Aug 062007

In the past, we’ve covered one of Rock’s Doomed Fashion Trends, the Headband. Today, I’d like to take a look at one of Rock’s Resiliant Fashion Trends.

Check out the following video, in which Toni Childs’ duets with a famous soul man and a star-studded supporting cast.

Despite the overall fine performance alongside the legendary Al Green, despite Carlos Santana‘s flaming red suit, despite the star-studded, mulleted backup singers, the real star of this clip is Toni Childs’ Look, which I’m calling the Suburban Guerrilla Look.

Every few years the music industry cranks out a chick sporting this combo of an Afro-centric headwrap and cloak, brightly colored beads, and beneath all that bedazzled trim, a smart business suit! Beneath the suit is an ill-defined mass of could-be sexy flesh, but who knows for sure? The Suburban Guerrilla does not appear in anything less than three layers of clothing.

I need your help, Townspeople. Who was rock’s first Suburban Guerrilla, Ricky Lee Jones? I believe it all dates back to Janis Joplin, but Janis never had the suburban foundation of the smart grey suit. Or is it as simple as Miriam Makeba? Without ever wearing anything more than a betet and a pancho, the great Joni Mitchell herself exuded this Look. Is the Classic Stevie Nicks Look an important precurssor? Who’s followed in the wake of these titans of suburban bohemia? I can think of that 4 Non-Blondes woman. Erykah Badu and Lauryn Hill have flirted with it. You know Natalie Merchant wants to go for it, but she settles for just the smart suit and a subtle hippie trimming. Fiona Apple’s got to have this Look in mind for when she hits middle age and finally puts on a few pounds.

Surely I’m missing a handful of women who’ve kept this Look (barley) alive. They come and they go, and like Toni Childs, we soon forget they ever existed. Then some new one shows up on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, and you think, What the hell is this woman getting at? Who likes this kind of music? At least I think this. Leno’s always got someone like this on. In the last year there was some goofy, semi-goth version of the Suburban Guerrilla accompanying herself on nothing more than a synth. In the ’90s there was some blonde woman with a Carly Simon-like suburban sex appeal who was a full-fledged Suburban Guerrilla. It’s been bugging me for a few days that I haven’t been able to remember her name.

Where’s the Suburban Guerrilla headed? Has Amy Winehouse already moved it into the 21st Century? Can’t you see Joanna Newsome giving it a spin?

NOTE: The title of this thread is in no way a commentary on the fine, fine political blog named Suburban Guerrilla. I visit this place on occasion, and I guess the name stuck in my head and got applied to this Toni Childs video I found while researching a future Rock Crimes piece.


  6 Responses to “Trends: The Suburban Guerrilla”

  1. BigSteve

    How does one get the ovaries to duet with Al Green? On one of his signature songs no loss! Melissa Etheridge looks happy just to be among the backline vocalists. And Tito Puente on timbales? This must have been some Letterman special, not just a song filling in the last 5 minutes of a weeknight show.

    Does Ari Up qualify as a Suburban Guerilla? Too urban? Neneh Cherry?

    MIA might be the contemporary example, depending on how much you buy her backstory.

  2. Mr. Moderator

    Ari Up and Neneh Cherry are EXCELLENT examples! Same with MIA. Nice work!

    I just realized that Miriam Makeba’s Look may be a big influence aesthetically.

  3. Does Ari Up qualify as a Suburban Guerilla? Too urban? Neneh Cherry?

    Far be it for me to judge whether or not she qualifies based upon some imagined, pre-conceived notion of “cred”, but she came from a relatively well-off German family and was raised by her hippie mom (who ended up marrying John Lydon, BTW). She’s spent most of the last 25 years living in Jamaica and now splits her time between there and Brooklyn.

    Speaking of which, did anyone see the recent Slits show here at World Cafe Live? I skipped it, but I did catch them last year when they were here.

    Also, why does a suburban guerilla have to be a woman? Why can’t someone like Ben Harper, for example, qualify? Also, does Ani DiFranco count? Too urban?

  4. I also have to mention Tracy Chapman here.

  5. Mr. Moderator

    Good suggestions, Townsman Berlyant, and I thought about including men in this post as well. Ben Harper and Adam Durwitz were the first guys to come to mind for me, but I’m not sure if they’ve got the smart suit underneath the trimmings. Are they just jam-band hippie types?

  6. Adam Duritz is a GREAT suggestion and also the most annoying (to me at least) so far. Then again, I’ll admit that at least part of that was having to hear the guy who lived next to me blasting that infernal “Mr. Jones” song every day in my freshman dorm.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Lost Password?

twitter facebook youtube