Mojo

She Bop!

As the Runaways movie hits cinemas, here's to our 10 favorite all-girl bands.

International Sweethearts Of Rhythm: Formed in the late 1930s, the Sweethearts were the first integrated all-female band in America. 16-pieces strong, their ranks included Latina, African-American, Asian and Native-American musicians. Defying sexism and racism, the girls toured from Harlem to Houston, swinging their jazzy arrangements with a jubilant fervour.

 

Goldie & The Gingerbreads: In the early '60s, girl vocal groups were everywhere. But this pioneering New York four-piece broke new ground by accompanying themselves on drums, bass, guitar and organ. With mod beehives and a sassy snap, they made pop with a Brill Building-meets-British Invasion fizz. Signed by Atlantic Records, they went on to cut eight singles, then tour with The Kinks, The Yardbirds and The Rolling Stones, before splitting in 1967.

 

The Shaggs: One day in 1968, four teenage sisters from Fremont, New Hampshire cut a bunch of self-penned tunes in a local studio. Naïve, playful and weird, their indie album Philosophy Of The World would've remained forever obscure if not rediscovered and re-released by the band NRBQ. Love it or loathe it, there's a fascination in the Shaggs' chaos and dissonance. It's like discovering some paramecium tangent of rock evolution that was never allowed to fully develop.

 

Fanny: Consider Fanny's credentials: In 1970, they became the first all-female rock band to release an album on a major label. They cut five albums, had two Top 40 hits, recorded with Todd Rundgren, Barbra Streisand and David Bowie, and toured their boogaloo sound around the world. And yet they remain a tiny footnote in the history books. Why? Maybe it was the sexist ad campaigns--"Get Behind Fanny"--or maybe it just wasn't their time. Whatever the reason, this California quartet, led by Filipino sisters June and Jean Millington, are ripe for a full-on redux.

 

Isis: The feminist tide was rising in the early 1970s--Gloria Steinem, Women's Lib, Equal Rights Amendment. Add to that list the mighty Isis. An 8-piece outfit, founded by ex-Goldie & The Gingerbreads members, they could've been called Blood, Sweat & Tears & Hips. They tread a similar territory of R&B and funk, with stacked horns, pumping congas and soulful vocals. Despite three solid albums and tours with everyone from The Beach Boys to Aerosmith, Isis remained ahead of their time, never breaking through.

 

Runaways: Hot teenage girls with attitude. A sleazy Svengali manager. Sex, drugs and tight leather trousers. It's a wonder the story of the Runaways wasn't made into a movie sooner. In the mid-1970s, rock was still a man's world. But with a gritty live show and hits like "Cherry Bomb" and "Queens Of Noise," this quartet, led by Joan Jett and Cherie Currie, finally kicked down the doors for all-female bands. With Twilight phenom Kristin Stewart leading the cast as Jett in the new biopic, expect a Runaways revival.

 

Go-Go's: Relentless gigging in the California punk scene of the late '70s transformed this rough-around-the-edges quintet into a bouncy new wave hit machine. With a little help from MTV, they became the most commercially successful all-girl band ever. And with that success came the familiar arc--drugs, in-fighting, implosion, solo careers.

 

Bangles: If the Go-Go's were the bubbly sister who loved parties and flirting with guys, the Bangles were the one who stayed home and learned the guitar riff on "Eight Miles High." Their jangly pop reached its commercial peak in the mid-'80s with a string of hits, including "Manic Monday" and "If She Knew What She Wants." Pressures of success and friction led to a break-up in 1989. They reformed in 2002.

 

Luscious Jackson: The coolest female band of the '90s, this NYC quartet, led by Jill Cunniff and Gabby Glaser, stirred hip-hop beats and sly samples into a lo-fi melodic pop brew. Chart success, movie soundtracks and a much-loved series of TV ads for The Gap saw the band eventually lose some of their experimental edge. They split in 2000.

 

Plastiscines: "Fast, fresh and live" is how singer-guitarist Marine Neuilly describes the sound of her Parisian quartet. When they formed in 2004, "les bebes rockers" could barely play their instruments. But as their confidence built, so did their loud wall of Strokes-like guitars wrapped in Shangri-La's harmonies. They've appeared on Gossip Girl and at high fashion shows. But it was at a recent Coachella performance where they got the ultimate seal of approval, via three words from Iggy Pop: "Girls, you rocked."

 

Bonus track: Mo-Dettes: This one-hit wonder punkette band's claim to fame was meeting Prince Charles during a visit to Capital Radio, and leaving behind this totally infectious single:

 

And now over to you for your favorite all-female bands . .

View Comments