Music Monday: One More Shout Out to Philly

In yesterday’s post, I detailed the wonderful weekend my wife and I had in Philadelphia, celebrating our 40th anniversary.

So I thought I’d bring some closure to it by sharing a song that features Philadelphia in its lyrics. There were lots of great choices:

  • Streets of Philadelphia by Bruce Springsteen
  • Philadelphia Freedom by Elton John
  • Dancing in the Street by Martha and the Vandellas
  • South Street by The Orlons
  • Atlantic City by Bruce Springsteen
  • Kids from Philly by George Thorogood and the Destroyers
  • Fall in Philadelphia by Hall and Oates
  • Gonna Fly Now by Bill Conti
  • TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia) by MFSB (Mother, Father, Sister, Brother)
  • Philadelphia by Neil Young
  • Motownphilly by Boyz II Men
  • Summertime by DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince
  • Philadelphia Boogie by John Philip Sousa
  • Sailing to Philadelphia by Mark Knopfler & James Taylor

But I decided to feature a song that I had not heard of before, but it was a fun song to listen to, along with a fun video:

The song is Punk Rock Girl, by The Dead Milkmen, a punk rock band formed in 1983 in Philadelphia. Their original lineup consisted of vocalist and keyboardist Rodney Linderman (“Rodney Anonymous”), guitarist and vocalist Joe Genaro (“Joe Jack Talcum”), bassist Dave Schulthise (“Dave Blood”), and drummer Dean Sabatino (“Dean Clean”).

The band distinguished itself in the hardcore punk scene of the early 1980s through its jangly punk sound and sardonic humor delivered with thick Philadelphia accents. The band enjoyed international success on the strength of “Punk Rock Girl“, a single from their 1988 Beelzebubba album which entered into MTV rotation.

The idea behind the song was to create a punk rock nursery rhyme; as such, it is a simple love song, written from the perspective of a sheltered boy dreaming of a rowdy, delinquent girlfriend. Lyrically, it depicts the duo bonding over record-shopping and eating pizza. In addition to the band’s normal lineup, the song also incorporates an accordion. “Punk Rock Girl” makes several pop culture references, from comedian Minnie Pearl to musicians Mojo Nixon and the Beach Boys. It mentions several locations in the band’s hometown of Philadelphia, including the counter-culture shop Zipperhead. The song has been considered one of the first pop-punk hits, as well as a breakthrough for the comedy rock genre.

In keeping with the season, there’s also a Halloween connection to the song, since part of it was filmed at the Eastern State Penitentiary. ESP (photo at top of post) was once the most famous and expensive prison in the world, but stands today in ruin, a haunting world of crumbling cellblocks and empty guard towers. Its vaulted, sky-lit cells once held many of America’s most notorious lawbreakers, including “Slick Willie” Sutton and “Scarface” Al Capone. Given its natural creepiness, it’s no surprise that it is turned into a haunted house for the Halloween season.


68 thoughts on “Music Monday: One More Shout Out to Philly

  1. Very cool and interesting post. I will have to check out that Mark Knopfler and James Tayler song. That old picture of the penitentiary is amazing. Guns in violin cases come to mind. It looks like it would still be an interesting place to explore.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I think that would be an interesting prison to tour.
    I wonder what Punk Rock Girl is doing now? Maybe she’s also been to prison. She’s likely in her 50s. My guess is, she’s a little dumpy looking, smokes grass, and yard sales on weekends. Her husband details cars for a living, and their kids all work in fast food.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I didn’t realize how many songs there were about Philadelphia! Never had heard this one before, and never heard of “The Dead Milkmen” another winner for the strange names of bands! 🙂 The song is kind of catchy.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I think “pure” punk was political in nature but I definitely look back and see bands like The Police, who adopted a lot of the music, but better quality musically and largely apolitical songs. This struck me as similar.

