The sound of Lensmen occupies a personal space in my musical adventures. A space between my adolescence youth and early 20s, which is bookended at one end by the demise of Jim Morrison (1971) and at the other end the tragic death of Ian Curtis (1980). The shadows of these creative geniuses are cast large over the Lensmen’s output, so far. This is not by any means a criticism given I have admiration for any band or artist who wears their influences on their sleeves. The challenge of course always remains if they can utilise these influences and navigate the rocks of not simply becoming a pale intimidation or at worse a tribute band. While its early days and some of the tracks on offer are naturally raw you can get a sense of fresh musical ideas fermenting away, often bleak, but similarly fragile. Dark, yes, but with the craft of lyricist Alan Hughes, they have an emerging talent who like the aforementioned bookends were able to inject humour into their dark landscape. If Lensmen are able to navigate the rocks I see an interesting journey lies ahead. Enjoy.
Three 2017 releases, which have brought a smile to my face.
One: The No Action debut album finally arrived. Originating from Australia, No Action have delivered an Intense, lo-fi album reminiscent of a vintage 4 track deck cassette recording of a rehearsal held in a vacated industrial estate. A thing of beauty, which collects material from over a five year period and is limited to 250 pressing, or download.
Two: While we take stock of the dangerous clown occupying the Whitehouse helping to restore a bit of confidence in the land of the free this December we had a further mini-release from Mouth Reader. Eyes Sink adds to their conveyor belt of catchy punk releases. A glorious racket delivered in just under 3 minutes. Perfectly formed.
Three: Martha properly the best pop/punk band to emerge from my native North East for many a long cold night continue to set a high bar. 2014s Courting Strong and 2016s Blisters in the Pit of my Heart album releases are still subject to heavy rotation. Mini-release The Winter Fuel Allowance arrived in November. The 7″ limited release may be sold out, but you can still snatch a download.
Enjoy the noise.
Something for the weekend? For lovers of guitar driven rock two of my favourite bands, which I got to connect with through Bandcamp have recently released some new material, Mouth Reader from Murfreesboro, Tennessee and The Sharp Medicine from Los Angeles, California. Enjoy the noise.
Great to see and hear new material from Sharp Medicine.
Released August 9, 2016. Written and arranged by Andrew Stein and The Sharp Medicine
Vocals & Guitar: Andrew Stein
Bass & Vocals: Anthony Vancture
Drums: Mike Krol
Guitar and drums recorded at Downtown Rehearsal Studios in Los Angeles. Lead vocals recorded at Formosa Studios in Santa Monica. Bass guitar, backing vocals and synth recorded in Anthony Vancture’s closet.
A sense of deja vu awaits as I leave the summer drizzle descending from the clouds hovering over Glasgow and the a 24 hour flight to reach Adelaide, Australia. Yet here I am in the capital city of South Australia, the country’s fifth-largest city with a resident population of 1.29 million and the next stop on my virtual Old Man Adventure in Bandcamp. Adelaide is city with many stories emerging from its humble history. Prior to 1836 Adelaide was inhabited by the indigenous Kaurna Aboriginal nation. Today it is another ‘modern’ industrialised city dealing with its aspirations and tensions, which provide the perfect conditions for creative forces. Adelaide is also home to the joyous No Action.
Patti Smith once said, “punk rock is just another word for freedom” which I can relate too and is reflected in the reinvigorating army of small, independent, lo-fi, do it yourself bands beavering away in towns and cities across the globe. I get jaundice with people, normally men my age, who have deluded themselves with romantic memories of the 1977 punk scene as some type of musical year zero. This was not the case. The DIY garage band ethic has always been a feature in modern music with artists swimming against the tide, challenging convention and giving the middle finger to the corporations. My enduring memory from this period is not the bands who swore and spat their way into the headlines, but the small regional bands. The bands consisting of the neighbourhood shy boy who had secretly been scribbling down lyrics and the kid who had managed to achieve a 3rd chord. A few weeks later they were to be found playing in a local pub, youth club or garage gig. The crap posters that seemed to look cool and the limited cassette run for your small group of fans. The results were often messy, but strangely beautiful given music ultimately is about people, having fun, celebration, connection and expression. No where is this reinvigoration more evident than through the band No Action a self titled soul punk rock group. I like the injection of soul given this creative tension sums up the band perfectly.
