Behold an absolutely monstrous compilation of female fronted punk bands from all over the world from the mid to late ‘70s to the mid 80s (and a little beyond). Some of the artists you’ve heard of (Blondie, Crass, The Avengers, Josie Cotton, Kleenex, Honey Bane, Teenage Jesus and the Jerks, Rezillos, Slits, Malaria!, etc.) but others, trust me on this, there’s just no way you could have heard of all of them. The fellow who compiled this beast is a master. An expert’s expert! A maven’s maven!
This gargantuan set represents a deep education in an exciting, but for the most part never really respected sub-genre of punk. It would be overstating the case to say it has aspirations of being a Harry Smith-type collection of punk and obscure hardcore bands, but some of this stuff I don’t think I’d ever come across if given two lifetimes. Apparently some of these songs come from cassettes, probably copied one at a time. Obviously plenty of the tracks were taken from vinyl 45 RPM records. And the stuff from the Eastern Bloc countries…. I mean, where did he get this stuff?
What a maniac! It must have been really hard to collect all of these songs, even in this day and age. Without a deep knowledge of the subject, it would be difficult to even search for some of these records on Google. Like I say, it’s damned impressive.
From the Kangknave blog (where you will find all of the download the links and a track listing):
This is a pretty insane project put together by my pal Vince B. from San Francisco a few years back. As the title indicates, this is a homemade 12 x CD-R (!) compilation of punk bands fronted by female vocalists from 1977 to 1989. More like a giant mixtape than a compilation, as he only made 36 copies which he sent to friends and people who submitted material. You may notice that some of the bands didn’t have a steady female vocalist (The Lewd, etc.) but he still included songs that were sung by another member of the band. This is as international as it gets, with stuff ranging from world famous Blondie or Crass to the most obscure Eastern European cassette compilation veterans. The boxset came packaged in a hand-numbered fancy translucent lunchbox enclosing all 12 CD-Rs, a stack of full-colored cards featuring comprehensive tracklist and artwork/info, as well as a manga pin-up figure! Talk about a labor of love.
Students at the Cambridge University, in England, were asked ‘Why they need Feminism?’ The question was asked by ARU Feminist Society and CUSU Women’s Campaign, who together photographed and collated the answers.
The students’ responses ranged from:
I need Feminism because I used to think calling my brother a “GIRL” was a legit insult.
I need Feminism because People still ask what the victim was wearing.
I need Feminism because LESS than 1% of the world’s property is owned by Women
You’ve definitely heard her play guitar and bass. Statistically, you’re likely to own albums she played on. Your parents almost certainly did. According to her, she is responsible for many of the famous Motown bass lines usually attributed to James Jamerson, including “Bernadette,” “Reach Out,” “I Can’t Help Myself” and “I Was Made to Love Her.” She influenced The Beatles’ musical direction from Revolver onward. And it’s quite probable that you’ve never even heard her name.
Carol Kaye was one of the most prolific session musicians in American music in the ‘60s and ‘70s. In the male-dominated world of Los Angeles session players (sneered at in The Kinks’ song “Session Man”), Kaye was a rarity and a powerhouse. She began playing music professionally at 14 in 1949, playing guitar in big bands and bebop jazz groups, playing in clubs and giving lessons around Los Angeles. Her first recording sessions, beginning in 1957, were on guitar for Sam Cooke, Richie Valens, and the Righteous Brothers. From 1964-1973 she primarily played bass and appeared on over 10,000 recordings of pop songs, jazz standards, television show themes, and movie scores. She was one of the few female members of “The Wrecking Crew,” the name given by drummer Hal Blaine to the mostly anonymous first-call L.A. session players in the ‘60s.
Some of the best known songs featuring Carol Kaye’s work are Richie Valens’ “La Bamba” (on guitar), Simon and Garfunkel’s “Scarborough Fair,” Lalo Shifrin’s themes to Mission: Impossible and Mannix, The Monkees’ “I’m A Believer,” Ike and Tina Turner’s “River Deep, Mountain High,” The Lettermen’s “Going Out of My Head/Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You,” Tennessee Ernie Ford’s “Sixteen Tons,” Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’,” the Righteous Brothers’ “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’,” Sonny and Cher’s “The Beat Goes On,” and The Beach Boys’ “California Girls,” “Sloop John B,” “Help Me, Rhonda,” and “Heroes and Villains.” She also played on Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention’s Freak Out and Absolutely Free albums. All this while raising a family.
