Albertine Dissects Punk in Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys.

Reading Viv Albertine’s Clothes, Clothes, Clothes, Music, Music, Music, Boys, Boys, Boys, I felt like this was the punk exhibit that the Metropolitan Museum wanted to put on a few years ago with its replica of CBGB’s bathroom, and then, weirdly, a bunch of couture paper plate dresses and Alexander McQueen creations. I could see how those designers had been influenced by punk, but as for the clothes themselves—the DIY ethos that was the core of the punk movement—nope, not so much.

Luckily, Albertine, the guitarist of the female punk band the Slits, gives detailed descriptions of the key pieces she bought at Sex (the boutique, run by Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood, that was a cornerstone of the punk movement) along with bargain-bin finds that helped give her band—first Flowers of Romance with Sid Vicious and then the Slits with Ari Up and Palmolive—the necessary look. Because the punk look always came before the music, according to Albertine.


She’s named her book after a catchphrase her mother teased her with when she was a teenager. Albertine would come home from school, and her mother would chide her with “Clothes, clothes, clothes, music, music, music, boys, boys, boys” because she said that’s all that her daughter talked about.

Albertine’s autobiography is organized thematically according to her title, and it works like a collage of punk, which is a small miracle since her manager was pressuring her to use a ghostwriter who was in her early twenties, a music journalist who would get it “right.” After reading so many music memoirs where that was done—Belinda Carlisle’s Lips Unsealed and Bobbie Brown’s Dirty Rocker Boys come to mind—I can just imagine the trite story arc that would have gone with that. Thankfully, Albertine is headstrong and did it her way, showing how she got to the triumphs of her life and through some major downs as well.

Originally Albertine and some of the great women of music spent their time following around boys in bands. There was no room for them in music, so they took the second-best thing—to become the girlfriends of the boys in bands. But then Albertine listened to Patti Smith’s Horses and her attitude changed. Smith who originally lived with Robert Mapplethorpe in a groupie type of role, supporting him while neglecting her own artistic yearnings, emerged with a breakthrough record that had come through her poetry written on the side. Smith’s music ends up giving Albertine the confidence she needs to write about female sexuality from a woman’s point of view, but first she had to find the right band.

She started in Flowers of Romance, a band that she was in with Sid Vicious, who was far from the lazy lugabout that he usually is portrayed as (before becoming addicted to heroin). Albertine recalls one night where Sid stays up all night after taking speed and teaching himself bass by listening and playing along to a Ramones record over and over.


Albertine dated Mick Jones when he was in the Clash and watched how he was always on the phone trying to get things going for the band and took notes from him. He helped her buy her first guitar with inheritance money from her grandma when she didn’t know a damn thing about how to play and the salesman of the music store sneered at her. At first, Albertine was terrible, and her neighbors would beg her to stop practicing. And then Sid kicked her out of the band, leaving her devastated, but Albertine got a chance to try out for the Slits, a group of ladies who liked her look and attitude. She started writing music with them and everything fell into place.

Albertine says, “In the past I listened to tracks as a whole, paying most attention to the lyrics. Words were what I knew, what I was familiar with; they worked or didn’t work for me. That’s how girls listened to songs. Most of the songs I’ve been exposed to are about romantic love. They’re an extension of the fairy tales I read as a little girl—I’ll love you forever. You’re the only one. I’ll rescue you. You broke my heart. Blah blah—which is shocking when you think about the effect that obsessive listening and repetitive exposure to songs about idealised love must have had on my brain. I’ve been brainwashed. The Slits’ lyrics are very carefully thought about and scrutinised. No peddling clichés and lies for us. No lazy escapism. Words have to be true to your life. Write what you know. And make people think.”

Ari Up, the band’s lead singer, was underage, and after watching how Jones hustled to keep the Clash going, Albertine becomes the linchpin for the Slits, organizing band practices, giving players the boot when they’re not fully committed, etc. After the band is signed, Dennis Morris, Island’s art director, had a simplistic concept involving pink for the Slits’ first album cover. Albertine refuses, and at their famous photo shoot for the half-naked album cover, Morris wants a wind machine to be used so the band looks sexier. Albertine becomes incensed with his suggestions and the band does it their way, but not before Morris tries to kick her out of the band for being disruptive.


Eventually the Slits break up, and Albertine goes through a huge depression. She has a stint in the 1980s where she teaches aerobics and then goes into film. Eventually she marries and spends all the money she’s ever made on IVF treatments, desperate to have a baby. And then cancer strikes. Albertine keeps going through all these tragedies, rising to the top more often than not by challenging herself, and it’s this willingness to pick herself back up, to risk making a fool of herself that make her heroic.

