“Agitate” stencil by Keith Dugas

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Audio Umami

Illustrated Amateur essay arguing that Mecca Normal ought to be discussed amongst the avant rock greats.

“Smith, and Mecca Normal, have cemented a place in feminist music history, so let’s take a minute to appreciate their other innovations. Let’s see about making sure they are mentioned in the catalogs of avant rock, too. Don’t let her words completely overshadow their deeds.”

 

Mecca Normal the Eagle and the Poodle

 

 
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Video: Now is the Time of the Older Woman

“Now is the time of the older woman.” – Gina Birch of the Raincoats in a BBC documentary about women in punk

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“Rose” and “Days”

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“Rose” and “Days” (K Records, IPU-032) cover art by Jean Smith

“This beauty spreads. Feel it. Two concise song sketches, “Rose” and “Days”, in the inimitable Mecca Normal style that celebrate life in all of its sublime, melancholy and emotional power.” – K Records

IPU

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Amazon Reviews of “Jarred Up”

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Amazon reviews Jarred Up

5.0 out of 5 stars
Thanks for looking it up. NOW BUY IT !
Bymonkeypapaon December 4, 1999
Format: Audio CD
If you have heard Mecca Normal then briefly this is my favorite, a compilation of early singles (in other words no drums). Includes Strong White Male (the greatest song ever IMHO). Generally follows a Heavy – Mellow – Heavy – Mellow pattern as far as song selection.
If you have never heard Mecca Normal, the closest approximation would be an 80’s era MaryAnne Faithful vocals cackling ultra-feminist lyrics over a hyperactive Billy Braggish rhythmic electric guitar backing. And I mean this in the best possible way. If you truly like your music independent and sort of difficult, this is a good purchase.
5.0 out of 5 stars
One of the best post-punk albums of all time
ByScience Experimentson
April 13, 2011
Highly, highly recommend this album. If you like Billy Bragg at his best, this album is guaranteed to blow you away. If you like the Clash/Stummer, Bob Dylan or any guitar intensive punk/rock, give this a try.
I gave a friend this album and he spent an afternoon walking around NYC with the album in his ears — he still talks about. There’s a performance assignment for all you Amazonians.
Give this wonderful little gem a try!

Montreal, 1996

Patti Schimdt

Peter Jefferies, Jean Smith, Patti Schmidt (host of CBC Radio’s seminal music program Brave New Waves) and David Lester.

This must have been 1996, when we were in Montreal for the show that’s being released as a live album in the Brave New Waves series. Mecca Normal with Peter Jefferies on drums.

Oh, this is also 2 Foot Flame, who will also have a live album in the same series. Dave played guitar with us on that tour.

 

 

 

 

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David’s Top 25 of 2017

David Lester made a Top 25 of 2017 list that got me thinking. He’s doing world-class illustrations on a number of projects, one of which he showed me a couple of weeks ago — his chapter for Graphic History Collective’s upcoming book “Direct Action Gets the Goods: A Graphic History of the Strike as Protest”. I was knocked out, blown away, bowled over by his drawings! Me being me, my immediate thoughts were “I must find you an agent! You must go to New York! You should be famous!” Then, once I calmed down, I arrived back at the basis of what we both do, which is work that isn’t part of the enormous capitalist clamouring. It’s something else. Our story is not Anvil’s (long-suffering Canadian metal band still trying to make it big after 30 years… doc on Netflix) story. Dave illustrates elements of history that are worth keeping in front of us as we navigate perilous times, and that’s a whole different world than using art to advertise consumer products.

Photo of Dave and I performing as Mecca Normal — an important component in our ongoing campaign to change the world, which, while appearing to have hit a few major glitches due to international politics, capitalism, misogyny etc. will continue to agitate and evolve while attempting to #stayhydrated

My (David) Self-Referential Top 25 of 2017 (in random order):

1. Mecca Normal performing (photo below) at The Toast Collective (Vancouver) with Aye Nako (New York), Your Heart Breaks (Seattle) and Alimony (Vancouver).

2. The excitement of seeing the innovation and depth of Jean Smith’s painting this past year, from her expansion of The Hat / No Hat paintings; to the portraits of Joe Strummer and Keith Richards; to bearing witness with her paintings in “Standing Rock Water Protectors” and “Fuck Your Morals”; to a series based on a photo of transgender model Andreja Pejic; and the series of paintings “after” Vermeer, Peter Paul Rubens, Jacqui Morgan and Ivan Aivazovsky.

3. Representing the Graphic History Collective at the “Authors for Indies” event at People’s Co-op Bookstore (Vancouver) and revealing secrets of how to make a graphic novel.

4. Writer/director Chrissy Loader’s short film The Listening Party which premiered at the Nevada City Film Festival. The film featured Mecca Normal’s Throw Silver and I Walk Alone on the soundtrack.

5. Drawn To Change (with my chapter, The Battle of Ballantyne Pier) wins the $10,000 Wilson Prize for the best book that “succeeds in making Canadian historical scholarship accessible to a wide and transnational audience”.

6. The premier of Jean’s 16 minute film on Mecca Normal at PopCon 2017 at the Museum of Popular Culture (Seattle).

7. Challenging Stories: Canadian Literature for Social Justice in the Classroom (Canadian Scholars’ Press) features a chapter on teaching my graphic novel The Listener to high school students.

