Friday, November 30, 2007

DON'T TREAD ON ME: The Original Punk of 1960s Garage Rock

...with 2 Music Players!

The Roots of GARAGE ROCK

"I heard Papa tell Mama, 'Let that boy boogie woogie/ Coz it's in him, and it's got to come out'!"-John Lee Hooker

Robert Johnson had paved the crossroads for the Blues, between the sacred and the profane; his acolytes hit another intersection, between the acoustic rural past and the electric urban future. After the great exodus from the depleted Southern states to the promise of Chicago, Detroit, and other Rust Belt cities, African Americans faced new paths of possibility or peril (as did their Dustbowl Days peers who went to Golden California). Muddy Waters was the first Blues maestro to go all electric in 1948, arguably creating the first Rock'n'Roll band. On his heels were Howlin' Wolf and John Lee Hooker. It was a tougher, terser metallic blues, coarsened and amplified by the city. And by a divided soul in play. Compare the liberation-in-dance lyric above with Hooker's murderous vibe in his "Mad Man Blues", over jarring chords played like a stabbing: "I'm gonna take you down by the riverside/ Hang you a knot, baby, by your neck/ I got the madman blues". John uses the metaphor of a betrayed love to vent his fury at the racist structure he is struggling in. It's this crossroads that is at the heart of Rock; between ecstasy and agony, between celebration and revolt, between the hereafter and heresy.

American youth, like all, revelled in their frills while questioning their worth. When was a sleek car just a slick scam, when was a dusty old tune actually a raw truth? 50's Rock'n'Roll threaded this maze with every dance step. To the public at large this dance rebellion just looked like juvenile delinquency. But the harder they clamped down, the more kids wanted to be James and Marlon, Jayne and Bettie, a Jet or a Shark...wanted to rumble.

Into England rode the Teddy Boys. The working class were just a coiled calm. They thirsted for the driven, the free, the real. American musics were dispatches from the landscape of the possible. Tough youths sculpted brillo coifs, rode cycles, and donned Edwardian longcoats (hence "Teds"). These Rockers wanted the brutal, the intense, the unvarnished. Meanwhile other youth wanted the New now. They wanted to kill mundanity with modernity. The Mods wore the sharpest newest threads, rode million-mirrored Vespas, and wiggled to Soul music in clubs. Caught in the median were the Beat bands, who retired their suits by '65 under Mod influence while reclaiming more and more of the hard bristle of 50's Rock. (Asked if he's a Mod or a Rocker in A HARD DAY'S NIGHT, Ringo replies, "I'm a mocker.")

This schizoid temperament in Rock -between rough past and sleek future, the raw and the refined- was now international. From this would emerge a new hybrid trend that would effect the music's future forever.

GARAGE ROCK 1965-1966

In America, frat bands like The WAILERS had taken Little Richard's ferocity, welded it to Link Wray's rumble, and terrorized Seattle dance halls. Their rivals The KINGSMEN were the first out the gate to record "Louie Louie". They'd sped up the Jamaican ode and slurred the words to disguise they didn't know them. It was a cheeky triumph of attitide over aptitude, and blueprinted the music later called "Garage" or "punk music" (by the time Lenny Kaye compiled the seminal NUGGETS album in 1972). Harder than anyone were The SONICS, whose barbed guitar and vocals could strip paint. (Their 45 of "Have Love, Will Travel" later played continuously on the jukebox in the SEX shop as McClaren and Westwood were midwiving the Sex Pistols.) Not to be outdone, UK acts like The ROLLING STONES, The ANIMALS, The KINKS, and The YARDBIRDS ramped up the clang and swagger in their blues. After the British Invasion returned America's music back to it supersonic, an estimated 63% of young US males were in budding bands in their garage, barn, or dorm room. (And many uncounted females, as well and as usual.) The sound was amateur, rough, and wild. Curt guitar, pounding rhythm, farfisa organ shrills, and the voice usually shouting, sneering, or jive drawling discontent with dumb love.

American garage rock was full throttle with no highway. It was happening off most of the record industry's radar, on nowhere labels and lost 45's, and the wilderness of hole-in-the walls with PA's. Maybe it didn't get killed because they didn't see it coming. Crazed Texans like The SEEDS and The 13th FLOOR ELEVATORS; The MUSIC MACHINE, dressed all in black and shades with one glove; The MONKS, former soldiers with monk haircuts frothing apocalypse; DAVIE ALLAN & The ARROWS throwing fuzzed-out biker anthems like molotov cocktails; DEAN CARTER, splicing Rockabilly and Garage in his carpet-walled living room studio; and Char Vinnedge leading her all-female LUV'D ONES on a assault that got darker and more abrasive as it went. These people acted like there was no tomorrow but they had to get there yesterday.

But then, DYLAN. His forefather Woody Guthrie had scrawled "This machine kills fascists" on his battered guitar; likewise, Dylan emerged from the early 60's Folk boom as a tonic to vacuous industry Pop. But The Beatles had now reignited his secret love of Rock. Seeing the British retool US roots music, he went electric with the aptly-titled BRINGING IT ALL BACK HOME. Too damn mercurial to remain the Protest King, Bob went intensely surrealistic, spitfiring cryptic barbs like Kerouac with the madman blues. Garage bands couldn't match the wordplay but they sure got the attitude. Their immature tirades against girlfriends shifted gears into social discontent. "I know of nothing else that buggggs me," seethed Australia's The EASYBEATS, "more than working for the rich man." From New Zealand came The BLUESTARS with "I've gained a label as an angry young man/ because I don't fit into the Master Plan." KIT & The OUTLAWS snarled "People walkin' round on me and they stomp my name in the ground/ Don't tread on me! Coz I wanna be free!"

The tension kept intensifying. Before rec execs could spit their martini, rock'n'roll was turning into rawwwwk. The WHO declared their generation with technology while tearing it to shreds. Fuzz chords corroded factory-fresh studio speakers. Brutal rhythms dropkicked amps like Bo Diddleysaurus Wrex. Weird echo and flange distorted state-of-the-art mixes. Madmen now menaced the airwaves from hot wax as fellow freaks around the world responded in kind. The DOORS, BLUE CHEER, CREAM, The CREATION, The YARDBIRDS with Jimmie Page. And then a student of Seattle and the South named JIMI HENDRIX landed in London. With him he brought the whole raw history of the blues and a futuristic clang louder than gods. He is the axis, bold as love, the crossroads from Garage into all Hard Rock, Heavy Metal, Punk, Grunge, and Garage Revival to come.

"Your sons and your daughters are beyond your command/ It'll soon shake your windows and rattle your walls..." -Dylan

© Tym Stevens

The Real History of Rock and Soul!: A Music Player Checklist

Friday, October 19, 2007


...with Music Player!

I Put a Spell On You

The British saved Rock'n'Roll.

The usual rap goes that there is a gap between the implosion of the first Rock'n'Roll stars (1959) and the phoenix nova of The Beatles (1963). In this pop wasteland, prefab pretties like Fabian and Annette pantomimed and pretended. The truth is better. This is actually an intensely fertile time of expansion in the wake of that first Big Bang of Rock. It'd be unfair and unaware to overlook this early 60's hotbed: the adolescent opera of the Girl Groups; the Motown machine revving up; the grand epics of Phil Spector; the turbo fun of Brian Wilson's bunch; the kick-azz grit of the Chess Records mob; and the ascent of Soul music under the wings of Ray Charles and Sam Cooke. But of these, it was Surf music that most retained the bristling edge of Rock. With its full-throttle fearlessness, it preached the virtues of speed, clamor, and sleek power. All of these new influences enthralled european teens, but it was that guitar that spurred them into magnificent action.