Carol Kaye was confident, reliable, and able to keep up a rough studio schedule that sometimes stretched into 12-hour days. She was also very opinionated and known for refusing to take any shit from her male colleagues. When session guitarist Tommy Tedesco once insulted her in the studio, she verbally ripped him a new orifice.
Note Carol Kaye in background during this mid-Sixties Beach Boys session
Even today, there are those who simply refuse to believe some of Carol’s assertions, such as her claim to have played on Motown songs credited to James Jamerson and on Beach Boys songs like “Good Vibrations,” where a different bassist’s work may have been used on the final version. Detractors claim that she is either a bitter, jealous liar or a senile old lady with a failing memory. Whether that is misogyny/sexism or a blinkered refusal to admit that the sun did not always shine out of Jamerson’s ass alone is an ongoing matter for debate.
“Smile was originally conceived as an extension of the experimentation of the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds, the album that Paul McCartney acknowledges as having transformed his approach to the bass, in addition to prodding The Beatles to employ the studio more adventurously. McCartney has repeatedly cited Wilson’s bass playing in the era of Pet Sounds and Smile as the inspiration for the lyrical, contrapuntal bass style that he developed around the time of Revolver and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The problem is, the bass player on nearly all of both Pet Sounds and Smile was not Brian Wilson. It was a jazz musician and studio pro in Los Angeles named Carol Kaye.”
And so Paul McCartney once said of Carol Kaye’s bass technique (without, apparently, knowing that it was her talents he was admiring):
“It was Pet Sounds that blew me out of the water. I love the album so much. I’ve just bought my kids each a copy of it for their education in life ... I figure no one is educated musically ‘til they’ve heard that album ... I love the orchestra, the arrangements ... it may be going overboard to say it’s the classic of the century ... but to me, it certainly is a total, classic record that is unbeatable in many ways ... I’ve often played Pet Sounds and cried. I played it to John so much that it would be difficult for him to escape the influence ... it was the record of the time. The thing that really made me sit up and take notice was the bass lines ... and also, putting melodies in the bass line. That I think was probably the big influence that set me thinking when we recorded Pepper, it set me off on a period I had then for a couple of years of nearly always writing quite melodic bass lines. ‘God Only Knows’ is a big favorite of mine ... very emotional, always a bit of a choker for me, that one. On ‘You Still Believe in Me,’ I love that melody - that kills me ... that’s my favorite, I think ... it’s so beautiful right at the end ... comes surging back in these multi-colored harmonies ... sends shivers up my spine.”
Outside of her years in the studio Carol worked as a music teacher, including a seven-year stint as on-staff Bass and Jazz Educator at the Henry Mancini Institute at UCLA and teaching courses at other universities as well. She’s written over thirty bass education books (Sting told talk show host Arsenio Hall that he had learned how to play bass from one of her books), made instructional DVDs, wrote a column for Bassics magazine and given hundreds of bass seminars. Carol continues to teach and offers bass lessons via Skype.
Yoga came to the West from India, in bits and pieces from the 1920’s to the 1960’s. From the 1960’s to about ten years ago, the only people teaching yoga were more or less hippies. Teachers who emphasized the spiritual aspect of the practice and taught small classes made up of a ragtag assortment of humans beings. Grandmas, new moms, pregnant moms, college students and athletes getting over injuries, wearing loose fitting clothing that resembles nothing like the yoga bras and tight, wedgie-inducing Yoga Tart pants on offer today. Somewhere along the way over the past twenty years the fitness industry and corporations got ahold of yoga (I won’t even go into the whole Pilates fad) and turned it into just another way to get fit. Oh, and look HOT.
Yoga is supposed to be much more than that. In 1997-98 the most sought after yoga teachers were from Golden Bridge in L.A. They were Western Sikh followers of Yogi Bhajan, wore extremely modest clothing and their long hair was tucked up in a white turban. The stars of this yoga school were Gurmukh, who taught prenatal yoga and also helped more than a few people stay sober through yoga, and Gurutej Kaur. Flea from The Red Hot Chili Peppers was one of Gurmukh’s students. A punk singer and music producer from the Midwest reinvented himself as a yogi named Mahan. They didn’t preach Sikhism, but there was a definite spiritual emphasis, with talk of meditation, chakras, energy, auric fields, and the like. It was cheerful and comforting.
