How did the ‘alternative’ revolution of the 90’s occur? It wasn’t an overnight overthrow. Nope. Let’s go further back.
After the punk and New Wave scenes peaked and faded in the late 70’s and early 80’s, a new generation of bands rose up across America’s fruited plains, groups that knew how to disregard rules with a punk spirit but at the same time weren’t afraid of throwing melodies and hooks into the mix. These bands didn’t approach mainstream, Top 40 success, but instead found a home on college radio stations (and, occasionally, on content-starved MTV). These independent stations could play whatever they wanted, thereby giving underground music millions of new ears.
Here’s one such band who helped open minds and hearts to music of a different persuasion.
In Milwaukee, a trio of acoustic musicians calling themselves Violent Femmes created their own unique folk-punk sound, but didn’t have any grand visions beyond the street corners on which they busked. That all changed one day in 1981. While playing their spirited songs outside of a theater hosting a concert by The Pretenders later that evening, the Femmes were spotted by Pretenders’ guitarist James Honeyman-Scott, who then introduced the trio to lead singer Chrissie Hynde, who then spontaneously asked the group to play a short set that night inside the very theater they were currently busking outside of for spare change.
A year later, Violent Femmes found themselves in a studio recording their debut album. The songs were restless, full of jittery energy, sung by what sounded like a snotty, disaffected teenager. When released in the spring of 1983, the eponymous album gained popularity–and notoriety–on the college rock/indie/underground scene, and became a cornerstone record for the music that eventually became known as ‘alternative.’
So take one, one, one …. with Violent Femmes.