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Riot Grrrl: Allison Wolfe of Bratmobile talks about zines, feminism and her new band, Sex Stains

Allison Wolfe
Photo by Connor Collins
 
Allison Wolfe, iconic 90s riot grrrl and Bratmobile member hasn’t stopped playing music since their break up in the early 2000s. In fact, she has gone on to be in several other bands such as Cold Cold Hearts, Partyline, Deep Lust, Cool Moms and most recently Sex Stains (whose debut album comes out September 2nd.)

I chatted with Wolfe about her new band as well as zines, Bratmobile, being a 90s female musician and an inspirational feminist.
 
Girl Germs
 
Before Allison Wolfe and Molly Neuman started Bratmobile, they had a riot grrrl fanzine called Girl Germs:

“Molly and I met in the dorms at the University of Oregon. We weren’t in the same room but we shared a wall and we would knock on the walls. We became best friends and started plotting to do all of these things. We were fairly young girls who were getting politicized who wanted to have a voice and participate. We really wanted to have a girl programmed radio show but it turned out that the University of Oregon didn’t have a college radio so I think Tobi Vail encouraged us to do a fanzine. We started the fanzine before we started playing music or did the band. It was a good way to have a voice when we didn’t have any other means at the time. We didn’t really know what we were doing but it was fun. Our first issue had an interview with Calamity Jane. It had scene reports and a lot of it was a reaction to grunge which had completely taken over the Northwest and was too male dominated. We wanted to have a girly voice.”

 
Bratmobile
 
From there they began travelling to Olympia often to hang out. “We were a band in theory. We had been travelling up to Olympia on weekends and telling everyone we were in a band called Bratmobile.”

Calvin Johnson called them and told them he had set up a show for Valentine’s Day 1991 and wanted them to play with Bikini Kill. At this point they were not truly a band so they had to scramble to get songs together. “We went to our friend Robert Christie and were like ‘What do we do?’ He loaned us his practice space and let us use their equipment and but we didn’t know how to write songs. He said to listen to a bunch of Ramones records but I thought if all bands listen to the Ramones in order to start bands then I wouldn’t and I vowed to never listen to them which isn’t exactly accurate but I never owned any Ramones records or listened to them that much.”

Allison said she listen to a lot of female rap and hip hop before the band started such as Salt n’ Pepa, Yo Yo, Bytches with Problems, TLC and others. “That was a big influence on us, all these really awesome, kinda goofy but politicized women in rap and hip hop that weren’t commercialized yet. It was more politicized. They had messages that were pretty important. Also, the first Batman movie had come out and Prince did the soundtrack and the Batmobile was an influence on us naming the band Bratmobile.” Their first show, which was just her and Molly at the time, was pretty much a capella. “There was a little bit of guitar and drums going on but not much… We jumped off stage and Kurt Cobain walked in right then and I walked up to him and said ‘You missed us!’ and handed him one of our fanzines.”
 
More after the jump…

Posted by Izzi Krombholz | Leave a comment
‘Girls Bite Back’: An early nod to women in rock with the Slits, Nina Hagen, Siouxsie and Girlschool

VHS Cover
The VHS box cover art

Girls Bite Back (aka Women in Rock, 1980) is an ahead of its time document acknowledging female rock musicians. Directed by Wolfgang Büld (who also directed Punk in London, British Rock and Lovesick) the movie opens with a photo slideshow of many pioneer musical greats including Bessie Smith, Debbie Harry, Joan Baez, Cher, Dolly Parton, Grace Slick, Janis Joplin, Linda Ronstadt, Cass Elliott, Wendy O Williams and many others while Nina Hagen performs. After this we see a segment of interviews by some of the featured performers (Siouxsie & The Banshees, The Slits, Girlschool, Lilliput, Zaza and Mania D.) and I’m amazed at how relevant their answers still are today. The women are asked what it’s like being female musicians, their overall answer is that they’re just musicians. Being female is not the important thing about what they’re doing. A young Viv Albertine is quoted saying, “We are fucking women making music—that’s all there is to say about it.” Unfortunately even with that badass mentality, 36 years later there is still a need for Viv Albertine to deface a punk exhibit for not acknowledging these important women and their impact on music.
 

