The Records That Changed My Life: Our 2005 Kathleen Hanna Feature

The riot grrrl icon shares her nine most formative albums
Kathleen Hanna
Tim Mosenfelder / Contributor

This article originally appeared in the February 2005 issue of SPIN.

When Bikini Kill founder Kathleen Hanna was kick-starting the riot grrrl movement, her idea of “high-tech” rarely went beyond smoking pot and listening to the Slits on vinyl. Although Hanna, 36, has embraced technology for her dance-punk outfit Le Tigre, she relies on fan mail more than iTunes when looking for new music. “I totally go out and buy stuff when people tell me to,” says Hanna. “Every time I’ve gotten a recommendation from a fan, it’s always been good.”

CAROLE KING TAPESTRY (Ode/A&M, 1971)

 

 

“This must have been my mom’s record. I think I was four or five, and I remember sitting in the back of a station wagon, looking out the window and listening to ‘So Far Away’ while waving to my best friend Becky Downing.”

BLONDIE EAT TO THE BEAT (Chrysalis, 1979)

 

 

“I remember driving in a Rabbit to Baltimore and listening to this and Squeeze’s ‘Black Coffee in Bed’ and having my mind blown. We had a precursor to HBO, called Super TV, when I lived in Chevy Chase, Maryland, and they played all the videos, in album order, from Eat to the Beat. My best friend Angela and I sat and watched the whole thing and were just like, ‘Whoa.’ We were 12 or 13 at the time, and back then we didn’t even know what videos were.”

YAZ UPSTAIRS AT ERIC’S (Sire, 1982)

 

 

“I used to hang in friends’ basements in the ’80s and listen to music. That’s how I got into Soft Cell and Echo & the Bunnymen. But Upstairs at Eric’s was my favorite shit. I was obsessed with Yaz. I didn’t have this record—I didn’t actually have very many records in junior high and high school—but I’d hear it at teen dance clubs. Ten years ago, I got into it again because they had it on the jukebox at a club I worked at in D.C. as a dancer.”

FRIGHTWIG FASTER, FRIGHTWIG, KILL! KILL! (Caroline, 1986)

 

 

“My first band, Viva Knievel, actually played with them once. Frightwig was just a hugely influential band on Bikini Kill. There are lots of radical political moments on this album—really feminist, but it was also really funny and really beautiful. There’s this one skit about this fucked-up rich valley girl who loses her Amex checks and is trying to get new ones. There’s also a song on it about hating some stupid groupie who’s fucking around with someone’s boyfriend—stuff probably from the band members’ lives.”

THE SLITS CUT (Island, 1979)

 

 

“Obviously. Especially the song, ‘Typical Girls.’ I remember getting stoned and listening to Cut in my apartment in Olympia, and being, like, ‘This is the most bugged-out shit I’ve ever heard.’ Really theoretically smart and sonically full. Bikini Kill really loved bands like the Slits and the Raincoats and ESG. ESG’s Come Away With ESG really influenced Le Tigre.”

PUBLIC ENEMY IT TAKES A NATION OF MILLIONS TO HOLD US BACK (Def Jam, 1988)

 

 

“I had this album on cassette and used to jog to it while I was on tour with Bikini Kill. I had a lot of nervous energy, and this just lit a fire under me. I was like, ‘Oh, that’s possible. Making a near-perfect record is totally possible.'”

BLUE ANGEL BLUE ANGEL (Polydor, 1980)

 

 

“This was Cyndi Lauper’s first band. I bought the vinyl right when I moved to New York in 1997. Her voice is just incredible. I found it at a record store that had ten copies, and I bought all ten. I have four sealed copies left, and I’m keeping ’em for when mine wear out or if I meet someone who’s really into singing. There’s a certain pitch that she hits and I start crying and I can’t stop and I don’t know why. Something about the truth in her voice.”

BRATMOBILE THE REAL JANELLE (Kill Rock Stars, 1994)

 

 

“I was at probably their first show, when they opened up for the Melvins. It was scary—guys in the audience were threatening to kill them and stuff. I was a huge fan, though, and played with them all the time. We were on the same label, so any time they put out a record, the first thing we did was get our hands on it. This record is really well-produced, and Allison [Wolfe]’s singing is really good.”

LAURYN HILL THE MISEDUCATION OF LAURYN HILL (Ruffhouse, 1998)

 

The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, Lauryn Hill
Ruffhouse/Columbia, 1998

“I bought this at [New York hip-hop store] Fat Beats when I turned 30, and it was really inspirational. She does it all—she sings, she raps, she produces. It has all these references to Stevie Wonder and old reggae songs that I love. Again, a close-to-perfect, classic record.”

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