Cover page.


INTRODUCTION: Rock Music and What?

Orpheus and the Myths of You and Me
  • Music, Myth and Hero; Music and Violence; Sung Myth; Survival; The Power of Love: Eros, Orpheus, Narcissus
Inventing the Teenager: Repression and Freedom
  • Black, White, Electric; Electric Guitar; Repression and Getting Free; From Zero to Hero:
  • Sound of the Male Teenage Body; Rock God: A Hurricane called Elvis Presley"
Power, War and Creativity: The Male Gods Round Desire
  • The Oldest Youngest God; Father – the Castrated King; Husband – the Crippled Creator, Armour- Maker, Fire; Sex Pistol, Heavy Metal: The War-God Lover; Son – the Naked Omnipotent Baby; Rock God Package: The Maleness All Round Sex
The Holy Axe
  • The Mississippi Delta, Shining Like a National Guitar; Erection, Impotence and Rage; A Man Mattering to Other People; Guitar Hero, Rock Divinity
Voices in the Sea of Desire
  • In the Hero’s Way: Monsters, Father-Figures, Underworld and Women; Birthplace of Venus: Man Master it, Women are Carried Away on It; Abandoned Women, Empowering Male Music; The Faraway Voice; The Voice Men leave Behind them?
Marine Magic: Saving, Veiling, Faking
  • White Samite Syndrome; Women’s Magical Element; Made Up? Women’s Doubleness; Blindfold and Underwear - the Doubleness of Desire; Faking and Illusion: the Femaleness of Rock Display
The Hero’s Journey: Song of Myself
  • Epic: Alone and with Your Mates; Solo Riff, Companionable Chords; Teenage Bedroom, Open Road; The Sound of Male Freedom; Could You Ever Take Cock out of Rock?; American Romanticism and the Freedom of Narcissus; Why Blues?
The Black Hero: Call of the Wild
  • Sex and Envy: Orientalism, Exoticism, Otherism; Primitive: Africa in New York; The Lure of Black Rhythm: Community and Dance; Drum and Soult
"I'm Damn Guilty": the Song of Someone Else
  • Theft; Black Fire White Gold: Soul, Funk, Reggae, Hip-Hop, Rap; The Mix: Graceland and Guilt
The Dark Self: Sex, Knowledge and a Century of Blacking Up
  • Cock Rock and the Black Sex Stereotype; Laughing Inside the Mask: Making Black “Black”, Making Black White; Why Dark? “Primitive” Dionysus; Learning from the Dark: Inner, Ancient, Dangerous, Knowing, Mad; All this Darkness Once was Mine
"Black": the Voice of Male Need
  • Suffering is Power; Boy or Man; Oppression, Sex and Politics; Teenage Protest and the Slave-to-Freedom Story; Fighting Back
When Guitar Becomes a Gun: Empowering Violence
  • Black is "Bad" and Bad is Cool; Leadbelly and Gangsta Rap; Impersonating Violence; the Gun Guitar: Weight, Goth and Heavy Metal; Precipitating Violence? From Altamont to Colorado; Hendrix and Vietnam
Heroes Are Violent, Dark and Against - Especially in Theatre
  • Where did Rock Violence Come From? Why Does Sex Choose Violence for her Lover? Why is the God of Theatre Violent? Why Does Orpheus Provoke Violence? Uses of “Blackness”; Epic Heroes: Power-Packed Bodies; Tragic Heroes: Self-Destruction Centre Stage; Falling – Alone in the Dark; Sacrifice
America: the White Romance with Violence
  • Impersonating America; Gun Law: Out-violencing Nature; Getting in Touch with Evil; "Charlie" Manson and Black Flag; The Black Excuse; an Echo, Mirror, Shadow of Yourself
“Counter” and Contradiction
  • Counter-Culture: Dylan and the Problems of Protest; Being Against what You Depend on; Over the Counter: Selling or Sell-Out?
The Comforts of Misogyny
  • Misogyny? Really?; Baby – Resenting Male Need; Trapped in an Alien World: That Magical Female Element; Penetrating the Alien: the Secrets of Venus; Heavy Metal: Parody or Theatre of Misogyny? Being Against What You Desire: Not Just Teenage, Male; The Harmony of Misogyny
Dylan: Creativity, Misogyny and Echo
  • Staging Maleness for Echo; "Man" - and Sixties Illiberalism; It’s Not Me, Babe: Dylan's First Girlfriend; When Creativity Came; Rap Misogyny, White Theatre
Misogyny on the Hoof
  • Groupies; Is Misogyny Sexy? Exclusion: Women DJ’s, Journalists, Managers; “Breasts Are a Big Problem”: Guitars Again; Women’s Bands: Punk – and Lynn Breedlove’s Black Cock
Cross-Dressing, Castrati and Camp
  • Impersonation, Again; Quest - and Made-Up Women; I am a Cliché: Impersonating Women's Voice; The Truest Poetry is the Most Feigning; Electricity and the Truth of Artifice
A Love Affair with Love
  • We were Pointing at Each Other; Fan, Fantasy and Star; Ever Get the Feeling You’ve been Cheated?; Sex and Soul – Looking and Being Looked at
  • A Dream of Being Male
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Index
Pages 52-58

