This past May (2022), I spoke with legendary punk musician, author, professor and artist, VIVIEN GOLDMAN, remotely via Zoom, from her current location in Jamaica. She had only recently been in the US for several dates with backing and support from musicians and friends Dunia Best and Aram Sinnreich to promote her music and her solo album debut, "Next Is Now," (Cadiz, 2021) here on the east coast.
Before entering into our music discussion this past May, Vivien and I critically dove into our thoughts on Roe V. Wade. As today is the day this law (among others) have been critically overturned or pushed back, I thought it apropos to share her interview excerpt. Read more from this interview with Vivien Goldman in full as well as full interviews with: Dunia Best, Rania Woodard, Jen Lemasters and Jen B. Larson, in our debut issue of CONNECT-ING TO THE BEAT. Links and resources are available, after this excerpt.
Carly: ....how you are feeling regarding the very grave possibility of Roe vs. Wade being struck back in the Supreme Court system.
Vivien Goldman: As I'm likely to often call it, "Woe vs. Raid..."! Pfft! You know, it's just unbelievable. So much of its cultural narrative is bound up with traumas faced by pregnant, unwed girls being locked up in those convents and tortured, or, being sent away from Ireland. If even Ireland can get it together to be of one mind about a woman being able to control her own destiny, her own body… can we even really file America under the 'Developed World,' is what I've been feeling. So, it's a fight. What we're seeing, going on everywhere, is really a fight for the soul of the nation... really, a fight for the soul of the world. All over.
I have to say in America, it's insane how these sorts of medieval forces can still hold such sway. You know, any minute now, they'll bring in a 'ducking-stool,' and Margaret Atwood turns out to be a prophet.
I grew up in Ontario, in Canada, so I feel the Atwood reference deeply (especially as we had to study her books in high school), but, I initially became involved in protesting at Pro-Choice rallies in my late teens/early twenties (during the L7 "Rock For Choice" -era). The fact that these laws are being made and then reversed over the years in waves feels like nothing ever becomes fully solved and that progress (anti-racism, anti-sexism) keeps being torn down over and over again--and, also, knowing that it is an even deeper issue than that.
I feel this very strongly... well, we all do, I've been thinking about your actual point a lot. It's not only the racism and the sexism, it's also the old-fashioned fascism. It's just unbelievable. I feel that a lot because of my background, with a refugee family from Germany. You know, at the time, coming up, catching the vibe at the tail-end of the sixties, and then coming up more, in the seventies, with Rock Against Racism, and all of these advances being made for women at the time... it was this sort of brief, glorious window, in retrospect, where we felt that things were actually improving. The thing is, it's so difficult, that sometimes we can really forget that actual advances have been made, you see, and if you completely forget that, you can not have the courage to move forward. So, I think it's important to remember that some advances have still been made even though it's still unbelievably daunting. I keep coming back, actually, to... you know, I worked with Bob Marley and I wrote that book, The Book of Exodus about his album. There was that terrible time, Cold War stuff going on in the Caribbean... Cuba...and he did all of this famous work for peace, you know, he recorded Exodus after they tried to kill him in his own house, and they were people he knew: a politically motivated assassination attempt. Some of his closest friends were killed, and prime movers in the peace movement were killed right after. One of the main guys; they stopped him in the street, on the way back from a football match. They fired fifteen bullets into him at close range, much more than was ever needed, and he was dead. A prime mover in the peace movement, for no reason: no justice for it, and, I said to Bob, the next time that I saw him, "Bob. I'm really sorry about that and how does it make you feel?" His answer comes to me now, about us, as women. So, he said, "I and I is Rasta, and, the struggle continues."
What I see now, is that I think this is life. And maybe, this is a life that is always about the battle between good and evil. Continuously, as, different factions, perceive it. Maybe, we have to get used to being in the struggle and being in battle, because it doesn't ever seem to completely get solved. A lot of the issues are down to people. People! People and their insecurities, paranoia, and greed. You know... we had a great chance with this planet... it's a fantastic planet. With everything you need, you know. It seems that not enough people appreciate what we have. Some just want to control absolutely every aspect of it for themselves and keep, everyone else-- women included--as serfs.
I get all sorts of emails and there was a Jewish-related one... it was a political one. It said that in the Jewish faith, abortion is permitted. So, if they ban abortion, they are denying Jews the right to practice their religion, and, they were saying that, perhaps this is a legal argument that one can use to pick away at the abolition of Roe Vs. Wade and then my friend and I were discussing, we were saying, 'how pathetic is that'? That, women, are MOST of the planet, and there is no one body of rights, for us, that is being listened to. We are, quite literally, second-class citizens. Will they get away with it? That's what remains to be seen.
It is astonishing, yes. There is just so much struggle for all of these different factions within our greater communities. Being positive...becomes...
No, you actually have to be positive: it's kind of the law. Why be positive? The fundamental reason is: it makes you, actually, a little more, peppy, a little more... vigorous...
And, able to take on more...
Yes. As Dunia [Best] and I like to say, Joy IS the Revolution. You know, we all aren't meant to be struggling....just to be wretched all the time...? You've got to find some pleasure in life, and just in being alive. Somehow. Notice the kind of joys we do have. every day, and not take them for granted.
[Ed. Vivien and I take a brief break in our discussion before getting into more talking points--]
What is the hallmark of a great song for you?
