The Ongoing History of New Music, episode 864: Riot Grrrls-A primer

There is no question that the vast majority of rock history is centred around dudes. It has been a very, very male thing. Not always, but most of the time.

There was a time when it was common knowledge (seriously!) that girls just couldn’t rock. They didn’t have the feel. They were built wrong. It just wasn’t in their DNA like it was with guys.

That’s garbage, of course. But it took a long, long, long time for those prejudices to be defeated.

The original punk rock of the mid-70s was a great help, thanks to the movement’s dogma that anyone with anything to say should be able to say it regardless of musical ability, social class, race or gender. Lots of people were able to get on board with that.

But there was backsliding in the 80s. For example, hardcore punk was among the most testosterone-driven bro-rock ever. Women were pushed to the back if not excluded entirely. And when grunge came along in the early 90s, it, too, was very dude-heavy.

Even though parts of the grunge world were totally down with feminist causes and ideals–think Kurt Cobain and the guys in Pearl Jam, who were pretty woke and sympathetic–the scene was still very much a boy’s club.

This time, though, a group of women were determined to carve out their own space with music that was about them and for them. It spoke to issues that they cared about. And it was music that could rock just as hard and be just as abrasive as what the guys were doing. Sometimes even mores.

They became known as riot grrrls. This is their story.

Songs heard on this show

  • 7 Year Bitch, Dead Men Don’t Rape
  • Patti Smith, Gloria
  • Fifth Column, Where Are They Now?
  • Mecca Normal, Who Told You So
  • Pagan Babies, Best Sunday Dress
  • Bikini Kill, Suck My Left One
  • Bratmobile, Cherry Bomb
  • Heavens to Betsy, Me&Her
  • Huggy Bear, Her Jazz
  • Sleater-Kinney, I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone
  • Team Dresch, Uncle Phranc
  • Hole, Rock Star

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, Halifax, 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.

If you ever miss a show, you can always get the podcast edition available through Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you get your on-demand audio.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ 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.

Let us know what you think!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.