I love women and punk and pop culture and talking about menstruation. Sometimes all four converge in amazing stories, books, records and movies and it is just all sorts of awesome.
The below are my favourite “periods in punk” moments, as well as some (humble) book, music and movie recommendations.
Period punk moment 1 with Viv Albertine from the Slits
The Slits broke into the 1970s punk London scene like a breath of fresh, feminist air. They toured with the Clash and inspired a whole generation, showing that women could punk rock just as well or better than men. They influenced the likes of Blondie, Joan Jett and Courtney Love, not to mention the Riot grrrl punk feminist movement.
Viv Albertine joined the Slits after Sid Vicious kicked her out from their band, Flowers of Romance (the fool!).
Period Punk moment: While at art school, Viv was asked to do an installation with the brief “An everyday object”. She made drawings of used, bloody tampons, and painted her friend Sarah, posing naked, with the little tampon string dangling out. It took her weeks. However, the teachers were duly shocked, clutched their pearls and refused to have the work shown.
Somehow it ended up with the whole class cancelling the end of term show, which the students found hilarious. None of those 1970s kids seemed to find Viv’s work particularly offensive which seems pretty cool to me, especially considering that there is still so much secrecy and coyness surrounding periods nearly 50 years later.
Listen to: “I heard it through the Grapevine”, – best cover of the song, bar none. (Though her more recent solo album The Vermillion Order is fantastic, do check it out)
Read: “Clothes, Music Boys” by Viv Albertine – life changing, my favourite memoir and way funnier than Keith Richards’ “Life” (though that is also good).
Period punk moment 2 with Patti Smith
Patti Smith is our “punk poet laureate”. She is arguably the most charismatic figure in the contemporary punk rock scene. It is hard to try to recap her work, her career and spirit in a few lines, since Patti Smith has not stopped creating, producing and inspiring since she arrived to New York in 1967.
There, she met photographer Robert Mapplethorpe while working at a bookstore. She and Mapplethorpe fell in love and had a passionate, tumultuous relationship beautifully portrayed in her book Just Kids.
Their relationship is often described as “ambiguous”, mainly because Robert Mapplethorpe was gay (he sadly passed away in 1989 – do check out his work, it is breathtaking). I think that doubting the depth of their love and intimacy because of Robert’s sexual preferences shows a terrible lack of imagination and sensitivity. It is one of the most beautiful, gut-wrenching love stories I have read.
Patti still refers to him as the “artist of my life”. Andy Warhol called them “dirty and horrible”. Whatever, Andy.
Arty Lover - Patti Smith & Robert Mapplethorpe pic.twitter.com/P1oiCyFsuH— Pauline Hughes (@Paulineceramics) July 17, 2016
Period punk moment: Together they made a movie where Robert changed Patti’s used sanitary pads. I think that a man getting up close and personal to his female lover’s period is such a tender, modern gesture (maybe that is what spurred Warhol’s comments though).
Read: Just Kids, bring the tissues and prepare yourself for a trip full of nostalgia to 1970s New York City.
Listen to: Because the Night, to cheer yourselves with some vigorous head shaking and air guitar playing.
Period punk moment 3 with The Runaways
I love the Runaways. All these years later and you can still listen to “Cherry Bomb” and feel the energy of a bunch of teenagers that refused to be told what it meant to be a woman. They only played together for four years (1975 to 1979) though some band members, most prominently Joan Jett, are still active, recording and touring.
The band never became a big success in the US (they all met in LA) but they became HUGE in Japan. They ended up breaking up due to musical differences after Cherie Currie, the lead singer, left and started a band with her twin sister, Marie. They also sacked their manager Kim Fowley, often described as “one of the most colorful characters in the annals of rock & roll”.
Though Joan Jett is a power to be reckoned with, I always had a soft spot for Cherie Currie. She was only 15 when she joined the Runaways. She was so talented and she had so much energy and it seems that part of her will to break free was spoiled by everything going too fast, for being made perform in a basque and suspenders and probably not being ready for an unsupervised rock and roll life (the deal was she would be schooled while on tour, which did not happen). Nowadays she is a wood carving artist that uses a chainsaw to create her works. Still punk rock though.
Punk Period Moment: This is probably not based on real events but the 2010 the Runaways movie has the most period-ey opening ever. Cherie Currie (played by Dakota Fanning) is out with her sister, when blood starts trickling down her leg and onto the pavement. It is made clear that this is Cherie’s first period but she just runs to a public toilet, stuffs her knickers with toilet paper, changes her flats for some huge platforms and gets on with her day. That night, she cuts her hair, paints her face and performs Lady Grinning Soul as David Bowie in front of the whole school. Too cool.
Listen to: Cherry Bomb by the Runaways, yes a bit of an obvious one. An oldie but a goodie.
Watch: The Runaways, from 2010, with Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning, based loosely on Currie’s autobiography, “Neon Angel”. I know the reviews were so-so and a lot of the dark story of the Runaways was oversimplified but it is worth it for the music, the clothes and the hair alone. And for seeing Kristen Stewart shake Bella Swan off for good. Go Kristen!