First up, there was the british Rockabilly star, Tommy Steele ("Doomsday Rock"), then leather-god Vince Taylor (the original "Brand New Cadillac", covered by the Clash), and Johnny Kidd & The Pirates ("Shakin' All Over"). Then brilliant producers like the eccentric genius Joe Meek came in with his guitarstrumental bands. Meek, a secretly unhinged dandy, was a tech wizard who concocted weird sound instruments in his apartment studio and recruited acts to justify their use on pop records. His oeuvre straddles prom rock shuffles, Les Paul's outlandish Jazz scales, the bubbly pizzicato pop favored on government sanctioned radio, and an obsessive penchant for otherworldly tones. Plus, he idolized Buddy Holly and the hard echo of Duane Eddy and Dick Dale. All of this hit a beautiful equinox with The Tornados' "Telstar" (1962). Its eerie interstellar metallic vibrato shocked radio listeners like an Orson Welles broadcast and ushered the guitar wave of The Tornados and The Shadows and art school rockers everywhere.

Art school was the only bastion for the rebel in such a rigidly classist society. England was now a working class nation tyrannized by a mass delusion of elitist civility that was crushing its earthy heart. The War had destroyed them, the 50's was all about picking up the pieces. While parents clung to status quo for stability, their children wanted something more. Rock'n'Roll was like a reverse blitzkrieg. It was a wave of concussive renewal and creation. They were riveted by the foreign-ness of it, but also by the familiarity of it. In the raucous roll of Chuck Berry, Little Richard, and Bo Diddley they could hear the robust tavern ballads of warrior pasts. In the ethereal country hymns of the Everlys they could hear celtic madrigals. In the plaintive strains of Hank Williams, Buck Owens, and Patsy Cline there was the Olde Country folk of troubadours, brought home more closely by the emerging Bob Dylan. In the coiled cool of Howlin' Wolf and Muddy Waters they heard the course rounds of feudal farmers. In orchestral pop soared the strings of their Classical heritage. In the immigrant shangri-la of America they saw amplified and unleashed versions of themselves, risen shining and sleek for the future in the wake of the war. And the ticket to freedom was three chords and a hook!

John Lennon wasn't the only art school drop-out to take up a guitar, but he formed the band to beat all bands. The Beatles were the Biggest Bang, from which everything else would unfold from then on. This is a Law of Physics at this point, so we'll get on to the initial effects. The first was the galvanation of this galling nation of sharp-dressed men with impossibly long hair setting prim young girls on fire with jet-engine hysteria. The second was synthesizing everything from before into a new world of possibilities. The third was to give permission to everyone to be whatever they wanted.

The bands started as retro-revivalists turned into pop futurists turned beat ambassadors. Soon every group in the British Invasion splintered into smorgasbord shards. The blues purists birthed John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, The Rolling Stones, The Animals, and The Yardbirds. The pop pundits cheered Gerry & The Pacemakers, the all-female Liverbirds, The Searchers, and The Kinks. The R'n'B contingent numbered The Who, The Pretty Things, The Spencer Davis Group (with Steve Winwood), Dusty Springfield, Chris Farlow, and Georgie Fame. Donovan ushered in the Folk rebound.

Then quickly, the triumph over America prompted a domino escalation that opened a new door every day with every record over the next several years. Beat groups like The Who and acolytes like Les Fluer de Lys and The Creation started getting more aggro, pumping out a fuzzy delirium later dubbed Freakbeat. With The Yardbirds getting more sonically intense, this ricocheted in rehearsals all over America in the first Garage Rock bands. The Beatles were now exploring all the sounds they'd heard on world tours. A crosscontinental one-upship ensued between the Fabs, Dylan, Brian, the Byrds, and anyone in the wake. This produced an exponential wave of some of the greatest songs and albums ever made. Every style, every madcap instrument, every incredible new studio technique became fair game. As the newly revitalized Rock went both toward the brutal and the beautiful, it began converting the planet.

Rock'n'Roll was here to stay, it could never die. It now belonged to the world.

© Tym Stevens

See Also:
-The Real History of Rock and Soul!: A Music Player Checklist

Monday, October 1, 2007

SHAKE AND FINGER POP! Soul Music and the Interior Truth

...with Music Player!

Booker T And The MGs


Soul music is the shared emotion of experience. As such, everyone breathing can relate to it, be touched by it, be moved by it. Soul, like all great traditions, is actually what each person has brought to it and what we shared from it.

No one has a monopoly on pain. And the human heart is too huge to be bound by fake distinctions like class, body type, or skin. We breathe the same air, dream the same hopes, feel the same emotions. As souls, we share this life, and when we forget our commonality, music brings us back to the root; the interior truth of self.

From the beginning soul stew was cooked by everyone. It's initial gumbo ingredients were the sacrilegious mix of Gospel and Blues, but Jazz brass horns, voodoo mythos, Country tearjerkers, European strings, modern pop, Rock swagger, political Folk, and even spy themes have flavored it over time. It was male and female, and included label owners, talent scouts, songwriters, producers, and performers from every possible human persuasion.

Case in point. Until the late 1940's, all music made by African Americans was called "Race Music". Jerry Wexler, a writer for Billboard magazine's music sales charts, found this disgraceful. There had to be a more dignified term, but how do you encompass the various musics being made? Since urban Jump Jive and rural acoustic Blues were the most popular, he split the difference with the umbrella term, Rhythm & Blues. While R&B later became yet another flat euphemism for 'black music', it actually spoke to divergent sounds. As 1950 dawned, small independent record labels sprung up everywhere to sample the smorgasbord of homegrown talent nationwide. Jerry Wexler became perhaps the preeminent Soul music producer of all time working for Atlantic Records, owned by the astute and hyper-hip Ertegun brothers from Turkey: Ruth Brown, Ray Charles, the Coasters, Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, the Rascals, and may more were his charges. Similarly, the Chess brothers parlayed the Chess label, the home of Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Etta James, etc. The jewish family had slept with a horse in their house back in Poland to keep warm in the winter. As hardluck musicians migrated from the depleted southern states to their Chicago studios, they found kindred sympathy.

In the South, Gospel music was God's music, and Blues was the Devil's by default. The line between the sacred and the profane was absolute. But the 50's was when the imaginary barriers started being challenged. Ray Charles, a cocksure upstart, committed heresy by combining the two. In 1955 he turned a hymn about love for Jesus into a secular ode to a girl with "This Little Girl of Mine". Churchfolk burned like brimstone over it, but young people felt the relief of constrictions evaporating. Ray had combined the sacred and profane and arrived closer to real life. He showed that any segregation is stillborn while synthesis is always rebirth. All too quickly, radio segregated everyone's psyches using separatist terms like 'Rock'n'Roll' for whites and 'Rhythm & Blues' for blacks. Most often this music was the same thing, just separated by the superficial. But at dancehalls all kids shook their hips the same, yelled the same, felt it the same. It made you move and it said something you understood inside.

Sam Cooke, Aretha Franklin, Johnny Taylor, the Womacks, and scores more also left the amen corner to sing new hymns from their hearts about the way they lived, and how they felt. By the early 60's, the R&B tag waned along with the doowoppers and the jivin'wailers. It was a new ere, with the Civil rights movement come to redeem America's heart and open up its future. It was the era of Soul music.

Robert White and Joe Messina of the Motown house band,
the Funk Brothers.