Bandcamp comes into its own when you stumble across bands like No Action, who are an absolute gem to discover. Unlike most bands of this genre you never quite know what you are going to get with No Action be it 3 minutes of punk, a reflective acoustic number or indeed a mixture of both in a single track. In an era of mass produced and corporately manufactured music No Action are a shining beacon of integrity. There blistering and brilliant 7″ vinyl Never Close/Riding in the Whirlwind is testament to this. Riding in the Whirlwind is a melancholic and bittersweet acoustic affair, “got a record no one wants to buy and a t shirt no one seems to fit. had a date with an empty bar” chronicling the struggles of a band and relationships. “Call me ungrateful, call me broke, call me when you’ve got the credit.”
Never Close is a different kettle of fish altogether, which opens up with pounding drums followed by a grinding bass. As Nick Godfrey (bassist with the band) explained to me, “The main influence on the Never Close song would be Silkworm and maybe Archers of Loaf but it sounds more like U2, the main influence on the Ride in the Whirlwind song was Comet Gain but it sounds more like You Am I or the Lucksmiths. The important lesson here is to BE YOURSELF and let your true creative voice shine through.” Personally, my observation would be the guitar work on Never Close is more aligned to Keith Levene (Public Image Limited) a quick search for PIL’s glorious Albatross track will confirm where U2’s The Edge stole his licks from.
A further No Action release I managed to obtain is the spilt cassette tape release (yes you heard me right a cassette tape), which paired No Action with UK band Plaids from Nottingham. Plaids provide a punchy angular punk/emo rock approach played out in frenetic pace against No Actions more subtle and gritty lo-fi tracks. So what where the influences behind the two tracks provided by No Action on the spilt release I asked Nick, “The tape is a funny story so I’ll start with that. The acoustic song was one we originally wrote when we found out we were going to do a split release with Roger King from Bakersfield California, home of Korn and Merle Haggard. Up until that point Roger King’s solo output had been acoustic stuff, so we wrote and recorded an acoustic song that would match that. Then he sent his track to us and he’d done a rockin’ plugged in track! So we ended up palming our acoustic song off to the Plaids split.”
The two No Action tracks, which appear on the cassette, Nick rates the second track Solar Steps, as his personal favourite by the band to date, “It’s the most fun to play on the bass. It was the second song we wrote and we probably haven’t got any better since then. The rockin’ plugged in version of the Solar Steps song which will appear on our one-day-to-be-relased debut album is good too” And the obligatory Old Man question, If the band had the opportunity to collaborate with any other artist or band who would it be Nick, “John, this is a really tough question that I’ve been puzzling over all weekend. I like the Mars to Stay band and what they’re all about, so I’m going to say them.”
No Action are a very coherent and exciting band who in many ways defy logic. Bands like this tend to take a single approach when facing their musical crossroads. It is refreshing to hear a mix of influences as a platform rather than a band simply trying to replicate something they’ve heard elsewhere. So we end up with creative tensions. Grinding punk, which is not simply trying to get as much noise and lyrics stuffed into the required 3 minutes as possible, alongside subtle acoustic offerings. The lo-fi recordings just add the imperfections that make these recordings stand out from the crowd. I can’t wait for the album when it does finally appear.
You can also enjoy further No Action tracks on their Soundcloud site and keep up with their journey via their Facebook page. Enjoy and respect.