Greek gods incarnated the thing they represented. The war-god was war, and the fire god was fire and Eros was desire. The Greeks also thought of gods in terms of divine society, relationships and parentage and the mother of Eros was Aphrodite, goddess of love and sex. She was sex. I shall use her Roman name, Venus.

Father: the Castrated King

In rock ’n’ roll you know roughly how a myth started, as with Sam Philips’ dream, fulfilled by Elvis, of a ‘black voice in a white body’. In Greek myth, this is unreachable. I cannot tell you Greek myth was manmade: nobody knows. But the poets and painters who shaped and recycled it were male.As it comes to us, Greek culture, like rock culture, was a male creation: ‘Guyville’, as Liz Phair calls it in her album (Exile in Guyville, 1993) which sees women as exiles in a man’s world. Greek mythology addresses male psyches. When you look at relationships in it, you have to think what they were saying for men about Guyville’s self image.

Greek myth gave Europe its basic male self-image and its image of sex. It could have picked any emblem for sex from a dragon to an ocean wave, but what it came up with was a woman. Unlike the Madonna, so often seen in the company of other women, Venus is related only to men. She has no mother, just a father, husband, lover and son. Sex in Greek myth seems purely male-related. The range of maleness around her tells s how Greek culture, and Western culture that is based on it, basically saw its own maleness in relation to sex. What were these men like?

Venus arrives near the beginning of the world. Earth emerged from Chaos and made herself a consort, Heaven. The pair produced various children including world-forces like Ocean and also three giants whom Heaven hated and shut up inside the body of his wife, Earth. Earth resented this and told her other children to assault Heaven with a flint sickle. They were all afraid to do so except the youngest, Kronos. When Heaven approached at night, “longing for love”, Kronos slashed off his genitals with the sickle and took over world rule himself.

Heaven's blood shot out over Earth, generating the Furies where it landed. Kronos tossed the genitals into the sea where foam (aphros) fizzed around them. A girl grew in this foam. Bobbing through the waves, she washed up on the shore of Cyprus. Botticelli painted her coming to land, born in a shell rather than rather than bloody froth round her father's severed genitals, but Aphrodite means "Foamborn." The goddess of sex begins life as foam around heaven's penis, full of desire and blood at the moment it was cut from its owner.

So the origin of sex is the worst male fear. Venus could have been given any origin but she comes from castration. Sex begins when you do away with your father’s sexuality and impose your will on the world. It is tied up with father-son conflict, male-female antagonism, power-struggle vulnerability and damage - like the male anger, vulnerabilities and conflicts that worked their way into rock.