It came from everywhere and back. Motown records in metal Detroit. Chess in hogkiller Chicago. Atlantic in nosebleed New York. Stax in funky Memphis. And from one-hit and no-hit wonders on meteoric labels throughout the south and west and north, and soon from as far east as the United Kingdom. It was tender or tortured ballads, uptempo dance stompers, crazed gobbledygook, strutting proud testimonials, and anthems for justice. It consoled your pain, conjured your joy. Berry Gordy called his label "The Sound of Young America" to transcend useless terms like black and white, but that was only the beginning. Soul music had tapped into the declarative, confessional nature at the heart of all the world's folk musics. Its passionate vocals were a shared memory in all cultures. As such, it was felt, resung, and rebounded back. It was a universal chord that resonates through all pop history since. The British Invasion couldn't win without it, and its influence fused with Jazz, metronomed beneath Psychedelia, got all Funked up, hothoused Ska and Reggae, boogied Glam, strobed Disco, swelled under New Wave, spliced Rap, throbbed in the abstract through House and Jungle, inverted itself as Neo-Soul...well, you feel me.

Every great label had a house band cooking up all the hits. Stax made Memphis soul stew with Booker T and the MG's. Rock steady drums, pulsing melodic bass, slinky azz organ, and zen essence chank guitar. Bring in the class brass of the Memphis Horns, a killer tune, and a belting singer and then look the hell out! Besides their own proto-funk instrumental classics, like "Glass Onion" and "Hip Hug Her", they backed Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, Sam & Dave, Rufus and Carla Thomas, Albert King, and more. Like their rivals at the Muscle Shoals studios, they were soul brothers one and all, and the fact that they were varied hues only added more flavors to the brew.

Etta James recording with the Muscle Shoals house band.

Soul music is the soundtrack of the human experience. It's cheap and easy to wear attitude like armor. But it takes real courage to bare your heart to the world. To confess doubt, hurt, or wrestle with anger or anguish. To drop the skin and disclose the interior truth of self. That kind of vulnerability is the core of real growth, toward maturity, solace, wisdom. Listen to these brave songs, where men and women stand vulnerable before the eyes of the world. Listen in recognition as they unveil our common heart.

© Tym Stevens

See Also:
-The Real History of Rock and Soul!: A Music Player Checklist

Thursday, September 6, 2007

YOU DON'T OWN ME: The Uprising of the 1960s GIRL GROUPS

...with World-Spanning Music Player!
(Part 1 of 2)


The Ronettes.

now brings you the actual, all-inclusive history of Rock'n'Soul music, with Music Players.

Music Player Checklist

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*(This Player is limited to the first 200 songs.
Hear the unlimited Playlist here.)

This Music Player covers the initial rise of GIRL GROUP vocal sounds from its origins in the '50s through its global range in the 1960s, in chronological order.

> Part 2:
SHE'S A REBEL: Decades Of Songs Influenced By The GIRL GROUPS


I'm Not Just one Of Your Little Toys:
Girls grouped

"Girl Groups" often means girls grouped together because they are girls. It's nice for alliteration but not illumination.

It's too often a quiet dismissal, trivializing 'female pop' as teenage trash, disposable in critics' minds by comparison to the British Invasion or Garage Rock. But in truth those musics wouldn't exist like they do without this music. And the girls grouped were really a vast range of vocal stylings, genre sounds, age groups, and national origins. It's high time to commend that range and how crucial it has been to the evolution of Rock.

Here, we'll use the term Girl Group as an appreciation of a general sonic movement and how female artists shone within it. This is to dismiss the misuse of the term, which treats them as little girls not Rock enough for the boys club, or as sexy dolls fronting machine pop. And this is to disrupt the shopworn cartoon narrative that continually strobes that limited view into the mainstream, instead replacing it with a clarified respect for these equally valuable sonic pioneers.

(The far-more expansive history of WOMEN OF ROCK, with Music Players, will be posted separately.)

Beside every man there's a woman doing the same things. She just always gets less credit or pay. Remember, the Blues first burned bright on international turntables because of the breakthrough success of Bessie Smith. Women then belted out Swing, herded the Honky Tonks, and were rockin' fillies like the rockabillies. During those times of constrictive attitudes, record producers treated their works like novelty records while raking in the money it brought them. Because women were often less-recorded, it makes their presence and impact seem spotty in the early years of Rock'n'Roll. (Lack of representation ensures lack of recognition). But they were there, always. As that first wave of rockers fell apart from bad luck, treachery, and dumb moves, the early '60s was an open playing field.> In that gulf the women finally got some attention. The age of the Girl Groups took full bloom, flourishing like a hothouse.

First, think about the age range of this material. There were handclap pop songs for early teeners at pajama parties; there were romance dreams for the prom girls; there were more wary and intimate songs for the young college women; and there were adult songs, declarative of identity or experience. This was real coming-of-age music for the biggest generation of females the world had ever seen.

(But heart music is heart music, which is why it inspired everyone from The Beatles to Blondie, from The New York Dolls to La Luz, for decades to come.)

Secondly, it wasn't simply bouffant belles relayed in quartets cheerleading for marital bliss. Within this general vocal pop tradition, there were the soulful shoo-wop sisters, the dreamscape girls, the drama divas, the biker chicks, the party poppers, the dance dolls, the brassy Brits, the soulstress soloists, and -completely neglected by history- the girls from the garage. Along the way (as heard on the Music Player) you could enjoy bossa novas, country soul, rockabilly, surf, Beat Girls, folk, and psychedelia. Being that women make up over half of the world, the pop scope was international, with diverse scenes in the UK, France, Italy, Singapore, Mexico, and more.

R: Carole King, Gerry Goffin, and Paul Simon.

Also, this wasn't all social engineering from male popsmiths in the Brill building. True, the key positions of the era were held by men; record execs, label owners, managers, most writers and producers, club owners, DJs. But women first began making huge inroads into the industry precisely because of this music. Carole King, Cynthia Weil, and Ellie Greenwich each wrote as many hit classics as practically anyone combined.

Let's not forget Motown writers Valerie Simpson, Pam Sawyer, or Sylvia Moy (who also produced many hits). Syreeta Wright started as receptionist at Motown, then co-wrote many of Stevie's hits, and broke through with hits of her own. Chris Clark seemed an unlikely Motown star, being a six-foot blond, but she went from being receptionist to the immortal "Love's Gone Bad", to an Oscar for co-writing the LADY SINGS THE BLUES film, to being a Motown vice president for video. In the current century, it became fact that women outsold men in every genre they performed in. This is the latest legacy of the doors the ladies kicked opened with this music. In heels, no less!

Phil Spector; Jimmy Page.

Separating sound by ideas of race never works, so the same applies to gender.> It takes everybody to make every thing. Just as varied complexions from myriad cultural traditions helped co-create Soul music, so men from every outlook collaborated with their sisters to create these songs.

Certain ones had an indelible effect. The perilous Phil Spector used his 'wall of sound' to surround his wife Ronnie's group, The Ronettes, in epic anthems to love consummated or lost. (Ahem.) Shadow Morton was another production wizard setting new standards with his dramatic work for The Shangri-La's. Burt Bacharach, with his lyricists Hal David and Carole Bayer Sager, wrote nearly baroque arrangements for chanteuses like Dionne Warwick and Sandie Shaw to shine in. Berry Gordy assembled the pop-soul factory of Motown, whose sound and roster influenced absolutely everyone. John Barry's spy themes and brassy horns were another perennial spectre in many of these songs. And quite a few of the kicking rockers by these songbirds (Lulu, Brenda Lee, Jackie DeShannon, Vashti Bunyan) were fueled by young session guitarist Jimmy Page.

The support was there, but it was the girls who stood facefront for the future.

I'll Keep On Holding On:
The women take the spotlight

The Gold Standard:
The Supremes.

