A Kiss Across the Ocean: Transatlantic Intimacies of British Post-Punk and US Latinidad is a unique study of how music connects different communities and people and how the desire expressed in pop music translates at other times and in different spaces.
The book, by Richard T. Rodriguez, focuses on the relationship between British post-punk musicians and their Latino audiences in the United States since the 1980s.
Part memoir and part cultural criticism, Rodríguez writes about bands and performers that were influential at the time, such as Siouxsie and the Banshees, Adam Ant, Bauhaus, Soft Cell, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, and Pet Shop Boys.
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Who was Richard T. Rodriguez?
Rodriguez, an associate professor of media and cultural studies and a graduate of UC Berkley (where he studied English), grew up in Santa Ana, California.
He was fascinated by British pop music and listened to bands like Depeche Mode, and Public Image Ltd. Rodriguez would visit indie records shops with friends and spend hours searching for imports.
“It was my favorite kind of music, and it was actually the motivating force that inspired me to go on to college because of all the literary references from groups like The Smiths, for instance,” he said in a recent interview.
“My decision to become an English major was because I was reading a lot of those books I was finding out about through the music,” he said.
Rodriguez pointed out the importance of these bands – for him and other Latino kids – and how their glittering performances and uniqueness marked a way to be different.
The book also shows how Latino culture helped shape British post-punk – using examples like Siouxsie Sioux and the New Wave Soft Cell singer Marc Almond’s lyrics.
“I thought that I was one of the few people who was inspired by this music, but it turns out, when I would go to concerts, I would see people of color — Latinos and Chicanos, in particular — who were also listening to this music,” he said. “It didn’t occur to me until much later that there was an interesting cultural exchange that was taking place between British musicians and Latino communities in the U.S.”
In A Kiss, he stresses the influence of Latin freestyle music on bands like the Pet Shop Boys and Siouxsie. He also notes the friendship of the Banshees’ with Chicano musician Kid Congo Powers, and The Smiths’ Morrissey singing in Spanish.