There were a lot – a lot – of “Seattle bands” who didn’t get famous. The Gits didn’t get famous. Thing is, they probably deserved to. If it wasn’t for one stupid, cosmically unfair crime, you’d have heard of them. If Mia Zapata, the seemingly indestructible lead singer of The Gits, hadn’t been murdered mid-way through recording their breakthrough album, you’d have heard of them. But she was, and you haven’t, and life continues to suck.
It normally works the other way: you die, you become a legend. For that to happen, however, it seems you need to die of your own volition, somehow. You can overdose, or shoot yourself, or get on the wrong plane, and rock and roll immortality is yours. No one thinks they’re going to be attacked coming home from a friend’s house at one in the morning, especially not the toughest rock chick you ever heard. I’m not going to go into the details of the crime here, because it’s pretty stomach churning, but suffice it to say it was random, and pointless, and horrible. If you’re really curious, here’s the Wikipedia entry on Mia Zapata.
The first time I ever heard of The Gits was probably in 1995 during Self-Pollution Radio, which was Pearl Jam’s “pirate” radio show. Stations across the country, obsessed with the fey antics of Eddie Vedder and co., would allow the Pearl Jam boys to take over the airwaves for an hour every now and then. They’d play live, Eddie would interview his friends, he’d play his answering machine messages, and he’d play his favorite songs. One of these was by The Gits. It makes sense that Eddie was a fan of the band – their style isn’t a million miles away from some of the songs he wrote for Pearl Jam – “Hail, Hail” and “Spin The Black Circle” come to mind, and Zapata’s manner of singing and onstage persona is somewhat reminiscent of a female Vedder.
It also makes sense that the band would then spearhead Home Alive, a women’s rights/safety organization that still exists in Seattle today, and was created in honor of Mia. She may not have gotten the chance to be a rock and roll legend, but she did leave that as her legacy. She got her immortality after all.
It’s impossible to separate the pall of tragedy from The Gits, but if you’re in the mood for some amazing punk/grunge (or if you’re just a fan of Paramore and The Distillers and you’re interested in where they got the idea) then check out this song, from their final record Enter: The Conquering Chicken.
Mia and I have the same birthday, for what it’s worth.