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The Ongoing History of New Music encore presentation: The 90s, Part 2(b): The All-female and Female-fronted bands

During ’67’s Summer of Love, anything seemed possible. Civil rights issues were finally being addressed. There was a feeling that the Vietnam War could be stopped. Drugs and free love were in the air. And Women’s Lib was in full effect everywhere, including music.

Jimi Hendrix had become a fan of an all-female rock band from San Francisco called The Ace of Cups.

Wait: An all-girl rock band? Who wrote their own songs? Who had a chick out front that could shred like a dude? And a girl playing drums?

Even in the anything-goes vibe of 1967, that was radical. Hendrix was so impressed by their chops that he invited them to open a couple of his shows. It really did seem like some sort of defining moment for women in music.

But then the old sexist attitudes took over. Bands made up of women did not–could not–rock. That was common sense, self-evident. I mean, everyone knew that, right?

The Ace of Cups gave it a good shot, but by 1972 they’d broken up. Until punk came around a few years later, the idea of an all-female (or even a female-fronted) rock band was considered silly.

But punk brought in new egalitarian values. Fans began to embrace groups fronted by, led by and occasionally consisting entirely of women.

Deborah Harry and Blondie. Chrissie Hynde and the Pretenders. Patti Smith. The Slits Siouxsie and the Banshees. There were dozens of them.

These amazing women did all sorts of good for women’s role in rock. By the time Generation X took over in the 90s, the idea of bands where the leader and most (or all) of its members had extra X chromosomes wasn’t weird at all.

But there was still work to be done. All through the alt-rock 90s, we were influenced, inspired and entertained by some of the greatest musicians we’d ever see.

This is part 2 of our series on the alternative rock of the 1990s.

Songs heard on this show:

Sonic Youth, Kool Thing

Hole, Teenage Hole

Bikini Kill, Suck My Left One

L7, Pretend We’re Dead

Breeders, Cannonball

Cranberries, Linger (demo)

Portishead, Sour Times

Veruca Salt, Seether

Elastica, Stutter

Garbage, Only Happy When It Rains

Playlistist Eric Wilhite provides us with this:

Don’t forget that you can get the podcast version of this podcast through iTunes, Spotify or wherever you get your on-demand audio.

The Ongoing History of New Music can be heard on the following stations:

We’re still looking for more affiliates in Calgary, Kamloops, Kelowna, Regina, Saskatoon, Brandon, Windsor,  Montreal, Charlottetown, Moncton, Fredericton, and St John’s and anywhere else with a transmitter. If you’re in any of those markets and you want the show, lemme know and I’ll see what I can do.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38413 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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