Then came power yoga, Bikram yoga (hot yoga), and provocative yoga, complete with porn soundtrack. Now the women demonstrating yoga positions in magazines (even Yoga Journal) or videos look like (usually white) gymnists. Or like lingerie models. There isn’t anything about your soul, centering, meditation, union of body, mind and spirit, or communion with the divine. But they make damn sure to use the impressively long original Indian names for every single pose in a stab of authenticity, which gets lost among all the accessories you’re suddenly supposed to have, like “yoga bricks” and special “Toesox” socks.
Kate Potter’s soothing yoga show, Namaste Yoga, once shown on Canadian televison and the cable channel FitTV, used to feature women from a variety of ethnic backgrounds, but all pretty much at the same level of ultra-fitness. I’m not asking for robe-wearing sadhus exclusively, but it would have been nice to see a few bigger ladies included as well. Or Chris Grosso wrote for yoganonymous.com, “Unless I missed the memo, spirituality is not just for pretty, clean cut, white folks who have more money than they know what to do with”
There are authentic sanghas who teach “old school” yoga, but they might not be as easy to find if their message and ads are lost among the flashier teachers. Which leads to the fact that teacher training in some states is laughable. Just because someone has a yoga teaching certification doesn’t mean that they are actually qualified to teach.
Julie J.C. Peters righteously ranted about the sexy Equinox Yoga video in Elephant Journal:
“Yoga advertising has been trying for a while now to make me feel bad about my body so that I get insecure enough to buy whatever they are selling.” You mean not everyone works out in Agent Provocateur underwear?
Although Susan “Stop the Insanity!” Powter produced her own down-to-earth yoga video for all fitness levels, Trailer Park Yoga. This DVD did not receive the advertising push that a video like Equinox Yoga or Provocative Yoga received, and so is therefore an obscure resource for women looking for alternatives.
In her article “Tits and Ass in a Mala,” Portland, Oregon yoga teacher Maya Devi Georg asks, “How about featuring non-sexualized images of young women, or celebrating images of older women, women of color, or men at any age?”:
“This is a call to practitioners and teachers to take responsibility for the practice—not just for themselves but those who will follow us. What does the future of yoga hold in the West? Will it be reduced to corporate ownership, making bad classes better, but making great classes extinct? Will it be ruled by greed, glamour, fads and gimmicks? Or will the word yoga become so overused that the inherent meaning is lost?”
“Norma-Jean was my first sidekick. We did everything together.” – Bo Diddley, 2005
One of the first female rock ‘n’ roll guitarists was a tall, stunning black woman with a towering bouffant hairdo, a skintight gold lame dress (or black leather pants), high heels, and a custom Gretsch electric guitar, designed by the man usually standing next to her onstage, Bo Diddley.
Technically Norma-Jean Wofford, nicknamed “The Duchess” by Bo, was the second female guitarist in Diddley’s backing band. She replaced “Lady Bo” (Peggy Jones) in 1962, with Bo hiring her first and then teaching her how to play rhythm guitar. Lady Bo had been Bo’s lead guitar player from 1957 to 1961, leaving to form her own group The Jewel, later called Lady Bo and The Family Jewels, and work as a session musician. Bo’s audiences’ disappointment in not seeing Lady Bo with the band prompted him to hire Norma-Jean.
Having a woman in a rock ‘n’ roll/R&B band who was not simply a back-up singer was unheard of at the time. The Duchess, originally from Pittsburgh, was said to be Bo’s sister or half-sister, a rumor he started himself, partly because he considered her close enough to qualify as family but also because he didn’t want the other band members to make a move on her. He told his biographer, “Part of the reason I decided to go with that little lie was that it put me in a better position to protect her when we were on the road.”.
The Duchess recorded and toured with Bo for four years and was the band member he entrusted with his money. She sang back-up with the Bo-dettes (then comprised of Gloria Morgan and Lily Jamieson, a.k.a. “Bee Bee”), managing simultaneously to sing with them, play rhythm guitar, and not miss a single dance move. The Duchess appeared on several of Bo’s albums, recorded for Leonard Chess’s Checkers label, such as Bo Diddley, Bo Diddley and Company, Bo Diddley’s Beach Party (a live album recorded at the Beach Club in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina), Hey! Good Lookin’, 500% More Man, and The Originator.
