Eternal Rebel Gavin McInnes’ 7 Life-Changing Records
The Vice co-founder on the music that made him
As one of the founders of the Vice publishing empire, Gavin McInnes has had a hand in defining a certain type of irony-drenched, filthy-minded, urban-hipster attitude. Since parting ways with Vice in 2007, the Montreal-bred, New York City-based provocateur has taken his sardonic sensibility to the fashion, politics, and dick jokes Street Carnage website and written the just-published memoir, How to Piss in Public: From Teenage Rebellion to the Hangover of Adulthood. To help trace the development of his uniquely irreverent mind, McInnes, 42, shared with us the seven albums that changed his life.
REBEL YELL, Billy Idol
I was always obsessed with music. When I was a kid, I’d put a small tape deck up against the speakers of the radio and if it was a good song, I’d keep it and if it sucked, I’d rewind the cassette to the last good part. This was all fine and dandy until I heard the song “White Wedding” after going to get groceries with my mom in 1982. I was 12-years-old and I’d never heard anything like it before. It was on the car radio and after we pulled into the driveway, I asked my mom to leave the keys in the car so I could hear the whole thing. I’d never heard a song that wasn’t just cool to listen to but took over your whole existence. This was the beginning…
KISS ME DEADLY, Generation X
After getting Rebel Yell and learning everything there is to know about Billy Idol, I discovered he was involved in this thing called “punk” and used to have a band called Generation X. They were the ones who did that “Dancing With Myself” song that was even better than “White Wedding.” After getting all their records, I decided I was going to become a punk rocker.
BEST BEFORE, Crass
I bought some Crass records first because I was sure I wanted to be an anarchist and told myself to like them no matter what they sound like. This was challenging because their albums are 45 rpm’s and I didn’t realize that so I played them as 33’s. What I thought was Crass was actually an incredibly slowed down version of the band that sounded like a depressed toad moaning at the world.
PLASTIC SURGERY DISASTERS, Dead Kennedys
I had heard American punk was easier to listen to than the sad toad dudes above so I bought this album. Again, I was determined to like it no matter what it sounded like so I put it on and braced myself. The first song on this album is a fucking cacophony on purpose with drums and screeching guitars and some woman’s voice saying, “Why are you such a stupid asshole?” This was worse than Crass. After that noisy intro however, a real song kicks in and it blew my mind.
WHEN THE GOING GETS TOUGH THE TOUGH GETS GOING, Bow Wow Wow
In Canada, we didn’t really pay attention to American hardcore outside of maybe Minor Threat. It was all about British punk. I had finally figured out how to play Crass records at the right speed and loved them so much, I tattooed them on my arm. Other bands like GBH, Chaos UK, and the Exploited were also loveable but they were all so angry. Bow Wow Wow were one of the few punk bands who weren’t afraid to embrace pop. This song (which was a single not on the album mentioned above) is about stealing music off the radio and making cassettes. “I don’t need no album rack, I carry my collection on my back.” They were talking about pirating music two decades before Napster.
STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON, N.W.A
After being a born again punk rocker for about ten years, the whole thing started falling apart. American hardcore had become Californians in baggy shorts making jokes about being white trash and British punk had morphed into dogmatic crusties yelling at everyone about everything. At the same time, rap came out with “Fuck da Police” and it spawned a whole exodus of punks leaving pedantic punk for irreverent rap. This was liberating for me and I later graduated to electronic music and all kinds of other shit I was too snobby to listen to before like a band from England called “The Rolling Stones.”
BLACK THORN, Flatfoot 56
After getting heavily involved in everything from intelligent drum ‘n bass to Ani Difranco to Bert Jansch to Shy FX, I became very old and got married and had kids. When this happens, you tend to go full circle and get back to the music that was there first. I feel like these kids from the Southside of Chicago do the music of my adolescence even better than it was the first time around. It’s healthy to move on from your various obsessions as a youngster and try new things but when you get old, you can stop scoffing at the past and accept that those old tracks aren’t just a bunch of old tracks. They’re what made you who you are today.