I think most people who listen to punk rock would agree that “Institutionalized” by Suicidal Tendencies is one of the true classics of the genre. The story of how the singer got put in an institution, but told from the tongue-in-cheek perspective of someone who hasn’t yet taken responsibility for his actions. Mike’s also presumed to be in the institution when writing the song. Sensing all those layers made it so much funnier. And of course if you were institutionalized in the 80s, as I was, this was it.
Sometimes I try to do things, and it just doesn’t work out the way I want it to, and I get real frustrated and I’m like, I try hard to do it, and I, like, take my time, and it doesn’t work out the way I want it to. It’s like, I concentrate on it real hard but it doesn’t work out. And everything I do and everything I try it never turns out. It’s like, I need time to figure these things out, but there’s always someone there going, “Hey, Mike, you know, we’ve been noticing you’ve been having a lot of problems lately, you know, you should, maybe, get away, and like, maybe you should talk about it, you’ll feel a lot better.” And I go, “No, it’s okay, you know, I’ll figure it out. Just leave me alone, I’ll figure it out. You know, I’m just working on myself.” And they go, “Well you know if you want to talk about it I’ll be here you know and you’ll probably feel a lot better if you talk about it, so why don’t you talk about it?” I go, “No, I don’t want to, I’m okay, I’ll figure it out myself.” But they just keep bugging me and they just keep bugging me and it builds up inside. You’re gonna be institutionalized. You’ll come out brainwashed with bloodshot eyes. You won’t have any say. They’ll brainwash you until you see their way. I’m not crazy! (Institutionalized!) You’re the one who’s crazy! (Institutionalized!) You’re driving me crazy! (Institutionalized!) They stick me in an institution, said it was the only solution to give me the needed professional help to protect me from the enemy, myself.
I was in my room and I was just like staring at the wall thinking about everything, but then again I was thinking about nothing, and then my mom came in and I didn’t even know she was there. She called my name and I didn’t even hear it and then she started screaming, “Mike! Mike!” And I go, “What, what’s the matter?” And she goes, “What’s the matter with you?” I go, “There’s nothing wrong, mom.” And she goes, “Don’t tell me that, you’re on drugs!” I go, “No, mom, I’m not on drugs, I’m okay. I was just thinking, you know, why don’t you get me a Pepsi?” And she goes, “No, you’re on drugs!” I go, “Mom, I’m okay, I’m just thinking.” She goes, “No, you’re not thinking, you’re on drugs. Normal people don’t act that way.” I go, “Mom just give me a Pepsi, please. All I want is a Pepsi.” And she wouldn’t give it to me. All I wanted was a Pepsi, just one Pepsi. And she wouldn’t give it to me, just a Pepsi. They give you a white shirt with long sleeves tied around you’re back, you’re treated like thieves. Drug you up because they’re lazy. It’s too much work to help a crazy. I’m not crazy! (Institutionalized!) You’re the one who’s crazy! (Institutionalized!) You’re driving me crazy! (Institutionalized!) They stick me in an institution, said it was the only solution to give me the needed professional help to protect me from the enemy, myself.
I’m sitting in my room and my mom and my dad came in. They pulled up a chair and they sat down, they go, “Mike, we need to talk to you.” I go, “Okay, what’s the matter?” They go, “Me and your mom have been noticing lately that you’ve been having a lot of problems. You’ve been going off for no reason, and we’re afraid you’re gonna hurt somebody. We’re afraid you’re gonna hurt yourself. So we decided that it would be in your best interest if we put you somewhere where you could get the help that you need.” And I go, “Wait, what are you talking about? We decided? My best interest? How do you know what my best interest is? How can you say what my best interest is? What are you trying to say? I’m crazy? When I went to your schools, I went to your churches, I went to your institutional learning facilities? So how can you say I’m crazy?” They say they’re gonna fix my brain, alleviate my suffering and my pain, but by the time they fix my head, mentally, I’ll be dead. I’m not crazy! (Institutionalized!) You’re the one who’s crazy! (Institutionalized!) You’re driving me crazy! (Institutionalized!) They stick me in an institution, said it was the only solution to give me the needed professional help to protect me from the enemy, myself.