The long journey up north past my native North East over Hadrian’s Wall and to Glasgow where the wonderful Electric Company Label is beckoning me on the next stop of my old man adventures. Unknown to myself, well until I wrote this blog, I have a deep appreciation of the Scottish rock scene beyond the parody that is Rod Stewart. I will blame Rod for my ignorance given he inflicted his phoney Scottish jiggery pokery on me from a young age, caused serious trauma and inflicted Scottish blindness. At a time when any self respecting youngster was exploring The Clash, Pistols, Damned, Ramones and Buzzcocks, Rod in 1977 released his Hot Legs single from the equally bombastic album Footloose and Fancy Free. Unlike now there was no fast forward on live TV, so we duly had to sit through Rod swinging his thing before 3 minutes of punk was allotted its given time on Top of the Pops. My trauma was recently reinvigorated when I discovered Bon Jovi apparently perform Hot Legs occasionally as part of their live set, but a quick google search for Rod Stewart 1970s and then Jon Bon Jovi 1980s and it all makes perfect sense.
Anyway enough of this nonsense. A quick dig through my music collection whilst preparing this blog reveals Jesus and Mary Chain, Primal Scream, Teenage Fan Club, The Vaselines, The Rezillos, Belle and Sebastian, but to name a few all lurking there and all originate from Scottish shores. I hold my hand up in shame and accept my ignorance, which I take responsibility to tackle. As with any vibrant music scene an ecosystem is required, which is is independent, experimenting with the past and probing the future to produce a glorious wall of sound. This cultural ecosystems by its very nature is often known only to the locals until a buzz emerges, but the rise of the internet has created opportunities for the virtual traveler to be exposed to these gems. This is particularly rewarding when, if like me, you have a leaning towards lo-fi fussy guitar rock and sublime songwriting with twisted lyrics that often fail to penetrate the mainstream pop world. Yet it is these humble cultural ecosystems, which create the fertile ground for mighty musical oaks to grow and the catalogue of Glasgow’s Electric Company label sits there like a shiny emerald.
Launched in April 2013, Electric Company release and distribute music by some of the most exciting and forward-thinking artists, on a wide range of formats, including vinyl, cd, cassette and digital download. Boasting a passion for DIY ethics and armed with their own studio enables the label to support artists to be heard without the pull of corporate strings. This in turn creates a unique artistic hub where everything from recording, artwork and merchandise to live booking can be done in house and purely for the love of music. As with any small business running an independent music enterprise takes nerves, commitment and to a certain degree of passion bordering on obsession. So it is always an immense pleasure to stumble across a label like Electric Company. On my initial dip into the label’s catalogue I purchased 3 offerings.
The New Fabian Society: Cyclothymia/Homily 7″ vinyl and digital download £5 (digital download £2)
Released on a limited run of 250 copies Cyclothymia is a pulsating 3 minutes 27 seconds of glorious guitar infused post punk delivered at Ramones break neck speed whilst Homily is reminiscent of Joy Division (before the hype) at their desolate best. The band follow up release Barbarossa which is also available on Bancamp (name your price offer) demonstrates a band growing in skill attitude and craft Provided with the right opportunities and presented with the necessary good luck all artists require this band have all the credentials to develop into something rather special.
The Dirty Lies: Release EP cassette and digital download £5
The Release EP is a collection of 6 brilliantly twisted pop songs. Athough I feel it only right to give you a little warning before you take a listen. Beneath the pleasant beats and harmonies are some rather spine chilling lyrics, which make one feel the songwriter was abandoned on the steps of a church at birth and left to be reared by a couple of zealots. The sublime opening lyrics to Shallow Grave, “I hope you fail in love, I hope you break your heart, I will be your enemy, I’ll be your shallow grave” are just about the most soberingly and brilliant opening lyrics for a track I’ve heard for quite some time. Each track on the cassette comes in at about 3 minutes, which means there is little too no fat in production and delivery.
Various: DIY or Die Volume 1 cassette and digital download £4
Four bands, four songs for four quid no bad going and a cassette thrown as well. The cassette opens with Twin Mirror’s New Edition a good old fashioned punk rally. Secret Motorbikes – Is Dis 4 real a swaggering pop anthem. Deathcats – Saturday Night Golden Retriever a guitar riffed to the ceiling romp. Future Glue – Time to Kill a burning blend of punk surf meets 1950s trash rock. All together this is a mighty fine split tape, which is ready made for rolling down the car window on a warm summers evening and terrifying the neighbourhood.
