If 1991 was “the year punk finally broke in America,” it wasn’t for a lack of trying. From the CBGB’s crowd in the mid to late-70s, to No New York, to SST, hardcore, the class of ’84, Steve Albini and Touch & Go, Ian Mackaye and Dischord… punk had been bubbling under the surface up and down the East Coast, out West and back to Middle America for most of the 1980s. Just what defined punk was a slippery beast, pretty much summed up by statements like, “No, we’re more punk than you because we’re more ____ than you!” (Fill in the blank with words like “hardcore,” “abrasive,” “mean,” “political” or “fucked.”) In 1991, Nirvana’s Nevermind brought “punk” to the masses, dressed up as something called “Grunge” and made into a slick pop record.
“Grunge,” Seattle-style, was more of a fashion statement than a musical style, but the genre tag had been around for a while. In the 1980s, the name was applied to bands whose music could be described as such (in the adverb sense), and no band fit the name better than Pussy Galore (although another label for the genre was “pigfucker,” which I think is the best genre name ever). Somewhat forgotten in the lead-up to the American punk explosion (or firecracker), Pussy Galore made some of the filthiest rock imaginable. It was positively diseased. Originally part of the DC hardcore (or, harDCore, if you’re nasty stupid) scene, PG was so reviled there that they pretty much had to move to NYC. They never held a steady line-up, their live shows were a mess, they never sold all that well and there is some doubt as to whether or not they knew how to tune their guitars.
Common subject matter for a typical Pussy Galore song included sex, teenagers, Jews, pussy, beatings and/or some combination of the afore mentioned. I’m sure there is a Pussy Galore song that is about Jewish teenage lesbians fucking and beating each other up. Song titles (as well as the only-occasionally decipherable lyrics) took on racism, sexism and prudes head on, unflinchingly shoving the grotesque bits of human nature in the audience’s face. The music was all out of tune guitar mass (up to four of them, paying no attention to the others), no bass and a drum kit decorated with metal pipes, bits of sheet metal and a trash can lid or two, over which singers Jon Spencer and Christina Martinez called people names and told each other they wanted to fuck but just weren’t all that good at fucking. Talent was not an issue with this band—pure attitude was enough.
The Pussy Galore family tree, if you will, stretches far and wide, and includes much more popular bands like Boss Hog, Royal Trux, Howling Hex and Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, but none approached PG’s absolutely nasty take on 1980s American punk. In honor of the 20 year anniversary of Pussy Galore’s first foray into the LP game with Right Now!, I’m going to write a fake (fake!) interview with singer/spokesman Jon Spencer circa 1987. You’re not going to learn much, (but I think that’s in keeping with the spirit,) as I’ve never met the man. I was eight when this “interview” even could have happened. I think I owned a couple of tapes at that point. My favorite song was “Rebel Rebel” (the Bay City Rollers version).
So, here it is. Enjoy!
Zingzing: Good afternoon, Mr. Spencer.
Jon Spencer: Jon, please, Zing.
ZZ: Much appreciated, but it’s “ZingZING.”
JS: No problem.
ZZ: Thank you for that.
JS: Yes, sir.
ZZ: No need for the “sir!”
JS: All right, you fuckin’ prick, get on with it…
ZZ: OK… You were originally from the D.C. area, but quickly moved to NYC—why?
JS: New York’s dirty.
JS: What? You want more? D.C. had Dischord. That whole scene sucks. No sense of humor.
ZZ: Why do you assume they have no sense of humor?
JS: Well, when you make fun of someone, and they don’t laugh… they have no sense of humor… do you understand?
ZZ: You publicly declared your hatred for Ian Mackaye and Dischord Records.
ZZ: Mmhmm. Would you consider your song titles “funny” then?
JS: What’s not funny about “Teen Pussy Power,” “Groovy Hate Fuck” or “Cunt Tease?”
ZZ: Well, they aren’t very funny, but they are a little… gross…
ZZ: …I’m not offended by the word.
JS: No, I’m saying “YOU ARE A PUSSY.”
ZZ: Well, you seem to like saying it.
JS: Ooohhh, testy…
ZZ: Let’s move on. So you moved to NYC in 1986 and released a full album cover of the Rolling Stones’ “Exile on Main Street…”
JS: Yes, yes I did. All me.
ZZ: Stop it.
JS: Whatever. Move on.
ZZ: Later that year, Bob Bert, formerly of Sonic Youth, joined on percussion. It seems that he uses mostly scrap metal for percussion…
ZZ: …is that true?
JS: That’s what you were getting to? For fuck’s sake, learn to do your job! Yes! Everything’s trash! Our drums: trash! Our guitars: trash! Our studio: trash! Our songs: trash! Our women: trash! At least according to our mothers, who are all trash!
ZZ: You project an image…
JS: That’s it! I’m getting naked!
ZZ: Please don’t.
JS: [Gets naked.]
JS: You want to walk away?
ZZ: Yes and no.
JS: Do what you think the situation demands.
ZZ: Does it demand something?
JS: Everything demands some sort of reaction. What will yours be, I wonder…
ZZ: Ahem. You project an image—dirty, confrontational, almost pornographic…
JS: Naked, at least…
ZZ: Sexy, in a way…
JS: Are you hitting on me?
ZZ: No! No!
JS: You look like a Jew.
ZZ: [Stunned.] What? You’re just pushing my buttons.
ZZ: Was that racism?
JS: What, to go along with all that misogyny earlier?
ZZ: Well, yes…
JS: Is that what you think?
ZZ: I have to wonder.
JS: I’m glad. I’m right here in front of you… in all my naked glory… what do you see?
JS: What’s that look? You wanna get pussy stomped?
ZZ: How much of this is a joke to you?
JS: Is it funny to you?
JS: There you go.
ZZ: But what about you?
JS: I take this very seriously.
ZZ: But the music is so over the top… so… repulsive. Would you stop doing that with your nipples?
JS: Then why listen? And, no!
ZZ: Well, after a while, you do figure out that you guys CAN play your instruments… it’s not all accidental…
JS: Well, I can play. I don’t know about anyone else. They might be faking it.
ZZ: There’s a slippery funk underneath it all…
JS: “Funk?” As in George Clinton?
ZZ: I was thinking James Brown.
JS: I like him. Okay.
ZZ: Your vocals resemble his, in that they seem to be used more to conduct than…
JS: Have you even listened to my lyrics?
ZZ: They are really hard to understand…
JS: Fuck you.
JS: Fuck off.
JS: OK. Magic word. Go on.
ZZ: Thank you…
JS: Think nothing of it.
ZZ: Why did you cover Einsturzende Neubauten’s “Yu-Gung?”
JS: I like German things.
ZZ: Like what?
JS: Like Einsturzende.
ZZ: Anything else?
JS: Schnitzel, burley women, Nazis, facial warts…
JS: Oh yeah, I forgot you were a Jew…
ZZ: I’m not! For fuck’s sake! What is wrong with you?!
JS: PUSSY STOMP!
And so, I learned what a “Pussy Stomp” really is. It’s a dance, I suppose. It’s very painful to witness first hand. Even in my fantasies, I take a beating…
And so must you!