August 21, 2014

The Electric Love Muffin................ ...That looks like my 6th grade teacher 0_0... Mr Kaufmann is that you?

photos by Tracey Long
I must have seen the Electric Love Muffin more than any other band when I went to college in Philly in 1987. They seemed to play out every week and I never got tired of seeing them boing-boinging all over stage to their not-too-serious, seemingly apolitical speed americana.  Like a country band playing punk rock songs, and not the other way around.

demo tape (1985)
This Time I'm Gone

Playdoh Meathook (recorded 1985)
I Should Have
Blackness That Could Be Blue

Live at the Kennel Club (1986)
Backstreet Ride
Norweigian Wood

Rassafranna (1988)
Club Car
Down Easy

Second Third Time Around (1990)
Another Please
Under Candy Bridge

I eschewed the punker label when I was a teen, cuz, hey, uncool to label, right? But they were the kids I hung out with in Lancaster and Philadelphia. In retrospect punk rock had a pretty deep influence on me that has lasted into adulthood. More than just liking the music and the DIY ethic, I underwent a fair amount of political socialization through the music and the scene. It was a catalyst in my break from the political views of my family and many teachers and friends at my suburban school. Punk was my first exposure to radicalism, at least in a pop cultural sense -- entertaining, if not always very serious. But it also taught me that politics doesn't always have to be serious; radical acts can be fun! So I hung a bunch of sacrilegious and antinuclear xerox art and a huge Orgasm Addict poster on my bedroom wall. My parents were unimpressed.

The show we didn't play.... Fuckin' Bernie.
It was easy to cross over into more authentic political activism in college, take courses in third world history, make a move to San Francisco, subsist as a DIY handyman, and ultimately make a career choice... a political choice... to become a public school teacher - Radical? Well, punk might at least deserve a line on my curriculum vitae just to make sure I don't sell out.

In Rich Kaufmann's interview on LOUD! FAST! PHILLY!, he talks about his childhood, the Philly punk scene, the rise and demise of the Electric Love Muffin, his later band Rolling Hayseeds, and his solo work, but the part that resonates with me is his current experience as a former Philly punk scene star, turned suburban 6th grade teacher:
Rich Kaufmann: I remember the phrase, “Punk is an attitude,” and I really think that. Once it got its claws into you, you have to live your life sort of that way. It’s not about selling out or not selling out, or having material goods. But it is about knowing what’s important. And I do feel like those years in the punk scene, and that attitude that sort of got implanted is still with me even though I’ve become middle aged, and I have two kids, and I’m a school teacher. The idea of questioning things is important to me – questioning authority.
When I hear about the latest boogieman group, like punk rockers were, and heavy metalers were, and rappers were, I always think, "there’s something else there, that it’s not true. They’re trying to corner one group into being the bad guy, and I know that that’s probably not true."
The 80s were a tough time politically. Punks were one of the few groups that were openly against the grain and I feel like now more than ever it’s needed again…. The government has a lot of power. People need to be standing up and speaking out.
Teacher face?
It’s not like you have to do that, but I know people that are lawyers, and they still carry that attitude of like “I want to make the world a slightly better place. It’s not just about me getting everything I can get my hands on.” I teach English, but I also teach a social studies class, and I think it’s important to teach kids to be critical.  I live in a very conservative county…. So I get a lot of students who are often echoing what their parents are telling them, and that’s fine. But I always try to pose every question as to “How do you know that this is true?” If they say, “The President, or this politician, is doing this.” I say, “Well how do you know? You have to back it up.” I try to get kids to look at both sides of every issue…. They accept so much on just blind faith. They have to arrive at it by their own hard work. They need to research it and look at it themselves. And some of them really do….
I found a couple videos of us from University of Pennsylvania TV studio which are pretty good quality and I posted them up [online], and I’ve seen some of my former students typing stuff into the comments sections....

Muffin March
zkruzin Sep 7, 2012
     That looks like my 6th grade teacher 0_0... Mr Kaufmann is that you?
maseve21 Sep 7, 2012
     Lookin good Mr. K!
zkruzin Sep 7, 2012
    It is him?!?
zkruzin Sep 18, 2012
     Waiiit.... Is that a marijuana plant?
Rich Kaufmann Sep 18, 2012 in reply to zkruzin
     Nice try! It's some sort of Japanese Maple. It was in the UPenn TV studio, so you can bet they wouldn't be decorating their studios with pot plants.
zkruzin Sep 20, 2012
     That would make a lot more sense....

Support your teachers!
Badass Teacher Association - BATs
Education Voters of Pennsylvania
Caucus of Working Educators - WE
Teacher Action Group - TAGPhilly
Parents United for Public Education
Philadelphia Coalition Advocating for Public Schools - PCAPS
Philadelphia Student Union
Youth United for Change
Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools - APPS

Another Philly punk teacher: Todd Shuster from The Jags and The Impossible Years


Thanks to LOUD! FAST! PHILLY!, Stacey Finney, and Joseph A. Gervasi for the audio interview with Rich Kaufmann.

Music by the Electric Love Muffin on Mike Eidle's Freedom Has No Bounds and Jeff Fox's Razorcake/Barracuda Magazine Podcast

Photos by Tracey Long and Seven Morris

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