My ignorance has been well and truly laid to rest and like Bristol, Manchester, Liverpool and London, Glasgow is up there with the best and I thank Electric Company for the education.
Renowned and often credited with being the inventor of modern ambient music, which many try to emulate. A genius he maybe, but Brian Eno certainly as a lot to answer for in my view. Bandcamp is cluttered with lonely souls who are cramped up in desolate bedrooms with their laptops striving to create something interesting from overlaid, looped and distorted droned tones that are absent of traditional musical structures.
Personally I’ve always been a little susceptible to the odd Eno album and must admit to having a few in my collection, but it is the type of music I purchase very sparingly.
Advancement in technology has created access for most people regardless of capabilities to produce something that would have sounded groundbreaking back in the 70s and 80s. This is healthy and to be encouraged, but this is also one of my criticism of this music genre. We end up with a vast field of producers creating an abundance of medico material. I need to be brutally honest. Once you have heard one stretched out and droned note that has been processed to death on a computer, well it can be a down hill experience afterwards because the next offering is properly going to sound very much the same. Don’t get me wrong whilst I consider albums like Apex Twin’s ‘Selected Ambient Works Volume 2’ a certified classic. Many artists, including Radiohead, Lou Reed, U2 and Nick Cave have all dabbled in this genre with the results (in my view) being varied to say the least. 1995s Passengers (U2, Eno plus guests) Album ‘Original Soundtracks No 1’ was so pretentious that even U2’s Larry Mullen quite rightly observed, “There’s a thin line between interesting music and self-indulgence. We crossed it on the Passengers record.” The only saving grace for the album was the ‘Miss Sarajevo’ track , which featured the late Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti on vocals.
It is when ambient music is not solely dependent upon the one trick pony of synthesised drones that the genre starts to come alive and provoke something interesting for me. Eno himself defines ambient music as, “evoking an atmospheric, visual, unobtrusive quality” and personally for me only a handful of albums over the past 15 years have stood out by using Eno’s template. Here is a selection from my collection:
The soundtrack from the film ‘Monster’s Ball’. The scores by Asche and Spencer are just spine chilling and fragility personified. The Boards of Canada ‘Geogaddi’ is a mesmerising kaleidoscope of sounds. Mum, ‘Finally we are no one’ is a beautiful and fragile landscape. I saw Lampchop perform ‘Nixon’ live at the Royal Albert Hall, London. I have never seen so many people on one stage create so little noise. Sigur Ros, ‘Med Sud i Eyrum’ album was for me their coming of age. The Laurie Anderson album ‘Life of a String’ is just beautifully haunting.
I have recently added a further release to this list. The EP ‘Cloud Ensemble’ by Cloud Ensemble, which consists of 3 tracks and is the product of a file sharing project between:
Michel Banabila : ebow, guitar, logic pro, field recordings
Grzegorz Bojanek : field recordings
Oene van Geel : viola, stroh violin
Radboud Mens : glass sounds, dopplo, treatments
Yuko Parris : voice, squeaky sounds, electric piano
Rutger Zuydervelt : philicorda organ
Here and There is a 10 minute soundscape that captures a mixture of delicate voices flowing over almost orchestrated instruments and field recordings. Perfectly blended with the voice samples the track is an absolutely sublime Friday evening wind down track, especially with headphones. Hide and Seek takes a different direction with whispered vocals the track builds and encompasses disjointed beat structures. Silent World the final track on the EP returns to the soundscape mode, but minus vocals.
I recently caught up with Michel Banabila from Cloud Ensemble and asked him the three Old Man questions:
JK: What was the main influences behind the album?
MB: Simply to collaborate. Everybody immediatly said yes. We like each others music of course. So I think there is an influence from everybody of the ensemble in the end result.
JK: Which is your favourite track and why?
MB: That might be for different for each of us. I like all three tracks. These three tracks are all a bit different from each other.
JK: If you could have a guest artist to appear on your next venture who would it be (dead or alive) and why?