It doesn’t matter, I’ll probably get hit by a car anyway.
Amanda Palmer, as part of Dresden Dolls, pioneered the genre of punk cabaret. This is a perfect example. She does sound like she knows of what she screams.
- Ramble Tamble
- It Came Out Of The Sky
- The Night Time Is The Right Time
- Keep On Chooglin’
- Wrote A Song For Everyone
- Fortunate Son
- Up Around The Bend
- Bad Moon Rising
- Don’t Look Now (It Ain’t You Or Me)
- Side O’ The Road
- Green River
- Travelin’ Band
- I Heard It Through The Grapevine
- Down On The Corner
- Franklin’s Tower
- They Love Each Other
- Scarlet Begonias
- Fire On The Mountain
- Morning Dew
While investigating Steve Albini’s latest band on YouTube, I came across a comment where someone pointed out the well-known fact that Steve Albini is an asshole, only to be insulted by the guy who had put the video up — someone who didn’t see the irony in reacting the way he did.
The legendary Steve Albini apparently being a dick in real life is just what people say. It also informed his approach to the way he made music in Big Black. The name of the band itself was perfect for putting people out of ease. Liberals would worry about whether or not it was racist, and racists would be put off by the imagery of the “big black guy”. (The one thing racists are supposed to be most afraid of.) Like any punk rocker with a chip on his shoulder, Albini made outrageous statements that he refused to explain. He wrote songs about violent/taboo thoughts and daydreams, but made them real, with dark, scary characters doing the narrative. And he didn’t explain that he wasn’t those characters.
Of course the way to talk to someone on one of your own videos is politely and kindly. And the way for any punk rocker to talk to any other punk rocker is politely and kindly, in my opinion. It’s stupid to do less. No one should feel obligated to put on the jerk persona in order to be a fan of hardcore music.
(For the sake of punk rock.)
Since I’m a Gen X’er, I was never around people listening to the music of the 00’s. (I know so many 80’s pop songs because of having been in that milieu.) My Gen Y / Xennial friend Zak used to tell me back around 2000 about this pop singer entirely manufactured by her record company, who happened to be playing pop punk. I eventually saw bits of her on YouTube. I saw her being interviewed, and acting as if she were a spoiled child. For a while she wore ties as her signature fashion statement, and asked an interviewer, in response to the question did she listen to the Sex Pistols, “Does the singer for the Sex Pistols wear ties?” She may have been in a music industry bubble and more a depressing celebrity than anything else, but there is something almost militantly important about retaining the spirit of punk rock, if you are in fact going to represent it.
I once sent her a YouTube video via Twitter. It was the Dead Kennedys playing “Pull My Strings” live at the Bay Area Music Awards, March 1980. (Audio only.) (Known to us 80’s kids through a compilation they’d released that we’d all had.) The band had been booked for the awards show because they were the biggest punk band in San Francisco. They all came on wearing ties (!), which were flipped over their shoulders. They were all dressed the same, in black slacks and white shirts with big S’s written on the front. They were supposed to play one of their singles, but they stopped right at the beginning, flipped their ties down to turn the S’s into dollar signs, and then did their only performance (or recording) of one of the greatest attacks on the music industry ever recorded. Its chorus: “Is my cock big enough / Is my brain small enough / For you to make me a star / Give me a toot / I’ll sell you my soul / Pull my strings and I’ll go far”. I have no idea if she paid any attention to that or saw it. But it was a shitty thing that I did to a human being, to my mind as a defense of the “purity” of punk, or what have you, but really to be a bully to someone anonymous, though actually famous. So that happened. I did it to her two more times, I think. Along the same lines. Something undoubtedly clever and biting about her posing and fronting and being a false punk idol. I know. Making fun of the fact that she married the singer of Nickelback. Which she did. She can only blame herself for that.
