Let’s Hear It For The Girls:
Women In Rock
(Part 2 of 3)
Move over boys… let’s hear it for the girls. It’s time to dive back into our totally awesome rocker chicks! These women truly helped change music from its formats in the late 60s into the many new genres of modern music in the 70s and onwards. Part 2 takes us from the late 70s through the 80s.
It’s been said that Suzi Quatro was the first female bass player to become a major rock star. Her career started with her sisters in the 60s with an all-female band called “The Pleasure Seekers.” She didn’t hit the top until she went solo in the 70s. Quatro released her debut album in 1973. Since then, she has released fifteen studio albums, ten compilation albums, and one live album. Her solo hits include “48 Crash”, “Daytona Demon”, “The Wild One”, and “Your Mama Won’t Like Me”.
As the 70s started to fade into the 80s, Blondie was mostly regarded as an underground punk band, with limited commercial success. The release of “Parallel Lines” in September 1978 would change that designation for them. The album would be both a critical and commercial success for Deborah Harry, Chris Stein and company, spawning hits such as “Heart of Glass”, “One Way or Another”, “Picture This” and “Hanging on The Telephone”. Over the next three years, the band added more notches to their proverbial bedpost with hit singles including “Call Me”, “Rapture” and “The Tide Is High” and became noted for their eclectic mix of musical styles incorporating elements of disco, pop, reggae, and early rap music. Blondie (as a band) disbanded after the release of its sixth studio album in 1982, with Deborah Harry going solo until they reformed in 1997. Blondie has sold over 40 million records worldwide and is still active today.
The Go-Gos are a Los Angeles new wave band formed in 1978. They rose to fame during the early 1980s and were the first, and to date only, all-female band that both wrote their own music and played their own instruments on songs that topped the Billboard album charts. After several early changes to their personnel, the line-up that finally hit the big time was Belinda Carlisle (vocals), Jane Wiedlin (guitar, vocals), Charlotte Caffey (lead guitar, keyboards), Kathy Valentine (bass) and Gina Schock (drums). Their 1981 debut album “Beauty & The Beat” would be their ticket to stardom, giving us hits like “We Got the Beat” and “Our Lips Are Sealed.” Both their fans and the critics found the perky bunch a fresh and welcome change. The band would release 2 more albums before personality conflicts and creative differences within the group would take a toll, along with drug addiction problems for some band members. Wiedlin announced her departure from the group in October 1984. The band sought a replacement, selecting Paula Jean Brown as their new bass guitarist, with Valentine moving to rhythm guitar. This lineup debuted at the 1985 Rock in Rio festival, playing two shows, but Carlisle and Caffey soon realized their hearts were no longer in the group and decided to disband the Go-Gos in May 1985. Belinda Carlisle would go on to a lucrative solo career and became the most commercially successful solo artist of the band’s alumnae, scoring a string of mainstream pop singles in the mid and late ‘80s. Jane Wiedlin also released several solo albums, however, while her albums did relatively well commercially and to a degree with the critics, she was not as successful as Carlisle in mainstream rock. The band has reformed several times for festivals, and benefits in the mid-90s.
What can we say about Bangles, except for WOW (they dropped the formal “THE” early on). Their classic line-up consisted of Micki Steele on bass and vocals, founding members Susanna Hoffs on vocals and rhythm guitar, Debbi Peterson on drums and vocals, and Vicki Peterson on lead guitar and vocals. Formed in Los Angeles in 1981, the ladies hit their stride in 1984. Their first album, “All Over the Place” wasn’t a huge success, but it did well enough, peaking at #80 on the Billboard Albums chart and led by the song “Hero Takes a Fall,” to attract the notice of some critics and music luminaries. Most notably, they piqued the interest of Prince, who gave them the song “Manic Monday” originally written for his group Apollonia 6. Their second album “Different Light” came out with a more polished sound, containing both “Manic Monday” and “Walk Like An Egyptian”, and firmly placed the band in the mainstream. However, there was friction among band members after music industry media began singling out Hoffs as the lead singer of the group, a direct result of Columbia Records releasing mostly singles on which Hoffs sang lead vocal. The girls would go on to produce several more albums that included hits like “A Hazy Shade of Winter”, “In Your Room” and “Eternal Flame”. By the late 80s the working relationships had broken down within the band, and the members went their separate ways in 1988. Susanna Hoffs went on to a solo career, but without as much success as her Bangles days. The band reformed in 1998, even releasing three new recordings in November 2018 as part of a compilation album.
What happens when a hard-driving rocker chick named Chrissy Hynde from Akron, Ohio moves to London? After kicking around with a few other bands, she forms her own band called The Pretenders and proceeds to take both England and the US by storm. The band’s first single, a cover of the Kinks song “Stop Your Sobbing” (produced by Nick Lowe) was released in January 1979 and gained critical attention. It was followed in June with “Kid”, then “Brass in Pocket” and “Precious”. An EP and a second album would follow in rapid succession before drug use would claim two of the four members of the band within 6 months of each other. Hynde picked up the pieces and released “Back on The Chain Gang” and “My City Is Gone” using borrowed musicians from other bands. She then reformed the band with new players to tour in support of the new releases, but there wasn’t much staying power within the members. Chrissie remained the sole member who would be the band’s face, at one point even putting together session musicians to record “Packed” in 1990. Addressing this in March 2005 as they were inducted into the Hall of Fame, Hynde said “I know that the Pretenders have looked like a tribute band for the last 20 years. … And we’re paying tribute to James Honeyman-Scott and Pete Farndon, without whom we wouldn’t be here. And on the other hand, without us, they might have been here, but that’s the way it works in rock ‘n’ roll.”
L7 is an all-girl punk rock band formed in Los Angeles in 1985. They would even be mistakenly labeled as a “grunge” band in the 90s due to their sound and image but make no mistake – these girls are punk through and through. With albums like “Bricks Are Heavy” and “Hungry for Stink”, they gave it their all, but never achieved the critical acclaim and recognition they so richly deserved. In 2001, fans shockingly found this on their website: “L7 are on an indefinite hiatus. We know that’s vague, but that’s just the way it is. The future of the band is a bit up in the air at the moment.” They would eventually reform in 2014 and continue to play and record today.
So many other great female rock bands came out of the 80s – LunaChicks, Babes in Toyland, The Eurythmics, Bananarama, Vixen, and countless more we are sure we’ve neglected to mention. Feel free to discuss some of your favorites in the Pop-Daze Forum on Facebook. Next up, the 90s!