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25 Female Bands

List Of The Day


It's a little sad that there aren't more all-female groups to throw in here. Considering how many thousands of dude bands there are, it does seem like there should be hundreds if not thousands of female bands to plunge through. It should be painful to leave so many deserving bands off the list, yet while I mourned the cutting of Kittie and Girlschool and B***h and the Pandoras and thought about how it would be nice to include a few R&B groups (I decided to eventually do an R&B list to rectify this), it wasn't as impossible a task as some. And it should be. So, ladies, please start bands.

I didn't want to focus on one spectrum. I ended up with more hard rock or indie bands because that's where the action was. And I guess the louder you are, the more I notice you. Music is no place for wallflowers. Unless you're Ida.

25) Shonen Knife: Usually it's American bands that go to Japan and build their client base. So in an act of true free trade, Japan sent us Shonen Knife, a punk rock trio that immediately made a huge impact at CBGBs and other big-name but marginal rock clubs, becoming not huge stars but a cult act like everyone we ship over to Japan.

24) Indigo Girls: The Indigo Girls inspired a generation of young women to pick up their acoustic guitars and sing harmony, unison, whatever they felt. And while lots of people think the proliferation of folk music isn't always a good thing, I've always found it easier on the ears than the full-out stadium rock assault and every bit as powerful when in that mood. Tegan and Sara could've had this slot for dynamic duos (just so you know).

23) Civet: One of those scary looking bands where the women are all done up in tattoos and look like they're going to kick my butt for asking the way to the men's room. I know these days tattoos and piercings have gone mainstream, but I still remember the days when a bunch of biker dudes would stand around looking like they were up to no good and sure enough were up to no good. I got the wedgie to prove it.

22) Throwing Muses: Kristin Hersh once told me that her songwriting method was basically to listen to the voices inside her head and put down whatever they demanded. Then she laughed. But she wasn't laughing at the process, or kidding about it. She just knew how weird it sounded. And she also knew not to question it. And if TM didn't always make sense, they weren't supposed to.

21) Elastica: Here was a band with so much promise who just couldn't keep it together. Volatility among bands is never unusual, but it still really stinks when a band makes a great debut album and then takes forever to make the follow-up and then nothing...why don't people stay together anymore?

20) Bikini Kill: I love bands who can't play their instruments, or who decide it isn't important, who make the message the medium and then turn everything into pure chaos. That was Bikini Kill. They scared lots of well-intentioned people and they inspired others to Riot!

19) Ida: Never underestimate the power of silence. If you haven't witnessed the tension that occurs in a room when a band is playing beautifully and you have to cough or sneeze, then you haven't been to see these folks. Shifting in your seat can seem disruptive. Ida are for people who have always wanted to be hypnotized but didn't feel like staring at the swaying watch.

18) The Ronettes: Just read that one of the Ronettes died very ill and had been homeless. With all the money the music industry once generated, you'd think they could build a home to store these old, infirm musicians. They once gave it their all and at one time everyone wanted to be them. And the Ronettes, my word, they were bad girls incarnate! Who wouldn'twant to experience the danger?

17) The B-52's: The B-52's understood fun. And Cindy Wilson and Kate Pierson helped lead the party with an unassuming grace that made you take the songs as serious fun. They didn't just throw this stuff together. They lived it!

16) The Shirelles: I feel bad leaving off so many great "old" girl groups. There was a time when they marketed bands shamelessly. Not like today when everything is about integrity and taking the high road to corporate responsibility. No one ever uses sex to sell anything. That would be so cheap!

15) Hole: You could say Courtney Love really dug herself into a hole. Has anyone ever come so close to massive rock success only to almost single-handedly trash it? Well, there was her husband who decided life wasn't worth living. So, kids, be careful who you surround yourself with! Those other kids your parents are warning you about? They might have a point after all.

14) Bananarama or the Spice Girls: Here's where I cheated. Because I wanted to include Bananarama because no one ever mentions them anymore, but I also didn't want it to look like I'd forgotten the SpiceGirls, who are no Pussycat Dolls, but they did come more than a decade earlier! Some bands don't need music to carry them. They just need photography!

13) Luscious Jackson: There was a time when people were constantly coming up with ideas that music was going to be different in the future. Jesus Jones was going to save rock n' roll. Electronica was the new wave! Klezmer was on a comeback. And surely an all-female hip-hop influenced rock act would be just the ticket to paradise. Yet heavy metal continued to out sell all those acts combined. Like Slim Whitman!

