Let’s Hear It For The Girls:
Women In Rock
(Part 3 of 3)
The 80s were rad, but let’s dive right back into our Women In Rock series. Time to see what the ladies of the 90s were up to, and how their music evolved. The ladies kept it lively with drama, insanity and a style called grunge.
One of the darlings of the 90s was the band, No Doubt, formed in 1986 by Eric Stefani and John Spence. With the two of them on keyboards and lead vocals respectively, they added Gwen Stefani as backing vocals. Tony Kanal would soon join as their bassist and Chris Webb on drums. During these early years, Gwen and Tony would secretly start dating, which added to the intense dynamic. Very sadly, Spence committed suicide in 1987, just a few days before the band was supposed to play their first industry show. The show was canceled, and the band first replaced Spence with Alan Meade, before Gwen finally took over as lead vocalist. Webb would also leave the band, replaced by Adrian Young. Since 1989, the band has mainly consisted of lead vocalist Gwen Stefani, bassist, saxophonist/keyboardist Tony Kanal, guitarist/keyboardist Tom Dumont, and drummer Adrian Young. The band would spend a couple of years playing college and club gigs before they impressed record exec, Tony Ferguson. He was awed by the presence of stage diving fans at No Doubt’s concerts and Gwen’s on-stage presence, and he signed the band to a multi-album deal with the newly created Interscope Records in 1990. The band would release their first album to lackluster sales, and the label started to panic. After being paired with producer Eric Wilder, founding member Eric Stefani became more distant and withdrawn and finally left the band, citing his unwillingness to relinquish creative control to someone outside the band as his reason. During this time, Tony Kanal would also end his 7-year relationship with Gwen, thus setting the stage for their epic 1995 “Tragic Kingdom” album. The release of this album finally garnered the band the success they’d been searching for, also helping to boost the sales of their first album as well. The band would also endure a lawsuit between their Interscope label, and one of its offshoot labels, opting to stay with the smaller offshoot label. The lawsuit was settled in early 1997 out of court. The band would continue playing into the 2000s but most of the members follow up successes were the result of their solo projects.
Hole was an alternative rock band formed in Los Angeles, California in 1989 by singer/guitarist Courtney Love, who posted an ad in the summer of 1989, that simply read: “I want to start a band. My influences are Big Black, Sonic Youth, and Fleetwood Mac.” Lead guitarist Eric Erlandson responded, and they agreed to form a group, although his initial response was rather reluctant. The band had a revolving line-up of bassists and drummers, their most prolific being drummer Patty Schemel, and bassists Kristen Pfaff and Melissa Auf der Maur (after Pfaff’s death in 1994). In the months preceding the band’s full formation, Love and Erlandson would write and record in the evenings at a loaned rehearsal space in Hollywood.
In his 2012 book, “Letters to Kurt”, Erlandson revealed that he and Love had a sexual relationship during their first year together in the band, which Love has also confirmed. In 1991, the band initially signed onto a small indie label to release their debut album, and Love sought Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth to produce the album. “Pretty on the Inside”, which was released in September 1991, to rave reviews, however, most of those reviews were from underground music critics and would remain “below the radar” of most commercial broadcasters. The band would continue to play punk venues in support of that album, eventually signing with Geffen Records. The second album would not be without its obstacles as well. Courtney wrote much of the album while pregnant with Kurt Cobain’s baby, with the result, “Live Through This” being released one week after Cobain’s untimely death. Add to this the tragic death of Pfaff from a heroin overdose just 2 months after Cobain’s death. Love would power through, however, her completely unpredictable behavior would continue to be a huge detriment to being fully accepted by the mainstream. In 1997, they would take most of the year to record “Celebrity Skin”, with a new and different sound for Love & Co. It would also require the mastery of Smashing Pumpkins frontman, Billy Corgan, who entered the studio and helped perfect five of the album’s twelve songs. The band would tour with Marilyn Manson in 1998 to promote the album, but Love’s increasingly wild behavior would create several changes in personnel before finally calling it quits in 2004. Love went on to a solo career, but her eccentric behavior preceded her, and few were willing to work with such a difficult artist. Hole would briefly reform in 2010 but again, infighting and turmoil would ensue, and they would again go on an indefinite hiatus in 2014. Public sniping between the members became a pastime for the band members, as did infighting over the use of the “HOLE” name and related brand intellectual property. Despite the turmoil, Love has recently stated “We all get along great. There are bands who reunite and hate each others’ guts.”
