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The Sex Revolts: Gender, Rebellion, and Rock 'n' Roll

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Iggy Pop once said of women: "However close they come I'll always pull the rug from under them. That's where my music is made." For so long, rock 'n' roll has been fueled by this fear and loathing of the feminine. The first book to look at rock rebellion through the lens of gender, The Sex Revolts captures the paradox at rock's dark heart—the music is often most thrilling when it is most misogynist and macho. And, looking at music made by female artists, it asks: must it always ...

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Overview

Iggy Pop once said of women: "However close they come I'll always pull the rug from under them. That's where my music is made." For so long, rock 'n' roll has been fueled by this fear and loathing of the feminine. The first book to look at rock rebellion through the lens of gender, The Sex Revolts captures the paradox at rock's dark heart—the music is often most thrilling when it is most misogynist and macho. And, looking at music made by female artists, it asks: must it always be this way?

Provocative and passionately argued, the book walks the edgy line between a rock fan's excitement and a critic's awareness of the music's murky undercurrents. Here are the angry young men like the Stones and Sex Pistols, cutting free from home and mother; here are the warriors and crusaders, The Clash, Public Enemy, and U2 taking refuge in a brotherhood-in-arms; and here are the would-be supermen, with their man-machine fantasies and delusions of grandeur, from Led Zeppelin and Jim Morrison to Nick Cave and gangsta rap. The authors unravel the mystical, back-to-the-womb longings of the psychedelic tradition, from Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix, and Van Morrison to Brian Eno, My Bloody Valentine, and ambient techno. Alongside the story of male rock, The Sex Revolts traces the secret history of female rebellion in rock: the masquerade and mystique of Kate Bush, Siouxie, and Grace Jones, the demystifiers of femininity, like the Slits and Riot Grrl, tomboy rockers like L7 and P. J. Harvey, and confessional artists like Janis Joplin, Joni Mitchell, and Courtney Love.

A heady blend of music criticism, cultural studies, and gender theory by two of rock's keenest observers, The Sex Revolts is set to become the key text in the women-in-rock debate.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Attempting to focus on rock 'n' roll's underlying misogynies, freelance critics Reynolds and Press claim that two distinct male characters dominate the genre: the angry rebel and the sensitive mama's boy. They argue that the rebel image, exemplified by groups like the Rolling Stones and Throbbing Gristle, blames mothers for the degenerate youth culture and incites negative, if not violent, portrayals of women. Opposite such groups are those who bring the rebel full circle: dreampop, ambient and noise artists like My Bloody Valentine who have revived psychedelia's romanticism. Left stranded, then, are women who have had to find their place among these two male forces. While Patti Smith and Kate Bush have turned to males as role models, Kristin Hersh and Courtney Love have formulated their own brand of music. Yet the authors speak less about how women have dealt with the misogyny, spending more space defining the rebel and boy personas in this clinical analysis. (May)
Library Journal
Gender is at the core of rock. In this music (historically created by males), the tension of love, lust, and hate between the sexes is a central issue. In addition, rock, from its inception, has challenged the validity of culturally imposed sex roles. Journalists Reynolds (Melody Maker, New York Times) and Press (Spin, Village Voice) address these issues determinedly and knowledgeably. Methodizing gender motifs within male-created rock, they contrast a snarling misogyny (e.g., the Rolling Stones) with an awe-captured, oceanic mother-worship (e.g., Pink Floyd). Especially provocative is the authors' taxonomy of role imagery among female rockers: tomboy rebel, riot grrl, mysterious masquerader, vulnerable confessor. As Robert Walser's excellent Running with the Devil: Power, Gender, and Madness in Heavy Metal Music (LJ 5/1/93) considers only the metal subgenre, Revolts emerges as the only complete analysis of gender in rock music. The writing is intelligent, evocative, and engaging, rich in thought without becoming ponderous. Even those readers who question the authors' nervy paradigms will find this an authoritative, comprehensive history of rock. Thorough, unique, and challenging, Revolts belongs in almost every academic and public collection. Highly recommended.-Bill Piekarski, Southwestern Coll. Lib., Chula Vista, Cal.
Booknews
Blending music criticism, cultural studies, and gender theory, this analysis traces the precursors and prototypes for rock rebellion, examines the diverse forms of misogyny embedded in particular rock subcultures, evaluates gender, identity uncertainty and other themes, and examines female rockers and their music from their earliest incarnations to the present. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674802728
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 5/28/1995
  • Pages: 428
  • Product dimensions: 5.61 (w) x 8.68 (h) x 1.35 (d)

Meet the Author

Simon Reynolds writes about music and popular culture for the New York Times, ArtForum, the Observer, and Melody Maker, and is the author of Blissed Out: The Raptures of Rock.

Joy Press writes about music, books, and women's issues for Spin, the Guardian, Village Voice, and New York Newsday.

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Table of Contents

Introduction
Pt. 1 rebel misogynies
1 Angry Young Men: Precursors and Prototypes for Rock Rebellion 2
2 She's Hit: Songs of Fear and Loathing 19
3 Careers in Misogyny: The Stranglers and Malcolm McLaren 33
4 Born to Run: Wanderlust, Wilderness and the Cult of Speed 43
5 Brothers in Arms: Combat Rock and Other Stories for Boys 66
6 Flirting With the Void: Abjection in Rock 85
7 Wargasm: Metal and Machine Music 102
8 I Am the King: Delusions of Grandeur from Jim Morrison to Gangsta Rap 117
9 My Way: The Cult of the Psychopath 141
Pt. 2 into the mystic
1 From Rebellion to Grace: The Psychedelic Mother's Boy 156
2 Back to Eden: Innocence, Indolence and Pastoralism 159
3 Starsailing: Cosmic Rock 181
4 Flow Motion: Can, Eno and Oceanic Rock 191
5 Soft Boys: Nostalgia, Incest and Zen Apathy 211
Pt. 3 lift up your skirt and speak
1 Double Allegiances: The Herstory of Rock 230
2 One of the Boys: Female Machisma 236
3 Open Your Heart: Confession and Catharsis from Janis Joplin to Courtney Love 249
4 Woman Unbound: Hysterics, Witches and Mystics 276
5 Who's That Girl?: Masquerade and Mastery 289
6 Un-typical Girls: Post-Punk Demystification 306
7 What a Drag: Post-feminism and Pop 316
8 There's a Riot Going On: Grrrls Against Boy-Rock 323
9 Body's in Trouble 332
10 Adventures Close to Home: Domesticity's Tender Trap 347
11 All Fluxed Up: Rebels Against Structure 354
Afterword
Notes
Bibliography
Index
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