Culture is an intersection of ideas in collusion and sometimes collision.

The 'Girl Group' sound evolved out of all the harmony groups that preceded it: The Boswell Sisters (the '30s) and the Andrews Sisters (the '40s); the barbershop quartets, classical chorales, and church choirs; the gospel groups like The Swan Silvertones who led into the secular doo wop of The Mills Brothers and The Ravens; the bebop vocalese of Ella Fitzgerald and Lambert, Hendricks, And Ross; and especially the elaborate strings and production behind mature torch singers like Cole, Sinatra, Washington, Bennett, and Cooke. Shake all this up with Rock'n'Roll, Soul, and headstrong youth and you get a heady concoction.

Girl Group music is some of the best-produced pop music ever recorded. The post-War torch song era created a pool of crack session musicians working under classically trained arrangers in state-of-the-art studios in New York and Los Angeles. From the simplest dance song to the grandest heartbreak ballad, the craft in these songs is impeccable and timeless. There is a directly relayed throughline from the lush '50s concept albums of Sinatra and Fitzgerald, through the string-scapes behind Girl Group and Motown, onward into Rock's maturation with the Pet Sounds and Sgt. Pepper albums, and beyond.

Truly, Girl Group isn't a box, it is a landscape. Girl Group and Doo Wop are retroactive terms for diverse vocal musics that only serve to genderize limits on a reality too boundless for them. These pop confessionals moved all hips and hearts, made by singles and sets of every age, place, and angle. As the Music Player bears out, there were many facets glimmering in that spotlight.


Martha And The Vandellas with Dusty Springfield.

First up, let's hear it for 'the shoo-wop sisters'!

The only job they could expect in Detroit was as a maid or in a factory. Motown opened a new world for them to be in high society and have presence. The label was Soul but it had its eye on uptown and Vegas. There was a regal glam to all that sass and swoon. These tight pop melodies with their walloping rhythms galvanized early '60s youth, at home and abroad. Queens like Mary Wells, Martha Reeves And The Vandellas, Kim Weston, Brenda Hollaway, Tammi Terrell, and of course Diana Ross And The Supremes; songs like "Please Mister Postman", "Love Is Like a Heatwave", "Boys" ("Sha-shoo-bop, sha-sha-shoo-bop"), "Where Did Our Love Go?", and "Nowhere To Run".

They were matched by their New York sisters, who lived in similar working-class Euro, Afr-Am, and Puerto Rican boroughs with the same dreams. They were the doo wop corner girls now swinging a new modern pop. The songs they strutted had swing, swagger, laughter, and verve. Fingersnappers like The Shirelles, The Ronettes, The Cookies (who became The Rae-lettes, propelling Ray Charles), The Chiffons, and Little Eva; with classic songs like "One fine Day", "Boys", "Be My Baby", and "Give Him a Great Big Kiss".


The Caravelles; The Honey Ltd.

The 'dreamscape girls' were ethereal.

They were the angelic chorales that soothed the troubled soul from a world of radiant echo. They were the idealic self or spiritual other whose siren psalms promised transendence. Close your eyes and swoon to The Paris Sisters' "I Love How You Love Me", The Caravelles' "You Don't Have To Be A Baby To Cry", Les Intrigantes's "Sans Toi", the haunted folk of Vashti Bunyan's "Train Song", or anything at all by The Honey Ltd.


The Shangri-Las.

The 'drama divas' are bold and cinematic.

Orchestras with dazzling dynamics underscore their apocalyptic hopes and heartbreaks. The queen is the Shangri-Las' leader, Mary Weiss, in her haunted monologues, trembling in the stark spotlight. She turned the pop record into a vicarious confessional for raw and rapt youth in songs like "Past, Present, and Future" and the shattering "I Can Never Go Home Anymore". That poignant intimacy, with cinerama swells of sound, gets star billing in The Bitter Sweet's dizzying "What a Lonely Way To Start the Summertime", Dawn's neurotic "I'm Afraid They're All Talking About Me", Susan Rafey's softly sinister "The Big Hurt", and Timi Yuro' magesterial "The Love Of A Boy".

And first to throw the feminist fist are Dionne Warwick's ardent "Don't Make Me Over", and Lesley Gore's immortal declaration "You Don't Own Me".
[See also, Betty Everett's "S.P.C.L.G. (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Little Girls)".]


The 'biker chicks' were raucous, all street accents and gumsmack.

It was the original rebel grrrl, who knew about sex, bad guys, worse habits, seamy cities, and danger. And seemed to like all of them. The Crystals shaped it with "He's A Rebel", and The Ronettes crystalized it with their proud Puerto Rican sensuality and smirks. They coiffed their beehive hair perfect just so they could shake it loose in the heat of singing. The Shangri-Las single-handedly owned the genre with "Leader Of The Pack", and their hellion backstage ways; one exasperated rival called them foul-mouthed monsters, which they just laughed at.

The biker girls sneered at glam gowns and galas. They wanted life rough and wild. Check out The Whyte Boots with their tough stance and white whips, and their catastrophic "Nightmare". Or brave The Shangri-La's "Out In the Streets", The Girls' "Chico's Girl", The Ad Libs' "On The Corner", and the explicit threat of The Cookies' "Don't Say Nothin' (Bad About My Baby)".


"Shirley, Shirley bo Birley Bonana fanna fo Firley
Fee fy mo Mirley, Shirley!"

The 'party poppers' took the shoo-wop groove and broadened it from the block to the blowout.

It was now fun teen pop for the soiree, the zing in the shindig, the twist in the surfari, sprawling from gaiety to downright goofy. Kick your shoes off to "Surfin' Hootenanny" (with vocals by Darlene Love And The Blossoms), Little Eva's "The Loco-Motion", and Patti Labelle And Her Blue Belles' "I Sold My Heart To The Junkman".

The party really careens loopy with the manic Tammys' swirling and shrieking through "Egyptian Shumba"*, the jumprope handclaps of The Dixie Cups' "Iko Iko", the crazed organ bouncing The Coupons' "Turn Her Down", Donna Loren's surf with "The Cycle Set", the dizzying tongue-twist of "The Name Game" by Shirley Ellis, and The Gypsies' happy admonition to "Jerk It".

*At the "whoa-ah-oh"'s at 2:17, you can hear the precise moment The B-52's were born.

"Calling out around the world/
Are you ready for a brand new beat?"

The 'dance dolls' were the rhythm regals, getting you into the good groove.

They were the latest dance step or bumping sound. If the shoo-wops hopped the block and the party poppers kicked the sock hop, these ladies lit the niteclub and discotheque. Drop the stylus on The Velvelettes' cheeky "He Was Really Sayin' Something", where the lead sounds like she's both laughing and biting your earlobe. Or The Ikettes' sauntering "I'm Blue (The Gong Gong Song)", Martha And The Vandellas' ever-wonderful "Dancing In the Street", Val McKenna's funky "I Can't Believe What You Say", and Rita Pavone's piledriving "Il Geghege".

In France, the Yé-yé girls responded with France Gall's "Laisse Tomber Les Filles" (a.k.a, "Chick Habit"), Sylvie Vartan's "Ne Le Decois Pas" ("just like Putty in my hands/ uh huh!"), and Jacqueline Taieb's "On Roule A 160".


Shirley Bassey.

The 'brassy Brits' were the synthesis of the soul sisters and the drama divas, belting their own soul music on a theatrical scale.

