10/23/2009

REVIEW: The Girls' Guide to Rocking


Here's the review I did of Jessica Hopper's Girls' Guide to Rocking for Maximum Rocknroll (issue #318, November 2009).

[UNEDITED]

The Girls’ Guide to Rocking
Jessica Hopper
288 pages
Workman Publishing
http://www.workman.com/

The Girls’ Guide to Rocking is just that, and that’s what makes it totally radical. The first time I saw Jessica Hopper speak she read an inspiring piece about being a grunge poser in her teens, and it was the greatest thing my ears had ever heard. She ended on the note that Bikini Kill taught her to be herself and that she could do whatever she wanted -- incidentally, this meant playing music and touring and becoming one of the freshest music critics currently writing.


That being said, I could not be more psyched to hear that Hopper was writing the book that she wanted to read as her 15-year-old self, teaching the lesson that Bikini Kill taught her, that girls can, and do in fact, rock. I am twenty-four, so this book isn’t tailored for me - it is tailored for me at fifteen, who would have benefitted greatly from the wise words of a grown-up punk girl, the notion that I could do all the things I dreamt of doing.

The Girls’ Guide to Rocking is practical. Hopper covers everything from how to care for your instruments, how to get your instruments, how to form a band, how to record, how to make flyers, and how to book shows. It’s like if the Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls was consolidated into book form. Hopper writes with enthusiasm and most importantly encouragement, you can tell she really means it. It was jolting for me to see a checklist regarding if your music teacher is right for you – “she” was the pronoun given to said music teacher. Little details like this change the language around music to be a more welcoming and empowering environment for young girls.

The 15-year-old in me is ETERNALLY GRATEFUL for Appendix A, "Essentials of Rock: For Your Listening Pleasure." This is the section where Hopper lists the essential, need-to-know bands in nearly every genre. There’s also a Girls’ Guide to Rocking timeline, marking important moments in rock history. I know the words “rock history” trigger gag reflexes in most of us, but Hopper touches on the good stuff. If you were like me and didn’t have a cool older sister or even a cool neighbor to show you the way, here is your key!

As much as this book is meant for younger girls, it’s also helpful for late-bloomer music-players like myself. I’ve been known to call Flanger pedals “flangie” pedals and can’t tune by ear. Hopper’s section on pedals and other effects, as well as the section on recording, just to name a couple, were super helpful to me. In this way the book really is a guide, something I want to keep around just in case I forget any of that music jargon all of my buddies are familiar with, or if I decide I want to record on my own.

If you do anything for your little sister, or your cousin, or your niece, or your best friend’s kid this year, buy her this book. It’ll explain all the essentials of whatever music she’s into, give her all the tools she needs to know, and lists a ton of cool music documentaries that could potentially show her what music is really all about. Most importantly it will teach her she can, and will, do it herself! As Hopper says, “This book is all the secrets, and also, your permission slip. Welcome to the gang.”

-- Kate Wadkins