The Slits

The most relatable thing about the women in this movie (at least for me) is a segment where they discuss their desire to be recognized as musicians and how they don’t want to be categorized as feminists or anti-male. It’s become a strange world where feminism is sometimes taken too far, as if it means hating men and wanting to be the superior gender, when really it’s all about equality. Girls Bite Back really captures this idea.

An indifferent Siouxsie Sioux is interviewed saying that if it was four years earlier she wouldn’t be playing in a band. She says, “It’s too easy. It’s the thing to do if you’re bored. It used to be more of a risk.” Siouxsie actually seems quite depressed in this footage. That’s probably the saddest thing about the film, as she seems entirely over her music career almost as it was beginning. However, she builds up more enthusiasm by their third live song “Jigsaw Feeling.”
 
Girlschool
Hard rockers Girlschool

Wolfgang Büld did a great job of picking out the bands featured in the film, I mean really his band choices were on point. It’s an awesome range of bands with rare footage of live shows and intimate interviews. There is something nicely raw about it as well, no captions to tell you who each band is, no subtitles when Mania D. is interviewed (they speak German). These imperfections, while a bit frustrating because you want to know what they are saying, make the film feel low budget in a labor of love, intimate kind of way. If you’re a die-hard Nina Hagen fan, you will be disappointed. She’s only in the very beginning and end, no interviews. However, the concert footage of her is pretty rad.

Girls Bite Back is a film female musicians should see. It’s poignant, witty and a great little rockumentary. If nothing else, it’s worth it alone to watch see the live performances by Girlschool and The Slits’ interview segments—they’re so fucking cool.
 

Posted by Izzi Krombholz | Leave a comment
Strange, Seductive and Surreal Erotica from 1920-30’s Vienna

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Atelier Manassé was a highly successful photographic studio established by husband and wife team Adorján von Wlássics (1893 - 1946) and Olga Solarics (1896 - 1969) in Austria in 1924—though some sources cite 1922.

Principally based in Vienna—with a smaller office in Berlin—the studio flourished during the 1920s and 1930s. It was known for producing highly flattering portrait photography of film, theater and cabaret stars. It could be said Adorján and Olga were the airbrush pioneers of their day—artfully painting out any blemishes or wrinkles and reducing the unsightly flab from legs and waists. The resulting photographs were mass produced and sold to fans as much sought after postcards.

But Atelier Manassé did not just specialise in lucrative publicity photographs—it also produced a vast array of erotica. In particular Olga dedicated herself to producing highly original nude photography which is credited with establishing the “pin-up” long before Playboy magazine. But Olga’s work was far superior and far more influential than any cheesecake photography—it drew on many avant garde ideas and cherry-picked styles from Surrealism and Expressionism. More importantly, Olga’s photography presented liberated images of women—relishing their own sexuality, their own bodies and their power of seduction.

There is a dedicated collectors market for Atelier Manassé photographs and even magazines all being sold at auctions and online for a goodly sum.

The following are some of the more Surreal and seductive photographs that typify the best of Atelier Manassé‘s erotica.
 
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More beautiful photographs from Atelier Manassé, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Meet the original Dairy Queen: Work by America’s first known butter sculptor
07.29.2016
08:38 am

Topics:
Art
Feminism
Food

Tags:
butter sculptures
Caroline S. Brooks

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Caroline Shawk Brooks (1840 – 1913) charged the public a quarter a pop to come and watch her create sculptures from butter. Brooks was America’s first known butter sculptor. Her work attracted thousands of visitors to galleries when it was exhibited. Her most famous sculpture was of the blind princess Iolanthe from the verse drama King René’s Daughter by Danish poet Henrik Hertz. This beautiful butter sculpture alone drew a staggering two thousand paying visitors when it was exhibited for two weeks at a Cincinnati art gallery in 1874.

Brooks was born in Cincinnati, Ohio. From a very early age she exhibited considerable aptitude in painting, drawing and sculpture. Her first known sculpture was a bust of Italian poet Dante made of clay taken from a local stream.

