Stuff I've actually read and recommend to all those interested in women who rock. It is also in no particular order and the titles are the subject of the book. Click the book and you'll be sent to Amazon. If there is a bio link it will take you to the home page where all the bios are. Hope this helps in your discovery of amazing rockin' women!
Genya tells her incredible story with both passion and a sense of nonchalance. She shares incredible stories from her life like they are common place for all of us (leaving home at 17 to go cross country with someone she had just met or having sex with Mick Jagger). She makes you feel like you were there when these things happened. The details and dialogue are rich with humor and insight. While she faced discrimination at nearly every turn, she simply demanded her own space. I was inspired by her ability to use every event in her life as a learning experience to help deal with the next event. It is like she kept bottling up the wisdom she gained throughout her life. It isn't like she didn't repeat earlier mistakes, it is just that she gained insight into her own nature. I felt inspired to move on from things beyond my control and to persevere through any hardship. A great read on how to survive though all sorts of adversity.
Suzi is a true legend and has inspired many a female musician. The book gives you a good look into her upbringing and musical beginnings. The aspect which is most unique is that she carries on an internal dialogue with herself. She tells her story as if it is happening and then has her current day self interject with comments and thoughts. (Viv Albertine does a similar thing in her first memoir, Clothes, Clothes, Clothes, Music, Music, Music, Boys, Boys, Boys.) There are great stories of people she met in the music business, behind the scene recording insights, and the life on tour. This is clearly a woman who took charge of her life and made things happen. No wonder she was such an inspiration to many young female musicians. I also enjoyed hearing about the filming of Happy Days as I was a big fan back in the day. I think you will like this book more if you are already a fan of hers or if you are interested in why she is such an inspiration.
Viv Albertine was the guitarist for the ground-breaking punk band, The Slits. This is one of the best and most intimate memoirs I have ever read. By the end, I know this sounds odd, I almost felt like I had a new friend. I read the last 25 pages slowly, not wanting the book to end. Luckily, Albertine has a new memoir out, To Throw Away Unopened, which I purchased upon release! You know you are for something special when the first chapter is titled: Masturbation. The book is divided into Side One, where she describes her childhood, her time at the center of the UK punk movement and her time with The Slits. Side Two describes her post-Slits life of filmmaking, marriage, motherhood, divorce and return to music. Albertine uses a similar literary technique as did Suzi Quatro in her memoir: she writes in the present tense as if the events are happening and then has her current day self interject comments and reflections. It is a engaging technique and gives you insights she has learned over time. This is an absolute must for fans of the Slits & UK punk, but you will find much more!
Zoe Street Howe's book is a great read! I love her introduction where she explains hearing the Slits for the first time, falling in love, and wanting to know more about them only to find nothing. So, she decides to write a book. A big positive: she interviews each of the band members and the extended "Slits Family." The book is comprehensive in its research (just wish there was an index). Howe does a great job providing background on each member of the band, the place of the Slits in the UK punk scene, interesting stories from their tour with The Clash, insights into the making of Cut and the famous cover. The book ends with the making of the second album, The Return of the Giant Slits, and the playing of their final gig. An interesting insight, which mirrors many of the comments I've read in other books, Ari Up states "The only support we had was from our guy friends who were all in groups, all of our peers like The Clash and Pistols ..." It seems often the sexism in music comes from the critics and the executives, not the musicians.
What a surprising book! I have long been a Runaways fan (yes, ever since their debut album), now certainly that initial attraction may have been the first album cover, but I loved how hard they rocked. So, when I saw this book I was psyched, always wanting to learn more. I got much more than I expected. McDonnell salvaged this band’s reputation and restored their place in musical, feminist, and cultural history. She does a great job of giving you background on all the members and how they formed as a band. She thoroughly deals with Kim Fowley and his controversial role in “creating” and promoting the band. In fact she deals with all the controversies surrounding the band in a balanced manner, giving everyone a voice. However, the most important aspect of the book is how McDonnell demonstrates the pervasive sexism the band faced, an institutional sexism that impacted all female musicians. This book goes far beyond the story of a band and is well worth reading twice.
What I found most refreshing about Hynde’s memoir is how much she downplays her fame and how brutally honest she is about her failings. Her childhood memories are told with astonishing detail and give you insights into the lyrics she will write many years later. Her life after high school through moving to London at 22 was, to be honest, dreadful. She was adrift, abused, drugged, with no hope. It wasn’t until Malcolm McLaren & Vivienne Westwood offered a job at SEX did things move in a slightly more positive direction. This got her into the inner circle of the UK punk scene where she became friends with the Sex Pistols, the Clash and others. Still, I was still 2/3 of the way through the book and she isn’t even in a band! Needless to say the last third is a whirlwind with the formation of the Pretenders, the first couple of recordings, and that’s it. She simply does not get into all the years of fame and fortune. It is a very interesting decision to skip the part that everyone knows you for and focus more on who it is that arrived at that point. The title sums up her first 25 years: Reckless.
For those who don’t know, Brownstein is the lead guitarist for Sleater-Kinney and one half of the comic duo in the show “Portlandia”. Part one of the book deals with her youth, which was rather turbulent to say the least. It was secure, but the secrets: her mother was anorexic, her father a closeted gay man. Music became her way of re-inventing herself, finding a community, and rescuing her life. She is raw, honest, angry, funny and sad. The second part of the book is basically a travelogue of life with Sleater-Kinney. The stories of being on the road and recording are great and insightful. Her reflections on the sexist nature of music criticism are especially interesting. Again, as I’ve seen with nearly all of the memoirs I’ve read, the male musicians are rarely sexist and offer tons of support. I also enjoyed all of the bits on her bandmate Corin Tucker, who happens to be my absolute favorite, incredible voice and lyricist. (I really want her to write a memoir!). This is a great book especially for S-K fans and followers of the Riot Grrl movement.
Kathy Valentine is the bass player for the Go-Gos. I found this memoir to be a fantastic read; there is just something about her prose that is compelling and keeps you hooked. I enjoyed how she littered her story with insightful reflections on life and the music business. I learned a lot about the process of forming a band, recording, and how difficult it is to keep a band together (especially when it becomes famous). There are some great stories about their videos, tours, and recordings. It is also a loving tribute to a truly great rock n roll band, The Go-GosThis memoir is also a bit different in that Valentine is a woman who wanted to be in a band from a young age and never gave up until it happened. Her childhood is also quite different from all the other memoirs I’ve read: hers was not one of abuse, but of neglect and permissiveness. And once again, she discusses the source of sexism in music coming from critics and record company executives, not the male musicians she encountered. There are some truly sad aspects to her story but in the end it is a great story of a woman trying to make her dream a reality.