Passion is borderless, and these UK women merged US soul, traditional ballading, and their own string-laden theatrical pop. (In truth, the classical strings that Spector and Gordy had so often borrowed, now coming full circle to its origins.) Their escalation from the drama divas brought in soundtrack scores, cabaret flourish, and haute couture. Much of this was personified in Shirley Bassey, whose fullthroated brass and supperclub zazz ramp-lified the spirit of Judy Garland; Shirley's gusto and power dynamizes epics like "Goldfinger" and "My Love Has Two Faces".

Their passionate smolder is klieg lights and shadows, bold and theatric. They are triumphant, bereft, and reflective in broad sweeps. Relish Sandy Shaw's "Girl Don't Come", Petula Clark's "Downtown", Lulu's "To Sir With Love", Vicki Carr's spy-twist "The Silencers", the lush ache of Cilla Black's "I've Been Wrong Before" (produced by George Martin), Nita Rossi's bombastic "Untrue, Unfaithful (That Was You)", Jackie Trent's operatic "Either Way I Lose", and US ex-pat P.P. Arnold's take on "The First Cut Is The Deepest".

Mina; Francoise Hardy.

The mindset of the early '60s was that adults made torch albums and teens made dance pop. But Girl Group and Motown bridged both. Globally, adult performers widened their repertoire to surf the young waves. From Italy with love came Mina's "So Che Mi Vuoi" (Lennon & McCartney's "It's For You"), Catherine Spaak's "Penso A Te" (scored by Ennio Morricone), and Ornella Vanoni's "Il Mio Posto Qual'E". More subtly, Chanson singers of France like Francoise Hardy gave us "Tous Les Garcons Et Les Filles". Conversely, pop teens like Helen Shapiro (England), Caterina Caselli (Italy), and Conchita Velasco (Spain) hinged from this vocal pop to become adult interpreters.


Aretha Franklin; Laura Nyro.

The 'soul-o'ists' were soul queens from major labels like Atlantic and Stax, and countless minor ones beloved on backwater jukeboxes.

Singular artistes with sister wit like Aretha Franklin and Erma Franklin, Dionne Warwick, mavericks Nina Simone and Laura Nyro, south african refugee Sharon Tandy, and british contessa Dusty Springfield. They were the wizened and often wounded heart of mature women. They knew who they were by now and what really mattered.

Reflect deeply with Bessie Banks' original version of "Go Now", Dusty's beautiful ache on "I Just Don't Know What To Do With Myself", Nina's reconjuring of "I Put a Spell On You", Aretha's nonplussed bliss on "Save Me", Erma's original of "Piece of My Heart", and Mitty Collier's earnest sweetness on "I Had a Talk With My Man" (which will choke you up on every listen).

Soul is for every soul, and here to testify is the country soul of Margaret Lewis' "Reconsider Me", Emma Reade's stirring "I Gotta Be With You", and Julie Driscoll's valorous cover of "The Flesh Failures (Let The Sun Shine In)".


The Luv'd Ones.

And the most unsung of all, the 'garage girls', the all-female bands who bashed out the beat with the best of them.

The Girl Groups inspired The Beatles who inspired groups of girls. The crayon history of Rock doesn't tell you that many '60s women worldwide took up the call to play modern Rock as full bands. (Lack of representation ensures lack of recognition). They were the slighted sisters of The Rolling Stones, The Beach Boys, and The Sonics.

(A more exhaustive post and Music Player of the garage grrrls will be posted separately.)

Folks like The Girls (the Sandoval sisters), The Liverbirds, Goldie And The Gingerbreads, Las Mosquitas (Mexico), The Fair Sect (New Zealand), The Womenfolk, The Luv'd Ones, The Ace Of Cups, The Daisy Chain, and The Feminine Complex saddled Beat, Garage, and Psychedelia sidelong. A wealth of their work is lately coming to light, bringing belated justice to these original punk priestesses. Bust out the fuzz with The Starlets' "You Don't Love Me", the proto-Garage of The Pleasure Seekers's "What A Way To Die", and Les Intrigantes' sunny cover of "Hello Goodbye" in French.

These are loose patterns to listen for on the Player that illuminate facets of the prism. But, as in everything, these all overlap and interweave. Within these musical angles lies a composite of the heart, voicing all the concerns and moods one could have. It gave a distinct and new voice to girls and boys everywhere. Besides the great harmonies and melodies, this emotive commonality is what has made these women's music so universal and its influence so eternal. And it resonates in all pop music to this day.


Read about and hear their disciples in Part 2:
SHE'S A REBEL: Decades Of Songs Influenced By The GIRL GROUPS

© Tym Stevens

See Also:

Part 2 (of 2):
- SHE'S A REBEL: Decades Of Songs Influenced By The GIRL GROUPS

-WOMEN OF ROCK: The 1950s
-WOMEN OF ROCK: The 1960s

-The Real History of Rock and Soul!: A Music Player Checklist

SHE'S A REBEL: Decades Of Songs Influenced By The GIRL GROUPS

...with World-Spanning Music Player!
(Part 2 of 2)


Ronnie's spectre:
Amy Winehouse.

now brings you the actual, all-inclusive history of Rock'n'Soul music, with Music Players.

Music Player Checklist

Spotify playlist title=
GIRL GROUPS: Disciples 1962-Today
This is a Spotify player. Join up for free here.

*(This Player is limited to the first 200 songs.
Hear the unlimited Playlist here.)

This Music Player covers the many songs directly influenced by the '60s GIRL GROUP sounds, across all music styles from 1962 to today, in chronological order.

Beat! Garage! Psychedelic!
Rock! Soul! Songwriter!
Punk! Funk! New Wave!
TripHop! Indie! World!

Part 1 (of 2):
YOU DON'T OWN ME: The Uprising of the 1960s GIRL GROUPS


Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?:
The legacy of the Girl Groups

"To live my life the way I want/
To say and do whatever I please."

From the beginning, it was the harmony and the rhythm.

During the first Rock'n'Roll years, Doo Wop led the congregation in the harmonies department. This was an outgrowth of gospel elder groups like The Dixie Hummingbirds and The Blind Boys Of Alabama, their dulcet rounds now sung by secular teens to woo dates. But just as essential were classical chorals, celtic folk ballads, romantic serenades, swing orchestra hits, torch songs, and scat-jazz mavericks for extending that palette.

Doo Wop isn't male, and there were plenty of does singing do-re-mi, too. Women sang with sisters (Shirley Gunter And The Queens, The Chordettes), with brothers (The Platters, Los Cinco Latinos), and around the world (Hermanas Navarro). At the time it was all thought of as vocal music (and Rock'n'Roll) made by and for everyone; the problem with retroactive genre terms like Doo Wop and Girl Group is that they are meant to distinguish music patterns, but only segregate the players by gender absolutes and miss the true interconnectivity of human culture. But it's all just humans making harmony with rhythm.

Diana Ross,
in designs by André Courrèges (1966).

Groups of girls like The Shirelles, The Chiffons, and The Blossoms swelled over into the early '60s while the original Rock'n'Roll treaded growing pains.> Their harmonic unity, now shifting from doo wop constraints into pure upbeat pop, stood out. These tight, punchy pop songs, with their youthful zest and bold choruses radiant through transistor radios, were more compressed and modern, with a sass and punch that the recent past had only predicted. This sound had its head in the sun with its feet square on the rhythm. At the same time, designers like Mary Quant and André Courrèges were revolutionizing fashion for the modern girl, with a Mod aesthetic now streamlined, bold, and free to move. A new generation of girls came into the future feeling regenerated. It was the Jet Age and this was their coming out music.

But music is the language of every heart and boys loved it, too. Girl Group sounds permeated every airwave, jukebox, dance, and ear, and moved everyone. What gets forgotten is that this vocal pop was just considered Rock'n'Roll and was reflected back accordingly, from the British Invasion onward. From the early '60s to today, in every variant of Rock around the world, those sounds have never stopped resounding.