I guess the third time was when she tried re-inventing herself in the guise of a J-Pop star — including a video done religiously in the style of Japanese television and to the taste of Japanese audiences, forgetting how jarring and ridiculous she was being — stealing the famous Skrillex hairstyle in the process. Akin to the time Madonna announced her big re-invention, appeared on a European hotel balcony dressed as a Hindu goddess, was ridiculed instantly, and then chucked the idea.
Having Avril Lavigne do a cover of Joan Jett’s “Bad Reputation” is, to me, a fantastic record company idea. Both as safe and dangerous as exactly necessary. And it’s a great cover. But it’s just not right. It just cannot be accepted. Is my Gen X opinion.
In the end — possibly having seen the documentary The Punk Singer, about Kathleen Hanna, the lead singer of Bikini Kill and catalyst for the riot grrrl movement — she announced that she too was battling Lyme Disease, asked for prayers on social media, and disappeared.
She may actually be recording music and releasing it, and I just haven’t noticed. Because, as I said, I’ve never actually listened to anything she’s ever done other than that one cover. My buddy Zak and I just used to talk about her when we were sitting in restaurants about twenty years ago.
Eight miles high, and when you touch down
You’ll find that it’s stranger than known
Signs in the street, that say where you’re going
Are somewhere just being their own
Nowhere is there warmth to be found
Among those afraid of losing their ground
Rain gray town, known for its sound
In places, small faces unbound
Round the squares, huddled in storms
Some laughing, some just shapeless forms
Sidewalk scenes, and black limousines
Some living, some standing alone
From the wiki: “Critics often cite ‘Eight Miles High’ as being the first bona fide psychedelic rock song, as well as a classic of the counterculture era.”
From an amateur reviewer at Rate Your Music: “This, the best single ever released, starts with a pronged phrase that is more or less faithful to the 12-stringed intro of the ‘60s original. But don’t be taken in by this because all too soon it will head off in a completely different direction. Within moments Grant’s tribal toms are in the fray and it’s obvious a war’s being declared — a marathon battle to stave off the worst come-down imaginable, an amphetamine-starved psyche crashing after a four year binge. In any case, what we’re talking about here is the essence of perdition.”
I should add that, as the original was to psychedelic rock, this cover was to post-hardcore. It was one of the first shots.
AFX – “215061”
The Avalanches – “Frontier Psychiatrist”
Beastie Boys – “The Sounds Of Science”
MC5 – “Rocket Reducer No 62”
Lush – “Deluxe”
Pink Floyd – “Green Is The Colour”
Black Sabbath – “Planet Caravan”
Neu! – “Hallogallo”
Grateful Dead – “Morning Dew”
Can – “Turtles Have Short Legs”
Roxy Music – “Virginia Plain”
Nirvana – “Territorial Pissings”
Lou Reed – “Satellite Of Love”
Big Star – “In The Street”
- Egg Raid On Mojo
- The New Style
- The Sounds Of Science
- Professor Booty
- Sure Shot
“1987 was the year for music. That’s when you didn’t have to worry about whether or not there was inspiration out there. Everything that came out was good. But that dried up by 1990.”
“That was a bad year?”
“It wasn’t 1987. There was a brief resurgence around 1992, but that was just the last gasp of underground music. Then it turned into alternative rock, which was radio music. Alternative rock took out all the elements that landed bands in small venues, and highlighted the elements that got bands the big arenas.”
“But there was indie rock.”
“I think of indie rock as if you took 80s underground rock and made it boring.”
“Electronic made the most ground. There was The Orb and Aphex Twin in ’92 with the ambient renaissance. And big beat came along around 1997. That was just edited breakbeats.”
“A lot of potential in that one?”
“Very little. The whole genre was gone within two years.”
“What about hip-hop?”
“I don’t know. I don’t really listen to hip-hop.”
“What about country music?”
“What about classical music?”
“In the 1700s the talented musicians were trying to make it in classical music. Now they’re trying to make it in rock. End of story.”
“What about jazz?”
“Soft jazz at that point. Nothing of interest.”
“What about blues?”
“I have no idea. Ask some guy going through a mid-life crisis.”
- Eliminator Jr
- Sugar Kane
- Chapel Hill
- Hot Wire My Heart