Rude Girls: Women in 2 Tone and One Step Beyond By Heather Augustyn, 394 pgs.

May 15, 2023

Heather Augustyn, a professor at Purdue Northwest University, is one of the world’s foremost scholars on the Jamaican musical forms of bluebeat, reggae, ska, and the subsequent merger with the nascent punk scene in England that produced the 2 Tone movement (or second wave of ska). This is her eighth book on the topic and, judging from the enthusiasm she brought to this project, I doubt it will be her last. Like an earlier book of hers focused entirely on the women in Jamaican music, this volume centers itself entirely on the women in England’s 2 Tone scene, choosing to focus on people who are generally passed over when these histories are written.

Unlike the oral history format that is so popular today, where snippets of interviews are presented in a way that fashions a chronological narrative for many bands and individuals, this book is divided into chapters representing (in nearly all cases) one particular band, and then interviews with the women who played in said band, from formation until the end. This is both the book’s biggest strength and also its biggest weakness. Coming out the gate with a fantastic essay on the “Beat Girl,” the ’60s Trinidadian singer Brigitte Bond, her subsequent outing as trans, and attempts to live her life peacefully in Franco-controlled Spain, is a tough act to follow.

Then three of the next four chapters tell the stories of The Selecter, The Bodysnatchers, and The Specials, thus covering pretty much all the bands a casual ska or 2 Tone fan would know about. They’re excellently written, especially the way the Bodysnatchers’ individual stories are woven together into a concise narrative, but we’re not halfway through the book and everyone most music fans would have heard of have already been dispatched. What’s left are interviews with people in bands that never released anything but played shows, backup singers in one-off projects, people who quit after one single, and bands with only tangential ties to the scene, like Bananarama. It grows pretty tedious, but I don’t believe Augustyn wrote this to be read straight through. This is a document of a time and a place, aiming to tell all the women’s stories from this era and, if you approach it with that cultural anthropologist lens, then it’s definitely a triumph. –Justin Bookworm (Self-Published, Sally Brown Publishing, Chesterton, Indiana, [email protected])

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I Have Everything I Need By Bridget McGee Houchins, 457 pgs.

August 11, 2020
Ever wish you had a travel guide for punks? This would cover you for a large portion of Europe and America, while also giving you tips on packing light and traveling frugally in pretty much every setting. Houchins starts out the book with a solid introduction to herself and her traveling partner, now husband, Tim. She goes into her own past of growing up in Southern California a bit untethered and moving from place to place while still very young. It’s easy to see that she, as well as Tim who has lived in a few squats, are quite comfortable being geographically fluid. The first leg of travel is the pair’s quite ambitious through-hike on the Pacific Crest Trail, a trail spanning from Campo, Calif. (just north of the U.S.-Mexico border), to Manning Park, British Columbia (just north of the U.S.-Canadian border. It’s a mere 2,650 miles. They trained for this as much as they could and researched the hell out of what to expect. While they sometimes relied on family (mostly Bridget’s mom who lived in the area) to help resupply them with food and water, a quick check-in meal at a diner just off the freeway, or pick them up for the unfortunate event of her grandmother’s funeral, they were always returned to the exact spot they’d left off so they could say they had hiked the whole thing. Sadly, but nothing less than impressive as hell, they had to stop at around three hundred miles due to an injury to Bridget’s knee, but not before meeting tons of kind “trail angels” and experiencing “trail magic” along the way. Even though the two are heavily tattooed and dreadlocked punks, there was quite a sense of community among hikers. Once Bridget recovered, they started rabidly saving money in order to sustain themselves through half a year of travel. First they crossed the U.S. by hitchhiking, trains, sketchy ride shares, or buses in order to fly out of Philadelphia to London because it was cheaper than leaving from California. On this awesome trip they visited twenty countries, rode flea market bicycles from Vienna, Austria to Budapest, Hungary (150 miles), saw a church full of bones in Évora, Portugal, drank inside castles in Edinburgh, Scotland, watched punk bands at a squat in Leipzig, Germany, got robbed in Patras, Greece, and so many other stories. They did it all by living on a punk budget, staying with friends and friendly strangers when needed, sleeping outside, on roofs, or in hostels, biking or walking whenever possible, and cutting off cell service, only using the WiFi for maps and travel booking. For the rest they relied on instinct and experience. I can’t begin to express how engaging these slice of life stories are. It’s like if Rick Steves had face tattoos and listened to Bümbklåått. –Kayla Greet (Self published)
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