After years being offstage, Albertine teaches herself to play guitar again in her own particular style and she starts singing and performing as a solo artist. Albertine calls this her “Year of Saying Yes,” and when a friend brings her to her first open-mike session, she starts performing again at the bottom. First a mild panic attack ensues. Albertine remembers, “He must be mad. I can’t stand up in front of people and play and sing. I would rather die. Remember, Viv, the Year of Saying Yes. So what if I die? So what if I’m crap and make a fool of myself? I know that no one ever does anything or gets anywhere without failure and foolishness. I’ve got to do it.”


Trick or Treat: the Movie That Got Me through My Sophomore Year

For about a year in high school, Trick or Treat (a low budget horror movie dealing with heavy metal) was the most important movie in my life. My family had moved to a one-horse town where the main activity for teenagers was “cruising,” driving around aimlessly in cars and grouping in parking lots, trying to arrange meeting spots or procure alcohol.

I was a heavy metal kid, and there was a very small contingent of these people at my new school. They were harder to pick out than at my last high school, where there was a definite heavy metal uniform and no way of mistaking your affiliation. In this new town, I might see some longish hair and a T-shirt for a heavy metal band. But this might just mean that they liked the band. What I was interested in was did they live for the music? No-compromising dress and hair was an indicator for me that they did. It took awhile to get to know people, and I was called a few names and even told point-blank by one junior girl in study hall (who I’m sure had the best intentions) that I would have to change my hair and dress if I wanted to get along with people.

I don’t know anyone who comes out of that age unscathed. It’s the cruelest time, I think, because you are ruled by your peers. You haven’t learned how to behave or think in nuances yet and are controlled by galloping hormones to boot. Junior high and high school seems to be one big Lord of the Flies, and I congratulate anyone who makes it out alive—really, it feels like a war sometimes. Luckily we are given a few tools to make those years more bearable—music, books, and movies, and the heroes that are born of them.

In those dark days of being the new kid in a place that didn’t see this too often, I was dependent on my stereo and a stack of black VCR tapes on which me and my sister had recorded horror movies from cable channels. Our favorite movie at this time was Trick or Treat starring Marc Price (of Family Ties fame) as Eddie Weinbauer, the awkward heavy metal kid at his high school. He’s a fuckup and teased mercilessly by the popular clique, but that’s okay because he’s got his rock god Sammi Curr, who happens to come from the exact same town but got out. Looking a lot like Nikki Sixx circa mid-1980s, Sammi Curr has made it big in heavy metal and taken on legislative groups similar to the PMRC—remember that one?


It’s easy to forget that heavy metal once scared the shit out of people and that’s what Trick or Treat plays on—those long-ago fears that if you played a Judas Priest record backwards you would be compelled to commit suicide or sell your soul to the devil. Eddie understands what heavy metal really is, though—it’s borrowed power for when you’re feeling weak and vulnerable.


Eddie writes to his hero Sammi Curr and is able to minimize his high school bullying because Curr gets him through it. He signs off his letters with Ragman, the heavy metal identity he’s created for himself, but then he discovers that Curr has perished in a hotel fire.

There are a few cameos in Trick or Treat by heavy metal icons, and to look at the DVD cover you might think that Ozzy Osbourne (as a reverend) and Gene Simmons (as a DJ named Nuke) are the stars of this movie. Between the two of them, though, they share maybe seven minutes tops. They are funny minutes with Osbourne mimicking the groups that came after him, parsing his lyrics to show the moral depravity in them. And Nuke helps to put the plot of Trick or Treat in action.


Nuke is friends with Eddie, and out of fan love, he gives him Sammi Curr’s unreleased record, which he plans on playing publicly for the first time on Halloween eve. Somewhat consoled, Eddie takes it home and falls asleep listening to it. That’s when he discovers that there are hidden messages on the record that tell him how to get even with the kids that pick on him. Within a week of listening to and following those messages, Eddie goes from powerless to powerful.

The role of Sammi Curr (both pre-fire and after he is conjured by the backward-playing record) was originally supposed to go to Blackie Lawless of W.A.S.P. It ended up going to Tony Fields instead, a former Solid Gold dancer of all things—how un­–heavy metal is that? He’s not bad as the satanic rocker—there’s a real sense of evil and menace that comes off him in the early part of the movie, but by the end, the movie’s devolved into camp and that scare is over.


