The Ongoing History of New Music, Episode: 939: The Rock’n’Roll Tattoos

The human body is a remarkably good construct. It has its quirks and flaws – have you looked at how a shoulder is put together? — but for the most part, it’s a cool thing: functional, durable, self-healing, and, to other humans, (potentially) attractive. But there is always room for improvements, modifications and decoration.

Archaeologists have found mummified remains thousands and thousands of years old that bear tattoos. There’s a guy named Otzl who was found in the Swiss Alps when a glacier melted. He had been there for over 5,000 years and the guy had 61 tattoos.

Egyptian mummies, Pacific Islanders, members of ancient African communities, bodies dating from Iron Age Britain, early Japanese societies, and indigenous peoples of North and South America have all engaged in some form of body art. Tattoos were used to identify prisoners and slaves, to display religious ties and associations with armies, navies, bikers and gangs. No wonder for many people that tattoos still carry some sort of stigma, that only deviants, criminals and weirdos get tattoos.

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But that has changed a lot over the past 60 years, especially since the start of the 21st century. Tattoos have long since become mainstream. In fact, in some circles, if you don’t have ink, you are beautiful the outsider and the weirdo.

This brings me into the world of rock’n’roll. Tattoos are everywhere. And hardly anyone stops with just one or two. Last time anyone took a census, Blink-182’s Travis Barker has at least 117 different and distinct tattoos from the top of his head to his toes.

We’ll get to Travis in a moment. But let’s start with a look at the history – the whole phenomenon – of rock ‘n’ roll tattoos.

Songs heard on this show:

  • Goldfinger, here in your room
  • Rage Against the Machine, Bombtrack
  • Incubs, forgive me
  • black flag, tv night
  • Foo Fighters, Learn to fly
  • Blink-182, How old am I again?
  • Red Hot Chili Peppers, higher ground
  • Metallica, Enter Sandman

Eric Wilhite’s playlist looks like this.

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