Before I saw Bikini Kill I mostly discovered music via the Melody Maker, a weekly music paper that no longer exists, and via the pages of Sassy magazine, which also no longer exists, that my American grandparents had gotten me a subscription to. I listened to bands like the Breeders, Nirvana, Sonic Youth, the Jesus and Mary Chain, went to as many shows as my mum would let me (I was 12-13 years old at this point) I felt like punk had happened, passed me by, and that although I loved the bands I was into, it wasn’t the same as “the olden days”. I always felt like I was missing out somehow. At any rate I read about BK and riot grrrl in Sassy, and immediately wanted to get involved but couldn’t figure out how as it all seemed to be happening in the USA, and I was stuck in London. I sent off for Girls Germs zine, which led to Jigsaw, and the BK zines, and Germ of Youth too-all of which I combed through for info and bands to investigate and other girls to write. THEN there was a piece on Huggy Bear in the Melody Maker, and suddenly, finally there was something happening in my town! London! Me and my friends started to go and see them play whenever we could, and they also made zines and tapes that they would give out/sell at gigs, which got us into other music and ideas , things to read, movies to watch, records to check out… Plus we all became pen pals with them (Huggy Bear) and they would make us tapes and send us letters, and send us letters written by other girls in different parts of the country to write to. We all made our own zines, and started trading them with people. It was rad!
Finally, the inevitable most dreamy thing happened-Huggy Bear and Bikini Kill toured the UK! We all bought tickets and went to every show that we could, and I think my friend Flossy told Kathleen that we were in a band (we weren’t. we had just talked about the fact we needed to do one-I had a guitar but none of us had really played music before…) Kathleen said Blood Sausage and BK were playing a show next week, and would we play?
We freaked out. We did not have a band or any songs, plus I think we were all 13/14, and couldn’t always persuade our parents to let us go out to gigs on school nights. But it was clear that we needed to do something. I don’t remember why we didn’t play that show-but we formed a band and made a tape that week. We had to come up with a band name, and had a bunch of contenders, which a girl who worked at the skate shop we hung out at (Slam City Skates!) looked at and said we should pick Skinned Teen, so we did. We gave Huggy Bear and Kathleen our tape, I think at that show, but we actually played our first show at an all girl gig, which Tammy and Jen from Linus set up, that Jo and Niki’s from Huggy Bear’s other band played, the Furbelows-they were awesome but I think they only ever recorded one song on a Huggy Nation tape?? Anyway Skinned Teen didn’t ever play with Bikini Kill but they were the reason we realized that at age 13/14 we could be a band. I didn’t ever get that feeling from listening to say, Nirvana. Bikini Kill made that world seem like something that was ours, a sound we could make rather than just consume if that makes sense. Listening to them and seeing them play was life transforming and opened up a world of possibilities, introduced me to DIY punk and making your own culture for your friends, and communicating that with other kids/punks in different places that felt the same way you did, on your own terms.
There’s a movie Lucy Thane made called Bikini Kill Changed My Life, about the BK/HB tour that you should try and watch-someone “borrowed” my copy, but on it you can see a lot of what I talked about. I feel like I haven’t talked enough about the politics of Bikini Kill maybe, the power of hearing their words of resistance and power after spending so long getting physically and verbally harassed at shows, in the pit, on the way to the show, and internalizing that. “Oh well, that’s what you get for being a girl…” and also being made to feel like my love for music wasn’t authentic or as real as some guy’s… PLus all the boring and endless explanations you had to give to clueless jerks who wanted in on riot grrrl, even though they had the rest of the “rock” world… The aggressive shitty creeps who would show up just to fuck with girls, the threatened journalists, both male and female (one women journalist made a fake zine, which was an embarrassing attempt at ridiculing riot grrrl, but her idea of feminism seemed to be from some wooden headed hippy’s description of what the women’s liberation movement was…) I just wanted to get across the idea that what Bikini Kill did for me and my friends was show us how to make our own band, our own culture, and how life changing that was. You don’t have to be Slash to pick up a guitar, you don’t have to be Thurston Moore-having an idea is sometimes more important and interesting than ability…I think Bikini Kill were my generation’s Minor Threat.
I also think girls should continue with BK and riot grrrl’s work-keep making noise, and bands, and zines, write each other, make your own girl culture…