That wasn’t what appealed to me that sophomore year, though. It was the idea that I could make heads roll when I felt least able.


A Heavy Metal Valentine

When Kristi and I were growing up and had just come back from Germany, we were spoiled for a couple of years because we had access to MTV. But then we moved to a small town where we had cable but no MTV for the first year we lived there. Luckily my resourceful sister had taped the best heavy metal videos from Headbangers Ball, which takes a real knack because you don’t want to record commercials or crappy videos. Her transitions were seamless, and that VCR tape was the loop and soundtrack to some angsty teenage years. We would watch that tape every day and I still remember the order of the videos. It started with Quiet Riot’s “Bang Your Head (Metal Health)” and then segued to KISS’s “I Love It Loud.”


We still have that tape. One day I’m going to get that transferred to DVD, and then we will be the happiest sisters in all the world. Sometimes we stay up late and play a game on YouTube, where we surprise each other by dialing up metal videos, which the next person has to feed off, and so on. But I’d still like to listen and look at old Metal Music—666—My Shit.


Now I’m working on my heavy metal novel (about twenty thousand words in), and one of the first things I do when I’m writing is compose a playlist that thematically relates to what I’m working on. Here’s the first playlist I’ve come up with, and I’d like to have about four more so nothing gets stale. I’ve put up the music on 8tracks—my heavy metal valentine to you—and Kristi lettered and decorated it à la high school heavy metal and horror, which is what my story’s about.

A Heavy Metal Valentine

Sadly I wasn’t introduced to the awesome pairing of horror director Dario Argento and heavy metal band Goblin until after college, but all good things can wait. I would have probably died of the awesomeness if I saw their work too young.

Vixen was a lady metal band put togeher like some of the boy bands of the eighties and nineties, N’ SYNC and New Kids on the Block, and the only prerequisite was that a member be a female and hot. That’s something I’ve struggled and thought a lot about with metal—why did the ladies always have to be so tarted up?—and an issue I find myself writing about.

Whitesnake introduced what was probably the first video vixen—Tawny Kitaen—who was the epitome of the metal chick in the eighties, but she was always featured as an accessory to the band. First she dated the guy in RATT, then she made the rounds with Mötley Crüe and Whitesnake, until she went batshit crazy and beat her ex-husband with a shoe.

I do include Joan Jett on my list, though she spans many genres—punk, hard rock blues—and might not be considered heavy metal by some. She embraced the bad, tough girl ethos, though, which was what it meant to be a heavy metal lady and taking what you wanted.

And then, of course, we have the reigning highnesses of metal—Lita Ford and Doro Pesch. They’re the real-life versions of the warrior woman from Heavy Metal magazine.

The Marilyn Manson Family Portraits

When I first moved across the country to live in Portland, Oregon, I couldn’t afford to go back to visit my family for six months, which was probably the longest time we had ever been apart. Though we’ve moved many places far away, we were almost always together as a unit.

During one of the phone conversations leading up to my visit, where my mom quizzed me about what I wanted to eat, she mentioned that she had scheduled a date at the local photography studio to have a family portrait taken.

We hadn’t had one done since I was a teenager, shortly before my grandmother died. She had a terminal illness and knew she was dying but wanted one last photo of our family all together. I was sixteen at the time and so hungover that I had to sit down midway through the photo session because I thought I was going to pass out. (My grandmother asked my mom and dad if there was a possibility that I was pregnant.) My brother Randall and sister Karla were wee—ages six and eight—full of gapped teeth, and my brother had a summer crew cut that was growing out.

Now Karla and Randall were in high school, and my mom said my brother was seriously resisting the family portraits. He was fifteen, had grown his hair out, and dressed like his favorite musician Marilyn Manson, who he had seen in concert multiple times. After getting off the phone with my mom, I told my friend Susan that my brother didn’t want to dress up for family portraits. She came up with the brilliant suggestion of us all wearing Marilyn Manson T-shirts since my brother had so many.

Once I flew home to see my family, I jokingly mentioned this to my mother, and my brother was on fire with this idea. He insisted we do it and my mom picked through the closet full of Halloween costumes and found some wigs to go along with the T-shirts that Randall had selected.

My father didn’t like the idea of the joke photo, and we drove to the photography studio in our good clothes with the Marilyn Manson T-shirts, leopard gloves, and wigs stashed in a bag.

