01 December 2007

The Real Janelle

It's hard to say for sure how many songs (or records) are about her; the only two I can identify with some certainty are the song "Janelle" from the Born Against/Screeching Weasel split EP and Bratmobile's "The Real Janelle" (both song and EP title). I just read on Wikipedia that Bratmobile's choice of that title was inspired by the Weasel/Born Against split (the song was written by Ben Weasel, performed by Born Against). If true, I did not know that.

There's also "Janelle, Janelle" by the Queers. I believe Joe Queer denies that this song is about Janelle, and while I should know whether he's telling the truth or not (I was with him when he was writing it), I do not. I think we were driving down from Portsmouth to New York at the time, and all I remember is trying to think up rhymes and having him laugh (or worse) at most of my attempts.

But I suspect there are other songs or stories or works inspired by the formidable and charismatic East Bay presence sometimes known as Janelle Blarg after her long-running fanzine, Tales of Blarg. It was, by the way, in Tales of Blarg that the legendary tale Laurie L., teenage tramp gone wrong (she murdered her parents and fed their bones to the next door neighbor's dog so she could go on tour with Green Day) first appeared.

(I find, much to my chagrin, that I no longer have a copy of this epic story, so if any of you out there do - it appeared on the CD and album insert of approximately 1,000,000 copies of Green Day's Kerplunk - would you be so kind as to email me a copy?)

I first encountered - if that's the right word - Janelle at Gilman Street. She was around 12 years old at the time, though there is some dispute over when she first turned up there. I first got to know her as the companion/possibly girlfriend of the equally legendary Robert Eggplant, who made his own Gilman debut at age 14, regularly traveling the 9 or 10 miles from Pinole on his skateboard until he saved up the scratch for a bicycle.

Janelle was also from Greater Pinole, as was her best buddy Holly (Pinole Valley High is also the almost alma mater - i.e., it would be if he'd stuck around to graduate) of rock luminary Billie Joe Armstrong), and if my memory serves me well (it often doesn't), she and Holly briefly double-dated with Eggplant and Joey Perales, the erstwhile drummer of Egglplant's rock-cum-burlesque aggregation, Blatz.

I fell foul of Janelle quite early on by snapping a photo of her and Holly and printing it in Lookout magazine with the caption "The Punk Rock Bobbsey Twins." Although we generally attempted to be civil to one another, and although she even worked briefly at Lookout Records, any time that we spent more than a few minutes in each other's company or attempted a conversation that went beyond the usual pleasantries (or unpleasantries, as the case sometimes was), we seemed to get in an argument.

This may have been my fault - Janelle certainly thought it was, and she may have been right - because I have tended over the years to be a genuinely argumentative cuss. But it was also frustrating, because apart from the arguing, we seemed to like each other pretty well. But, as it turned out, all it took was time, and after 10 or 15 years of regularly sniping at and brawling with each other, the arguments began dwindling down to more or less good-natured spats, and eventually almost disappeared completely.

It's tempting to attribute this to Janelle's growing up, but I suspect it has far more to do with the arrival of my own greatly arrested maturity. Regardless, we're excellent friends now, or so I'd like to think, even though a continent divides us. She was in New York ever so briefly last summer, which is when the photo above was snapped at Luis Illades' (Pansy Division, Avengers, Urban Rustic) loft, and hopefully I'll see her at Christmas when I run out to the West Coast to visit my family.
The lower photo was taken sometime in the early to mid-90s at Lookout Records HQ when Janelle must have still been a teenager (and I completely disavow any knowledge of how that large can of beer got into her clearly underage hands). Now she's all of 32 and routinely refers to herself as "old and busted" and "a granny," which seems kind of ludicrous to me, but hey, if it works for her...

Tales of Blarg is still going strong, and incorporates a lot of Janelle's top quality comics. She's also been active on the musical front, as a founding member of the Tourettes (who arose out of the ashes of jailbait-core Raooul), and in more recent years with Panty Raid and Baby Jail, the latter two also featuring Seth from Gravy Train. And if you haven't heard enough about Janelle by now (and believe me, there's much, much more to tell), I suggest you skedaddle on over to her website, Gimme Action, and let the girl and her work speak for themselves.


Matt said...

Apologies for the hideous colour scheme, but the Laurie L. story is online, Google turned up this site as the first result: http://members.aol.com/PunxRox16/indexlaurie.html

Forgive my assumption, but I would have expected you to be one of the few people I could guarantee would own a copy of Kerplunk?

kristina said...

Check out them tan legs. You might as well be a Californian!