One classic early British rock album, The Sound of Fury (1960) featured the toughly vulnerable anguished voice of a young Liverpool docker called Ronnie Wycherly, who wrote the songs while working on Mersey tug-boats. Who renamed him Billy Fury? Who thought up the names Marty Wilde and Tommy Steele as well? Larry Parnes, Fifties impresario of British rock 'n' roll. He knew what rock was about and knew exactly what teenage rebellion wanted. Rockers had to be hard. Their first name could be cute but the second must be steel or wild. A flint sickle taking over the world.

The sound of fury. The rock god, like sex, begins with male rebellion - against father.

Husband: The Crippled Creator, the Armour-Maker, Fire

If Venus's father is a castrated world-ruler and her husband is damaged, too. Venus is married to Vulcan the divine metalworker, the god of flame. His Greek name Hephaestus means "volcano" in modern Greek; ancient myth said volcanoes were his workshop. Surrounded by bellows and melting-vats he makes palaces, jewellery, moving tripods, self-automated statues, thunderbolts and armour. Fire is his medium. He is fantastically strong: "No god can fight him."

But he is also lame, and his story is full of trauma. He was thrown out of heaven, either by his father Jupiter, because he took his mother's Juno's side in a marital quarrel, or by his mother Juno who was ashamed of his lameness. When he returned to heaven, Vulcan chained her to her chair in revenge. "I fell all day," he says remembering, "and landed at sunset". (Christian myth thinks her of Satan, the fallen angel.) He landed in the sea, sea goddess saved and hid him. "Around me flowed Ocean, murmuring, with foam."

The two have foam in common, as well as a fall from heaven into sea, marital conflict at the top, something male damaged and flung away, something recuperating, surrounded by foam, and something female appearing savingly in the sea.

They have other things in common too, Vulcan makes chains: we think of the "chains of love." He works with heat underground: and in Greek begins the thousands of European images for women and their insides as the underworld, the womb and oven of earth. A woman is "an oven crying for heat in "I Must Have That Man" sung by Billie Holliday. The metaphor of "flames of love" power-drives Western love poetry and song. "My heart burns with desire" sings Sappho in the seventh century BC. "Thin fire runs under my skin." In early seventeenth-century lovesong, "More is desire/ There where it wounds and pines,/ As fire is far more fire/ Where it burns than where it shines."

Think of "torchsong", Bruce Springsteen’s "I'm On Fire" (1984) voted "top sexy song" in Q Magazine's 1998 survey of sexy songs, and the rock convention of holding up your lighter at a gig. "C'mon baby," sings Jim Morrison. "Light my fire."

Venus is beautiful, spotless, scented, soft; Vulcan is subterranean, filthy and lame. But he is also the heat and movement of making, and specializes in metal, the hardest material - as in Tommy Steele or heavy metal - and in self-automated mobile statues. He is mobility but also immobility: he chains his mother, he chains Venus and her lover Mars, he forges the chains that bind Prometheus to a rock.

His tongues of fire make hard things soft and soft things hard: metalwork is all about softening and hardening. His work is kinetic: a dream of friction, tools, inflation, hammering and stiffness. Fire has to be laid. As Bjork said once, "Creativity is an aphrodisiac. Sex is creating another person, innit?" Vulcan and Venus are the marriage of fire and sex, creativity and making love. Each of their elements is an image for the other.

Vulcan has great power: sex is his wife and his medium is the source of civilization, fire. Yet both are stolen. Prometheus, the human, steals fire; Venus takes a lover.

"She scorns me because I am lame," Vulcan says, "and loves destructive Mars because he is handsome." Vulcan is creative potency stolen, damaged, flung away. His story is full of making but also losing power.

Creativity, loss, damage, rejection. Venus's father ruled the world and was castrated; her husband has the secret of creativity but is lame and the source of his power is stolen. Sex is yoked to male creativity and power, but also male vulnerability, damage and loss.

The War-God Lover: Sex Pistol and Heavy Metal

Her husband makes armour; her lover wears it. The husband is creative, the lover destructive. Sex is married to creativity but her lover is Mars, god of war.

Painters do not often show Venus with her husband. A few Renaissance painters show her waiting in his forge while Vulcan makes weapons for her son: usually Eros but sometimes her human son, Aeneas. But many painters show her happy with her son or lover.