Our first photo was formal with us kids grouped around a sitting Mom and Dad under the bright lights and umbrellas. That didn’t take too long, maybe ten minutes. And then my mom said to our photographer, “Okay, you’re going to think this is weird, but…,” and she laid out what we wanted to do. I think the photographer had been bored before, going by the “Greats,” “Just one more shot,” and so on that she let out, but now she got really excited.

“I know the perfect place—do you mind driving somewhere?—it’ll be like an album cover.”

It was January in Iowa, which means freezing or below, and we found ourselves in front of a half-destroyed building in just our Marilyn Manson T-shirts and other street clothes. My mom and dad both put on wigs and Kristi brought along the serial killer paperback that she was reading as a prop. With leopard gloves dispersed so we could each wear one, we huddled together for warmth while trying to strike band poses. My dad really started getting into it now and cadged a pack of cigarettes off one of us to roll up in his shirtsleeve and look more badass.


I went back to Portland and forgot all about that photo session until several months later when my mom mailed photocopies of the family portraits to me. I didn’t like the normal ones—I don’t think any of us did. I liked the portraits of us in the Marilyn Manson T-shirts. It seemed more like who we were together—too loud, always late, with a closet full of Halloween that’s too good for just one day a year.


A New Year’s Eve Mix

I found this old New Year’s Eve playlist from long ago, but thanks to new technology and sites, I can share it. If you click on the link below, you can hear all the tracks.

I’ve always had a peculiar playlist system where a female artist has to follow a male artist and so on. Actually, it’s not so peculiar. Our population is pretty evenly divided at 51 percent/49 percent, with the ladies slightly leading.


I know what I’ll be listening to tonight…

Osbourne’s Voice Comes through Loud and Clear in “I Am Ozzy”

One of my young life regrets is that I never got to see Ozzy Osbourne in concert, but it wasn’t for lack of trying. I remember having tickets to his concerts twice, but both times they were canceled and I was left feeling bitterly disappointed. This was in the late eighties when Ozzy was struggling with addiction (actually, when has he not?), and I believe both of those times he was shipped directly to rehab. Then I read I Am Ozzy and found out that the infamous bat head incident happened in Iowa, where I ended up doing time in high school.

This happened before I moved there, and Ozzy was doing a show in Des Moines (which he remembers how to pronounce to this day). His concerts had become known as free-for-alls where members of the audience would bring various things from home—a pig’s head, snakes, and in this case, a live bat—and throw them onstage while he performed. During this show, Ozzy caught the bat, and he thought it was one of those rubber jobs you can buy at a toy store or 99-cent store. So he did what any self-respecting rock star would do and bit its head off. The noxious taste let him know his mistake immediately, and afterward, he had to get a full course of rabies shots while on the road touring. The public will never let him forget this, and after that I don’t think Ozzy has pleasant associations with Iowa, so I guess I forgive him for canceling those shows.

In I Am Ozzy, Ozzy digs deep, going back to his early childhood in England where he played in bombed-out ruins and lived in a house with an outhouse in the yard and one bedroom that the next-oldest sibling would graduate to after the eldest flew the coop (he was one of six children). Ozzy had terrible learning disabilities that were overlooked in school, and he was just told that he was stupid. He was also bullied by his headmaster, but there Ozzy learned a trick that’s served him well to this day. He would pull crazy stunts and tricks to make people laugh, especially those that he admired or who were big bullies. Once he got that laugh, he knew he was in and then their attributes and protection would rain down on him.

Where he grew up, Ozzy saw the men go into work every day and toil away at the most boring industrial jobs (not calling in was a point of pride), and then once these men retired, they didn’t know what to do with themselves. Many of them died shortly after they retired, including his father. As a teen, Ozzy did a stint testing car horns and working in a slaughterhouse (he says he has bad animal karma from this time in his life and that’s why his family has so many pets now), but he knew this wasn’t what he was meant for. He just couldn’t do it, and so he found another way—what some people would think the least likely way—and became a rock star.

Ozzy credits his early success to his father who for some unknown reason lent his son money to buy an amp. An amp was a luxury in those days, and anybody who had one, whether they were a musician or not—well, that made them immediately in the band. With his amp, Ozzy advertised himself as a singer and that’s how he landed in the band that became Black Sabbath. It’s amazing when he recounts how the band cranked out some of their classic albums with only a few hours’ worth of studio time. When you have limited time and a budget, you do what you have to, to get things done. Black Sabbath caught on pretty quickly, but there were a few hiccups along the way, like the time they were booked because club owners thought they were an all-black band. I would love to have been present at that club date!

With success and money, Ozzy’s appetite for booze and drugs grew. Where before he could only drink until he ran out of money, now he had a limitless supply, so he would go to the pub and be gone for literally days. During this time Ozzy was in his first marriage, but he was in full addict mode and did things like shoot all the chickens that his wife bought for him to take care of and almost killed the town vicar by accidentally feeding him cake laced with a potent dose of hash.

His first marriage failed, and he was kicked out of Black Sabbath, because while everybody was drinking and drugging, they felt Ozzy’s was too out of control and interfering with the band. That’s when Sharon came into the picture and became Ozzy’s manager. She was determined to turn him into a solo act, and with a few unplanned stunts by Ozzy, his career took off brilliantly. They also became something more, the match made in heaven that we all know now, and started a family on the road.

Some people complain that they can’t understand Ozzy when he talks, like in this infamous interview where he scrambles some eggs in his leopard-print bathrobe:

But when he sings, all of Ozzy’s lyrics are comprehensible, and if you really try, you can understand him. If you don’t want to try, his voice and humor come through loud and clear in I Am Ozzy. A lot of his stories are laugh-out-loud-funny, and I get the feeling that Ozzy is much more clever than he lets on. I think part of his appeal is that he plays the part of the fuckup, the ne’er-do-well, but by doing that he gets what he wants. My grandpa used to do the same thing by pretending to be deaf. Eventually people would get so frustrated with him that they would give him whatever he wanted just to get rid of him. It’s fun to think of my grandpa having a little bit of Ozzy in him.

Save Me from This Styx Earworm

I never knew there was an actual term for when a certain song gets stuck in your head until I edited a sci-fi mystery story about such a thing. The proper term is earworm, and I’ve got a very bad case of earworm right now. This one is a Styx earworm, a medley of about four to five songs, that I’ve been afflicted with since seeing the band in concert with Ted Nugent about two weeks ago.

I wouldn’t normally go to a Styx, Ted Nugent show—neither have ever been particular favorites of mine—but a writer I know from Billboard magazine was assigned to review the show in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and she was looking for some company during the road trip from New York. It seemed like it could be an interesting experience and it was free, so I signed up. The possibility of seeing Ted Nugent’s crazy in action was too enticing to pass on.

The road trip was fun, and it was amazing to roll into Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, which gave all appearances of being a teeny rural town until we stumbled upon the Sands Casino, where the show was to take place. The casino looked out on an old factory that reminded me of the one in the Lorax and tried to use some of this old structure in their building design. It reminded us of the Overlook Hotel in The Shining with its long hallways that inevitably ended in us getting lost.

We got checked into our room and just made the opening of the show, where I watched Ted Nugent go through about three or four guitars onstage. He’s a great performer, and in between songs he would let his crazy rip, which delighted me: “You can’t do this in France!” “Do you hear that? That’s the sound of freedom.” In between bands, I stepped out in the smokers’ courtyard and eavesdropped on conversations about Mitt Romney, UFOs, and guns that I’m not usually privy to.

I made it back in time for the Styx show that was starting up with trippy graphics flashing by on the screen behind the band. I was familiar with nearly all of the songs that they played and was surprised to find that I knew almost all of the lyrics word for word. I was never really a Styx fan. I liked their music all right, but I didn’t idolize them like I did, say, Michael Jackson after he put out the Thriller album. The radio was always on, though, when I was growing up. I can remember living in Germany, and when I woke up and got ready for school, the radio would be dialed to the Department of Defense’s radio station. It would still be playing when I got home from school, and during those years, I passively absorbed the Top Forty hits of the early eighties. So much so that I’ve somehow unintentionally memorized the lyrics to songs that I didn’t even like so much. I’m scared to find out what else I’ve got rolling around in my head from that time period.

After the show and seeing a local band perform elsewhere in the casino, I had no problems getting to sleep and crashed hard. I made it back to New York okay and everything seemed fine until that night when I tried to go to sleep and the lyrics to “Lady” started floating through my head—“You’re my lady…”—over and over again. The Styx earworm had struck. The next several days I was accosted in no particular order by “Come sail away, come sail away, come sail away with me”; “I’ve got too much time (clap, clap) on my hands”; and of course, “You’re my lady…” My old college roommate used to say that singing the chorus to the Monkees’ “Daydream Believer” would cure any earworm, but for the first time ever, that, too, has failed me. I’m going on two weeks with this particular earworm and no relief in sight.

Styx, what have you done to me? I think I’m the victim of some sort of subliminal hypnosis.

