I, Shithead: A Life in Punk


I, Shithead: A Life in Punk (Arsenal Pulp Press), Joey Keithley’s rock memoir, shows how an apparently destructive restlessness, amidst the musical malaise of the ’70s, can be turned into something for the greater good. “We’re not looking for a riot, but we are going to continue playing music and saying what we believe,” writes Joey S. Maybe it’s debatable whether they were looking for a riot, but playing music and saying what they believed was commendable. I was too scared to enter a place like the Smilin’ Buddha because I’d heard about all that headbangin’ violence that accompanied punk music. “I cuffed one of them in the head, and they backed off when we threatened to shit-kick them.” The first DOA song I ever heard (“My Old Man’s a Bum”) didn’t affect me. Well, I did feel it had more to offer than the redundant horrific disco of the same era (circa 1980) and even the lyrics were more thought-provoking (including “One, two, fuck you”), but personal interest never went beyond that. I remember comparing punk music in general to the garage bands of the ’60s: the same energy prevailed but the tunes weren’t as catchy. Even though the words were more socially aware, it just wasn’t as easy to sing along. Joey S. has a lot of stories other people can identify with, though. “I was sick of people mispronouncing my name . . . at least Shithead is simple; I kept that.” Having to correct people all the time when they mispronounce your name can be downright detrimental to relationships, it’s true; most of us displaced persons can identify with this statement. In fact you’ll find a lot of common ground with Joey Shithead Keithley when you read his punk perspective.

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