Punk is a Four-Letter Word
by Ben Weasel
Hope And Nonthings
Ben Weasel, leader of seminal power-punk bands Screeching Weasel and The Riverdales, and former columnist for Maximumrocknroll, apparently has been writing for some time now. His first collection of essays and columns, Punk is a Four-Letter Word, spans from the early ’90s to the present; yet, there is still more floating about in fanzines, and on Web sites. There are twenty-five pieces here, three of which have never been published.
In the “Introduction,” which is dated February 2002, and is probably the best material, Weasel exhibits the self-deprecating humor and honesty that make up this fine collection.
He quickly becomes the classic Everyman in “Maximum Touring.” In it, he dispels the punk rock, bad boy image he cultivated throughout the years by declaring he’d rather go to a movie, watch a ballgame, and eat a hot dog than play a gig.
The rest of the collection makes a very compelling case that Weasel is a normal everyday man, while also describing his numerous exploits as a punk rocker that was known to make many angry, especially during in his MRR column heyday.
Weasel’s writing shines when describing unusual situations he’s been in, including him being cast as an extra in Ministry’s “New World Order” video, and thoroughly enjoying his work as a librarian’s aide while living in Wisconsin.
And I’d have to agree with him when he writes in the introduction that “Somewhere along the line, I began to get better as a writer.” No longer does there exist an overt character bashing as in his earlier MRR days, but it is clear he is a writer determined to speak loudly with humor, truth, and little a punk rock tossed in for good measure.
Evidence of this is in his touching tribute to his friend (and sometimes nemesis) Tim Yohannon, publisher of MRR (“Eulogy For a Friend”), and a fascinating interview with Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain, his nanny, and ex-Germs guitarist Pat Smear while backstage at a Nirvana show months before Cobain’s suicide. Weasel’s discovery that “The Nanny is running the show” is indicative of his ability to get people to talk, and the dynamics of the Cobain family (“The Nanny and the Rock Star”).
In “Practice Does Not Make Perfect,” Weasel makes a case for the joys of jogging regularly, and then seemingly segues into the pitfalls of love. He ends with, “I don’t love running; I just practice running. Someday I’ll learn to stop loving the concept of love. Someday I’ll learn to just practice love.” A touching thought from a bad ass punk, huh? This punk dichotomy can be unexpected, but as The Queers sang on “Ben Weasel,” a song on their Weasel-produced 1992 release, Beat Off: “He rants and raves, he screams and shouts/He always flips his lid/But deep down inside he loves you kids/But we know his bark’s worse than his bite.”
Ben Weasel has also published a novel through Hope And Nonthings titled Like Hell.