Jenny Laurence’s School of Sound: Rock On, Ladies


(As seen in Pegasus Pages, March 2013)

I’m going to introduce you to the magical, hard-core front women and all-women bands of Punk and Rock from the past thirty-odd years. Front women are a bit of a novelty in the rock world, even though they aren’t uncommon – they each have an originality that adds a refreshing sound to the genre. You could argue that this is sometimes due to the feminist nature of some of their songs (especially those in the Rebel Grrl movement.) They represented a tough-as-nails approach to living and a mean skill in revving up crowds, which led to huge sex appeal, and a lot of fame. So, here is my short list of the most fantastically badass women to date.

First up, naturally, is the well-known Blondie, fronted by Debbie Harry singing Call Me (1980), which was nominated for a Grammy in 1981 and was No. 1 in the UK. Blondie was formed in the ‘70s, and are still touring to this date. Debbie’s punk-chic dress sense has not changed in the slightest since.

Kate Jackson was lead vocals for the British band The Long Blondes from 2004 to 2008. Clearly about something close to her heart, she sang Weekend Without Makeup in 2006, which reached No. 28 in the UK. NME described her as having the “arrogant strut of Chrissie Hynde and the acidic tongue of a Dickens heroine.”

Next up is the very angry Reese Witherspoon lookalike, Kat Bjelland, the vocalist from Babes in Toyland (1987-2001). As an all girl group, they sang Bruise Violet in 1992, which helped get their album to No. 24 in the UK albums chart in the same year.

Hayley Williams is the lead singer of the group Paramore and has been since 2004. Her characteristic red hair makes her one of the most well-known Rock women of this century and she has been named Sexiest Female every year since 2008 in Kerrang! Magazine. Crushcrushcrush was released in 2007 and reached No. 4 in the US Alt. Chart.

The legend that is Patti Smith has been a hugely influential artist in rock and punk music since she began recording in 1971. Because The Night was released in 1978 and got to No. 13 in the US, and No. 5 in the UK.

Penutimately, we have Bikini Kill (great name) with front Kathleen Hanna, singing Rebel Girl (very apt) which was released in 1993. The band was together during 1990-1997 and made songs that would have made old men whimper. Hanna was a big member of Riot Grrl, the underground feminist Punk Rock movement, and her lyrics reflected this.


Last on the playlist today is my favourite woman ever. It’s Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, with (guess who) as the lead singer. Joan Jett (in the picture at the top) has been labeled as the ‘Queen of Rock n’ Roll,’ and has been performing since 1975. She covered I Love Rock N Roll in 1981 (No. 1 in the US for seven weeks), and wrote Bad Reputation, which was released in 1980. My absolute all-time favourite song of hers is I Hate Myself For Loving You. To be honest, though, I could listen to any song, any time, and sing it too. Totally in love, forever.

Other women/bands include: Janis Joplin (with Big Brother & The Holding Company), Siouxsie Sioux & The Banshees, Stevie Nicks, PJ Harvey, Liz Phair, The Go! Team, Bratmobile, The Frumpies, and Suzy Quatro.

Check back for more of Jenny Laurence’s School of Sound! Next up: Punk Rock.

Picture: visual.dichotomy on Flickr (CC BY 2.0).

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