KEEPING THAT *&#% CHRISSIE HYNDE IN HER PLACE (What We Should Expect From Critics: Fourteenth Maxim)

Greil Marcus’ website has become one of the livelier, more interesting places on the internet. And he’s been most gracious in responding on the two occasions I’ve submitted a question/comment to his mailbag.

But Jesus H. Christ.

From 1980, in the midst of a recently linked, and otherwise fine, dissertation on the demise of the Summer Record (centered around the Jamies’ “Summertime, Summertime”):

And that means that when the battle of the giant radios takes place on the beaches this summer, the music just isn’t going to be appropriate. You’re going to hear Van Halen groaning about how the cradle will rock, Chrissie Hynde getting gang-banged, Bob Seger feeling sorry for himself and, for the sixth month in a row, Pink Floyd chanting “We don’t need no education/We don’t need no thought control.”

(Greil Marcus: New West, “Real LIfe Rock” 7/28/80)

Chrissie Hynde getting gang-banged?

Chrissie Hynde?

Given 1980 was the summer Marcus was referring to, the only records Hynde (i.e. the Pretenders) could have had on the radio were these:

Not that even one record she’s released since would justify imagining her–or any woman–gang-banged, assuming anything ever could.

I’ve spent the last two days turning this over in my mind, trying to see it from all conceivable angles. And I haven’t been able to see it any way but the bookish male’s standard desire to see all women humiliated in both theory and practice while suggesting she asked for it.

I’d really like to hear from anyone who sees it some other way.

There are things one could say about Chrissie Hynde. She thinks animals are the same as humans, for instance–and I mean really the same–whereas I lean towards Chesterton’s warning that people who start by worshiping animals invariably end by sacrificing humans.

But I’ve never found my disagreements over such minor issues tempting me to imagine her needing to be taught a lesson for daring to first assemble the greatest rock and roll band in the world (even if neither she, Marcus nor anyone else could have known she would watch it disintegrate into a whirl of deadly drug abuse in less than an eye-blink) and then lead it.

Meanwhile I think this is as good a place as any to assert the Fourteenth Maxim:

Always practice your craft in such a manner that no one ever need wonder–in even the most distant of futures–whether at long last you have no decency.

6 thoughts on “KEEPING THAT *&#% CHRISSIE HYNDE IN HER PLACE (What We Should Expect From Critics: Fourteenth Maxim)

  1. Yes: I see it some other way, although it doesn’t cast a positive light on Greil’s remark, either. I see a “critic” trying to be clever-clever with his words. Throw in a more-cynical-and-detached-than-thou attitude, and you’ve got Standard “Critic” Writing (TM). It’s typically all about the writer and how he can show off his sharp pencil, rather than the music itself.

    It’s one of about forty-seven thousand reasons for which I hold “critics” in the lowest professional esteem possible (out of those jobs that don’t involve physically injuring others, anyway). I’ve gone on about that before, so I won’t risk tedium by being critical of “critics” yet again; but even that crass, failed wordplay didn’t surprise me when I read it. The only “critic” whose words I’ve ever read and whom I’ve thus found genuinely music-loving, knowledgable and, for that matter, intelligent are those that you’ve related from memory about your favorite music commentator.

    I’m not even sure that Marcus’ unpalatable comment can be tied to a larger mindset about females; he probably would have found it even funnier, and patted himself on the head harder, if he’d been referring to a man.

    The only question that remains: How did he anticipate “Back on the Chain Gang,” which wouldn’t be released until the fall of ’82? Was the band playing it live a couple of years before its recording? Or instead, was the title Chrissie’s sarcastic nod to Greil’s self-revealing tastelessness from ’80? Such smart-assery would be just like her, even if I’m grasping at straws.

    • I’ll buy that he was trying to be clever…and failing. But it’s funny how often a “liberal” critic’s cleverness defaults to a fantasy land where some woman is being humiliated (the stronger the woman, the baser the imagined act perpetrated against her).

      But I like the idea of “Back on the Chain Gang” as a riposte. Epic if intentional–aimed at Marcus or the crit-illuminati in general–and tantalizing as an act of the subconscious will even if not!

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