film superstar throughout the late 1960s to early 1970s and in 1972, they were all immortalized in Lou Reed’s song “Walk on the Wild Side.” As the three superstars gained notoriety in the New York pop art scene, glam rock – once called “transvestite rock” (Rudis 1971, 29) – was taking shape on both sides of the Atlantic. Glam rock incorporates aspects of gender bending and drag aesthetics into its musical performances, playing with both masculine and feminine signifiers. From its intersections with Warhol’s art/pop scene (Cagle 1995), to its theatricality (Auslander 2006), and to its global impact (Chapman and Johnson 2016), glam has been an object for exploring gender politics since its emergence, through to its impact on twenty-first century artists, such as Lady Gaga (Reynolds 2016). Glam’s history has been widely discussed in relation to both androgyny and gay culture, yet its historical intersection with transgender folks remains marginalized. Following Van M. Cagle, this paper situates Warhol’s Factory as an important site in glam’s history, one where rockers, such as David Bowie, Lou Reed, and many others, observed a number of “non-normative” gender aesthetics, including dress, makeup, and gesture. Utilizing Foucauldian genealogy (1984), I re-excavate glam rock’s formation during the late 1960s and early 1970s in order to complicate its “easy to trace” beginning (Auslander 2006, 71). This paper aims to identify that there were influential transgender folks, such as Woodlawn, Darling, and Curtis, who were at the centre of glam rock’s emergence, and that they had a stylistic influence on some of the genre’s most iconic performers.

Keywords: glam rock, transgender, history, genealogy, Warhol


2. Fire of Unknown Origin: Patti Smith, Androgyny, and Punk Rock
     Brittany Greening, Dalhousie University

Patti Smith was one of the first female performers to carve a space for herself in rock and roll without adopting a limited role such as those that had previously been available to women in the genre. While male glam rock stars like David Bowie have been celebrated for the feminized androgyny of their performing personae, Smith’s androgynous persona has been described as “tomboyish,” and she is often criticized for trying to be one of the boys. Her work in the New York punk scene contributed significantly to punks’ resistance of the commodified culture of arena rock. Through close examinations of Smith’s performance strategies, including her repertoire, stage performance, and vocal presence, I aim to show that her performance of gender on sound recordings and during live shows opposes such a simplified analysis. Informed by Patti Smith’s first memoir Just Kids as well as the works of Philip Auslander, Joanne Gottlieb and Gayle Wald, Judith Halberstam, Simon Reynolds and Joy Press, and Angela McRobbie, I intend to consider the ambiguous and sometimes contradictory nature of her gender performance. While she resisted tradi- tional performances of femininity as a means of constructing an artistic space for herself that intended to transcend the limitations of gender, Patti Smith had a tendency to both overlook her context as a woman performer of rock and roll, and to inadvertently perpetuate the very masculinist traditions that she strove to transcend. Because of these interacting intricacies, I argue that Patti Smith’s androgyny can be read at once as a strategy of resistance, and as a means of constructing a legitimate space for herself in rock n’ roll.


3. Corvus Corax: Revising German Folk Rock as “Medieval Rock”
     Kirsten Yri, Wilfrid Laurier University
How can one imagine belonging to a community when the concept of community itself has negative associations, as it does in Germany with National Socialism? This paper explores the German rock band Corvus Corax and their attempts to continually remake the past, as a creative answer to Germany’s problematic history of nationalism. Attracted to the community ideals and ideological values of 1970s English folk rock bands, Corvus Corax began to set ‘authentic’ folk texts and melodies, rendering them in acoustic arrangements akin to the English bands who inspired them. Eminently aware of the National Socialist associations that ‘community’ (Volksgemeinschaft) and ‘folk music’ (Volksmusik) carried in Germany after the Second World War, German ‘folk’ bands chose Middle High German (medieval) texts, ultimately inventing ‘medieval’ rock to sidestep Nazi connotations with the label ‘folk.’ Medieval music and ‘medieval’ rock is also part of the ‘medieval market’ scene in Germany which has grown exponentially since its advent in the 1980s to more than 2000 markets a year, suggesting that the appeal to community and community ideals fills a gap in German national consciousness. Besides invoking the semantic shift from ‘folk’ to ‘medieval,’ I argue that the band adopts the figure of the medieval minstrel and asserts that his multilingual texts, ‘foreign’ instruments, and colorful performance practices speak to an inclusive, diverse and democratic community. Paradoxically, they do so by first positioning the medieval minstrel as a punked-up, marginalized ‘outcast.’ The cultural capital of this outcast status helps medieval rock bands like Corvus Corax carve out a space for marginalized voices who, in their new privileged positions, offer a kind of retribution for Nazi politics of exclusion, racism, and authoritarianism. However, despite their attempts to revise the notion of community as inclusive and diverse, Corvus Corax’s actions are unable to counter the current rise of fascism.

Keywords: community, nationalism, folk, Corvus Corax, medieval rock



Saturday Schedule | Programme - samedi
(Session 8 | Séance 8)

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