Meanwhile, as I lay teaching, the Runaways keep blowing up my Google Alerts. First, there was the news that Cherie and Lita have recorded a Christmas song — though those who listened to Ms. Currie and me on “45 North” already knew this. Before last year, Ford and Currie had been incommunicado since the Runaways guitarist exploded at the Runaways vocalist during a photo shoot some 35 years prior (as readers of Queens of Noise well know).
But as quickly as those “Runaways reunion” headlines could appear, news outlets began circulating Joan Jett’s statement about the “downside” of a reunion — even though she made those comments almost a month earlier. This is not great publicity for Joan as she gets ready for the launch of her new album, Unvarnished — it makes her look like she’s spoiling the party, where the truth is a lot more complicated, I’m sure.
Classes have started at LMU, where I teach; hence my relative silence here at Populism. Balancing writing and teaching is never easy, and my blog always seems to suffer most. I’m hoping that will change, as this is the first year when I am not trying to write a book as well as teach a full load. Instead, I’m busy publicizing that book. Teaser: Some very special activities are being planned to celebrate the publication of Queens of Noise. Watch this space for more.
I try to keep my various duties as integrated as possible. To that effect, I’m teaching a new course called Revolution Girl Style: Punk Feminism Then and Now. It’s a seminar for first-semester students, part of this year’s new Core Curriculum. Nineteen wonderful young ladies are looking to me to train them in the ways of the university (thankfully, I have a writing instructor too — go Liz!), but more importantly, to inspire them with the music and mottos of Riot Grrrl.
On Day 1, I played videos of the Runaways performing “Cherry Bomb,” Bratmobile performing the same song, and Miley Cyrus’s VMA performance two days earlier. The latter is what we educators call “a teachable moment.” The students had a lot to say — it was one of the best discussions I’ve had in a classroom. And it was refreshing to see it all from their eyes — and depressing to realize that they weren’t even born when the original Girl Night occurred (depressing because in 1991, I was already older than they are).
Their first assignment is to read Queens. No, I’m not just trying to generate some easy sales. The idea of the First Year Seminars is for professors to teach to their research interests — and the Runaways is what I’ve spent the last four years researching. Their story encapsulates the perils and power of women rockers before Riot Grrrl. They were a direct influence on Revolution Girl Style — i.e., that Bratmobile cover. And for better or worse, Joan Jett et al have inspired Cyrus’s clumsy attempts to shed her virginal Disney image. Long before the VMAs blew up in her face, Miley was the exploding Cherry Bomb, performing a Runaways/Jett medley live. Yeah, she’s no Cherie Currie or Allison Wolfe, but she doesn’t lip-sync and she means it when she says she doesn’t care.
But Cyrus is a side note. After the Runaways, we’ll talk about the explosion, and then implosion, of Riot Grrrl, and its reemergence via Pussy Riot et al. Here’s the syllabus, subject to change. Sorry: the class is full. Revolution Girl Style syllabus