I am a traitor. I am, and I will tell you why, even though it pains me. Women in rock n’ roll have, for the most part, disappointed me. Why is it so hard for women to produce great, classic, substantive, and OOMPHY rock music without the support of male players or producers/handlers? I do not want to think that women are unable simply because of their double X deal. But it is rather rare, is it not? Why?

Let me clarify here: I am not thinking about solo artists or supporting/collaborative players like Bjork or Tina Weymouth or Dusty Springfield or Norah Jones or Regina Spektor or Fiona Apple or Liz Phair or well, we could go on and on. There are many, many very talented women musicians, but I am not often seeing them ROCK without some dude around. I am not thinking of the early-to-mid-‘60s “girl groups” like The Crystals or The Shirelles or The Supremes or The Marvelettes – these were essentially just chick singers grouped in threes or fours and they certainly never created their own songs nor played on them. Jeez, guys even told them what to wear. I am not talking AT ALL about the more-modern-day girl group updates like the Spice Girls or the Pussycat Dolls or Bananarama or TLC or whatever teen girl group barf Disney is currently serving up. No no no. I am not talking about Meg White, the luckiest drummer in the known world. She does indeed rock, but it was Jack White who supplied her with the ammo.

What I will look at are a few of the all-girl groups of rock. I am old enough to remember Goldie and The Gingerbreads and the embarrassingly-named Fanny. Why don’t you know about them? Because they were still viewed as novelty acts. Fanny actually was in the ballpark of that late-60s Cream/Deep Purple/Traffic/Blind Faith jam vein and I like their attitudes. Maybe they could have developed a respected career in a different era, but I gotta say Goldie and pals are just as weak as Sunday sing in the Episcopal Church:

Then of course we have pedophile dream band, The Runaways. How this band irritated me at the time! Give me a break. “Hello Daddy, Hello Mom, I’m a ch-ch-ch-ch-cherry bomb!” moaned the blonde feathered-hair singer Cherie Curry, all of maybe 15 or 16. Now I see the high camp behind producer Kim Fowley’s vision with the band (Kim is a man, btw, if you didn’t know), but then I was just horrified. Thanks, teen rock sluts, for making it harder to be taken seriously as a female musician! Oh, and they also included a lumpy teenaged Joan Jett with her low-slung guitar looking sheepish, and brash Lita Ford kind of pulling off some basic guitar leads. Again, it was novel and almost-rock, but they were just kids and not very good musicians. Miss Curry bailed fairly soon and was replaced by a look-alike blonde singer whose name I cannot recall. In the end, I would say although she is not my musical nor sexual-orientation thing, Joan Jett did end up rocking, although again with men backing her up.

Oh, the high hopes I had for both the Go-Gos and The Bangles! I was in on both of these bands early because of my L.A. musician pal Todd, who kindly dubbed me a few cassette tapes of them and sent it to me in my rural cultural abyss. Wow, I thought, this is good news! These girls were all around my age, and I really wanted to see them hit the ball out of the PARK, show everyone what the girls can do! Both bands achieved quite a lot of commercial success, wrote some good songs, but. Sigh. Once again, the musicianship wasn’t quite quite there. The drums weren’t hit hard enough, the guitar leads were very very very basic, and you could just hear the hesitancy and lightness throughout, almost like they themselves didn’t believe they were as good as the guys either. Belinda Carlisle often struggled to stay on key, and the Go-Gos seemed to show a whole lot more, um let’s say, rock behavior offstage than on.

The Bangles were overall a better band, and they had a star in pretty Susannah Hoffs, who could play, who could sing, who did have attitude (although she way way overdid it with the big coy eyes thing), and could write good songs. This caused bitchiness within the band. Ladies, ladies, ladies. Tsk. “Hero Takes A Fall” is a pop gem that showed a real knack for song construction, but here on the studio version we hear some seriously off-key backing vocals and a mistake on guitar that never should have made it to the final take.

The Bangles ended up relying on other songwriters – Prince, Kimberley Rew, Liam Sternberg, Simon & Garfunkle, Billy Steinberg, all guys – to provide them with their biggest hits.

I guess the most rock of the girl bands have all been in the punk or alt/indie genres: L7, The Slits, Sleater-Kinney, The Vivian Girls, The Cocktail Slippers, Those Dancing Days, and The Pandoras. Hole, The Breeders, Elastica, and Bikini Kill all had at least one guy in the band, so nyah nyah nyah.

And all the boys in the band
know how to get down
fill our Christmas socks
with whiskey drinks
and chocolate bars
and when the evening ends we won't
be thinking of you then
Although the best man
won't hang out with the girl band!

Yes, I know, I know I have forgotten some women and dismissed others, and I know that it really doesn’t matter what gender anyone is as long as they can RRRAAWWWK. But dammit, one day, ONE DAY, I would like to hear a bunch of women just tear it up and make me not even think, hey, they are pretty good for girls. I hate thinking that and probably more than a little because I criticize my own playing in the same way. Stupid traitor to myself. But I think things will even out, I do. I really do.

I am going to leave the last song to The Shaggs, the Universe’s Greatest Girl Band Of All Time. Rock on, Foot Foot.