Dec 282009

I’m reading The Nasty Bits, a collection of writings by chef and food essayist Anthony Bourdain. I’ve gotten into his local foods travel show No Reservations in a big way over the last month, and my insightful wife presented me with this book for Christmas. I knew nothing about this guy prior to getting into his show last month, and I’m enjoying the book, although it leans a bit more on his “Bad Boy” image than his tv show, which never fails to show the soft, sentimentalist behind the host’s attitude. The Bad Boy thing quickly runs out of gas with me, but he doesn’t push it in this book.

As part of expressing his Bad Boy side, he does make a lot of references to punk rock. I like when he drops a punk rock reference on his tv show. It’s good to know that “regular” people watching are forced to scratch their heads – or more likely that “we” are now among the regulars. In print, he drops even more punk references, and for some reason print references to music are more likely to bring out my highly judgmental side. Every reference to his love for The Ramones causes me to think, Yeah, of course. References to The Dead Boys help his credibility, but then I think, Man, those guys sucked! At one point he mentions playing Depeche Mode while setting up in the kitchen, and I begin to lose my appetite.

Obviously my judgments hold no water, and they are likely to say as much about my own deficits in taste as anything. For instance, I know some of you dig The Dead Boys and Stiv Bators’ 3rd-rate Iggy schtick. You may think I’m a pussy, and that’s cool. That’s one of the reasons we’re here.

As I get into the second half of this Bourdain book, one phrase sticks in my craw. He defines himself as having been “raised on the MC5 and the Stooges.” Every few pages I come back to that phrase: Can anyone actually have been raised on those bands – or the first wave of punk bands for that matter? I’m splitting hairs (and again, that’s part of why we gather in these hallowed halls), but doesn’t the word raised connote childhood and young adolescent experiences? I’m not going to waste my time looking up Bourdain’s age, but could he really have been raised on proto-punk bands in whatever early-to-mid-’70s period he would have first been exposed to music in a persona-defining way? Could any middle-aged person really have been raised on punk rock? How?

I’m hoping someone out there can lay claim to something similar to Bourdain’s claim. I want to know how you bypassed The Beatles, The Stones, Zeppelin, Bowie, The Who, and all the other mainstream rock most of us were raised on. My kids may be able to make such a claim when they grow up, because they’ve had their middle-aged, slightly hip dad jamming punk rock and obscure ’60s stuff down their throats like Farina, but did anyone around my age (46) actually suck directly from the teats of Rob Tyner?

OK, it turns out Bourdain is 8 years older than me, but my underlying question is, for those who cannot read between the lines, Has anyone really been raised on a slice of cool, underground (in your time) music, or is the person who says this hiding the fact that they were raised on some kind of uncool (even today) mainstream music? Dumb question, on many levels, but that’s one of the reasons we gather here.


  9 Responses to ““Raised on the MC5 and the Stooges””

  1. I’d doubt that he actually bought those MC5 and Stooges albums when they came out because so few others did (though he could’ve for all I know), but I knew he experienced the mid to late ’70s CBGBs scene first-hand, so raised on The Ramones, Dead Boys, etc. would probably be more accurate, though he was already in his 20s at that point.

    Nevertheless, I’m also a big fan of his TV show (as well as both of his books) and love it when musical references are dropped.

  2. There may have been some regional markets in the 70s in which these bands were better known. For example, were The Stooges household names for Detroit middle schoolers in 1971? This makes it conceivable that some current middle-aged people could have soaked in this music as an impressionable young person (although I share the Mod’s suspicion that most of these claims are probably whitewashes of personal music history)

    This came to mind after reading a recent Stamey/Holsapple interview about Winston-Salem in the early 70’s. Two key quotes:

    “…My experience with Big Star, for example, was hearing them—they were a hit band in Winston/Salem, and they were on the radio with bands like the Grass Roots and the Seeds. It’s just that they weren’t anywhere else but my hometown.”


    “The MC5 had just come to town and just really transformed the Winston rock scene”.”

    They also mention Free, Status Quo, the Move and Family – not *that* obscure, but still pretty much an alternate universe to the rock 70s I grew up in (and it does explain a lot about why the dBs were so far ahead of the curve when they came out in the late 70s). I suspect this was all mixed in with the mainstream rock of the day (plus AM top 40), so the idea of being “raised on” only Stooges and MC5 (let alone Big Star) while avoiding the better-known rock of the day is still probably a myth.

