Kate Fagan

Artist Bio:

Kate Fagan took the Chicago punk rock scene by storm in the early 80’s with her self-released single “I Don’t Wanna Be Too Cool, ” which became the best-selling single ever by a local artist at the legendary Wax Trax! Records. Today, Captured Tracks is thrilled to present an expanded, re-mastered edition of I Don’t Wanna Be Too Cool as a full-length vinyl album, featuring four unreleased, ahead-of-their-time tracks.

Fagan wrote “I Don’t Wanna Be Too Cool” after moving to Chicago from New York in the late 70’s. The track is a critique of the emergent “hipster” attitude of the disco crowd and the posturing she was witnessing among her peers in New York. “The idea of ‘cool’ seemed shallow to me, cheap, store-bought, and manipulated. My song responded with a whoop, plucky bass line and a heavy backbeat,” Fagan explains. “The lyrics are meant to poke fun at elements of what was becoming hip in the celebutante era.”

She found the authenticity she was searching for in Chicago’s punk scene. Fagan dove in headfirst; opening for The Ramones as the frontwomen of punk group BB Spin and organizing a series of “Rock Against Racism” concerts. It was here that she’d meet the artists with whom she would form the Disturbing Records label, which released the “I Don’t Wanna Be Too Cool” single and dozens of notable new wave and punk records.

With its surf-inspired drum machine, irresistible melody, and defiant lyrics, “Too Cool” was immediately embraced by club DJs, radio stations, and independent record stores. Its b-side, “Waiting For The Crisis,” also gained notice for its raw musical style and politically charged Reagan-era lyrics, which still resonate today.

In the years that followed, Fagan continued to break new ground. In 1980, she co-founded the enormously popular ska band Heavy Manners (whose dance parties are still legendary), and with them opened shows for The Clash, Grace Jones, Peter Tosh, The English Beat, and many more. With her arresting live show and passionate songwriting, Fagan was voted Chicago’s top female performer numerous times.

The “Too Cool” single became a sought-after rarity among record collectors for decades after its initial release, until Manufactured Recordings (an affiliate of Brooklyn’s Captured Tracks) gave it a proper reissue in 2016. The 7” vinyl release featured both tracks from the original single, as well as two unreleased songs from the same period. “Master Of Passion” and “Come Over” had been composed for Fagan’s rock opera “The Kissing Concept”, a semi-autobiographical love story inspired by the 70s/80s nightclub scene that Fagan had explored in during her time in New York, which premiered at Park West and Limelight nightclubs.

Captured Tracks’ expanded 2023 follow-up features four more unreleased songs composed for “The Kissing Concept”, which encapsulate the gutsy, new wave energy that pulses through the original single. The final track, the reggae-tinged “Say It”, features production from the reggae legend Peter Tosh and Bob Marley’s guitarist Donald Kinsey, who flew in from Jamaica to record with Heavy Manners after witnessing their impassioned live show.

Over the years, Fagan has remained a stalwart in her local music scene, and she continues to perform and organize shows in her new home of New Orleans. She’s even helped shape new generations of musicians through the several chapters of Girls Camp of Rock. While the 2016 reissue re-established Fagan’s cult-classic status for a new audience, this new expanded release solidifies her place in a tradition of trailblazing, powerhouse frontwomen.

In the ‘70s, Kate Fagan reveled in the energy of punk and new wave on dance floors in London and New York before drifting to Chicago. With powerhouse frontwomen like Patti Smith and Debbie Harry leading the pack, that period was the first time women were free to set their own rules. Fagan was inspired; she picked up a bass guitar and invented her own plunky minimalist sound, arranging an album’s worth of enduring dance tracks– some of which have gone unheard for decades.

Fagan gigged in warehouses and lofts with other emerging punk bands in Chicago. She co-founded the Disturbing Records label which released her song “I Don’t Wanna Be Too Cool” in 1980, which was celebrated by local DJs and became a best-seller at the legendary Wax Trax! Records.

Over the last half-decade, Fagan has opened the vault of unreleased music to bolster each new reissue. While 2016’s release featured two bonus tracks,this one features four ahead-of-their-time tunes slathered in precious melodies and rhythms that lean into early house music territory.

–Jen B. Larson, author of Hit Girls: Women of Punk in the USA, 1975-1983


Kate Fagan Releases New Single “Say It”

DIY post-punk, new wave, and ska pioneer Kate Fagan has shared “Say It,” the second previously unreleased song made available from the forthcoming I Don’t Wanna Be Too Cool (Expanded Edition). The reggae-tinged “Say It” features production from the reggae legend Peter…


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