Record stores have a display wall for geeks like me. That’s where they put the super rare, used records and the limited edition 180 gram reissues. The last time I was at Shake It! Records scrounging for The Pretenders’ first album I looked up and saw the Girls with Guitars comp. The price was steep and I was on a mission and a budget. I went home with a used Nick Lowe album and despite what The Bible says I coveted. So when I got a twenty five dollar gift card from my boss for my birthday, I knew where I was headed and what I wanted. I told myself it was a necessary addition to my archive and a resource for Women In Rock. $23.99 plus tax comes to exactly $25.65 and the owner was nice enough to make it even as I dug in my pocket for change that wasn’t there. When I got home and slapped this on the turntable I wasn’t disappointed.
This comp rocks from start to finish! It’s nicely sequenced, starting out with mid-sixties Beat groups and ending with a proggy psychedelic freakout. The back sleeve lists the original label, issue number and date; the inner sleeve has a bio for each band and photos of the groups. Every band but one is all female (the liner notes refer to Raylene and The Blue Angels as “…Raylene and her guys…” and there’s no photo so I’m inferring.)
Collete and The Bandits kicks things off with a great twist number with just enough fuzz and tremelo to give the song a dirty belly under the sweet vocals. Raylene and The Blue Angels tear it up on “Shakin’ All Over” with a honking sax and a reverbed out guitar that lies in between Terry and The Pirates version and Pete Townsend’s Live at Leeds overdrive. In the end the sax gets the solo. The Liverbirds bang out “Bo Diddley Is a Lover” and sound hauntingly like Mo Tucker (jamming with Sonic Youth)’s version of “Bo Diddley” from her 8o’s solo album. Goldie and The Gingerbreads have great vocals that remind me of Wanda Jackson dueting with Brenda Lee. The Debutantes definitely come out on their version of “Shake a Tail Feather” that’d get any party started. Gail Harris with The Wailers close side one with their take on Ike and Tina’s “Idolize You.” I love the farafisa and the cha-cha beat, but it’s the shredding soul screams that make me tingle. The Girls are punk psyche from The Sunset Strip circa ‘65. They got some spooky “Oooohs”, great changes and a jangle that’s more amphetamine than marijuana. The What Four (my new favorite band name) are even tougher on “I’m Gonna Destroy That Boy.” Guitarist Cathy summed it up when she said “…an all-girl choir from a detention home.” The Beas’ “International Girl” is a failed garage attempt at a hit single. On first listen, it was my least favorite, but it really grew on me. Imagine “Surfin’ U.S.A. colliding into “Dancin’ In The Streets.” This could be a manifesto. The raunchiest number on the comp is “Outta Reach” by She These gals look more like Blue Cheer than The Shang-ri-las and they play like it. They’ve got heavy organ and a singer that works it like Iggy Pop. The Ace of Cups are my faves with their fuzzed out ode “Stones.” “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but I’m in love with The Rolling Stones because their grass is greener.” Indeed. The back cover features a shot of Ace of Cups playing on a flat bed truck with their stacked amps and hair blowing in the wind just like the MC5 of The Airplane at a free festival. That picture don’t lie they’re ready to ‘tear down the walls, Mother ****er’ and “Kick Out the Jams.” She Trinity (no relation to She) brings it home and takes us into the Seventies with “Climb that Tree.” Musically this would sound at home on the first couple of Deep Purple albums. There’s a burst of lead guitar, angelic vocals then Hammond B3 organ, and that’s just the intro to the heaviness. Vocally this band blows Deep Purple away with baroque harmonies and a lead singer with more range than Rob Evans and more control than Ian Gillian.
Girls with Guitars is the vinyl highlights of several Cd comps and the label also offers Cds of She, Ace of Cups, and The Liverbirds. I’d like to note that in the mid-sixties it was a lot harder to get a record made than it is today. Bands that got on record were usually local scene veterans who played teen clubs and dances every weekend. It was easy to get your chops together playing a couple of sets of covers and sneaking in some originals. Nowadays it’s easy to go do in the basement or rent a practice room, bang out seven or eight songs, record them and call yourself a band. Bands in the garage era had to work. Almost any Nuggets, Pebbles, or High in the Sixties comp will rock your world because the bands were tight. Women at that time had to be even more determined. Several of the Bios list multiple line ups and name changes as the band leaders grew with the history of rock-n-roll and changed with the times. In keeping with Women In Rock’s mission to celebrate and encourage female musicians I’d like to end with some quotes:
“ ‘…in ninth grade I saw The Beatles on Ed Sullivan and decided I wanted a band like that, but it would be all girls. I had never seen or heard of an all girl band, but I didn’t see any reason why we wouldn,t be screamed over too.’
A keen musician, Jan taught her friend Lynn Hawkins to play guitar and gave Diane Abray some lessons on her brother’s drum kit: The Debutantes were born.”
“…after attending a Beach Boys concert in Sacramento in 1964, Nancy Ross decided to strap on a guitar and start her own group. With younger sister Sally on bass and their pal Vicky Puccini on drums, the short lived Toads were spawned. Next came Id…shortly to become The Harem. They recorded some crude demos at a local studio in 1966, and later came close to signing with Liberty Records…they were kept busy playing clubs, colleges, Air Force bases and love-ins. Inspired by Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Legend of She they renamed themselves She in 1969. Now sounding less like The Shaggs and more like Jefferson Airplane, in 1970 …the group signed to Kent records. Several tracks were recorded, but just one single was issued, “Out of Reach” written by Nancy and co-produced by Barry Goldberg of The Electric Flag.”