Skip to Content.
Sympa Menu

typicalgirls - [TypicalGirls] The Picture of Lora Logic

typicalgirls AT

Subject: Typical Girls: Women in Punk/Post-Punk/Underground Music (Circa 1975-1980s)

List archive

Chronological Thread  
  • From: WWWhatsup <joly AT>
  • To: Typical Girls <typicalgirls AT>
  • Subject: [TypicalGirls] The Picture of Lora Logic
  • Date: Mon, 22 Jan 2007 17:34:19 -0500

The Picture of Lora Logic
January 17th, 2007: Posted by Howard Hampton

For many years, I've kept a picture of the singer Lora Logic up
on my wall. A full-page portrait sliced from a 1980 issue of
Rolling Stone, this is the furthest thing from your standard
glamour shot. It's a washed-out color photo of a plain girl in
a heavy coat holding her tenor saxophone. She's standing in a
stark British kitchen — the kind that surely inspired the term
"kitchen sink realism." There's a smart, levelheaded reserve in
the way she looks back at the camera, but something
inscrutable, mysterious, too. That look says: You don't know
me. She could be anyone — a sensible librarian getting ready to
make tea, or a troublemaking schoolgirl who escaped from St.
Trinians with nothing but the clothes on her back and an old
saxophone liberated from the music room. That look says: Listen
up, best pay attention, you'll only hear these instructions

When I originally picked up the handful of records by Essential
Logic, her definitive post-punk group, I fell hard for the
corkscrew voice, free-associating language, and sinuous, multi-
tiered music. It was everything a young devotee of punk, loopy
pop, early Ornette Coleman, and Donald Barthelme could hope
for: the experimental and experiential blended in perfect off-
the-wall harmony. A mere quarter century or so later (the time
flying when you're having fun), I wrote about her (and some of
her spiritual sisters) in an essay for The Believer, on
occasion of the release of the Essential Logic collection
Fanfare in the Garden. (Containing most of Lora's best work
with the band and solo, it is an undiscovered country of sheer
ebullient bliss. Go! Buy it! Now!)

For my book, I retitled the piece "Fairy Tales from Strangers,"
in honor of the Raincoats, her swell label mates at Rough
Trade. They recorded the indelible "Fairy Tale in the
Supermarket," and were aptly evoked by their fan Kurt Cobain:
"When I listen to the Raincoats I feel as if I'm a stowaway in
an attic...." In the brief window of opportunity after 1970s
punk opened up a new anything-goes space, it felt like a
revolution in sex roles was taking place in that attic, and
rock equality was at hand. Lora Logic was the most unique and
strangely self-possessed voice; Poly Styrene, her band mate in
punk avatars X-Ray Spex (before giving Logic the boot) was the
most striking, unreconstructed punk voice, with a timbre that
could cut through a chainsaw. Chrissie Hynde was the most
toughly seductive and "Precious." Deborah Iyall of Romeo Void
was the most intimate and touchingly cynical; Exene Cervenka of
X was the most exhilarating, the woman most likely to make
"We're Desperate" sound like an mouth-watering come-on. Lesley
Woods of the Au Pairs sounded like Marianne Faithfull fronting
the Gang of Four; Faithfull herself came back with Broken
English and sounded like Marlene Dietrich in the rubble of a
bombed-out disco. We had Penelope Houston of the Avengers, Fay
Fife of the Rezillos (brilliantly ridiculous: "I Can't Stand My
Baby"), the beehive/lobster gals in the B-52s, almost
commercial prospects like Lene Lovich and Rachel Sweet, the
student prole models in the Delta 5, Myrna Marcarian of the
Human Switchboard, and that's not even mentioning Patti Smith
or Deborah Harry or Tina Weymouth playing bass for Talking

In that moment, the line between realism and abstraction
disappeared; suddenly, people were singing about everything,
and everything — sex, politics, the daily grind, the search for
a different life or a different sound — was connected,
illuminated. Pop music, or an unreasonable facsimile thereof,
caught up with reality and began to outstrip it.

Those were, as the song says, different times. While there's a
sense in which Lora Logic paved the way for Laurie Anderson as
much as Sleater-Kinney, or at least prepared my ears for them,
finally her work stands utterly apart: an emblem of an
alternate future. I lifted my book's title from "Born in
Flames," the 45 (b/w "The Sword of God") she recorded while
moonlighting as the singer for Mayo Thompson's reconstituted
Red Crayola (Gina Birch of the Raincoats was the bass player).
I trust the meaning — or the mystery — is self-evident; so too
my enduring philosophic love of Logic.

WWWhatsup NYC -

Archive powered by MHonArc 2.6.24.

Top of Page