By twelve she had won her first award—a gold medal for her sculpture of wax flowers. But alas a career in art was not considered a suitable occupation for a young woman. Brooks married a railroad engineer. Together they moved from Memphis, Tennessee to a farm in Phillips County, Arkansas. It was here in 1867 that Brooks made her first butter sculptures.

Taking her lead from neighboring farmers’ wives—who made small floral designs using butter molds—Brooks began making original butter sculptures to supplement the family’s income. Rejecting the sculptor’s traditional tools—perhaps because they were difficult to obtain and too expensive—Brooks used the traditional dairy farmer’s “common butter-paddles, cedar sticks, broom straws and camel’s-hair pencils” to make her buttery creations.

For around two years Brooks developed her sculptural talents. She then took time out to raise her daughter Mildred and work on the farm.

In 1873, Brooks returned to butter sculpture when she made a bas relief for her local church. This particular work became the stuff of legend—it proved so popular people visited the church from neighboring states. One man from Memphis commissioned Brooks to produce a large butter sculpture of Mary Queen of Scots. It was the start of Brooks’ professional career as a butter sculptor.

The very same year, Brooks produced her most famous work Dreaming Iolanthe, which was reviewed as a work of art by the New York Times. The paper said the “translucence” of the butter:

...gives to the complexion a richness beyond alabaster and a softness and smoothness that are very striking…no other American sculptress has made a face of such angelic gentleness as that of Iolanthe.

By public demand—and because of the obvious impermanence of her sculpting materials—Brooks made several versions of Dreaming Iolanthe. One version was exhibited at the Centennial Exposition or World’s Fair in Philadelphia in 1876 where it was described as the “most beautiful and unique exhibit” on show.

Unfortunately, Brooks did have her detractors—mostly idiotic men who claimed that only a man could be responsible for producing such beautiful, perfect butter sculptures. Brooks was unfazed. She decided to set up a workshop demonstrating her sculpting talents to a panel consisting of board members from the Exposition, a handful of newspaper hacks and a few of her most vociferous critics. In under two hours, Brooks produced yet another Dreaming Iolanthe.  It killed all criticism dead—much to the chagrin of a few cigar-chompin’ male chauvinists. Brooks was thereafter hailed as the “Butter Woman.”
 
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A newspaper advert for Brooks demonstrating her talent as a butter sculptor at the Armory Hall, Boston in 1877.
 
Following directly on from her success at the Centennial Exposition, Brooks was asked to sculpt a life-size version of Iolanthe which was then sent to Paris for exhibition at the World’s Fair in 1878. It was a tremendous success. Brooks was now internationally recognized as a talented, pioneering butter sculptor.

Eventually she moved on from sculpting in butter to working with marble, stone and clay. However, Brooks always said she preferred working with butter as it was more malleable and delivered better results. Her later works included marble portrait busts of Thomas Carlyle, George Elliot, James A. Garfield, Emanuel Swedenborg, and members of the Vanderbilt family.

Apart from dealing with petty and truculent men, Brooks had to devise ways to transport her butter sculptures far across land and sea. Brooks invented special tanks filled with ice which kept her work chilled. This was understandably problematic on long ocean voyages where maintaining the correct temperature was difficult. When her work arrived in France, Brooks found it amusing to see customs officials itemise her work not as sculptures but in terms of pounds of butter.

Due to the nature of her materials there are only a few photographs of Brooks’ butter sculptures available. But thankfully what we do have is a beautiful testament to Brooks’ extraordinary talents. Someone should really think about making a film about this pioneering artist’s life.
 
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Feminist artist Caroline S. Brooks in front of one of her butter sculptures.
 
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‘A Study in Butter’ Life-sized version of ‘The Dreaming Iolanthe,’ ca. 1878.
 