Heavy Metal Memories, or Being a Lady in the ’80s

One of the great things about being a military brat is the ability to transform yourself when you move somewhere else. A lot of people live in the same place for all of their elementary, middle, and high school years, and they might get pigeonholed for a few standout events that they didn’t even intend. Then they’re forever known as the brain, the athlete, or the burnout. With the military, my sister and I were able to make ourselves over every couple of years or so because we would move to a place where nobody knew us. Nobody had ever met us; it was a clean slate.

I think my favorite metamorphosis happened, though, when my dad was out of the military. I was a freshman in high school and so shy and awkward that I could go for days without speaking. I wrote poetry that rhymed and hung out in the art room during lunch painting so I didn’t have to interact with others. I owned a pastel-pink sweater and wore it proudly.

Now, my younger sister, Kristi, was in junior high and having a hard time with school authorities, who thought she was on drugs (she wasn’t). She was into metal, had a thing for Blackie Lawless, and wore leopard-print spandex with her hair dyed black and cut in a Joan Jett shag. Her world revolved around music, and the heights of ecstasy came when she was able to go to concerts.

My parents were pretty liberal, but they had their limits—one was Kristi could not go to metal concerts by herself. My mother accompanied her to a few, but I imagine nothing can be more embarrassing than having your mom in tow at a Mötley Crüe concert. That’s how I came into the picture. Kristi wanted to go to a KISS concert but without Mom and Dad, so she leaned on me. It wasn’t too hard to convince me. Concert tickets were still pretty cheap then, running around $20, which I could easily afford with my babysitting money.

Before we went to the concert, Kristi insisted on dressing me. She said I would look out of place, so I let her. She ratted my virgin hair, so thin it couldn’t hold a bobby pin properly; did my makeup with lots of black eyeliner; and dressed me in some of her clothes—a red-and-black striped shirt, black tank top, black spandex, and black high-heeled boots left over from my Madonna Desperately Seeking Susan phase. I was a woman transformed and felt completely weird and freaked out. It was like I was in a costume. I never knew my hair could go so high.

Waiting on line to go through the metal detectors, I got pissed at Kristi as I surveyed the crowd. Barely anybody was dressed like us; they wore jeans and T-shirts and looked comfortable. They could blend. Me, I was now more than six feet tall with my high-heeled boots and teased hair, and so … glittery. People stared and I hated it. Once we cleared the metal detectors, Kristi ditched me to hit the floor, telling me that was the best place to be because you could get up close.

I was mad. I wanted to hide in the bleachers and just get the whole concert over with. I went and picked out a seat all by my lonesome, sat down with my arms crossed, and just glowered, hating everybody. Now, usually when I pulled my pissed teen routine, everybody just ignored me. Not this time. This time it seemed like people were afraid of me, giving me wary glances, and though the place was packed, I had a semicircle of space around me until the last minute. And even then, rather than ignoring me and plunking themselves down like they usually did, people asked me first. “Excuse me, miss”—gesturing toward the seats—“are those empty? Are you waiting for your friends?”

I think I shrugged my shoulders, afraid to speak, but inside, I thought, Holy shit! People are afraid of me. This is genius! A transformation came over me: I sat up taller, I straightened my shoulders, and when the band came on, I stood up with everybody else and stayed on my feet the whole night. It was cathartic seeing these loud bands, knowing the lyrics and being able to sing out loud without worrying about anybody commenting on my off-key voice, and having beer spilled on me. I liked Gene Simmons with his tough-guy look but not Paul Stanley so much with his idiotic stage patter between songs. He said the band had been in Madison, Wisconsin, the night before, the dairy state, and he could tell because all the girls had huge breasts. Immediately that set off a douche bag alert, and I hated him for the rest of my metal days. Gene Simmons was a little more reserved back then. Had he opened his mouth, I’m sure I would have hated him too.

After that, I had my metal metamorphosis. I liked the music because it was angry for the most part, which was how I felt inside. I loved the fashion associated with metal because it set me apart. I already felt like a freak, but putting that on display made me become braver than I would have ever believed. My hair went from blonde to red, then redder and redder, and high—how high I would tease it. And the wardrobe was pretty cheap. From thriftier times in our family, my sister and I had learned how to use scissors and a needle, and we were able to transform plain T-shirts to cropped tops and so on, though Kristi was always better at it than me. She had a pair of artfully frayed jeans and had sewn a snakeskin scarf in as a back panel. How I coveted them. Of course, my ass was always an inch bigger than hers so I could never borrow them.