The Cranberries (originally The Cranberry Saw Us) were an Irish rock band formed in Limerick, Ireland in 1989 by lead singer Niall Quinn, guitarist Noel Hogan, bassist Mike Hogan, and drummer Fergal Lawler. Quinn left the band and was replaced as lead singer by Dolores O’Riordan in 1990 after she recorded a rough version of “Linger” for her audition. A name change from “The Cranberry Saw Us” to “The Cranberries” would soon follow. The owner of Xeric Studios, Pearse Gilmore, would become their manager. A demo tape, which featured early versions of “Linger” and “Dreams” would be produced and sent to record companies throughout the UK. This demo earned them major attention in the UK, and several labels began a bidding war for them, eventually finding the band signing with Island Records. After an EP failed to garner much attention, the band released the album “Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We?” in early 1994. Neither the first single “Dreams” nor it’s follow-up “Linger” attracted much attention until MTV put their videos into heavy rotation. They then went back in the studio to record the album “No Need to Argue”, which would spawn their first number 1 hit “Zombie”. They would go on to release 2 more albums prior to 2000, but neither with the massive success of “No Need to Argue”. Undaunted, two less commercially successful albums would be produced before 2004 when Riordan would launch her solo career. The rest of the band would also embark on other projects, continuing to state they were on hiatus. They would reunite in January 2009, but all was not well with the members of the band. Lawsuits of undisclosed purpose would be filed, then dropped. The band finally released an acoustic album entitled “Something Else” in 2017 and planned to tour before Riordan’s sudden tragic death at the age of 46, in January 2018 put an end to that happening. In September 2018, Noel Hogan confirmed that they will not continue as The Cranberries and will release their final album in 2019 and that it will be called “In the End” stating: “We will do this album and then that will be it. No one wants to do this without Dolores…”
Garbage is a rock band formed in Madison, Wisconsin, in 1993, founded by American musicians Duke Erikson, Steve Marker, and Butch Vig. When the guys decided they wanted a female lead singer, they added Scottish musician, Shirley Manson. All four members are involved in the songwriting and production processes. According to an early comment from Vig, the team drew inspiration for its name from a hostile early comment, when a friend of the band heard some of the recording material, probably for “Vow” and groaned, “This shit sounds like garbage!” However, Vig has since stated the name is derived from the last line of his 1993 journal entry: “I hope that all this garbage will become something beautiful!”. The band would first release a 7” single “Vow” as a teaser, that they had no intention of including on the first album. They released “Garbage” six months later, first by releasing another non-album track “Subhuman” and an album track “Only Happy When It Rains”. They would follow this by releasing “Queer” followed by “Stupid Girl” while they toured in support of the album throughout 1996. In early 1997, the band would relocate to Washington State to write and record their 2nd album, aptly titled “Version 2.0”, since they had decided to stick with the formula that was working for them. This album was released in early 1998, and included the hits “Special”, “Push It”, and “I Think I’m Paranoid.” They were also contracted to perform the theme for the James Bond film “The World Is Not Enough” in August 1999. This would carry them through till early 2001 when they would file lawsuits to get out of their other respective recording contracts. The suits were eventually settled and the band as a whole signed with Interscope Records. Their 3rd album “Beautiful Garbage” was already well underway while the legal shenanigans were handled, and the first single “Androgyny” dropped in late August of 2001, with the video following on September 10, 2001. When the album itself was finally released three weeks after the September 11 attacks, it would suffer from lack of promotion, mixed reaction from critics and fans alike, and the failure of its lead single “Androgyny” to achieve high chart positions as a result. In spite of the horrible timing, the band would endure releasing several more albums, with a new studio album set to release sometime this year! Shirley Manson has also released solo work as well during the band’s numerous hiatuses.
Oh, the major drama and excitement. So many ups and downs. From the 60s through the 90s until today, these ladies have kept both themselves and us busy. Such is the life of a Rockstar! Thanks for reading! More fun musical blogs are on the horizon! We’re just getting started. Till next time!