Old School Week: It all changed with The Violent Femmes…

Photography by Megan Neddow

Well… unless you are absolutely NOT paying attention at all, zero, zilch, denata, etc, you may have noticed the batter up top has changed to reflect the state of mind I happen to be floating in.  Inspired by yesterday’s vinyl mixtape Prog The Needle, that’s right kiddos, this week is officially……


By the way, the chubby-faced kid with the striped shirt, ‘fro-ish looking hair, and the cutie sitting on his lap? Yep… that’s me.  Oof.  I think that’s 8th grade-ish?  Not sure.

Anywhosal.  Does that mean we’ll only be showcasing older gems?  Nah, but I’m thinking something from the past each day would certainly be a nice change up, eh?  Eh.  So let’s get to it!

Too often these days we hear the phrase “game changer”, some bullshit PR/review/give me hits to my tech blog/etc thing you say when you are about to describe some toy that’s supposedly going to change your life.  The iPad anyone?  *shrug* whatever.  For me, game changers come in the form of music.  Albums/songs/artists that, after hearing them, spin my musical growth in a whole new direction, a whole different world.  One of the most important ones — not the only one, but definitely an important one — and maybe even one of the key ones for you as well, and many others for that matter, was the self-titled debut by the Violent Femmes.

How many teenagers have looked down at that album cover and thought about what it means?  Ah, to be a teen again (no thanks)…

Let me tell you how I came about this album.  Though it came out in 1983, it took 6 years before it made it into my car and finally into my ears.  Somewhere, one night, back in & around 1989, maybe early 1990, down in Tampa, FL, I was having a debaucherous night out in my piece o’ shit 1980 cream-coloured, hatchback spray-painted green, hood hand-painted with a plasma-esque birdish thing, hubcap attached to the grill, driver door nailed shut (it was broke), Western Auto stereo w/ Western Auto amplifier attached to two home speakers strapped into the back Pontiac Sunbird.  Here’s a rendition I did for a Portugal. The Man post from 2008.

To say it was it was an interesting night out for me would be quite an understatment.  I was out with a few people and Maya.  The reason I remember Maya’s name is because I secretly had a crush on her, so much so that I have no clue who else was with us that night (was anyone else really there?).  She was a huge Cure fan and I pretended to like them too (I was actually still a massive Prog fan from my middle school years hanging with fellow Prog freak Doug who’s name is actually Bill, but I didn’t think it fit him so I changed it to his middle name one day and it happened to stick).

So yeah, night out as a young 16ish year old, in my “new car”, with some people and this cute girl.  We are all jamming out to who the fuck knows what (they were shoving all kinds of cassettes in my stereo) and just driving around.  But then Maya says she has something that I’m going to love and pulls out of her bag a cassette, not a Violent Femmes cassette, but something else.  I can’t remember what.

The hiss fills the car, but then as I’m fiddling with the shitty amplifier, the acoustic bass of “Blister In The Sun” starts.  You see, we were pirates even way back then!  Maya had a copy of the Violent Femmes taped over whatever the hell the tape actually was.  A little scotch tape and a little time and BLAMO, file shared.


What happens next can only be describe as eye-opening.  I was always a bass guitar freak (that’s how I fell so hard for Yes) and what Brian Ritchie was doing to that giant mariachi bass bordered on molestation.  It was glorious.

As much fun as “Blister In The Sun” was (songs about masturbation really spoke to me), next was “Kiss Off” which seemed to be saying exactly what I was saying but never had the balls to say.  As if I wasn’t sold yet, “Please Do Not Go” came in and swept me off my feet.  I knew the words before & was singing along with the rest of them before the song ended.

“Add It Up”, with its rhythm change ups, crazy bass, it was the “acoustic punk” with bits of what I love about prog all rolled up into one!  Oh oh oh my.  And, of course, “Good Feeling”.  Breaks your heart every damn time you hear it.  Later it would be my song for any & all heartbreak (way too much heartache back then).

Later that night when I dropped everyone off, my crush had transplanted from a person to a sound.  She told me who it was & I left smitten (and Maya nearly forgotten).  The next day I bought it and Hallowed Ground (which I would come to love so much more later on) and everything changed.

I couldn’t get enough of it, it was all I listened to.  I got their new albums, I got their side projects, their 7″‘s, their stickers, their solos, the albums by god knows who that featured Gordon Gano singing back-up for 3 seconds on that one song, their promo-only CDs I found in record shops, their anything.  For the next 10 years my music world would be built off the Violent Femmes family tree and any branches, seeds, or specs of dirt that were near it.  It was a great system! For example, it got me re-into the Talking Heads — you see, Jerry Harrison of Talking Heads produced Blind Leading The Naked… it was connections like that where’d I’d find new music.

My love would wane eventually with seeing a much older, squatter, and very un-enthused Femmes play in a couple shows years later, the lack of new material, general over-playing them, and (as we’ll discuss later) the discovery of Weezer, but what a 10 year run they had on me.  All because of this album & that night.

I can’t tell you how many angsty teenage nights I’d sit in my room listening to these records, how many drives to school & work this was the soundtrack to!  Or the night I sat in my car with my girlfriend in the parking lot of a tennis court late at night just listening, not even making out (that was later).  I can’t tell you how many Violent Femmes mixtapes I made for anyone and everyone, for every new friend I made, or every music conversation partner I had.  I don’t think I can tell you how important this band, and therefore this album, was to me.

During those 10 years… I’d be so broke at times, no home, living out of my car, selling off my records and later CD collection for money, except, always except, the Violent Femmes albums.  So funny. Even now, I clean up the external hard-drive and I don’t delete those mp3s. I rarely listen, but I don’t delete.

It’s been a while but today we listen, we remember, we go old school with The Violent Femmes!


1. “Blister in the Sun”
2. “Kiss Off”
3. “Please Do Not Go”
4. “Add It Up”
5. “Confessions”
6. “Prove My Love”
7. “Promise”
8. “To the Kill”
9. “Gone Daddy Gone”

10. “Good Feeling”

While we are at it… let’s do some more viddy vids. It’s funny, back in the 80s/90s, catching the rare viewing of a Violent Femmes video was an event for me. Now? It’s just a youtube search. Blamo.

American Music!

Here’s “Good Feeling” someone made… Old school burlesque? Actually NSFW… weird!

Ah, the “updated” Blister In The Sun for Gross Pointe Blank.

A home job for “Country Death Song”

Classic finale to Why Do Birds Sing?, “Used to be”…

One of my faves off New Times, “Mirror Mirror”

No clue how they came to make this one… but holy shit! “Machine”…

“Man In The Sand” from Gordon’s new band!

And a new song from Brian Ritchie’s new band… Surftastic!

Femme link love!!!  Official | Gordon’s New Band | Brian’s New Band



3 comments for “Old School Week: It all changed with The Violent Femmes…

  1. June 3, 2010 at 12:34 PM

    Confession: Blister In The Sun is the only song I KNOW that I know by The Violent Femmes. There may be others I’d recognize… but I kinda doubt it!

    Thanks for spilling all the beans here, and giving me a classic to dive into!

  2. June 3, 2010 at 12:39 PM

    You got to try Hallowed Ground. Probably their best album! And for fun, so much fun, Why Do Birds Sing? is essential. THEN you dig into their less popular odd balls. One of their least loved is one of my faves, New Times. A very odd & wonderful gem!

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