This Music Player details how those specific Girl Group sounds -big productions, soulful dance, and choral harmonies- reverberate through all kinds of music directly to this day, in many surprising ways that challenge and expand the general narrative.

The Beatles with Mary Wells.

This sound had a bracing effect on The Beatles, who were as intoxicated with this new music as the older rockabilly of their heroes. They covered three of them on their debut 1963 album alone: The Cookies' "Chains", and The Shirelles' "Boys" and "Baby It's You". Soon they followed with The Marvelettes' "Please Mister Postman", The Donays' "Devil In His Heart", Peggy Lee's "Till There Was You" (via the 'The Music Man'), and the live BBC take on Little Eva's "Keep Your Hands Off My Baby".

They insisted on meeting The Supremes, who responded in kind with their own A Bit of Liverpool covers album. They wrote hit songs for compatriots like Cilla Black and Mary Hopkin, and asked Jackie DeShannon and The Ronettes to tour with them. The Shangri-Las' "Remember (Walking In the Sand)" may have had a profound effect on John; its heavy descending chords and echoed wash of harmonies bear a certain kinship to his later "I Want You (She's So Heavy)". Also, George signed Doris Troy ("Just One Look") and Ronnie Spector to Apple Records. This kind of affection came back to haunt him when he unconciously based "My Sweet Lord" on "He's So Fine" by The Chiffons, which became a legal migraine. When John and Paul broke as partners, they each went forward singing with their life partners, Yoko and Linda.

The Ronettes
with Phil Spector and George Harrison.

The British Invasion reflected America back to itself, often with loving covers that they hadn't heard in the first place. The Moody Blues broke through with Bessie Bank's "Go Now", The Hollies with Evie Sand's "I Can't Let Go", The Searchers with DeShannon's "Needles and Pins" and "When You Walk In the Room", and The Animals immortalized Nina Simone's "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood". The Yardbirds brought the fuzzy snarl to The Shirelles' "Putty In Your Hand". Manfred Mann chanted The Exciters' "Do-Wah-Diddy". Lesser known bands did great glosses as well, such as The Action's "I'll Keep On Holding On" (The Marvelettes).

Every singer loved a good song. So this went both ways, of course, with Dionne Warwick and Sandie Shaw covering "There's Always Something There To Remind Me" (Lou Johnson), The Shangri-Las sighing "He Cried" (Jay And The Americans), and Aretha Franklin swinging "Eleanor Rigby". Culture is conversation, not monologues or doctrine.

Globally, the Girl Group sounds immediately reverbed revamped by cover versions in the native tongues of Los Pekenikes (Spain), Sylvie Vartan and Ray Anthony (France), Helena Vondrackova (Czech), Equipe 84 (Italy), Las Mosquitas (Mexico), Les Bises (Canada), and patois of Laurel Aitken (Jamaica).

Girl Group, particularly in Phil Spector productions, had a grandiose sound and declarative heart; these full orchestras and fuller lungs breathed new bredth into Rock'n'Roll beyond tuff licks and swivel hips. And the vocal group sound became far more fluid with Brian Wilson's productions of The Beach Boys and The Honeys, whose love of The Ronettes' "Be My Baby" led to Spector-esque songs like "Don't Worry, Baby", "Help Me, Rhonda", "Then I Kissed Her" (The Crystals), "Darlin'", and Glen Campbell's "Guess I'm Dumb". And, by extension, albums like The Beach Boys' Pet Sounds and The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper turned that string-pop into progressive Rock.

Brian Wilson; Janis Joplin; Isaac Hayes.

The latter '60s retained the GG refrain within new contexts and outlooks, such as Janis Joplin offering up "Piece Of My Heart" (Erma Franklin), Vanilla Fudge expanding the hell out of "You Keep Me Hanging On" (The Supremes), and Isaac Hayes striding Dionne's "Walk On By" into a twelve minute orchestradelic opus.

By this point, the counterculture musical HAIR (1968) parodied the conventions of the girl groups genre: "Frank Mills" is a biker whose friend "resembles George Harrison of The Beatles" who rips off an adoring debutante; and "Black Boys/ White Boys" mocks the 'color line' with chocolate and peach soul sisters appraising each other's delectability. (Girl Group would get additional ribbing and respect in later musical productions like GREASE and HAIRSPRAY, and inspire fictional takes on The Supremes like DREAMGIRLS and SPARKLE.)

Aretha Franklin; HAIR original soundtrack; Carole King.

One Girl Group vet changed the music industry in the '70s with one album. Carole King, architect of so many GG classics like "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?", redefined herself as a singer-songwriter with her 1971 Tapestry album. Concurrent with the rise of early '70s feminism, it became one of the best-selling albums of all time. If Dylan had wanted to kill the Brill Building, he really just liberated them to become him. King's success as a troubadour solidified the industry clout of songwriter cohorts from Joni Mitchell to Patti Smith, Bette Midler to Helen Reddy, Carly Simon to Norah Jones, Tori Amos to Alicia Keyes. Meanwhile, her perverse inverse Laura Nyro was pushing the envelope into origami with her acrobatic chorales, alone and with Labelle, loosing kindred dissenters like Annette Peacock, Diamanda Galas, and Bjork.

Most hard-rocking 1970s jams were built on blues grooves with soul vocals. Many times they recovered GG-era songs they loved in this style. Smith amped up "Baby, It's You". Linda Ronstadt punched through with "You're No Good" (Betty Everett} and "Just One Look" (Doris Troy}. Bob Seger slipped the flip on "Come To Papa" (Koko Taylor's' "Come To Mama"). The Doobie Brothers turned soul sister covering "Take Me In Your Arms (Rock Me A Little While)" by Motown's Kim Weston.

New York Dolls.

The biker chick and epic heartbreak persona of The Shangri-Las had mammoth impact still in the Glam era. The New York Dolls actually wanted to be them in a carnal tryst with The Stones, and their wardrobe and setlist proved it. They swiped the line "When I say I'm in love, you best believe I'm in luv, L-U-V!" for their "Looking For A Kiss", even enlisting George "Shadow" Morton to produce their first album.

Aerosmith furthered this adulation with their remarkably faithful cover of "Remember (Walking In the Sand)", while also subtly recalling "I Want You (She's So Heavy)". The Runaways rocked as hard as anyone, while -like Queen and Heart- still retaining excellent and accomplished harmonies; their Juvie jailbreak saga in "Dead End Justice" rings with Shangri-Las drama.

Joan Jett, Debbie Harry, David Johansen, Joey Ramone.

The first Punk single in England, The Damned's 1976 "New Rose", nicks its opening line "Is she really going out with him?" from The Shangri-Las' "Leader of the Pack", while Joe Jackson had his first hit expanding that same phrase into a new song. Blondie's debut album is steeped in beat rhythms and girl group harmonies. Their first single, "X-Offender", updates dream romance songs to the sordid realities of '76 Times Square, tongue firmly in cheek. They even covered "Out In the Streets" so well many think it's their song. The Ramones remembered Rock'n'Roll radio with "Baby, I Love You" (The Ronettes) and "Needles and Pins" (Jackie DeShannon). Nikki And The Corvettes, their sonic sisters, were full of biker chick sass in a whole new level of risque.