More of Caroline S. Brooks’ butter sculptures, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Absurd propaganda postcards warning men about the dangers of women’s rights, early 1900s
07.11.2016
02:29 pm

Topics:
Feminism
History

Tags:
women's rights


 
Here’s a collection of totally ridiculous vintage postcards and posters dated from around 1900 to 1914 warning men of the dangers associated with the suffragette movement and of allowing women to think for themselves. I think my favorite is the postcard where the woman is pinching the man’s ear and forcing him to clean the home. The nerve of her to request such a thing!


 

 

 
More after the jump…

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
Marianne Breslauer’s gorgeous photos of queer, androgynous and butch women of the 1930s


 
The photography of Marianne Breslauer is striking for both its intimacy and its subjects—women, usually of the sleek, chic and gender-bending variety, posed to optimum androgynous elegance. A bohemian Berliner by birth, Breslauer studied under Man Ray for a time in Paris and achieved some commercial success before returning home to an increasingly volatile Germany. As a Jewish artist working in an obviously queer milieu, Breslauer eventually fled to Switzerland and retired from photography early, eventually marrying a man and becoming an art dealer.

Among the many beautiful faces captured by Breslauer was her dear friend, Swiss writer, journalist and photographer Annemarie Schwarzenbach, who she described as “neither a man nor a woman, but an angel, an archangel.” A libertine and rebel, Schwarzenbach defied her wealthy, Nazi-sympathizing family, funding anti-fascist publications and later supporting American unions at the height of the Depression—this is not to mention her adventures hitchhiking across India and Turkey, or the many lesbian affairs. Surviving addiction issues and a suicide attempt, Schwarzenbach nonetheless died at the young age of 34 after a fall from a bicycle, leaving behind a prolific body of work, 170 articles and 50 photo-reports.
 

 

 

 
More after the jump…

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
This may be the most racist, sexist, violent video game EVER (and it’s almost 35 years old)
06.16.2016
11:51 am

Topics:
Feminism
Games
History
Race

Tags:
Video games
Custer's Revenge


 
Despite exaggerations to the contrary, very few video games actually portray sexual assault. Sure, there’s a ton of murder, and definitely lots of gendered violence, but games that write in actual sexual violence are quite rare, which is actually sort of surprising when you learn about Custer’s Revenge.

The game, which came in in 1982 for the Atari 2600 and cost a whopping $49.95 (making it the priciest of Atari games then on the market), had a very simple premise: you are a naked, erection-wielding General Custer and you must avoid a volley of arrows in order to to rape a Native American who is—as indicated by the cover art—tied to a pole. Yeah, that’s it.

Custer’s Revenge was an early attempt to create and market “adult” video games, but promotion was difficult, especially since Mystique, the publishers and developers of the game, made it very clear that the game was “NOT FOR SALE TO MINORS.” In order to drum up publicity, Mystique actually showed the game to women’s and Native American groups, who were quick to give them free press with outraged protests. Feminist Andrea Dworkin even argued that Custer’s Revenge “generated many gang rapes of Native American women,” a claim that is difficult to prove, to say the least. Compared to say Pac-Man, the best-selling Atari 2600 game of all time, which sold 7 million, Custer’s Revenge was small potatoes, only selling 80,000 total. Regardless, the backlash most certainly helped move copies that might have otherwise simply collected dust on the shelf.
 

 
So how does Custer’s Revenge hold up nowadays? Despite the stomach-turning “plot,” the game actually manages to be so very comically low-rent that it falls very short of anything that is actually visually lurid. I mean you really have to use your imagination to connect those abrupt little pixels to the historic atrocities of the sexual violence and genocide exacted against Native Americans. They just didn’t quite have the technology to really depict any detail at the time, a fact which allowed game designer Joel Miller to maintain plausible deniability, claiming that the woman was a “willing participant” (this despite the game’s title and cover art). Nonetheless, Mystique later released a companion game, General Retreat, featuring the Native American woman attempting to rape Custer under cannonball fire, which, I guess, was an attempt at equality?
 

Ah, such innocent times! When the libidinal horrors of entertainment were technologically limited to blocky little boners and booties!
 