Loud and clear, Greek myth says that sex has deep physical and social ties with both creativity and war - the two power-bases of Liz Phair’s Guyville. But the most active bond is the illicit one. Venus’s birth says sex began with conflict; her choice of lover says what she gets off on is violence.

Pages 275-77


Misogyny is as old as the hills – or the Greek islands. The earliest written misogyny I know is from Semonides, a poet from seventh-century BC Amorgos who satirized different wives in terms of animals: mare-woman, ferret-woman, monkey-woman. They were variously greedy, lazy, promiscuous; they ate a man’s money and sapped a man’s strength. The first woman, Eve in the Christian story, Pandora in Greek myth, corrupts the pristine male world. Women come after man but are the origin of evil. Pandora opens her box and lets diseases loose on the world, Eve opens Eden to Satan. In Greek myth all the persecuting nightmare demons, punitive underworld polluting forces, like the Furies, the Gorgon and Sphinx, are female.

Why have men, who have always held the advantage in the balance of power, said so loudly that women are bad? Where does misogyny come from?

Some theorists pin it onto fears of female sexuality. The little boy, in awe of mother’s power, and of her insides, where he came from, becomes the ruling male, making sure that this power does not threaten male order.

Greek myth backs this idea up. The Furies are textbook incarnations of those fears. A thousand myths show women destroying men, mainly through opening up something better kept closed. Greek literature hums with stories and comments about women’s dangerous openness – to nature, wildness, demons, darkness and above all, passion.

The tragic poets exploited all that brilliantly: Greek tragedy specialized in women whose passions destroy men. In Euripides' Bacchae, the royal house falls when its women run mad on the mountain; in Hippolytus, a boy dies because his stepmother desires him and accuses him to her husband of assaulting her.

So much for myth. What about rock? Where would you look psychologically for the roots of its misogyny?

"Baby" - and Resenting Male Need

Maybe the infantilizing endearments. When I asked Yoko Ono what she thought about rock's babyizing words, she said,

It's to do with childhood. The strength of rock 'n' roll is the energy of a baby, almost, saying, "We're trying to communicate!" I think that's its deep power, really.

Does rock's "deep power" come, then, from the way boys learn to love and hate as a baby?

When rock began, "baby" was its favourite endearment. It came into popular white music from black culture in the twenties and thirties. In its original context, it was interchangeable with "Mama" and "Daddy". Where's your mama gone, where's your baby gone? Mama and baby were the same person - your lover. But the history of a convention does not explain what it is up to today. (Origins, say the anthropologists, do not determine function.) Baby came from black culture but white pop did not have to use it: the term matched something in the psyche. White pop gave up the "lover" meaning in 'Mama" and "Daddy" but hung onto "baby." "Baby" expresses something now - but what? Why such a family word, when family is part of the system which male rock ostensibly wants out of?

"Baby" can be sung by men or women: white culture kept the interchangeability. But boy using it to girl is a million times commoner. It is the template: it suggests a need to downgrade the girl, like chick, doll, bird, little bit of fluff. She is a plaything, an infant - as you were, when a woman first held you. Having begun life in a woman's power, you have to tip power the other way. If rock's fundamental voice is a boy saying he is a man, of course it is going to downgrade girls to infants.

That would be the argument, anyway. Baby Come Close, Baby Get Lost, Baby Please Don't Go, Baby Wont You Please Come Home. After the "Baby" comes the imperative (Baby Scratch My Back), the jussive subjunctive (the ordering mood) - Baby Let's Play House, a request for sympathy (Baby it's Cold Tonight) or a little plea: Baby can I Hold You Tonight? Coax, complain, cry, command: this is how mothers and babies operate together. When lovers talk in baby talk, say psychologists, it is not talking like a baby but talking as a mother does to a baby.

The album Let Love In from the Australian singer Nick Cave, chanting Do you love me obsessively at beginning and end, homes in brilliantly on male fury at this need, this violent helplessness, connecting infantile vulnerability to women with murderous violence against them...

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