        A lot of the punk I listened to, ironically, came *after* then, but it really was a guy shouting down a mic.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. that used to be my impression of punk – just a lot of shouting. But The Milkmen didn’t seem to fit that stereotype and I actually enjoyed the song…


  4. I’ve never heard of them or this song before and on this evidence I wish it had stayed that way: Rodney Anonymous should have lived up to his name, and taken his mates with him. I see that you quote Wikipedia’s statement that the band achieved international success: what dictionary were they using to define this (both words)?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. international means outside of Philadelphia, and success is that it showed up on a record. I’m not much into punk rock, but I found this to be a fun song. It did make it to Number 1 on Billboard’s Alternative Songs chart. I just think you’re jealous that we’ve got the Rocky statue in Philadelphia 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m not into punk either, but this was awful even by the standards of that genre. One of the critics is quoted on Wikipedia as saying their vocals were ‘execrable,’ and I find it hard to disagree! They also say it made #11 – not #1 – on one of Billboard’s ‘Songs No One Has Heard’ charts, which was apparently based mostly on college radio station airplay. Bloody students!

        You’re very welcome to the statue – at least most here are of real people 😉

        Liked by 1 person

      2. No doubting that you’re a numbers guy, not a words one…

        If you don’t have it, make it up…

        There’s been a fair bit. The most notable was the slave trader Colston, whose statue in Bristol was tipped into the river, but there have been others. True to form, our government sees these as vandalism, not as a protest about the way the darker sides of our history are still celebrated, and are bringing forward legislation against it. Free speech and protest is in the process of being shut down here – Trump playbook time.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. that’s the beauty of statistics – you can make them say whatever you want…

        as you can imagine we’ve got stong emotions on both sides with the statues issue. On the one hand, it’s important to know our history, but that doesn’t mean you need to celebrate, as you call it, the darker side of it…

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Trump is an expert at that, though he seems to have forgotten the credibility element.

        It’s the same here. It has become a right wingers versus normal people divide.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. You left the Fresh Prince theme song off your list. In west Philadelphia born and raised… I love Punk Rock Girl. It was played nonstop on DC’s ‘alternative’ radio station for months after it came out. Such an upbeat song. Does ESP still do tours? My family did that about a decade ago. It was really neat. I’d like to go back.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. but the Fresh Prince had another song on the list 🙂

      and ESP still offers tours, we did one a couple of years ago. our local library actually has free passes that can be checked out to a variety of local attractions, and ESP was one of them.

      I’m not much into punk, but that was a fun song. from what I’ve read, the Dead Milkmen were know for their humourous lyrics…


  6. Though I love rock music, there are few punk rock bands that I would listen to. This one doesn’t do it for me either.

    I did enjoy looking down your list of Philly songs. When I think of Philly, I think my mind first goes to Gonna Fly Now by Bill Conti. There is something very Rocky-like about Philadelphia.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Philly and music…yes!!! I know and love ten songs from your list. One I have orchestrated as a wedding dancer. Honestly, it was American Bandstand that cemented Philadelphia and music. But then… Motown took over. The kids on the street in Philly were the best music. I remember how this was highlighted in the movie “Rocky”. What a great post and tribute to Philadelphia music. Thank you, Jim.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. it was interesting to see all of those sogs listed together; made me realize how many great songs there were that featured Philly. And yes, American andstand helped put Philly on the music map. And which song did you orchestrate? I am going to guess Dancing in the Street…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. And, it was! Well, there were other weddings and songs and dancing… The Mermatrons loved “One Fine Day” by the Chiffons, but the best was “Gimme Some Lovin'” by the Spencer Davis Group, wearing sunglasses. As much as I love music, it spans from Philly R&B to opera. Really. Apologies for a long reply. Music does that to me.


      2. I know what you mean, and how you feel. I felt the same way, and then our daughter joined a choral group (they were good), and learned about Benjamin Britten and his wonderful music. These kids sang his music and more. They had a two-week summer camp every year, where they performed an opera. Big wow. Back to your original post, I think ‘live’ makes a huge difference.

        A case in point: Hubby has always loved hockey. He tried to teach me the game on our small black and white TV when we were first married. Ha! I bought him tickets to a Flyers game, which was the first hockey game I ever saw. Live made sense of the game. The crowd whistled at a player who had long hair and called him ‘pretty boy’.
        I now love hockey and opera. Who knew? Oh

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I’ll have to look into Benjamin Britten.

        And I agree that live makes a difference. At a wedding, I always prefer a live band as opposed to a DJ.

        and you are right, live hockey is so much better than watching it on TV. Go Flyers!

        Liked by 1 person

      4. On a side note, My class will be learning about Russia in November, and I will introduce Peter and the Wolf. It’s opera for children. We’ll learn about every instrument in the story, and then we’ll learn about wolves!!

        Liked by 1 person

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