Dynamic Dynamite: Explosive Vocalists Who Changed Music Part IV.

By Stevil, March 12th, 2017

You must be thinking that this is getting ridiculous. But if you ever attempted to do a search for punk rock vocalists, you'd know how terrible the results were, thus making my efforts necessary. With that said, let me (re)introduce you to...

A rare glimpse of MC5 caught with their pants on; underwear and shirts were too badly stained. Photo by Leni Sinclair.

Rob Tyner. KICK OUT THE JAMS, MUTHAFUCKAS!!! You better believe those were the first spoken words of Punk Rock. They absolutely were, so if you're looking for a starting point, look no further. As a member of the MC5, Rob destroyed what was previously known as toughness in the politically-fueled left wing of Rock 'N Roll in the heart of the Vietnam war and set the tempo with an electric, energetic charge for everyone else that would follow. And follow, they did. This may be hard to believe for some of you, but it certainly explains his hair. Rob was indeed a game-changer and without the convenience of the hair-care products we have available today.

Joan Larkin. Joan Jett was on the map with The Runaways--and rightfully so--but that was just the beginning of what has proven to be a pretty remarkable career for a woman who is still remarkably pretty and every bit as fierce some 40+ years later. Someone should definitely attempt to read too far into that. But the thing about Joan is that she really was the first true frontwoman to deliver vocally with a guitar in her hands (a Gibson Melody Maker, if anyone's curious). A proven talent at songwriting and performing, she set the bar which few have reached. Additionally, as with many of the names mentioned here, names themselves have been a source of controversy, and Joan's is no exception. Contrary to popular belief, there's no relation to the Cincinnati Reds' legend, Barry Larkin. The fact that both have been highly successful and played a direct role in Brazilian Beisbol is strictly a coincidence. Or is it? You should go dissect her lyrics for a better idea. There's certainly no relation to the poet/writer by the same name, though that Joan arguably does resemble Barry.

Chris Bailey. Those of you unfamiliar with the land of Oz and the talent born of this Southern paradise have likely missed out on Australia's cousins of The Damned, The Saints, and little did you likely know, their single  "I'm Stranded" marked the first non-North American punk release, roughly one month before The Damned put out "New Rose". A family feud ensued as a result, much to the displeasure of their grandparents, who abruptly disowned both bands of bastards in wake of their very-public barrage of insults directed at virtually everyone in the bloodline--which is partially on them if you really think about it. But, as always, time has healed those wounds, and both bands are active and on friendly terms...for now. We'll see how their children's children turn out.

Dave Dictor. A punk household name from the beginning, Dave was infamous for his work in Stains, but ultimately, he had to take it a step further. And so came Millions of Dead Cops, in which he then played on the acronym to form even more insulting, controversial titles, much to the delight of his fans, myself included. A proponent of politically and socially fueled messages via Hardcore (hey!), Dave has touched on a variety of worthy causes and subjects as a leading social justice advocate with a tough-as-nails vehicle to drive home the messages with. If you feel inspired to tear down a wall, figuratively or literally, any of Dave's records would make for a good tool to start with. 

Jan Vetter. Also known by the pseudonym Farin Urlaub, Jan has arguably led the charge of Punk Rock in Germany since the mid 80's through yet another favorite vessel of mine, Die Ärzte. Residents of the Bundesprüfstelle für jugendgefährdende Medien, after German courts deemed several of their songs as being dangerous for children, Jan and Die Ärzte have fought the constraints of censorship at levels unknown to American and English Punk Rock bands, making them an important and leading voice in Central Europe. And the amazing thing is that their battles with das system revolves around humor. Think of The Dickies being banned for "If Stuart Could Talk". That would be the comparative. Today, this group of Prussian jesters sit at the top of the German musical hierarchy, having defeated their oppressors and influenced virtually every single band in Deutschland, but they continue to push the limits with ingenious creativity that's second to keiner.

Stiv Bators dressed up for a typical gentleman's night out with "the boys". 

Steven Bator. Famous frontman from The Dead Boys and The Lords of the New Church, one could argue that Stiv was the founding father of snot rock and they would be correct. He displayed a more raw image with the attitude to match, which isn't tough to envision when you listen to Young, Loud, and Snotty. The stories that accompany this well-traveled gentleman are seemingly unbelievable, yet astonishingly intriguing, and that's about the best I can do for formal, flattering descriptions of one of Punk's biggest icons. More importantly, the music was as captivating as it was influential, and it still shocks people when they hear it for the first time. Pearl Jam's cover of Sonic Reducer likely shocked veteran Dead Boys' fans in another manner, but I forgave Eddie years ago and you should, too. Or not. No sweat off my sack.

Kurt Cobain. The figurehead of Nirvana may seem out of place in a piece like this, but I assure you he isn't. There's no denying the originality and authenticity of Nirvana, and they--without question--changed music for the better. Or would you care to argue that we were better off with a band like Poison continuing to receive airtime regularly? They're responsible for essentially killing hair-rock, which was needed just as badly as the Iron Curtain needed to come down, and I'm sure those two long-awaited events were related. Makes for a good conspiracy theory, anyway. Kurt was the full package, and while dipshits like Bret Michaels struggled in the aftermath of Nirvana's arrival on the main stage, something bigger was seeding: acceptance. Punk rockers were no longer seen as complete outcasts, and alternative forms of existence became feasible. It's okay to feel stupid if you failed to recognize that before reading this post. Now, if someone would kindly step-up and find a way to kill the crap-ass pop that's currently plaguing the airwaves, I'd be most grateful. Hang the DJ!

Kurt Brecht. Fans of D.R.I. have been camping outside Hardball via Hardcore headquarters beneath the MASP for weeks now, just waiting to blast me for failing to list Kurt in this series. But therein lies the problem: they can't read, so they won't know that he made the cut, and my attempts to assure them otherwise will just look like a weak attempt to weasel my way out of a beating. Truth is, I've taken far worse beatings at D.R.I. shows, so while they may think they're getting the best of me, they're getting exactly what they got out of school: nothing. But Kurt gave the scene plenty as the throatalist (don't bother looking that one up) of one of the first real thrash bands, and speaking for myself and on behalf of the aforementioned, I feel comfortable stating that his work is a must-have for any legitimate record collection.

Paul Westerberg. If you're asking yourself who Paul Westerberg is, there's little doubt you either had a shitty childhood, or never had the privilege of hearing "Sorry Ma, Forgot to Take Out the Trash" or "Stink". In either case, you should make up for lost time and find those records immediately. The Replacements were a band that most people had heard of, but few had heard. The few that had, formed bands, and those would be the good bands you listen to now. Raw, energetic, and authentic, Paul extended all that was positive from 70's punk and put his own stamp on it. We'll pretend he never attempted to use the name of a Beatles album for the name of his own, though that took guts.

Steven Williams. Crass were quite possibly the largest proponents of the Do It Yourself concept out of England and Steve Ignorant was the visionary. He took punk in a completely different direction musically and philosophically from what was active at the time, which in turn led to all kinds of different, thought-provoking acts that invoke the spirit of rebellion. Crass demanded more from punk and he was one of the architects of it's evolution into something even more powerful. Think that didn't alarm the authorities? Scotland Yard investigated the band over lyrics. Lyrics!!! But that was just the beginning, as he would later dupe Margaret Thatcher, The U.S. State Department, and British Parliament. If I were him, I would want that on my epitaph. He probably fooled you into thinking "crust" punk was cool as well. Trust me, folks...soap has never been a part of the problem.


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