It’s possible that protests eventually staved off sales of the game, but what’s more likely is that no one really wanted to play it. PC World magazine named it the third worst game of all time, adding to the obvious objections that it was extremely difficult to play and it just looked terrible. The underground infamy of of Custer’s Revenge outlasted the game itself, inspiring a much more graphic remake in 2008, which was notably protested by a indigenous activists, including a female game designer and a video game journalist. Eventually pressure from activists got the game removed from the internet in 2014 (though I doubt too many people felt its loss).

More after the jump…

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
‘Technology/Transformation’: Funky ‘Wonder Woman’ mashup from 1978
05.26.2016
10:28 am

Topics:
Art
Feminism
Pop Culture

Tags:
Wonder Woman
Dana Birnbaum


 
I was recently on vacation in Vancouver, BC and was lucky enough to take in a massive pop culture retrospective called “MashUp: The Birth of Modern Culture” at the gorgeous Vancouver Art Gallery. The show, which took approximately four years to curate, featured a huge array of works from pop culture heroes like filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, and many, many others.

One of the many delights the show had to offer fans of pop culture was an almost six-minute video by American video and installation artist Dara Birnbaum, a woman at the forefront of the feminist art movement in the mid-1970s. The video, “Technology/Transformation: Wonder Woman,” was made in 1978 and 1979 and features Lynda Carter as her television super-hero alter ego Wonder Woman; explosions, imagery, and audio tracks taken from from her show, which ran from 1975 to 1979; and Carter’s trademark “Wonder Woman” spin—all scored to the show’s own cheese-tastic soundtrack as well as a few added disco fillips. According to Birnbaum, her use of repetition in the video is meant to expose the illusion of “fixed female identities in media” and attempts to show the emergence of a “new woman” through use of technology.

Since I first saw Birnbaum’s Wonder Woman video, I have not be able to get it out of my mind—it’s a strangely compelling and hypnotic piece of work. The video wraps up with an on-screen transcription of The Wonderland Disco Band’s homage to Wonder Woman, “Wonder Woman Disco” which is nearly as fantastic as the video itself. If you’re planning on visiting Vancouver, BC, I highly recommend that you check out “MashUp,” which runs through June 12.
 
“Technology/Transformation: Wonder Woman” by Dara Birnbaum:

 
More after the jump…

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Kicking Against the Pricks: How Pauline Boty’s pioneering Pop art bucked the art world’s boy’s club

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Pauline Boty was an artist, activist, actress and model. She was one of the leading figures of the British Pop art movement during the late 1950s and early 1960s. Her contemporaries were Peter Blake, Derek Boshier and David Hockney. But when Boty tragically died at the height of her fame in 1966, her work mysteriously disappeared. Not one of her paintings was exhibited again until 1993.

Boty was all but forgotten by the time a cache of her paintings was rediscovered on a farm in the English countryside in the early 1990s. The paintings had been stored in an old barn for safe-keeping by her brother. Their rediscovery placed Boty firmly back into the center of the Pop art boy’s club.

Throughout her life, Boty kicked against the men who tried to hold her back. Born into a Catholic family in 1938, her father (a by-the-book accountant) wanted his daughter to marry someone respectable and raise a family. Instead she chose to study art to her father’s great displeasure. In 1954, Boty won a scholarship to Wimbledon School of Art.

At college, Boty was dubbed the “Wimbledon Bridget Bardot” because of her blonde hair and film star looks. She went onto study lithography and stained glass design. However, her desire was to study painting. When she applied to the Royal College of Art in 1958, it was suggested by the male tutors that she would be more suited studying stained glass design as there were so few women painters. Though Boty enrolled in the design course she continued with her ambitions to paint.

Encouraged by the original Pop artist Eduardo Paolozzi, Boty began painting at her apartment. Her makeshift studio soon became a meeting point for her friends (Derek Marlowe, Celia Birtwell) and contemporaries (Blake, Boshier, Hockney and co) to meet, talk and work. Boty started exhibiting her collages and paintings alongside these artists and her career as a painter commenced.