Punk and feminism likewise played games with the archetypes of Girl Group songs. Joan Jett gave it her all earnestly reciting the identity manifesto "You Don't Own Me" (Lesley Gore). But others mocked all the stock sentiments of teenage rapture and naive love as outdated, such as D-Day's "Too Young To Date" ('79), Suburban Lawns' "Gidget Goes To Hell" ('79), Hollie And The Italians' "Tell That Girl To Shut Up" ('81), and Josie Cotton's infamous send-up of stoic bikers, "Johnny, Are You Queer?" ('82).

The B-52's:
Fred Schneider, Ricky Wilson (kneeling), Keith Strickland, Kate Pierson, Cindy Wilson.

A bouffant hairdo was a called a 'B-52' in the southern US, which was probably as bulletproof as the plane from hairspray. The influence of mid-'60s pop, beat, soul, and girl party records on the Athens band The B-52's was astronomical. Their 'dance-or-dance-more' ethos was a deliberate tonic to the descending negativity that punk and postpunk were slipping into. Be fun, and unashamed! The glowing spirit of the girl group era strobes through "52 Girls", "Give Me Back My Man", "Love Shack", and their soused cover of "Downtown" (Petula Clark).

As the '80s re-embraced Motown, the jaunty beat of "You Can't Hurry Love" paraded through new songs by Iggy Pop, Elvis Costello, The Jam, Katrina And The Waves, and The Smiths. Motortown revved the circuits in Soft Cell's synthpop medley of "Tainted Love" (Gloria Jones) and "Where Did Our Love Go?" (The Supremes). In the same spirit, Naked Eyes covered Bacharach's "Always Something There To Remind Me".

Siblings are doing it for themselves:
Aretha Franklin, Annie Lennox, Dave Stewart.

UK soul artists crested anew throughout the New Wave years. Annie Lennox had broke through covering "I Only Want To Be With You" (Dusty Springfield) with The Tourists, and her Eurythmics work shimmered with shades of Dusty, Aretha, and Francoise. ABC, Culture Club, Sade, Simply Red, Bananarama, Paul Young, Alison Moyet of Yazoo/YAZ, and Andy Bell of Erasure, are among myriad next generation UK artists who were deeply rooted in the soulful pop of the '60s. Under the '80s synth sheen beat the heart of Motown and Memphis. This rolling tide continues on lately with Amy Winehouse, Adele, Duffy, Dionne Bromfield, and Alice Russell.

Phil Spector produced the Ramones' End Of The Century (1980), while his style haunts The Clash's "The Card Cheat" and Jesus And Mary Chain's "Just Like Honey". And would Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Art Of Noise, Public Enemy, and My Bloody Valentine ever have been as epic and densely-layered without the sonic example he set in motion with GG music?

The Girl Groups inspired The Beatles who inspired groups of girls. There were many female bands pounding out Beat music with gossamer harmonies in the '60s. In the mid '80s, a new wave of the Girls In The Garage cycled back with engines revving in The Visible Targets, The Go-Go's, The Bangles, The Pandoras, The Delmonas, and Les Calamites.

Besides Motown jaunt and Beat sunshine, Girl Group also encompassed angel girls with luminous harmonies in dense moodscapes. Elizabeth Fraser and Cocteau Twins now blendered this into a mesmerizing maelstrom of darkness and light, hinging toward Shoegaze and TripHop to follow.

Julee Cruise; esiurC eeluJ.

David Lynch lives in dreams, where events blur, meanings change, and mystery is life's breath. He revels in ethereal light and supple darkness. He also seems haunted by purity that has become a memory. The effect that girl group songs in the vein of "I Love How You Love Me" and "Dressed In Black", coupled with the spectral highs of The Everly Brothers and Roy Orbison, had on him seeded BLUE VELVET (1986) and flourished entirely in TWIN PEAKS (1990), thanks to the soundtracks of Angelo Badalamenti. With Julee Cruise he had his 'dreamscape girl', even literally spotlighting her as both a siren songbird and a biker chick on the town bar's stage. She is both a memory and a prophecy, intangible but palpable.

Portishead; Garbage; The's.

'60s drama divas like The Shangri-Las, Jackie Trent, and Shirley Bassey had shone lucent within thunderstorm orchestras. Big cinematic production with eerie female vocals returned in the mid-'90s with TripHop, a hybrid of John Barry scores, hiphop beats, and Cocteau ambience, with artists like Portishead, Garbage, Bjork, Mono, Hooverphonic, and Goldfrapp.

Spector production, dynamic confession, and dreamy chorales bewitched all people across all borders in the '60s, and -as borne out on this Music Player- continued to do so across every decade and style. It is just as vibrant today in the music that matters.

Radically eclectic artists share this influence in common, and have been happy to reflect it. You can clearly hear it in the selected tunes here: in the Garage of The White Stripes, The Raveonettes, The Gore Gore Girls, Hunx And His Punx, The Love Me Nots, and Bleached; in the Indie Pop of Cults, Girls, Sleigh Bells, Panda Bear, Dum Dum Girls, La Luz, Best Coast, and Diane Coffee; in the harmonies of Lady, Stooche, The Girls At Dawn, Janelle Monae, The She's, and Baby Shakes; and in the variant soul of Shelby Lynne, Amy Winehouse, Valerie June, Kelis, and Father John Misty.

The Raveonettes; The Love Me Nots; Latasha Lee.


Girl Groups aren't the history of the Women In Rock, they are more specifically a valuable facet within that vast prism.

Women have been a part of every permutation of Rock from the beginning, as eclectic and vital to its progressions as their brothers. (If any source tells you differently, they are lying or ignorant.)

Girl Group was a loose term generally appraising the female vocal pop of the early '60s and its highly dynamic production values. At its best it was meant as an appreciative term of respect. At its worst it is a genderist pigeonhole that reduces all female musicians to eyecandy making soft Pop apart from Rock. Depends on the clear insight or clouded projection of the viewer.

So Girl Group isn't Barbies miming dance tracks. Girl Group isn't pretty-twenties with a sell-by date. In the real world outside that sexist cartoon, women have been a thriving part of every movement of music, a sonic inspiration for everyone, and an exponential wave that can't be contained. All the myopic critics, robot radio, daft downloaders, and J-Pop factories in the world can't dam that ocean.

(A separate series of posts will cover the larger history of WOMEN OF ROCK, decade by decade, in every style from the '20s to today.)

This essay and Music Player instead focuses on the specific influence of the actual, original Girl Group sound on all who followed. It makes it clear that the success of the 'girls grouped' unleashed the floodgates of singer/songwriters, punk poets, soul sisters, and riot grrrls that followed, with its clear sonic influence still audibly inherent within. From the refurbished vocal combos like The Emotions, The Pointer Sisters, Labelle, and En Vogue; to funk fatales like Parlet and Brides Of Funkenstein, Tom Tom Club, Mary Jane Girls, and Peaches; (and, admittedly, to Mtv dance divas like Debbie Gibson, Tiffany, The Spice Girls, Britney Spears, TLC, and Destiny's Child that inherit the generic term Girl Group); to full-on garage grrrls like Fanny, NQB (Sweden), The Pandoras, Bikini Kill, The's, April March, The Husbands, and Bleached.

This is dedicated "To Her, With Love".

© Tym Stevens

See Also:

Part 1 (of 2):
-YOU DON'T OWN ME: The Uprising of the 1960s GIRL GROUPS

-WOMEN OF ROCK: The 1950s
-WOMEN OF ROCK: The 1960s

-The Real History of Rock and Soul!: A Music Player Checklist

Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Pedigree of PETER GUNN

...with Massive Music Player!

now brings you the actual, all-inclusive history of Rock'n'Soul music, with Music Players.

Music Player Checklist

Spotify playlist title=
This is a Spotify player. Join up for free here.

This Music Player contains 5 hours of covers, clones, and cousins of "Peter Gunn",
from 1958 to today in chronological order, spanning all musical genres.

The Pedigree of PETER GUNN

"Louie Louie" is a riff that underlines the whole history of Rock'n'Roll, and "Peter Gunn" shadows it on the same trail.

It was created by unusual supsects who would become the world's most wanted. Writer/director Blake Edwards created the 1958 TV show, bringing in Henry Mancini to compose the themes, who cloaked the worldly detective in a jazz-noir score of torrid sax and motor engine riffs. (They went on to make their fame with the Pink Panther films.) The pianist on the sessions was future film composer John Williams.>

It was a surprisingly sophisticated and yet street-lethal score for the fresh new world of television. In fact, with its liberal use of West Coast free jazz, it opened the door for using Jazz in movies and television from then on. The bestselling soundtrack became a hinge into modern jazz for mainstream audiences. And its fusion of dramatic intrigue and brashly sensual bop created the Crime/Spy Jazz sound, paving the grooves for the soundtracks of James Bond and all his clones.

More immediately, it captured the dangerous allure of the modern city in the fantasies of young people nationwide.

Craig Stevens (r), starring as Private Eye "Peter Gunn".

Most of all, it was the power of that striding strain that arrested their attention. "Peter Gunn Theme" was the sound of walking cocky, punching felons, chasing roadsters, talking cool, and entangling hot. It was steamy and unseemly, a grinding prowl, a hungry stare, a hip-grinding dance. It was the entirety of the forbidden side of adulthood that teenagers ached to have. "The Peter Gunn title theme actually derives more from rock and roll than from jazz," Mancini clarified.

Rock'n'Roll guitarist Duane Eddy snuck his way into the club first. His twang-bar style, with its extra heavy reverb, amped the walking bassline into a tougher strut on his 1959 cover version. While Mancini's was sassy horns swinging in a hot nightspot, Eddy's was horny young nightowls on the prowl down midnight tarmac. At least in teen fantasies, it was a sidedoor into the sleazy twilight underworld they longed to slink into. The hard clang instrumentals of Duane Eddy and Link Wray ushered in Dick Dale and Surf guitar, which kept the edgy heart of Rock'n'Roll alive into the British Invasion.

Duane Eddy; Sarah Vaughan; Dick Dale.

Beyond simply the riff, the moody sound evoked by Eddy mutated into a shroud of instant atmosphere. For instance, the mid-60's English bands The Lost Souls ("This Life Of Mine") and The Syndicats ("Crawdaddy Simone") aren't playing "Gunn" specifically, but their songs are clearly rewrites of its chords and sound. Same thing for instrumentals by Freddie King ("Hide Away") and James Brown ("The Scratch"). When The Monkees broke free of their producer to play on their own records, the first thing they tried was a shambling pastiche called "Peter Gunn's Gun". Its status as a standard in any upstarts' repertoire carried it through the rehearsal holes of the world. Somebody somewhere would always don its instant cool, no matter whether honest or bootleg. Jazz queen Sarah Vaughn sang a lyrical version called "Bye, Bye" in '64. Dick Dale, Jimi Hendrix, and myriad garage bands donned its trenchcoat for some midnight rambling.

In the 70's, as rock began rebelling against its overblown indulgences, the tight riff became crucial. It was like cutting to the chase with a switchblade. Boston's Jonathan Richman had admired the lethal lyrics and blunt buzz of the Velvet Underground; he and the Modern Lovers trawled the city's dusky deadends in Peter Gunn's roadster in 1974's "Pablo Picasso". (This song is most remembered for its immortal lines, "Pablo Picasso was never called an a$$hole/ not like you.") His terse hum would soon transport punks.

X-Ray Spex; The Cramps; The B-52's.

For punkers, this edgy sordid nightscape was their reality. It became a theme song where the usual suspects were now the heroes. You can detect it in the surging buzz of X-Ray Spex's "The Day the World Turned Day-Glo" in '78. The Cramps crimped that stalking stocatto for their mix of pychobilly, garage, and horror movies by mutating it into 1979's "Human Fly". Duane's rival, the original psychobilly Link Wray, sprungload it with new edge in his "Switchblade", with punkabillies nodding in approval. The B-52's relay that riff into an alien signal via throbbing satellite with 1979's "Planet Claire", cut through with the stabbing clang of silver surfer Ricky Wilson.

The Blues Brothers; Nina Hagen; REPO MAN soundtrack.

The BLUES BROTHERS movie (1980) may have done more to expose the song to a new generation that any other source; their version is fueled by the guitar of Steve Cropper and bass of Duck Dunn, of the legendary Booker T And The MG's. Conversely, out in some bleak no man's land, Bruce Springsteen hears it on his dashboard as "Mr. State Trooper", burning through the ebon byways with some bad menace in his heart. His stripped down acoustic seethes like a harrowing confession before something terrible happens. Also in 1982, German alien Nina Hagen germinated the riff with Captain Beefheart's rasp, quotes of Bowie's "Ziggy Stardust", and cascades of cosmic clang and shrill in "Iki Maska".

The title theme of the 1984 REPO MAN film, by Iggy Pop, has definite treadmarks of Peter's ride. To underscore the point, fellow acolytes Burning Sensations repo-ed Richman's carriage, putting a Duane Eddy kit on it in their "Pablo Picasso" cover for the same movie. This version is so popular that many thought it was the original.

The shamus haunts the darks of Bauhaus' "Hair Of The Dog", Front 242's "Body To Body", and L7's "Uncle Bob". Grandmaster Flash and Tthe Furious 5 flipped fresh spin on the theme with "Style (Peter Gunn's Theme)", where Flash honed back in on the horn riffs. The British Art Of Noise chopped that HipHop with some orchestral flourish, congas, and the hard twanging strut of the actual Duane Eddy himself in their "Peter Gunn", an alternative dance smash in 1986. Aussie rebels Midnight Oil called in the lawman's ghost to bust its country's guilty conscience over issues of Aboriginal land-rights with "Beds Are Burning", with the riff's phantom flickering through their 1988 breakthrough hit. (There's also brief chops of Chuck Berry's "Little Queenie" in there, too.)

The TWIN PEAKS soundtrack by Angelo Badalamenti.

Much of Mancini's original score haunted Angelo Badalamenti's brilliant music for the TWIN PEAKS TV series (1990); the clanging reverb takes possession of the title theme, while the fingersnapping hipster jazz tunes take their cues from Mancini tracks like "Brief and Breezy". Poison Ivy, the axe-slinging dominatrix of The Cramps, claims to own about every cover of "Peter Gunn" ever made; she puts her stiletto all the way through the floorboards in her ultimate version. Covertly, Peter dogs the footsteps of '90s era songs by Living Colour, Diamanda Galas, and The A-Bones.

England's vastly underrated Elastica, known for their chop shop tricks, trysted Peter with The Beatles' "And I Love Her" for a scintillating twist in their fuzzy stomp, "Love Like Ours" (2000). Iggy & the Stooges refueled their reunion in 2003 cruising Peter's night haunts with "Skull Ring", skewering the mugging partystars and glampires who have gentrified his beat. It's the propulsive bassline of The Strokes' "Juicebox" (2005). On the eternal trail, the flatfoot still pounds the beat of The Come Ons, Los Explosibvos (Mexico), and Django Django.

Have riff, will travel. That memorable hook and the atmosphere that surrounds it always resonate beyond the moment, transporting anyone who ever hears it, and forging new paths into the future.

© Tym Stevens

See Also:

-The Legacy of LOUIE LOUIE

-Shock Waves: How SURF MUSIC Saved Rock'n'Roll!