Punk Slash! Musicals

Punk Slash! Musicals

DAVID LADERMAN
Copyright Date: 2010
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7560/721708
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    Punk Slash! Musicals
    Book Description:

    Punk Slash! Musicalsis the first book to deal extensively with punk narrative films, specifically British and American punk rock musicals produced from roughly 1978 to 1986. Films such asJubilee, Breaking Glass, Times Square, Smithereens, Starstruck,andSid and Nancyrepresent a convergence between independent, subversive cinema and formulaic classical Hollywood and pop musical genres.

    Guiding this project is the concept of "slip-sync." Riffing on the commonplace lip-sync phenomenon, "slip-sync" refers to moments in the films when the punk performer "slips" out of sync with the performance spectacle, and sometimes the sound track itself, engendering a provocative moment of tension. This tension frequently serves to illustrate other thematic and narrative conflicts, central among these being the punk negotiation between authenticity and inauthenticity.

    Laderman emphasizes the strong female lead performer at the center of most of these films, as well as each film's engagement with gender and race issues. Additionally, he situates his analyses in relation to the broader cultural and political context of the neo-conservatism and new electronic audio-visual technologies of the 1980s, showing how punk's revolution against the mainstream actually depends upon a certain ironic embrace of pop culture.

    eISBN: 978-0-292-79295-1
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. CHAPTER 1 LET’S DO THE TIME WARP WELCOME TO THE PUNK-MUSICAL FILM CYCLE
    (pp. 1-9)

    Jordan—intimate insider of the early London punk scene, circa 1976; notorious salesclerk at Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren’s seminal punk fashion shop, SEX; comrade of Johnny Rotten and Siouxsie Sioux—is up on a stage in the role of Amyl Nitrate, strutting around in a most shocking costume: plastic British flag wrapped around her torso, high heels, Roman warrior helmet, loads of splotchy makeup. She is auditioning for the media czar of a future British dystopia, one that looks remarkably like 1977 London. She is not singing; she is lip-syncing to the blasting music track, a punk version of...

  5. CHAPTER 2 SITUATING SLIP-SYNC IN/AUTHENTICITY, SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN, A HARD DAY’S NIGHT, THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW, BLANK GENERATION, ILLUSIONS, NICE COLOURED GIRLS, NEOCON 1980s
    (pp. 10-41)

    The key notion that hovers significantly around slip-sync is authenticity—perhaps more as a question than a notion. Of course, the question of authenticity permeates various discourses of postmodern culture, typically couched in terms of loss: is authenticity still possible, or still a relevant concept, in postmodern society? (Hutcheon,Poetics of Postmodernism, 6– 11; Connor,Postmodernist Culture, 7). In the more specific realm of mediatized performance, authenticity likewise needs to be reconceived.

    One vital thread of punk theory and practice has always prided itself on reclaiming a radical authenticity for postmodern rock culture. On the one hand, punk trashed conventional...

  6. CHAPTER 3 THE QUEEN IS DEAD JUBILEE
    (pp. 42-57)

    The overarching concept of in/authenticity put forward in the previous chapter is intended to help us appreciate slip-sync in the punkmusical film cycle. It is no coincidence, therefore, that in/authenticity dramatically marks the first film in our cycle, one of the first feature films to address punk, Derek Jarman’sJubilee(1978). The film has been hailed as one of the best and truest punk films, and derided as a shrewd, unfaithful appropriation of punk. I don’t mean to be cagey when I say that the clearest stance is to accept it as both, since being both captures the paradoxical, schizophrenic...

  7. CHAPTER 4 THE PUNK MEETS THE GODFATHER THE GREAT ROCK ‘N’ ROLL SWINDLE
    (pp. 58-68)

    Jubilee’s slip-sync articulates a music-image sensibility that critically comments upon new aesthetic, technological, and promotional music industry practices.The Great Rock ’n’ Roll Swindle(1979), Julien Temple’s experimental documentary on Malcolm McLaren and the Sex Pistols, shares its formal sensibility and cynical, self-reflexive tone withJubilee. Incorporating a collage of cinematic modes (animation, documentary, mockumentary, music video, narrative, diary, etc.), the film focuses on Malcolm McLaren’s narration of his creation of the group.¹ Like Amyl’s inJubilee, his confrontational and irreverent first-person address makes several subversive links between punk, rock history, and official British history, many of them loosely illustrated with...