MB: We are now working on the next recordings. I really hope we will do another album. So my favourite guest in future projects would simply be everybody from the Cloud Ensemble 🙂
The EP ventures into wide-eyed fairy-tale qualities at times by delivering simple melodic bliss to the listener. It will certainly not be for everybody, especially if your ear requires conventional song and rhythm structures, or crushing guitar solos. It is the conglomerate of instruments on the EP that initially gain attention, but ultimately the tender vocals on track 1 & 2 that add breadth to this beautiful journey.
There is 150 limited edition 1o” vinyl/hand numbered copies of the EP up for grabs via Bandcamp @ £6.40 (€8) plus postage, which also comes with an immediate download. A digital copy of the EP comes in @ £4.05 (€5). Enjoy.
“Biblically chauvinistic” is how the Rolling Stone magazine described the James Brown 1966 record “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World.” As a record it certainly takes some beating when promoting a stereotype. A stereotype, which has been continuously reinforced throughout the music business since its conception.
Whilst the mainstream charts may be dominated by female artists research constantly reveals that women working in the music business earn far less than their male counterparts – a staggering 47% of women in the music business earn less then £10,000 per year.
It is a business that is dominated by male executives who control its means of production, marketing and recording output. Recording artist Lily Allen recently observed, “You will also notice of the big successful female artists, there is always a ‘man behind the woman’ piece. If it’s Beyoncé, it’s Jay Z. If it’s Adele, it’s Paul Epworth. Me? It was Mark Ronson and the same with Amy Winehouse.” These attitudes prevail throughout the music business right down to the basement end of manufactured pop. The banality of Miley Cyrus ‘tweaking’ caused a media stir, which was possibly related to Cyrus’s history as a child star for the Disney Corporation. Whilst Cyrus’s performance might be seen as silly and tedious the fact is Iggy Pop has been ‘twerking’ for 40 years, including the odd penis exposure as well as regularly humping his amplifiers on stage – yet he is considered a rock god.
There is something very disturbing about a popular culture that increasingly portrays women as disposable commodities frequently being hunted down by a serial killer or subjected to the creepy attention of a male artist who is acting like a potential candidate for inclusion on the sex offenders register. Although given the recent spate of celebrities facing sexual assault charges in the UK they may not be acting. Equally repugnant are those fellow men who shout “political correctness has gone mad” every time these issues are raised. Let’s be honest if you are the type of tool who enjoys women being portrayed in this way then it is highly unlikely you have read this far into this blog and you are properly jerking off to that misogynist Robin Thicke video.
“Ignore it” you may say after all there is an off button I can push Well I did, but ignoring it does not make it a right. Switching off a TV does not mean switching off your brain and that is the real choice here. I am not for one minute advocating censorship far from it. In my view those who produce this material should be exposed to additional taxation. The revenues generated should be earmarked for support services for women who become victims of male violence. If a sovereign country was inflicting such harm on another country surely we would be expecting intervention, possibly economic sanctions.
Those women who have stood up, challenged and turned the tables on the status quo have faced ridicule or worse. The singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, actress, author and philanthropist Dolly Parton has throughout her career been the subject of ridicule from taunts of trailer trash, cheap, dumb blonde and least we forget the breast obsession. Web sites are dedicated to crude jokes about Parton. Realising these circumstances Dolly Parton played the card of self-parody as well as deploying her very clever business brain. This has enabled her to amass a financial fortune and make music that she wants to make. This attitude towards women is not a modern phenomenon, which has been cooked up by dead beat rappers with their pathetic lyrics of ‘hoes and bitches.’
The harrowing demise of Billie Holliday in the 1950s is a prime example. Most media stories concerning Holliday’s torturous death tend to focus on sexual violence and illicit substances. What is often overlooked is that in her final years Holliday was swindled out of her earnings and died with $0.70 in the bank. As an incredibly gifted, yet troubled artist Holliday was hounded to the very end. Whilst dying police raided her hospital room and placed her under arrest until she passed away on 17th July 1959. She was 44 years old.
