David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
Day 343: Violent Femmes (Add It Up)

April 20, 2024

Young men, a word of advice here. If you get a young lady to drop by your apartment for a moment, think about what music you are playing. Take it from me. Learn from my mistakes. 

While in Bloomington, I once had a female colleague, fellow graduate student, come by my apartment to pick up something. I no longer remember what it was. In retrospect, I sure hope it was some sugar (we lived in the same apartment complex, so this is not that unlikely). When she showed up, I was playing the Violent Femmes' debut album on my stereo. If you aren't familiar with it, first, shame on you, and, second, it's the album that has "Blister In The Sun," "Kiss Off," and "To The Kill." Even for 1983, the year it was released, it is not for the faint of heart.

Now, this was a very sweet Catholic girl, coming to Indiana University from an all-girl college. I don't think I knew much more about her at the time. I remember that right away, she cocked her head to hear the album a little better, asking what I was listening to.

"Violent Femmes," I answered, immediately wondering how that name might be received by someone once enclaved at a Seven Sister. However it was received, she smartly didn't show much of a reaction. Nevertheless, the album was somewhere in the middle of Side One, so before she left "Add It Up" had begun playing. Certainly Gordon Gano's slightly nasally vocal, in the slow a capella opening of the song, could cause anyone to stop (and maybe "start" as the opening lyrics say); however, that is nothing once the song kicks into that unique Violent Femmes' instrumentation, especially Brian Ritchie's approach to the bass. I seem to remember her eyes getting larger and larger, and not in a good way, as Gano sang about "all I need is just one kiss . . . I look at your pants and I need a kiss."

Honestly, I remember thinking "oh, crap," hoping that she couldn't make out the lyrics well enough. I believe I muttered something like, "they are pretty different," getting only a half-nod of the head from her. This will confirm how much of a dunce I was, because the subsequent verses get more graphic and articulated more clearly: "why can't I get just one screw" and later "why can't I get just one fuck." And, yet, I still refused to consider turning it off, not because I was some predatory jerk, but because I was just, in a word, stupid.

I remember she scuttled out of there pretty quickly, probably even before the could-have-been appropriate line of "when your sugar left/he left you on the run." I know I stood at the door hearing Gano get angrier, eventually screaming "don't shoot, shoot, shoot that thing at me." I probably escaped eternal damnation by having her leave before all the disturbing references to "mo, my, my mama, mo, my, my mother/I would love to love you, lover." Who would have thought that David Fleming, dullest guy in the world, or at least middle America, could have been the excuse for some good Catholic school girl fleeing Indiana University and all of its hedonism to go back to her safe home in Massachusetts?

Oh wait, Massachusetts.  Hmm, I should have added it up. (Maybe I never was any good at math?) Who knows what left-wing rock music she had listened to there? Milwaukee, from where the Femmes hailed, had to be nothing compared to Boston's Gang Green or The F'U's. What can I say? I was never the brightest bulb in the pack.

We actually became good friends, double-dating with our respective girlfriends and boyfriends (eventual spouses). But, I have to admit, I never did ask her what went through her mind that day. By that point, it seemed too much to lose, too much to take, if I gave her room to add it up. 

So what's my advice? Keep something safe and for the ready in terms of music. Nowadays, with your Pandora and your Spotify and your streaming music services, you can pivot from Violent Femmes to, say, Air Supply in a second. She doesn't even have to be completely over your threshold before you are able to replace "why can't I get just . . ." with "I'm all out of love/I'm so lost without you." Better she believe you a wimp than a perv.

Violent Femmes. "Add It Up." Violent Femmes. Slash, 1983. Link here.

Day 342: Sublime "Hong Kong Phooey"

Day 344: Linda Ronstadt "Someone To Lay Down Beside Me"

See complete list here.