  8. CHAPTER 5 YOUR FACE IS A MESS BREAKING GLASS
    (pp. 69-89)

    “Stereo TV: An Idea Whose Time Has (Almost) Come,” by Martin Porter; opposite, an ad for Scotch brand audiocassettes with the tagline “When we were breaking new ground in cassette sound, others were still breaking glass.” The article and advertisement face each other on opposing pages ofRolling Stone(September 17, 1981). Not surprisingly, the content of the article and the ad complement more than oppose each other. Porter’s piece reports the utopian projections of industry insiders regarding the advent of stereo television, especially since MTV just debuted on cable in early August of that year.Taking a poke at competitor...

  9. CHAPTER 6 AMERICAN SLIP-SYNC REMIX BLANK GENERATION, ROCK ’N’ ROLL HIGH SCHOOL, OUT OF THE BLUE, SMITHEREENS, LIQUID SKY
    (pp. 90-107)

    As we recross the Atlantic and move forward into the early 1980s, let us establish a loose overview of punk’s influence on American films. The last American punk film we took note of was Amos Poe and Ivan Kral’sBlank Generation(1976), a film I consider crucial for its formative articulation of a slip-sync aesthetic in the context of the original, late-1970s New York punk scene. The film’s overall unsynced presentation of punk bands performing in dingy nightclubs such as CBGB perfectly launched the punk musical’s slip-sync sensibility.

    But there is anotherBlank Generation film, this one released in 1979 and...

  10. CHAPTER 7 TALK OF THE TOWN TIMES SQUARE
    (pp. 108-120)

    Such vitriol was typical of the reviews that greetedTimes Squareupon its release in December 1980. Conceived and produced with much studio fanfare (a big budget, high expectations), ticket returns tell us the film failed miserably. One senses this was partially due to the clumsy attempts of independent-minded directors and producers hired to make a slick Hollywood film. Or perhaps it was due to Hollywood executives trying make a quick and easy buck on independent filmmakers and the cutting-edge rock music scene (as they had done successfully so often throughout the 1970s). In any case, beyond being remembered for its...

  11. CHAPTER 8 UH HUH HER LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, THE FABULOUS STAINS
    (pp. 121-138)

    Completed in 1981,Ladies and Gentlemen,the Fabulous Stains(hereafterThe Stains) was shelved by Paramount after preview screenings did not bode well. In 1984, the film saw limited regional release, notably a brief run at the Film Forum in New York City.

    But it eventually found, or was found by, a sympathetic niche audience, first on late-night late-1980s cable television, then again in the mid-1990s for its pre-riot-grrrl sensibility. Thus recovered from the garbage bin of film history,The Stainshas enjoyed screenings since the late 1990s at prestigious film festivals in Chicago and Sidney as well as runs at...

  12. CHAPTER 9 NOW ENTERTAIN US STARSTRUCK, SID AND NANCY, TRUE STORIES
    (pp. 139-157)

    Gary oldman doing Sid Vicious doing Frank Sinatra doing Paul Anka’s “My Way”—this is the slip-sync scene par excellence, the one that first inspired me to undertake this book. Perhaps no coincidence, it is also the one that culminates the punk-musical cycle with a kind of swansong climax. As the most mainstream, most commercially successful, and in many ways most fully realized entry in this punk-musical film cycle,Sid and Nancy(1986) seems to appropriately close it down.

    And yet whileSid and Nancyfunctions as an endpoint, it also signifies a new beginning for punk film. Or at...

  13. POSTSCRIPT SLIP-STREAMING
    (pp. 158-161)

    I began this study by invoking various contemporary scandals around live lip-sync, among them Milli Vanilli, Elton John’s castigation of Madonna, and Ashlee Simpson’s debacle onSaturday Night Live. I proposed that a critical look at the punk slip-sync film cycle would furnish an aesthetic and historical framework for considering such phenomena and, more importantly, the larger cultural stakes around authenticity, simulation, performance, and new electronic technologies. In the spirit of pressing punk’s potential for critical negation within popular culture, let us slip from live lip-sync to the virtual universe of Internet blogs, YouTube, and MySpace. Can the “explosion” associated...

  14. NOTES
    (pp. 162-171)
  15. WORKS CITED
    (pp. 172-180)
  16. INDEX
    (pp. 181-190)