Wofford was on Diddley’s first tour of England that featured the Everly Brothers, Rolling Stones, and Little Richard in 1963. Audiences went wild for The Duchess’s curve-hugging stage clothes. When a British journalist asked her how she managed to get into her tight dress, the Duchess held up a large shoe horn.
“We were playing at the Club A Go-Go in Newcastle, our home town
And the doors opened one night and to our surprise
Walked in the man himself, Bo Diddley
Along with him was Jerome Green, his maraca man,
And the Duchess, his gorgeous sister…
He turned around the Duchess
And he said, “Hey Duchess,
what do you think of these young guys
Doin’ our material?”
She said, “I don’t know. I only came across here
To see the changin’ of the guards and all that jazz.”
The Duchess left Bo Diddley’s band in 1966 to get married and raise a family in Florida. She was replaced by Cornelia “Cookie” Redmond and later Debby Hastings, who remained in Bo’s band from 1982 to 2007. Lady Bo returned to Bo’s band to play several concerts in 1993 and the Duchess showed up at a Bo Diddley concert to say hello to her old friend in July 2004 in California, where she was then living. She died the following year in Fontana, California. Bo Diddley passed away in 2008.
Bo and The Duchess played identical Gretsch Jupiter Thunderbirds, Cadillacs, and Cigar Boxes, which he had helped design. All three models had unusual rectangular shapes, which he said made them easier to play. Decades later Bo gave one of his Jupiter Thunderbirds to Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, who helped Gretsch recreate the model, renamed the G6199 Billy-Bo Jupiter Thunderbird.
Below, even while overshadowed by Bo and his energetic guitar playing, The Duchess was still pretty hard to miss during their appearances on television shows like Shindig! and the concert film The Big T.N.T. Show /T.A.M.I.-T.N.T. Show (1966).
The more my daughter and her friends listen to Katy Perry, Nicki Minaj, and Ke$ha, the more I miss Wendy O. Williams.
However, if you are under 40, there’s a good chance that you haven’t heard of Wendy O. Williams, and that is tragic.
There have been imitators of the shock rock icon known as the Priestess of Metal here and there, but no front-woman has come close to replicating her aggressive sexuality, gleeful destructiveness, violence, provocative art, or flagrant disregard for her own personal safety.
Ivy League-educated artist, producer, and promoter Rod Swenson hired 27-year-old Wendy O. Williams as a dominatrix for his experimental theater/live sex show “Captain Kink’s Theatre” in New York City in 1976. Wendy had led a nomadic existence since running away from home at sixteen, making and selling crafts, cooking, working a string of jobs such as lifeguard, stripper, topless dancer, and Dunkin’ Donuts server. Swenson was also making videos for young New York punk bands like The Ramones, Dead Boys, and The Patti Smith Group. He decided to form his own punk-metal band, The Plasmatics, a year later and recruited Wendy, by then his girlfriend, to front it. With an initial line-up of Richie Stotts on guitar, Chosei Funahara on bass, and Stu Deutsch on drums, The Plasmatics debuted at CBGB’s in 1978. Wes Beech was soon added on guitar and the only band member other than Wendy to weather repeated personnel changes. The Plasmatics’ music and stage shows became infamous, prompting the curious to wait in line for hours to watch them at CBGB’s.
Live Plasmatics montage from 1981:
Plasmatics songs were loud, authentic tributes to sex, violence, independence, and rejection of societal norms. Their fusion of punk and metal, common two decades later, perfectly complemented Wendy’s raspy, shouting, snarling vocals and her wild stage persona. With a platinum blonde mohawk (offsetting Richie Stotts’ blue one), smoky eye makeup, lean, tanned body clad in tight black leather or as little as possible (sometimes only a leather jacket and black underwear, a G-string and shaving cream), Wendy’s physically demanding act involved wielding chainsaws to dismember guitars (in lieu of guitar solos) and hefting sledgehammers to smash television sets. When the band outgrew CBGB’s, Wendy added smashing and detonating cars (especially Cadillacs) onstage, an unmistakable middle finger to consumerism.
