I had a bad introduction to DC hardcore at the riot at SOA and Black Flag in Kensington, Philadelphia. I saw Minor Threat as my first “date” with [SSD songwriter/guitarist] Al [Barile], and then again at Irving Plaza, did a fateful show with them at Buff Hall — where Ian was hit by a stolen car, Al’s van was smashed, and the Ghetto Riders Motorcycle Club did security.
Like Serpico, it seemed appropriate to begin with a snapshot of the end of this stellar playlist curated by writer/award-winning educator/hardcore punk trailblazer Nancy Barile to mark the release of her fantastic new memoir I’m Not Holding Your Coat: My Bruises-and-All Memoir of Punk Rock Rebellion: There is something about the elegant and unorthodox path these songs take that beautifully entwines with the narrative of her book, which itself is an inspiring, powerful tale of evolution and self-actualization in a world that runs interference against both.
In other words, I’m Not Holding Your Coat is not simply an edifying read for devotees of 80s punk hardcore or alternative teaching theory. Yes, the book covers that ground in fascinating and revelatory depth, but it also transcends such specifics to demonstrate the ways durable value structures can be applied to myriad seemingly unrelated pursuits, creating far-reaching ripples of positive and lasting change. It is a showcase for how the unlikeliest triumphs can be the sweetest and most profound. Barile has written a book that will — no exaggeration — change perspectives, mindsets, and, yes, lives.
“The punk thing for me, and I imagine most of us, was a way to find connection, because, for a variety of reasons, we felt marginalized in society,” Ian MacKaye writes in the introduction. “We used music as a gathering point of a currency or a secret language, and this made it possible to more easily spot a fellow traveler. It was entirely possible to spot someone on the street, and know that they knew that you both knew something special.”
If that sentiment resonates with you so, too, will Barile’s book and the following playlist…
1. The Rolling Stones: “Paint it Black”
Like many children, I watched Ed Sullivan on tv. Even as a child of about seven years old, I recognized the difference between the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. The Stones were darker, more dangerous, more primal. I was immediately drawn to them.
2. Temptations: “Ball of Confusion”
I began to recognize that music could be political and that it could be social criticism. I learned every word of this song, and I loved singing along.
3. David Essex: “Rock On”
I went to Catholic high school. I start to rebel against the draconian rules, the crushing conformity, the gender bias. As a freshmen on the first day of school, I felt disenfranchised and out of place, but when I walked into the school cafeteria and heard David Essex’s Rock On on the jukebox, I felt at home.
4. Ohio Players: “Fire”
As I said, the jukebox was a huge influence in my life, and this song was one of my favorite to play and dance to during the summer of 1975.
5. David Bowie: “Life on Mars”
My sister had a stereo I was forbidden to go near. She’d play her records in the basement, and when she went to work, I’d sneak down and listen to see which were the songs I heard floating up through the floorboards that I liked. Foghat and J. Geils — not so much! David Bowie, yes! I worshipped David Bowie, and he became a huge influence on me—my friends were also Bowie fans and he showed me that being different was cool.
5. Sylvester: “(You Make Me Feel) Mighty Real”
I was all in on punk, but I’m not going to lie… I loved some disco songs and this one was in heavy rotation in my dorm room. I’d sneak out with my gay friends and dance to the wee hours of the morning to this song.
6. Patti Smith: “Gloria”
I worshipped Patti Smith, and she was a strong role model in my life. I loved her music, and I followed her lead in discovering new art, literature, fashion. If Patti talked about a book, I ran out and got it. I even became a pen pal with her mother.
7. The Clash: “Janie Jones”
Another hugely influential band in my life, the Clash taught me about politics and standing up for what I believe in. I “ran into” the Clash in New York City with my little brother, Danny.
8. Joan Jett: “Bad Reputation”
Another powerful female influence in my life, I admired Jett’s work ethic, and I met and became friends with her guitar player, after meeting him in New Jersey.
9. Bad Brains: “Big Takeover”
Some friends of mine told me about the Bad Brains. They said that once I saw the Bad Brains, I’d be transformed. They were right.
10. Minor Threat: “In My Eyes”
I had a bad introduction to DC hardcore at the riot at SOA and Black Flag in Kensington, Philadelphia. I saw Minor Threat as my first “date” with Al, and then again at Irving Plaza, did a fateful show with them at Buff Hall — where Ian was hit by a stolen car, Al’s van was smashed, and the Ghetto Riders Motorcycle Club did security. Ian helped me frame the book, helping me to answer the question of why I was still talking about hardcore after forty years.