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Charting the Musical Evolution of Annie Golden a.k.a. Norma from Orange is the New Black

How Litchfield Penitentiary's quietest inmate went from punk singer, to pop star, to Broadway.

by Emma Garland
19 June 2015, 2:18pm

This article originally appeared on Noisey UK.


Annie Golden performing with The Shirts in 1979

Is there any greater #tbt discovery than finding out that one of the lead characters in your favorite show was once a bona fide musician? The answer is no, there is not. Especially when said lead character is Norma Romano from Orange is the New Black and her musical career spans more decades and genres than a pub jukebox.

Last year, sites like Spin and Mashable reported that Annie Golden, the actress who plays Norma, has enjoyed fame as both a 70s punk singer and an 80s pop star. But if you look at the trajectory of her musical career as a whole, it's pretty mad. She's made appearances on TOPPOP, Letterman, Broadway, and tore up CBGB's on the regular with her band The Shirts. This would be novel even if her character was as commanding as, say, Tasty or Pornstache, but the fact that it's Norma—NORMA, the mute with the moist eyes and raging god complex—makes it all the better.

So let's take a brief look over the amazing musical history of Litchfield Penitentiary's quietest inmate, because are you really going to read the 3,000 word thinkpiece about the potential aftermath of a Greece default you've had open in a tab since 10AM on a Friday, when all you can think about is what time is socially acceptable to go to the bodega and buy some Lime-A-Ritas? Yeah, I didn't think so.

Continues below

1978: The Shirts

Okay, so *spoiler alert* if you didn't spend last weekend ploughing through OITNB Season 3 like a dog through an abandoned BBQ spread like I did, but you can really see where Golden drew influence from here in terms of realistically portraying a loyal member of a weird hippie Manson-esque cult. The first ten seconds of this performance alone are so psychedelic they'd give a present day toddler aggressive flashbacks to 'Nam, but you can see where things are headed for her musically. Is there any greater image of the 70s and 80s than a young woman who looks like a renegade member of The Mamas and The Papas chewing gum like a badass?

1979: The Shirts 2.0 - Punk Edition

It only took a year for that antisocial gum chewing to accelerate into full on 'tude. Her band—if they are in fact the same dudes—have ditched their Elton John glasses and big collared shirts in favor of stuff they found in a bargain bin, and Annie... I mean, holy punk. With a voice like Kathleen Hanna and moves like Karen O, this is easily her Golden era, IMO.

1984: The Pop Years

Imagine pitching this video in a meeting. Like, "Yeah, we want it to look like Cyndi Lauper re-interpreting Prince's 'Batdance' for a cereal advert". It clearly worked, though, because this was the biggest song of Golden's career, and I'm pretty sure Katy Perry ripped it off in her video for TGIF.

1985: Live on Letterman

Here is the same song as above only live on Letterman and with much, much better hair.

1985: Broadway!

By this point, Annie Golden was famous enough to appear in Broadway productions as "herself". Here she is in Leader of the Pack—a jukebox musical made before the term "jukebox musical" was even coined, celebrating the life and times of the 60s doo-wop star Ellie Greenwich (also appearing as herself).

2012: The 5th Annual Joe Iconis Christmas Spectacular

I have no idea what "The 5th Annual Joe Iconis Christmas Spectacular" is but I wish I fucking did because just look at it. Present-day Norma kitted out like the Angel Gabriel if the Angel Gabriel wore a leather waistcoat, singing the absolute shit out of Kurt Nilsen's "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" and pointing at herself when she says "golden days". From now on we all need to point at ourselves when we say "golden days". If her face appeared on a piece of toast IRL right now, I'd probably re-appropriate it as the centrepiece of a shrine and worship it too.

2013: Orange is the New Black Season 1 Finale

And so to Orange is the New Black, arguably one of the best shows on TV right now except for the fact that they managed to do the impossible and put lesbians off Ruby Rose a bit. This is the only moment in the show so far where we see a present-day Norma breaking her silence, and now it all makes sense. Maybe next season Piper will give her a stick-and-poke Misfits tattoo.

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