In 1962, Boty was featured in a documentary about young British pop artists Pop Goes the Easel alongside Peter Blake, Derek Boshier and Peter Phillips. The film was directed by Ken Russell who created an incredibly imaginative and memorable portrait of the four artists. Each was given the opportunity to discuss their work—only Boty did not. Instead she collaborated with Russell on a very prescient dream sequence.
 

 
It opens with Boty laying out her paintings and drawings on the floor of a long circular corridor—actually the old BBC TV Center. As she examines her work a group of young women appear behind her. These women walk all over her artwork. Then from out of an office door, a nightmarish figure in a wheelchair appears and chases Boty along the seemingly endless twisting corridors. Boty eventually escapes into an elevator—only to find the ominous figure waiting inside.

Her performance in Russell’s film led to further acting roles—in Alfie with Michael Caine, with James Fox on the stage, Stanley Baxter on television and again with Russell in a small role opposite Oliver Reed in Dante’s Inferno. Boty was photographed by David Bailey, modeled for Vogue, regularly appeared as an audience dancer on Ready, Steady, Go!, and held legendary parties at her studio to which everyone who was anyone attended—from the Stones to Bob Dylan. Boty was the bright flame to whom everyone was attracted.

She was a feminist icon—living her life, doing what she wanted to do, and not letting men from hold her back. But the sixties were not always the liberated decade many Boomers would have us believe. Boty’s critics nastily dismissed her as the Pop art pin-up girl. The left-wing party girl. A dumb blonde. Of course, they were wrong—but shit unfortunately sticks.

Boty’s work became more politically nuanced. She criticised America’s foreign policy in Vietnam; dissected the unacknowledged sexism of everyday life; and celebrated female sexuality. She had a long affair with the director Philip Saville—which allegedly inspired Joseph Losey’s film Darling with Dirk Bogarde and Julie Christie. Then after a ten day “whirlwind romance” Boty married Clive Goodwin—a literary agent and activist. She claimed he was the only man who was interested in her mind.

In 1965, Boty was nearing the top of her field when she found she was pregnant. During a routine prenatal examination, doctors discovered a malignant tumor. Boty refused an abortion. She also refused chemotherapy as she did not want to damage the fetus. In February 1966, Boty gave birth to a daughter—Boty Goodwin. Five months later in July 1966, Pauline Boty died. Her last painting was a commission for Kenneth Tynan’s nude revue Oh! Calcutta! called “BUM.”
 
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Pauline Boty in her studio holding the painting ‘Scandal’ in 1963.
 
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‘A Big Hand’ (1960).

More of Pauline Boty’s paintings plus Ken Russell’s ‘Pop Goes the Easel,’ after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Meet The Liverbirds: The all-girl Beatles who once toured with the Kinks and Rolling Stones

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“Girls with guitars? That won’t work,” quipped John Lennon as he watched four girls take the stage of the Cavern Club, Liverpool in 1963. The band was The Liverbirds and Lennon’s attitude was the kind of dumb prejudice these four faced every time they picked up their guitars and blasted an audience with their hard rockin’  R’n'B.

The Liverbirds were formed in Liverpool 1963. The original line-up was Valerie Gell (guitar), Mary McGlory (bass), Sylvia Saunders (drums), together with Mary’s sister, Sheila McGlory (guitar) and Irene Green (vocals). The band’s name was lifted from the liver bird—the mythical bird (most probably a cormorant) that symbolises the city of Liverpool and they were all girls (“birds” in the youthful parlance of the time). The group practiced every day until they were better than most of the local boy bands who were merely copycatting local heroes The Beatles.

The Liverbirds were apparently so good (if a bit rough around the edges) they were snapped up to tour with The Rolling Stones, The Kinks and The Rockin’ Berries. However, it was soon apparent that the girls—unlike the boys—were were being cheated out of a big part of their fees by booking agents—a crushing disappointment that led to the loss of their lead singer and guitarist to other bands.
 
