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“American Music” – Violent Femmes

Violent Femmes were an American alternative rock band from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, initially active between 1980 and 1987 and again from 1988 to 2009. The band performed as a trio, including: singer, guitarist and songwriter Gordon Gano, bassist Brian Ritchie, and two drummers, Victor DeLorenzo (1980–1993 and 2002–2009) and Guy Hoffman (1993–2002).

Violent Femmes were founded by bassist Brian Ritchie and percussionist Victor DeLorenzo following the demise of the initial wave of American punk rock, and became a full-fledged band upon the arrival of lead vocalist and guitarist Gordon Gano. In its early days, the band frequently played coffee houses and street corners. They were discovered by James Honeyman-Scott (of The Pretenders) on August 23, 1981, when the band was busking on a street corner in front of the Oriental Theatre, the Milwaukee venue that The Pretenders would be playing later that night.

They put together a demo tape that was produced by Mark Van Hecke, a noted composer who had worked with legendary theater groups like The Milwaukee Rep and the groundbreaking Theater X. The tape resulted in the band being signed to the then-independent Los Angeles punk label Slash Records. In April 1983, they released their debut, Violent Femmes, which had been completed nine months earlier. The record, like the demo tape, was produced by Van Hecke. The music was an innovative combination of American folk music, gospel music, blues, and punk rock, which would much later come to be known as “folk punk”.  The lyrics were the common themes of yearning for love, sex and affection. The group quickly gained a following that never veered into mainstream commercialism.

Despite their innovative roots, the band had a difficult time.  Due to personal and creative differences they had a hard time staying together, and after a number of splits and lawsuits Violent Femmes ultimately disbanded amid legal problems.  However they made a real impact on modern American rock, and left us with this gem!  I like American Music.

Lyrics here.

More about Violent Femmes here.

American Music - Permanent Record: The Very Best of the Violent Femmes

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