The American in Me

Penelope Houston, a native of Seattle met Danny Furious and Greg Ingraham at the San Francisco Art Institute, where they were students.  After James (Jimmy) Wilsey joined up in August 1977the Avengers became one of California’s most popular punk rock bands.  A three-song EP by the band came out in 1977 on Dangerhouse Records, featuring We Are the One, “Car Crash” and “I Believe in Me”; another the following year on White Noise Records had four other monsters:  “The American in Me”, “Uh Oh, “Corpus Christi”, and “White N----r”. 
The Avengers’ records have a confrontational arrogance that is second to none.  The American in Me starts off:  “It’s the American in me that makes me watch the blood / Running out of the bullethole in his head / It’s the American in me that makes me watch TV / See on the news, listen what the man said / He said, ‘Ask not what you can do for your country / What’s your country been doing to you / Ask not what you can do for your country / What’s your country been doing to your mind?’” 
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Greil Marcus wrote the glowing and lyrical liner notes for The American in Me; they start off:  “In 1977, ‘The American in Me’ was the torn flag flown by the Avengers.  Singer and writer Penelope Houston, guitarist Greg Ingraham, bassist James Wilsey, and drummer Danny Furious made up the best punk band in San Francisco, at moments the best in the country – and what they were claiming in ‘The American in Me’ was the country itself:  the country that the Avengers’ songs said didn’t want them, didn’t recognize them, didn’t hear them, wouldn’t listen.  They left themselves no room for irony. 
“‘We Are the One’, they announced; ‘What is “the One”?’ the song makes you ask.  ‘I am the one who brings you the future,’  [Penelope] Houston chants to end it.  ‘I am the one who buries the past’.  Everything about the thing sounds ridiculous, especially the glee you can hear in the band’s voices, the Oh-my-God-we-are-actually-pulling-this-off thrill of saying what you want to say right out loud, where everyone can hear you, free speech like the Batman signal in the sky, or a rock through the window that separates the true from the false.  Everything sounds ridiculous – except what the song actually sounds like, and the frightening conviction backing up every word.  No matter how sarcastic Houston was on stage, taunting the crowd between numbers, the songs said the Avengers meant exactly what they said or they meant nothing.  The American in Me could not be a joke.” 
(March 2017)
Last edited: March 22, 2021