The magnificent Nina Simone became the catalyst for change in the 1960s. Strong, intelligent, outspoken and a versatile musician she became a role model for musicians (female and male). Simone started playing the piano at 3 years old and by the age of 10, she was perfuming piano recital in the town library. Like Holliday, she was ripped off by the record companies. She saw very little money from her first record, the top 20 hit of “I Love You Porgy.” Simone always characterised record companies as “pirates.”
Over the coming decades, Simone took increased control over her career and destiny as an artist, which not only provided financial rewards but enabled increased creative freedom. At the time this was unparalleled for both a female and Black artist. The song Mississippi Goddamn, which she released in 1964 was written by Simone after the murder of Medgar Evers. Although the song contains a jolly rhythm it is a scathing anti-racist tour de force. Towards the end of her life Simone became increasingly erratic with legendary mood swings. In 1985 she fired a gun at a record executive whom she considered was stealing her royalties claiming that she tried to kill him, “but missed.”
The 1960s produced many iconic female artists Dusty Springfield, Nico (Velvet Underground) Grace Slick (Jefferson Airplane) and Janis Joplin for example. It is a decade that increasingly witnessed the use of ‘tabloid sensationalism’ as a weapon against women. Singer, songwriter and actress Marion Faithfull were subjected to sordid and untrue media reports in 1967 concerning her sexual relationship with Mick Jagger. Whilst the headlines and speculation did little to hinder Jagger’s career. In fact, the stories further enhanced his bad-boy reputation, but for Faithfull, her career was badly damaged. 27 years later Faithfull observed, “It destroyed me, a woman in that situation becomes a slut.” Before Beyonce, there was Diana Ross (formerly of The Supremes).
The Supremes were a product of Barry Gordy’s Motown conveyor belt of popular hits during the 60s and 70s. Gordy was the original Simon Cowell with the gift of identifying and bringing together pop talent, along with tightly controlling and carefully managing their public image. Whilst Ross and Gordy were romantically entwined for Gordy it quickly became a case of biting off more than you could chew syndrome when it came to Diana Ross.
Whilst The Supremes were on a UK tour in the 1960s Gordy insisted The Supremes perform a version of Dean Martin’s “You’re Nobody Till Somebody Loves You.” Gordy believed that such a performance would enable The Supremes to access a slot on a mainstream UK television programme. Ross refused outright. “I could not explain anything that made sense to her,” Gordy said. “She refused to do it completely.” That’s when Gordy realised, “if she didn’t do it, I knew I could not manage them.” Ross went on to become one of the biggest selling female solo artists in music history.
Joni Mitchell produced and released her seminal Blue album in the early 70s whilst at the same time Jazz drummer Karen Carpenter was persuaded to move centre stage and sing for the brother/sister duo the Carpenters. It may have taken until 1979 for Suzi Quatro to score a hit in her country of birth (USA), but Quatro was a constant presence throughout the 70s in the UK charts. Quatro’s trademark leather jacket, jeans, bass playing leadership and pop-rock anthems presented an altogether edgier imagine that had a significant influence and impact. An influence that has sadly been underestimated given for many young people Suzi Quatro was the first female artists who were seen to be the leader of the pop-rock group on mainstream TV. By the mid-70s Kate Bush and Patti Smith emerged. Two diametrically opposed artist who commanded respect through their craft. Smith went on to release what many still consider to be one of the most quintessential and influential rock album’s of all time ‘Horses.’
1975 also saw the release of the electro-pop ‘Love to Love You Baby’ by Donna Summer that pounded the dance floors of every credible disco. The song, which featured Summer moaning and groaning as if in the raptures of an organism would cause controversy around the world. It also presented the artist in a highly sexually charged way that would take Summer years to shake off. The song and its producers eventually left Summer feeling like she had no control over her life and went on to suffer from bouts of depression and insomnia. Summer would later become a born-again Christian and sue the producers of the record. After the legal settlement Summer decided to exclude “Love to Love You Baby” from her concert playlists and did not perform it until 25 years later.