8. The first live streaming of a Mecca Normal rehearsal in which we write a new song during the hour long broadcast.

9. Guitar World’s interview with Corin Tucker (Sleator-Kinney): What inspired you to first pick up a guitar? CORIN: “…when I went to college and saw other female musicians—bands like Bikini Kill and Mecca Normal—I was like, “Oh I wanna do that!” That’s when I really started trying to learn.”

10. Seeing Jean’s painting featured on The Jealous Curator’s blog: “First, oh my word I love these portraits so, so, so much. Second, Canadian rocker turned painter Jean Smith sells these paintings on Facebook for $100 a pop.”

11. Designing, drawing (and writing an essay) for a poster of Emma Goldman as part of The Graphic History Collectives’ series “Remember | Resist | Redraw: A Radical History Poster Project”. My last Emma Goldman poster was 40 years ago.

12. Creating two new Mecca Normal songs, “Now They’ll Know” and “In the Highly Nuanced Life of the Conqueror.”

13. AUPE (Alberta Union of Public Employees) announcing they will be integrating Drawn to Change (including my comic, The Battle of Ballantyne Pier) into their province-wide labour education materials.

14. Discovering a cassette of the long lost 1996 live show of Mecca Normal (with Peter Jefferies on drums) rocking-out in Montreal. Jean’s vocals are riveting. The live show will be released by Artoffact Records in 2018 as part of a series of Brave New Waves (CBC) related music.

15. Mecca Normal collaborating for another inspired year of our weekly text/art columns in Magnet Magazine online.

16. Drawn to Change: Graphic Histories of Working-Class Struggle! winning the Canadian Historical Association’s Public History Prize.

17. Finding out that Gina Birch of The Raincoats loves the Mecca Normal song “This is Different”.

18. Researching Emma Goldman at the Tamiment Library & Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives in New York.

19. Kwantlen Polytechnic University Professor Eryk Martin writing to say he wants to use my NOIR CANADA comic in his class when he covers Canada and the Second World War.

20. Another year of designing BC BookWorld, Canada’s largest literary publication. Designing posters for Vancouver MayDay and the Montreal International Anarchist Theatre Festival.

21. Continued work on my graphic bio of Emma Goldman, which involved creating 3-D scale models of rooms for the purpose of drawing.

22. Designing the interior pages of Susan Boyd’s book, “Busted: An Illustrated History of Drug Prohibition in Canada”.

23. Listening to my partner Wendy Atkinson’s commissioned composition for “Deep Listening: A Tribute to Pauline Oliveros”. It will be premiered in 2018.

24. Drawing a chapter for the Graphic History Collective’s book “Direct Action Gets the Goods: A Graphic History of the Strike as Protest” to be published next year by Between The Lines.

25. Learning that Victoria Ruiz of Downtown Boys, a group that Rolling Stone dubbed “America’s Most Exciting Punk Band” said “Mecca Normal is ONE OF MY FAVORITE BANDS!!! I SAW THEM IN RHODE ISLAND A FEW YEARS AND LISTEN TO THEIR RECORD ALL THE TIME! ”

Of course there are so many more inspired moments and people…

MN Toast

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Video: This is Different

Turns out Gina Birch of the Raincoats loves this song! As a huge fan of the Raincoats, this is really exciting! She asked me what the music was (on FaceBook) in a video of my currently available paintings, so I listed all five songs and she said she hadn’t gotten past the first one, that she’d been playing it over and over. I got her email address and sent her the mp3. In our brief email exchange, she said she loves my paintings — says she’s gonna buy one! I’m not gonna try and hide my excitement here! The Raincoats are hugely important to the formation of Mecca Normal. It’s hard to imagine what we’d be doing if the Raincoats’ records weren’t around in 1984 or so, and much earlier for Dave who lived in London in the very early 80s and knew of them then.

It’s an added thrill that I play cymbal on this song. This is the recording session that Kathleen and Billy (of Bikini Kill) dropped by. We were in the basement of the ABC house in Olympia, recording with Pat Maley. Kathleen and I sang something together, but it didn’t go that well. I was in the bathroom as an isolation booth and I didn’t have any lyrics. There was a bottle of Gold Bond powder on the window ledge so I started singing about “the final days of the gold bond” and for at least a few minutes the “band” was gonna be called Mandarin Atomizer until someone mentioned it sounded like an atom bomb in an Asiatic country, and that was that.

Also, I’m not sure which is weirder. Either I mention that Mecca Normal were total rock stars at this time, and that Kathleen and Billy arrived as fans (and friends) or I don’t mention it. Too late.

“This is Different” from a 3-song 7″ on K Records, Vol. XXVII in the International Pop Underground Series, and Jarred Up, an LP compilation of 7″ records (K Records, 1993).

Jean Smith’s $100 USD paintings (11 x 14″ acrylic on canvas panel) from October 19th back to the beginning of the series (January 7, 2016).

“First, oh my word I love these portraits {acrylic on canvas panel} so, so, so much. Second, Canadian rocker turned painter Jean Smith sells these paintings on Facebook for $100 a pop. WHAT? Yes, true story. Are you wondering what you’re still doing here and why you’re not over there buying a whole bunch of these 11×14 beauties? Me too. Here you go… Jean’s Facebook page. You’re welcome.” – The Jealous Curator review 09/17

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Pat Maley, Kathleen and Billy at the Mecca Normal recording session that included “This is Different”

 

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Review: Butt Rag #7

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Review by Peter Margasak (Editor) Butt Rag #7 (October 1991)

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