12) Heart: I can't even imagine the abuse these Wilson sisters must've suffered. The 1970s? Hard rock? Are you kidding me? They're lucky they didn't wake up with a shark tied between their legs. Those were "different times" and playing arena-styled rock put you in direct contact with the very people who were determined to keep you down. Their sound may have gone soft and dreamy in spots, but these young ladies were what Springsteen would call "Tougher than the rest."

11) L7: By the time L7 came on the scene, it was practically a cakewalk. Punk rock was no longer a scourge and women in bands were finally not a novelty. There were even guys like the ones in Nirvana who refused to play the usual arena rock clichés and instead promoted this group. Remember the bass player wearing their shirt on SNL? It seems silly now that this would ever be an issue, but the shocking thing about history is how much of the bad stuff happened in more recent memory than you'd care to imagine.

10) The Go-Go's: They had the beat. Their lips were sealed. They went on vacation. Another case of where if they'd been able to keep it together for longer who knows what could've been? Then again, the industry changes on a fickle dime and maybe it was a good idea for Belinda Carlisle to go solo. Well, it was for Belinda.

9) The Raincoats: The Raincoats were a "seminal" female punk band, meaning more people heard of them than actually listened to them. That's how it is for many trailblazers. They get name-dropped constantly, but you never hear them on the radio. Even years later. So you have to take Kurt Cobain's word for it that they were actually really good. Or else go through the hassle of actually finding one of their albums and putting it on. Which for some reason is an arduous chore for some people.

8) Sleater-Kinney: Modern day punks got it bad. They've got so little to rally against besides their own ennui. Yet making the personal political is one of those things that gets you great reviews and makes you sound important. I don't know what that actually means but I heard it said in a documentary on the Clash and we all know how important they were.

7) The Slits: Featuring a member who would later join the Raincoats (see #9), The Slits are another one of those "seminal" bands you'll never hear on the radio no matter how many celebrity endorsements they receive. Relief pitchers will not walk to the baseball mound to their tune age no matter what's at stake. They once toured with the Clash, who got play at Shea Stadium. In the words of Randy Newman, the world isn't fair.

6) Scrawl: One of this blog's most beloved bands--dwarfed only by the incredible support I see for Rush, Aerosmith and now apparently the Pure Prairie League--Scrawl were like Phil Ochs, who was a boy from Ohio. Except they're girls! Their singer--Marcy Mays--is one of the more gifted, unheralded vocalists of her era and last I checked was running a bar in Columbus. This blog would like her to go back in the recording studio and cut a new album. And that goes for her old bandmates as well. Which, get this, included a dude named Dana. Can you believe this stuff?

5) The Breeders: Their music is just fine, but I'll always remember them as one of the craziest phone interviews. The two sisters kept throwing the phone to one another to make sure I had no idea who I was talking to. They were having an aftershow party with just their bandmates and while they didn't divulge any deep family secrets, they made the hour-and-a-half phone conversation one that was unlike any other. If some of their music sounds like work, that's too bad, since they're really about fun, fun, fun.

4) The Donnas: Maybe it's because they sound like a '70s rock n' roll band, but the Donnas are one of the few modern day bands who have made albums that I've actually wanted to go back and listen to a second time. And a third. Which is saying more than it sounds.

3) The Shaggs: I love me my musical incompetence. I'm a big fan of the happy accident and these Wiggin Sisters were definitely that (and not to be confused the Wiggins Sisters who I'm told are actually musically competent). Anyone who has listened to Philosophy Of The World has had their life changed. And cannot be changed back. Side effects can lead to alcoholism. Or other forms of dementia. Careful when handling.

2) The Bangles: It's a shame they had their bigger hits with a tune by Prince and a Simon and Garfunkel cover, since they wrote some nifty stuff on their own and their debut album All Over The Place was a sweet little pop album. Eventually their lives got in the way and they broke up the band. But they still reunite from time to time and even made an album that was pretty good that no one paid attention to. In fact, they're technically still together and recently played a tribute to the band that is number one on our list.

1) The Runaways: A band so good that the number two band on this list paid tribute to them. Or else they were just afraid that Lita Ford and Joan Jett were going to kill them if they didn't. Hey, I've befriended people on FaceBook out of that fear, so I know the feeling. But the Runaways were once ahead of their time, as only young teenagers can be. They probably thought life was going to be easy when they started. Be a band, become famous and watch the money roll in. Joan Jett is one tough cookie and someone who knows it takes persistence, hard work and dedication beyond just telling people you love rock 'n' roll. You gotta live it. And she does, and for that this blog salutes you!

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