Glitter and Dresses and Smeared Eyeliner and Anger
Everyone has a story about a song that changed their lives, here’s one of mine
This was originally posted at my Tumblr blog in 2014, but because it fits with this blog thematically and is also one of my favorite pieces of music writing I’ve done in the past few years, I’m going to republish it here.
(This is all the fault of one Kieron Gillen, because you can’t be Kieron Gillen and ask me to write something and expect me to turn it down.)
So, this is probably gonna be disjointed more than usual, but I’m writing about memory stuff and high school nostalgia and the building of myself so it’s a weird place to write about and I wanna try to edit it as little as possible.
I bought “Celebrity Skin” from our local Wal-Mart (ugh, yes, I KNOW, I’m so pathetically “small town girl in Pennsylvania” when you get right down to it). Around the same time (or not, it all blurs a bit) I bought Silverchair’s “Neon Ballroom” and Offspring’s “Americana.” These were my first ADULT albums. I’d bought music before and I’m not saying it was Raffi or anything, but these were different. Can’t tell you how.
Look, at that point I was kind of nobody. I was smart, I wouldn’t play dumb, I was on my own, I felt weird and outcast and blank. I went through a shitty half-hearted “goth” phase more to fit in with another group of friends than of my own accord. I just liked wearing a lot of black. Psychologically, apparently, it’s a thing people do when they want to be a blank slate, and that’s why it’s not uncommon for teenagers to do that while they’re finding themselves.
Anyway, there was something about “Celebrity Skin.” I bought the album off of just the title single. And that music video. It was glitter and dresses and smeared eyeliner and anger. Glitter on a drum being repeatedly struck and flying everywhere, that CAUGHT me. Like, this was something TOTALLY NEW to me, even though looking back it wasn’t new at all, it was a mainstream adaptation of something else I’d missed and I was just catching on.
Honeysuckle, she’s full of poison, she obliterated everything she kissed.
I was a GOOD girl. I was so fucking GOOD. I was going to get GOOD grades go to a GOOD college and do GOOD things and then, suddenly I hit that fucking drum and the glitter went everywhere and FUCK IT, no. I could be glitter and smudged eyeliner at the same time. The lyrics to that song, the beautiful smashed up right against the disgusting and unwanted, it broke through something inside of me.
And more than that: the video with Love and Melissa Auf der Maur with all that power. Like, it was theirs, they were in charge. I’d seen other girl fronted bands before, obviously No Doubt was a thing at the time (and would become more of a thing later as one of my other major musical formative experiences involves being in a record store while the video for “Hella Good” played and I possibly had a religious experience), but this was different. It wasn’t about being pretty. I mean, they WERE pretty, but it wasn’t ABOUT being pretty. There was something to it that just. I can’t explain.
I didn’t like the rest of the album that much, aside from “Awful” which gave me the same feelings that “Celebrity Skin” did but to a lesser extent. Those two songs, along with “Malibu” which has grown on me over time, are the only ones I revisit from that album. I can’t say I’m a huge Hole fan. But I’ve always kept my eyes on Courtney because she’s…something. Check her Pinterest. It made me feel stuff.
I don’t know if any of this makes sense or really even scratches the surface of what I want. I do know that in 2000 I was in a scholarship pageant and when I was about to go out onstage for the “Presence and Composure” competition, I stood there in my black and silver ballgown, with my hair loose and curled and a little messy around my face and thought about Courtney Love. For better or for worse.