    If you’re interested, the full interview is here:

  3. Mr. Moderator

    I’m glad a couple of you are getting what I was wondering about. I’m looking forward to catching up on this interview. Thanks, noone.

  4. misterioso

    Lying is an ugly word, so let’s just say he’s “romanticizing.”

    I more than suspect Stamey and Holsapple are engaging in some revisionism, too.

    And I was raised on The Real Kids and The Neighborhoods, certainly never even heard of Boston, or Bob Seger.

  5. BigSteve

    Finally getting around to this thread. If the guy had grown up in Michigan, which he didn’t, this might be a little more credible. He was NY/NJ kid, born in 56. The MC5 broke up in 72 and Stooges in 74, and it’s not like their albums stayed in print or were widely available afterwards.

    So I don’t think the ‘raised on’ claim is to be taken literally. It can be translated as ‘formed my hipper-than-thou aesthetic retrospectively.’ I think all of us music nerds do that to some extent. I would say the Velvet Underground is a big part of my aesthetic now, but I didn’t discover them until after I was already a fan of Reed’s and Cale’s solo albums.

    And some of you have heard me tell this story before, but I actually saw the Stooges and the MC5 play on the same bill one night in 70 or 71, something like that. I might brag about it, especially to impress some young punk rocker, but I would never go so far as to claim I understood what I saw. The music I had grown up on did not prepare me for that night’s spectacle.

    Come to think of it, the whole idea of being ‘raised’ on these bands is kind of comical, considering their maturity level. But guess ‘I regressed emotionally to the Stooges and the MC5’ doesn’t sound nearly as cool.

  6. There’s a good story on this topic I remember from an interview with Nick Saloman (a.k.a. The Bevis Frond) about 20 years ago. I couldn’t find the zine for the the exact quotes, but here’s how I remember the story:

    Nick and Stuart Goddard (a.k.a. Adam Ant) were school pals and spent their formative years listening to and seeing Rory Gallagher, Status Quo and other British boogie and maybe some British prog. They went their separate ways after school. Early in Stuart’s punk/new wave career, Nick and some other friends from their school went to see him play. Stuart/Adam nervously pulled them aside and said something along the lines of “listen, if anyone asks, we listened to the Velvets, Stooges and New York Dolls, OK?”

  7. BigSteve’s story gets it right, I think. Plenty of people might have crossed paths with the Stooges and MC5 in their day, but few probably thought of it in the context of The Seminal and Historically Important Continuum From Garage Rock and The Velvets to the Punk Rock of the Future (Lester Bangs’s writings of the time notwithstanding).

  8. Many years later I’m just finding this.

    I can guarantee you that we DID in fact know about all those bands and listen to them growing up as kids in Winston-Salem.

    We got Kick Out the Jams when it came out (don’t forget it went to #30 on Billboard), and it was unlike anything else we’d ever heard. In 1970, I went to a New Hampshire prep school for 9th grade, hung with seniors who were deeply into the Stooges, Bob Seger System and the MC5, and played those bands’ songs with them in bands then. Then came back to WS and played them in bands THERE (meanwhile, the MC5 had played at the WS Coliseum May 9, 1971, and most every rock musician living there then went to the show and changed their setlists to include MC5 songs).

    Our bands played stuff like “Teenage Head” and “Rock and Roll Queen” when the albums they came out on were brand new. We had a band in 1973 (Little Diesel) that was directly inspired by the songs on Nuggets. And it wasn’t like the southern rock audience understood what we were playing–we simply thought they might like what they heard when we played it, not that they’d hear it on the radio. (And yes, WAIR 1340 played “When My Baby’s Beside Me” by Big Star as a new single.)

    So “misterioso” can posit ‘revisionism’ all he wants, but his take is incorrect for me, Chris, Mitch, and all of the kids I grew up with (and am still friends with decades later). Can’t speak for the late Mr. Bourdain’s experience.

  9. Peter Holsapple, as a now 60 year old who found inspiration in your band’s music when I was weaning myself off a childhood of AM pop, you just made my year and all the recent years Rock Rown Hall has been dormant. We used to have a series called Bullshit On. I appreciate you hopping in to call BS on any of us skeptics!

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