As the 1970s were drawing to a close there was something quite different about the female artists who were emerging outside the mainstream. Whilst the recording output varied according to taste. The confidence and attitude of the female artists was not in dispute. Operating within an increasingly political environment a whole bunch of strong, independent, intelligent and often conformational female artists were playing a leading roll in the rock scene. It was a time when Siouxsie Sioux (Siouxsie and the Banshees), Fay Fife (The Rezillos), Gaye Advert (The Adverts), Debbie Harry (Blondie), The Slits, Pauline Murray (Penetration), Tina Weymouth,(Talking Heads), Joan Jett (The Runaways) and the glorious Poly Styrene (X-Ray Spex) to name a few took a male-dominated world and shook it by the throat. A quick search on Google for Penetration performing ‘Don’t Dictate’ live will emphasis the point as Pauline Murray tackles men in the audience head-on. It was another song from this period, which had a greater influence on me personally.
Released in 1977 “Oh bondage up yours” was the debut single by X-Ray Spex. Polly Styrene was the bands’ lead singer and main songwriter who described the song, “as a call for liberation. It was saying: ‘Bondage—forget it! I’m not going to be bound by the laws of consumerism or bound by my own senses.’ It has that line in it: ‘Chain smoke, chain gang, I consume you all’: you are tied to these activities for someone else’s profit.”
As I grow older and start to see the world more holistically I can often look back at key moments when a stake was placed in the shifting sands of my life. These stakes are important because they create a focus point when somethings clicked. When I get a cold chill after being exposed to yet another pile of misogynist crap by a retarded hunk in plastic bling rubbing his small codpiece against a scantily dressed women. I can point back to buying the original 12″ vinyl version of “Oh bondage up yours” in 1977.
Every cause has a counter effect and what had been achieved in the 1970s was to be challenged throughout the 1980s free for all and sod thy neighbour attitude. Samantha Fox’s was 16 years old when her mother submitted several photographs of her daughter in lingerie to a Sunday tabloid newspaper competition (Girl of the Year amateur modelling contest). By the 198os Samantha Fox was a popular topless glamour model in a daily tabloid. In 1986 Fox choose to take up a new career as a pop star. Her first release was the tacky ‘Touch Me (I Want Your Body)’ that reached No. 1 in seventeen different countries. She went on to sell more than 30 million albums and co-wrote the song “Dreams” for girl group All Saints’s 2000 album, Saints & Sinners. Although she was credited as “Karen Wilkin” because the group refused to record the song if Fox’s real name was used. In 1984 Sheena Eastern had a hit with a Prince written song ‘Sugar Walls’ a pseudonym for Eastern’s vagina. By the close of the 80s Cher was to be seen cavorting around a battleship in a fishnet body stocking rattling out the hideous ‘If I could turn back time.’ Amongst this drivel there were occasional rays of sunshine from the likes of Chrissie Hynde (The Pretenders) and the Sugarcubes whose lead singer Bjork was to became one of the most original and innovative female recording artists of all time.
As with most cases in life, it is not those at the vanguard who reap the rewards of their struggles. Kim Gordon (Sonic Youth), Courtney Love (Hole), PJ Harvey, Riot Grrrl, Sleater-Kinney, Grace Jones, Beth Ditto (Gossip), Poison Ivy Rorschach (The Cramps) and the stunning Skin (Skunk Anansie) were to find their journeys just that little bit more easier because of the women who had gone before. In turn, this made for a more creative and fertile music scene for the rest of us to enjoy. It would of be interesting to hear the views of these female artists regarding female artists in the mainstream pop world today. I can only guess that for many it will be a case of raised eyebrows and recognition that syrup manufactured girl pop groups will always have a place.
I struggle to envisage many will sign up to the ‘girl power’ of the Spice Girls call to arms, “I wanna, I wanna, I wanna, I wanna, I wanna really really really wanna zigazig ha.” In truth, their struggle and achievements will seldom be recognised in the mainstream, because the mainstream needs to be controlled and manipulated from above. The advent of technologies has in many ways released the creative artist to pursue their particular path, but success on a scale that will enable economic independence remains a long way off for many female artists. As a father of 3 daughters, it is with great relief that when foraging around Bandcamp I have discovered such an amazing range of female artists who are producing some truly magnificent material. To name a few: