The Real Eighties: Girls Wanna Rock

“Music journalism” is, by and large, about as useful as road treadmills:

And one of its biggest, oldest, hoariest memes – nearly every “music journalist” trundles it out every four or five years or so – is to trot out a couple of female musicians and write glowingly about “women breaking into the testosterone-laced world of rock and roll!”.

They all need to take a pill.  It was all done, usually better, by 1984 or so.

Oh, sure – there’d been women in popular music for decades.  Peggy Lee – a native of my hometown, Jamestown ND, made it very, very big between the end of the war and 1960.   There’d been any number of other women selling an awful lot of records – everyone from the Shangri-Las to Linda Ronstadt.  Most of them were not rock and rollers – they were R&B and pop singers, mostly, and for the most part they operated pretty much within styles that’d been defined by guys, either before or for them.   More or less.  (With some exceptions).

But during the eighties, women went from curiosities to hitmakers in their own right.

For my money?  The Pretenders – which was really Chrissie Hynde’s baby from the beginning – were the best of the lot for my money…:

I need more.

Heck, even when it’s lip-synched I love it…

Joan Jett? Who brought the fun of the Ramones and the “tight” of a solid metal band…

…and, in her own way, may have been the apogee of punk rock.

Not that she didn’t have a way with an older cover:

Jett and Hynde pretty much paved their own paths in the business…

…and, love her or hate her, so did Madonna, one of the top-selling acts of the past thirty years or so:

I wasn’t a fan – but there’s no denying that she built herself into a star in the eighties – like Hynde and Jett – and has pretty much kept herself there.

Other female artists were perhaps less significant in an industrial or social sense. Still, when asked the question “who would win if Susanna Hoffs went to war with Mikki Steele to determine who was hotter…”

“…the answer would be “everyone”.

So – “music journalists” will keep right on declaring every new female act that comes along to be the ones that “cracked the testosterone-laced world of rock and roll”.

But now you all know better.

10 thoughts on “The Real Eighties: Girls Wanna Rock

  1. Man, the Pretenders were so good, especially at the beginning.

    You definitely picked the right Bangles song, Mitch. Fun fact — Mikki Steele of the Bangles was part of the Runaways, Joan Jett’s first band.

  2. I also liked the Pretenders. When Aimee Mann came along in the 1990’s, I liked her, too.

  3. Let’s not forget that Heart powered out of the 70’s. Despite the preciousness of their first album cover, the Wilson sisters showed they could front a hard-driving rock band in the key positions of lead singer and guitarist. They had an edge to them that was more rock than pop. Unfortunately, I heard them in a radio interview in early last decade and they were about as ignorant as a bag of Pop-rocks.

  4. Aimee Mann’s band ‘Til Tuesday was, technically at least, an 80’s band. I saw them open for Tom Petty on his Southern Accents tour. She’s written some good stuff.

    Billy Joel, on music journalism: There’s a new band in town but you can’t get the sound from the story in the magazine, aimed at your average teen.

    Not quite as good as the Zappa quote, but still.

  5. PJ, that’s right. I only discovered ‘Til Tuesday after I discovered Aimee when she went solo.

  6. Oh snap, I also forgot to give a shout-out to Wendy & Lisa. And although of a different (and earlier) decade, a passing reference to Patti Smith would have been in order….

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