Oh, actually--do you know Hollie Cook, Paul Cook's daughter? The drummer of the 'Pistols? She has a new album out, of 'lover's rock,' you might say she's the 'Queen' or 'Princess' of 'modern lover's rock.' What I was so impressed about and what got me thinking… What I've never really done, but, what I massively admire--I think, many songwriters aspire to this—a fantastic arrangement that is sort of John Barry....and sort of, Bacharach and David. of swooping changes that grab you, and obviously, with the lyrics to match.
I think many of us really aspire to some aspect of a James Bond theme! Something with an epic, commanding, quality that takes you on a journey. I've never really, really, done that. I suppose the closest that I've come to it is sort of maybe, slightly, and it was that song, "Russian Doll," on my new album... My song, "Launderette," that people still love after all these years, you know, that's kind of completely shambolic and punk and improvised. I guess you could say it's like, if you are a punk musician, at a certain point, after 'X' amount of years, you're very likely to be a post-punk musician because it's hard to keep it that stripped-down and basic, you know, forever... I think you know, from the very shambolic, spontaneity of "Launderette," I think if I get a chance to grow, as a songwriter (personally, if that's what you're wondering). I admire Bacharach and David so much, and find I listen a lot to their work with Dusty Springfield, who I listen to a lot, also Cilla Black’s/Dionne Warwick’s "Anyone Who Had A Heart," I guess this is music, from my earliest recollections, from my generation.
When I talk about women in music, I do sometimes have occasion to refer to Dusty--and not just because, I, kind of slightly worship her, but also, because her talent was such, that to an unusual extent, she was able to write her own script. Even in the music industry of that time. And she had a woman manager who is still around, working, named Vicki Wickham [Ed. producer of Ready Steady Go! and also manager of Patti LaBelle, and Marc Almond]. She is a super-important figure for women in popular music. She also produced the Dusty Springfield musical [Ed. the 2000 UK production of, Dusty the Musical, also, fully endorsed by both Springfield and Wickham], which was in England. Just a nod to Dusty since we're talking about songwriting and what inspires me, in songwriting.
You know what's cute about Burt Bacharach? Remember Marlene Dietrich? I do sometimes think of her, 'cause she kept on having to make a living. Although she was Marlene Dietrich, she wanted to be alone, but, due to her reality, she was forced to get out there and still perform. So, she was not stupid, she knew the business inside and out, obviously, being a stage performer, you know. She just went out on the road with her lamé gowns and ONE person: a young pianist, and arranger, called Burt Bacharach. That was all she needed. He was Marlene Dietrich's support, and she knew what she wanted, and she got what she wanted, and it was Burt.
Do you have a favorite recording medium? Knowing that you love Dusty, is it analog?
I'm not really a 'techie.' I definitely think that analog has a warmer sound and all that, but, I'm on the road so much that I don't really even have a record player and I don't really even have equipment. I'm just sort of...I'm not a techie, that's all... It is important to me to have a good microphone, that I do know... a good microphone makes a huge difference.
You worked with Youth for your album, Next Is Now. You've known each other for a really long time, now.
It's kind of, it's a really adorable story, actually. It's so cute! We both really relish it...because, you know, there's a level, on which, although, I'm quite a fair amount older than him. He was, like, living in a squat on a corner away from my house, and he was this, kind of, creative, wild, kid. Sometimes he would come and eat at my house 'cause there was a lot of people and food, you know, and he used to sort of come with me to the reggae clubs, and all that. He was just, you couldn't say, really, a kid brother, that would be inaccurate, he was sort of bredren, you know. This went on for 'X' amount of time, I left London, whatever, and then we found each other again! We'd never really, completely, fallen out of touch, but we weren't really communicating that much for a long time. To our mutual joy, we were thrown together, working on this same job with our friends Zac Starkey and Sshh Liguz, and their Trojan Jamaica label. When I heard he was on the job, I was like, 'I don't believe it! Back on the road, me and Youth!' It's the funniest thing. Off this reissue, of "Resolutionary," I started to get performance offers, and I had never performed.
Never! We never performed as the Flying Lizards: we were far too cool. All of a sudden, I was getting offered work, I thought, 'Oh, not bad!'. Also, I'd been teaching, and for the first time, it seemed like a good idea! Then I got this gig, a beautiful gig in Berlin, at a trendy festival, you know, on a Saturday night, headlining... and, they booked me for an hour, and I said to Youth, 'I just sat down and added up all the songs on the "Resolutionary" CD and they didn't make an hour...I'm not quite sure what I'm gonna do!' and he said, 'Well, let's record a couple of songs!' 'Brilliant!' [Ed. Full-out laughter from Vivien, here] She continued, "... and from that unlikely seed, an album grew!"
Read more of Vivien's interview in CONNECT-ING TO THE BEAT Issue #1:
Follow Vivien Goldman:
Purchase a digital copy of "Next Is Now" by Vivien Goldman:
Purchase Vivien Goldman's 2019 book "Revenge Of The She-Punks":
The bookstore Unbound.com is offering a free eBook version of their critical essays book, titled, Repeal the 8th Anthology (use code REPEAL22 today, 6/24/22), edited by Una Mullally and featuring essays from Tara Flynn, Sinéad Gleeson, Lisa McInerny, and others.
Are you looking for pro-choice and abortion access care/resources or looking for further information for yourself or for someone that you know? Click for the guide: