ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes


Home   ChickenBones Store (Books, DVDs, Music, and more)  




Until that night, I had never a thought of rebelling against the system or my mother, but one

glimpse of The Sex Pistols changed my perspective on the world, which at the time was limited

to my Harlem hood, a massive comic book collection and more than a few pop records.





White Boy Music

By Michael Gonzales


Growing-up in the seventies, me and my baby brother Carlos had more differences than just our musical tastes. While he was a small boned boy, I was squeezing into husky sized pants; while he played stickball in the street, I devoured Jack Kirby comics; by high school, while ‘Los pumped iron and marched with R.O.T.C., I was puffing reefer and scribbling poems (“…like some kind of sissy,” he teased) in my notepad.

Living in the concrete circus of New York City, we were surrounded by an array of cultural rhythms that soared like soft winged birds throughout the neighborhood. From the open window of our shapely Rican neighbor Miss. Soto, the frantic salsa sound of Ray Barretto, Celia Cruz and Eddie Palmieri blared; up the block, hard knock hustlers parked their ornate rides and chilled to the chocolate bubble bath splash of the Isley Brothers, Barry White or Issac Hayes that sloshed from their speakers.

Across Broadway, the flour-covered men behind the Formica counter at Tony’s Pizzeria digested a steady diet of ballroom ballads sung by Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin or Tony Bennett; while around the corner, the old black man who worked in Leo’s Laundromat listened to sacred gospel songs, contentedly nodding his head to the hallowed hymns.

While Carlos listened to wah-wah funk bands and strobe light disco singles, I had somehow tripped into a wonderland of screaming guitars, blaring banshee vocals and thunderous drums. Beginning with sneaking peeks at Elvis Presley flicks on the CBS Late Movie when I was seven, I had a serious jones in rock-n-roll.

One humid summer evening, hanging-out with our neighborhood crew playing the dozens in front of a flickering street light on 151st Street and Riverside Drive, my brother snapped, “At least ya’ll don’t have to listen to that white boy music Michael be playing. Those loud ass guitars and screaming drives me crazy.”

Brooding like a baby, I ran into the crib, and drowned my sorrow in Freddy Mercury’s falsetto. Indeed, the rock acts that attracted me were the flamboyant glam of Kiss, David Bowie and Elton John. My “Bennie & the Jets”/”Pinball Wizard”/”Someone Saved My Life Tonight” obsession got so bad, I had started scribbling “Elton” as my middle name on school papers.

In class, handing me back a yet another history test I had failed, beefy Mr. Waters snidely screamed, “I’m sure Elton John managed to pass history, but, at the rate you’re going, you may never get out of sixth grade.”

The entire class snickered as I visualized myself bedazzled in neon boots and a mohair suit as electric music and solid walls of sound crumbled at my feet.

*   *   *   *   *

For me, television was yet another passion. Forget about the former Tom Verlaine / Richard Lloyd band, I’m talking about the glowing glass teat that hypnotized my generation with its Technicolor gamma rays: Schoolhouse Rock shorts, nappy-headed Fred Sanford heart attacks, pictures of Patty Hearst robbing banks, soulful Fat Albert playing funk tunes in a Philly junkyard and ivory picket fence Brady Bunch images was my thing.

Still, it wasn’t until a few months past my twelfth birthday that I got my first peek at punk rock, and realized there was a universe beyond Elton’s radiant rhinestone eyeglass, Freddy Mercury’s spandex jumpsuits and Ziggy Stardust partying with spiders on Mars.

One Saturday night, lying on the pudding brown linoleum in the living room, ‘Los and I watched a NBC news show called Weekend. Hosted by Lloyd Dobbins and Linda Ellerbee, a groundbreaking program came on as a replacement to Saturday Night Live once a month.

With subjects that ranged from comic book collectors to incest, one could never predict the topics that would be featured. Still, it was quite a surprise that winter night in ‘77 when Weekend aired a segment on “the punk phenomenon in England.” Open-mouthed, I gazed at the television screen with a glee as The Sex Pistols wreaked havoc in countless unsuspecting households throughout America.

Broadcasted “in living color,” this crew of wild Brit boys clad in worn jeans, ripped t-shirts, chunky black boots and numerous piercings stalked the stage of a tattered venue in brutish abandon. “That’s disgusting,” Carlos mumbled sleepily as lead “singer” (screamer, shouter, shrieker) Johnny Rotten lobbed gobs of spit into the frenzied folks in the front jumped up and down. It was as though they were being baptized “You would never see The Jackson Five spitting at their fans.”

The more these “self-styled barbarians,” as Brit writer Nigel Williamson later described The Sex Pistols, taunted their fans, the more maniacal the crowd became. These crazed scenes inside the club were edited with shots of the band’s infamous boat ride on the Thames to promote the single “God Save the Queen,” an interview with their trickster manager Malcolm McLaren and footage from their demented appearance (pre-Sid Vicious) on a BBC talk show.

Until that night, I had never a thought of rebelling against the system or my mother, but one glimpse of The Sex Pistols changed my perspective on the world, which at the time was limited to my Harlem hood, a massive comic book collection and more than a few pop records.

For months after watching the broadcast about the social revolution of punk, I worried about the fragile state of civilization and badgered my mother with inane requests to be sent to an English boarding school like my cousin Calais, who upon returning to the states spoke incisively in her affected accent and gushed about seeing the Sex Pistols in person.

Next to the poof pop of Elton and Queen, punk rockers were a bunch of rowdy kids who could barely play their instruments, but perfect pitch and harmony hardly seemed the point.

Enraptured by the sheer emotion, vibrant energy, and defiant anger directed at the plastic people populating our world, the Pistols planted a germ of creative discontent that encouraged me to write angst ridden poems overflowing with images of anarchy and sorrow, question the teachings of my Catholic education as I strove to survive in a no-future (a slogan the non-punk Black folks in my hood could well understand) world of posers and squares.

Source: BlackadelicPop

*   *   *   *   *

McLaren & Meyer & Rotten & Vicious & me (on Sex Pistols)—Roger Ebert"England survived the Sex Pistols, and they mostly survived England, although Lydon still feels it is unsafe for him to return there. [He and the other survivors, did concerts and tours as recently as 2008.] Cook and Jones lead settled lives. McLaren still has bright ideas. Vivienne Westwood has emerged as one of Britain's most successful designers, and poses for photographs in which she bears a perfect resemblance to Mrs. Thatcher. [She is now Dame Vivien Westwood.] And as for Sid, my notes from the movie say that while the Pistols were signing a record deal in front of Buckingham Palace and insulting the queen, Sid's father was a Grenadier Guard on duty in front of the palace. Surely I heard that wrong?"

Malcolm McLaren died of cancer on April 8, 2010, in a Swiss clinic. He will be buried in London's fabled Highgate Cemetery, resting with Karl Marx, George Eliot, Christina Rossetti, Radcliffe Hall, Douglas Adams, Sir Ralph Richardson, and other congenial companions. He is survived by the son he had with Westwood, Joseph Corré. The apple fell close to the tree. Corré is co-founder of Agent Provocateur, which began as a small Soho shop selling provocative lingerie and now has 30 stores in 14 countries. The German artist Marie-Amourfou was so inspired by the Agent Provocateur catalogue that she created the painting below. I wish Russ had lived to see it.

*   *   *   *   *

Audio: My Story, My Song (Featuring blues guitarist Walter Wolfman Washington)

The Heart of Whiteness

By Robert Jensen

1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created

By Charles C. Mann

Generation Soul: Can Dru Hill Revive The Vocal Group?

*   *   *   *   *'s 25 Best Selling Books



#1 - Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark
#2 - Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree
#3 - Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane
#4 - Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper
#5 - Stackin' Paper 2 Genesis' Payback by Joy King
#6 - Thug Lovin' (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark
#7 - When I Get Where I'm Going by Cheryl Robinson
#8 - Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby
#9 - The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane

#10 - Covenant: A Thriller  by Brandon Massey

#11 - Diary Of A Street Diva  by Ashley and JaQuavis

#12 - Don't Ever Tell  by Brandon Massey

#13 - For colored girls who have considered suicide  by Ntozake Shange

#14 - For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree

#15 - Homemade Loves  by J. California Cooper

#16 - The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper

#17 - Player Haters by Carl Weber

#18 - Purple Panties: An Anthology by Sidney Molare

#19 - Stackin' Paper by Joy King

#20 - Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey

#21 - The Upper Room by Mary Monroe

#22 – Thug Matrimony  by Wahida Clark

#23 - Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark

#24 - Married Men by Carl Weber

#25 - I Dreamt I Was in Heaven - The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter


#1 - Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable
#2 - Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans
#3 - Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane
#4 - Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper
#5 - Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You're Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant
#6 - Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey
#7 - The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight
#8 - The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing
#9 - The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

#10 - John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

#11 - Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley

#12 -The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 - The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 - The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

#15 - Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can't Commit  by RM Johnson

#16 - Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins

#17 - Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell

#18 - A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 - John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

#20 - Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris

#21 - Age Ain't Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice

#22 - 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino
#23 - Chicken Soup for the Prisoner's Soul by Tom Lagana
#24 - 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields

#25 - Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class  by Lisa B. Thompson

*   *   *   *   *

Greenback Planet: How the Dollar Conquered

the World and Threatened Civilization as We Know It

By H. W. Brands

In Greenback Planet, acclaimed historian H. W. Brands charts the dollar's astonishing rise to become the world's principal currency. Telling the story with the verve of a novelist, he recounts key episodes in U.S. monetary history, from the Civil War debate over fiat money (greenbacks) to the recent worldwide financial crisis. Brands explores the dollar's changing relations to gold and silver and to other currencies and cogently explains how America's economic might made the dollar the fundamental standard of value in world finance. He vividly describes the 1869 Black Friday attempt to corner the gold market, banker J. P. Morgan's bailout of the U.S. treasury, the creation of the Federal Reserve, and President Franklin Roosevelt's handling of the bank panic of 1933. Brands shows how lessons learned (and not learned) in the Great Depression have influenced subsequent U.S. monetary policy, and how the dollar's dominance helped transform economies in countries ranging from Germany and Japan after World War II to Russia and China today. He concludes with a sobering dissection of the 2008 world financial debacle, which exposed the power--and the enormous risks--of the dollar's worldwide reign.  The Economy

*   *   *   *   *

Sex at the Margins

Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry

By Laura María Agustín

This book explodes several myths: that selling sex is completely different from any other kind of work, that migrants who sell sex are passive victims and that the multitude of people out to save them are without self-interest. Laura Agustín makes a passionate case against these stereotypes, arguing that the label 'trafficked' does not accurately describe migrants' lives and that the 'rescue industry' serves to disempower them. Based on extensive research amongst both migrants who sell sex and social helpers, Sex at the Margins provides a radically different analysis. Frequently, says Agustin, migrants make rational choices to travel and work in the sex industry, and although they are treated like a marginalised group they form part of the dynamic global economy. Both powerful and controversial, this book is essential reading for all those who want to understand the increasingly important relationship between sex markets, migration and the desire for social justice. "Sex at the Margins rips apart distinctions between migrants, service work and sexual labour and reveals the utter complexity of the contemporary sex industry. This book is set to be a trailblazer in the study of sexuality."—Lisa Adkins, University of London

*   *   *   *   *

The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

*   *   *   *   *

Ancient African Nations

*   *   *   *   *

If you like this page consider making a donation

online through PayPal

*   *   *   *   *

Negro Digest / Black World

Browse all issues

1950        1960        1965        1970        1975        1980        1985        1990        1995        2000 ____ 2005        


*   *   *   *   *

The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery / George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

*   *   *   *   *

The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

*   *   *   *   *

*   *   *   *   *






posted 16 April 2010




Home  Music  Musicians  Special Topics  Hip Hop   Film Review    Short Stories  Interviews   Mau Mau Aesthetics

Related files: Why Chesiel Matters  Barry Michael Cooper  Shaft: Isaac Hayes' Revolutionary Soundtrack  Why Greg Tate Matters  / An Interview with Michael A Gonzales  Such Sweet Thunder  / Boogie Down Inferno

Slow Down Heart / Soundtracks of Quincy Jones  / White Boy MusicReturn Of The Ankh by Erykah Badu