When I woke up today I had a song in my head
I wanna wanna wanna go home
They played it last night when I was dancing with Joey Ramone
My husband turned me on to Amy Rigby, a sort of post-punk singer songwriter with a lot of attitude and irony in her lyrics. He had first heard about her from the esteemed and quirky rock critic Robert Christgau. Listening to Rigby’s songs for the past few years, I’ve come to love her outrageousness and her insight into herself and the difficult maneuvers women make when dealing with men, children, love, work, and — well, life. My favorites: “Like Rasputin,” “Dancing With Joey Ramone,” (complete with noisy guitar feedback a la Ramones), “Needy Men,” “The Summer of My Wasted Youth.”
When can we hear her? I asked one afternoon when Rigby’s 2005 CD Little Fugitive played, as we chopped and sliced vegetables for homemade pizza.
–Not soon, he said. –She lives in England. She plays in these weird little venues nowhere near Boston.
Then she and her husband Wreckless Eric moved to the Hudson Valley, New York, and she started to show up here and there, within a few hours’ drive from where I live. Two weeks ago, we caught her show at the tiny Parlor Room in Northampton, Massachusetts, where she alternated reading from her recently published memoir, Girl to City, with songs from her earlier recordings as well as brand new stuff.
At sixty, Rigby is seasoned and insightful, as much of a rocker as she was back when she fronted an all girl band, The Shams–which Wikipedia calls a folk-pop trio, and Len Righi of The Morning Call described as an “all-girl alt-rock trio.” Proving that Rigby is hard to pigeonhole.
A romantic, but a cynic. A sentimentalist, but a realist. A critical observer of the current occupant of the White House (“The President Can’t Read”–warning, rated R). Knows her way around both acoustics and electric guitars. Her voice is quirky, like her, not super strong but certainly super expressive.
And from what I heard her read at the Parlor Room, I’d say she’s a pretty good writer. After I plough through Adam Begley’s 576 -page biography of John Updike and reread Updike’s 1962 novel, Rabbit, Run for a Lifetime Learning class I’m teaching.this month, next up on my leisure reading list is Girl to City. Experiencing Rigby’s journey from growing up in Pittsburgh to remaking herself as a punk/pop/country/ singer songwriter is something I’m looking forward to. Pennsylvania to New York, but so unlike John Updike’s world. And a bonus: singing about dreaming about Joey Ramone.