“Basically, I hate conformity. I hate people telling me what to do. It makes me want to smash things. So-called normal behavior patterns make me so bored, I could throw up!”—Wendy O. Williams
Below, WOW talks with Tom Synder. You get a great sense of her personal philosophy here:
Sexually provocative without even trying, Wendy shamelessly simulated sex and masturbation onstage, which eventually led to her arrest on obscenity and public indecency charges in Milwaukee and Cleveland. Following these charges (eventually dismissed), Wendy took to wearing her trademark strips of black electrical tape over her nipples like a walking censored photograph. She dominated her performance spaces like a tattooed Amazonian stripper with rage issues.
Thanks to MTV’s willingness to play Plasmatics videos, Wendy will always be remembered for her doing her own dangerous stunts involving explosives, helicopters, school buses, and cars with no brakes. She was a peculiar contradiction of reckless daredevil and fitness and health nut. Unrelated to her sexual persona and shocking subject matter, she had a soft spot for animals, so much so that she pioneered animal rights, vegetarianism, and ecological concerns at a pre-Meat is Murder time when these views were not widespread among musical artists—forget the general population—other than Paul and Linda McCartney.
First signed to Stiff Records in the U.K., The Plasmatics recorded five studio albums (New Hope for the Wretched, Beyond the Valley of 1984, Coup d’Etat, Electric Lady Land Sessions, and Maggots: The Record) and three EP’s (Meet the Plasmatics, Butcher Baby, Metal Priestess). While not massive sellers, these releases, particularly New Hope, were hugely influential, and The Plasmatics gained mainstream attention from unexpected sources: ABC’s late night comedy show Fridays, Tom Snyder’s talk show Tomorrow, an opening spot on a 1982 KISS tour, and SCTV, for which The Plasmatics made a charming cameo in the “Fishin’ Musicians” sketch.
The Plasmatics on Fridays:
Wendy recorded three “solo” albums (W.O.W., Kommander of Kaos, and Deffest! And Baddest!), using Plasmatics members but not naming the albums so for legal reasons, and three collaborative EP’s with Lemmy Kilmister from Motörhead (Iron Fist, Stand By Your Man, What’s Words Worth?).
“She was great, I used to fuck her. Although sometimes you ought to say she fucked me. She was a workout freak, muscles like steel rope.”—Lemmy Kilmister, Lemmy: The Movie
“No Class” with Motörhead:
W.O.W. was produced and co-written by Gene Simmons, with some of the songs appearing on later KISS albums. This hard rock offering earned her a Grammy nomination in 1985 for Best Female Rock Vocalist. Kommander of Kaos, her second solo album, was co-produced by Swenson and Wes Beech.
Wendy ventured into acting as early as 1979, when she appeared in porn (Candy Goes to Hollywood), later followed by indie film (the execrable Reform School Girls which at least contained her songs), musical theater (Rocky Horror), and mainstream television (MacGyver, The New Adventures of Beans Baxter) with moderate success.
Then suddenly in 1988, when heavy metal hair bands were dominating popular music, Wendy was bizarrely convinced by Rod Swenson to change her career path to rap (technically “thrash-rap”). This was only a few years after Dee Dee Ramone’s own similarly bad decision. In 1988 Wendy released Deffest! And Baddest! as Ultrafly and The Home Girls. Unfortunately that was her last recorded work. Her final live performance was on New Year’s Eve, 1988, with Richie Stotts’ post-Plasmatics band, playing “Mastermind.”
Wendy abruptly left both music and acting in 1991, when she and Rod Swenson moved to rural Connecticut. Wendy’s explanation was that she was tired of dealing with people. In Storr, Connecticut Wendy worked as an animal rescuer, natural foods activist, and kept a day job at a health food co-op.
But she was not happy and fulfilled in her retirement and seclusion. She struggled with untreated depression for seven years, and made at least two unsuccessful suicide attempts. She finally succeeded in a methodically planned suicide in 1998, spending her last moments alone in the woods, feeding squirrels before turning a gun on herself.
“For me, much of the world makes no sense, but my feelings about what I am doing ring loud and clear to an inner ear and a place where there is no self, only calm.” – Wendy O. Williams, suicide note
The loss of Wendy O. Williams’ voice and strong personality is still felt, 14 years later. Little has been released of her original, unedited concert footage, and there has been no proper retrospective of her career and enigmatic personal life. She deserves better.