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It was beginning to look as if Lennon was right, but the girls refused to give up and continued touring with The Kinks. Unlike their northern counterparts, London’s all male bands The Kinks and The Stones were supportive of The Liverbirds—as Mary McGlory recalled in a letter to the Liverpool Beat in 2014:

The Kinks took us down to London to meet their manager, even booked us into a hotel, and told us to come to the studio tomorrow and bring our guitars with us (maybe there might be time to play a song for their manager). When we arrived there, the roadie came in and told The Kinks that their guitars had been stolen out of the van – so this was how The Kinks played our guitars on their hit recording of “You really got me“.

This isn’t exactly how it happened as the legendary Dave Davies of The Kinks points out regarding Mary’s claim over the stolen instruments:

Absolute nonsense- they were a cool band but this DID not happen.

On YRGM I use my Harmony meteor thru the elpico green amp and ray used his tele and pete used his blue fender bass…what a load of bollocks.

However, The Kinks did help save The Liverbirds from splitting-up by suggesting they bring Pamela Birch in as vocalist. Birch was a big blonde bee-hived singer/guitarist. She had a deep bluesy voice which harmonized beautifully with Valeri Gell’s vocals. Birch was a perfect fit for the band.

They were a hit at the Cavern Club. They were a hit across the country. They were a hit on tour. But the band hailed as the all-girl Beatles at the height of Beatlemania couldn’t even get a record deal in England. However, things soon started to shift.
 
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First Kinks’ manager Larry Page and then Beatles manager Brian Epstein wanted to sign The Liverbirds. But the girls were off to Hamburg to play the Star Club. The band was an instant hit in Germany as Mary McGlory recalls:

We arrived in Hamburg on the 28th May, 1964 and played the same night. The crowd was great and loved us right away. The Star-Club owner Manfred Weissleder became our one and only MANAGER.

A few days later he sent us to Berlin to play at a big concert with Chuck Berry, shortly before we went on stage we were told that it was forbidden to play any Chuck Berry songs. Well that was impossible for us, so when Val went to the mike and announced “Roll over Beethoven”, Berry’s manager ran on stage and tried to stop us playing, Val pushed him away and told him to “F. Off”.(She had probably had a shandy). Back in Hamburg, Manfred called us to his office, we thought he was going to tell us off, but no such thing, Chuck Berry’s manager wanted to take us to America. Manfred said he would leave the decision up to us, but then he added – he will probably take you to Las Vegas, and there you will have to play topless! Well of course that was his way of putting us off. After all, the club was still crowded every night.

The band had hits with the songs “Peanut Butter,” “Too Much Monkey Business,” “Loop-de-Loop,” and “Diddley Daddy.” Although in performance they played the very same Willie Dixon and Chuck Berry covers favored by the Stones and other boys, Birch also started writing original numbers, producing such favorites as “Why Do You Hang Around Me?” and “It’s Got To be You.” Though pioneering and incredibly popular, the girls (now in their late teens-early twenties) still faced the everyday sexism from record industry supremos who thought young girls should be on the scene, but not heard. Not unless they were in the audience screaming. These men wanted girls who dressed to please—not girls who played instruments better than the boys. Girls with guitars? That won’t work. Except for that, of course, it did. Splendidly!
 
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In 1968, on the cusp of a Japanese tour the band split:

Until 1967, we played nearly all over Europe, recorded two albums and four singles for the Star-Club label and appeared on many television shows. Our drummer Sylvia married her boyfriend John Wiggins from The Bobby Patrick Big Six and left the band. Shortly after Val married her German boyfriend Stephan, who had a car accident on his way to visit her and was since paralyzed. So when we got an offer from Yamaha to do a tour of Japan at the beginning of 1968, Pam and I had to find two German girls to replace them. Japan was great, and the Japanese people really liked us, but Pam and I did not enjoy it anymore, we missed the other two, the fun had gone out of it. We thought this is the right time to finish, even though we were still only 22 and 23.

Today McGlory, Gell and Saunders continue with their post-Liverbirds lives. Sadly, Pamela Birch died in 2009. However, this all-girl guitar band should be given credit for pioneering rock and roll, R ‘n’ B and being right up there for a time with The Beatles, The Kinks and The Rolling Stones.
 

The Liverbirds perform on ‘Beat Club’ 1965.

More from the female Fab Four after the jump….

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
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