Artist Spotlight

Bebe Buell, From Rebel Heart to Rebel Soul

While Bebe Buell might have first been brought to your attention as a model or girlfriend to the rockstars, she doesn’t dwell on the past. In fact, this coming year alone she has a lot planned. Having moved to Nashville after a trip in 2012 to sing on an Eddy Arnold tribute record, Bebe Buell uprooted her New York life and chose the southern life. “I fell into some kind of magical vortex that I think happens to some people when they come to Nashville. I don’t think you choose Nashville, I think Nashville chooses you,” says Buell.

Bebe Buell
Photo by Alan Mercer

Bebe Buell released New York Times Bestseller, Rebel Heart, in 2001 co-written with Victor Bockis. “I can’t even read that book anymore. So much of life has changed since that book was written.” Now, Bebe Buell has three books in the works. “I’m compiling a coffee table photo book which will span my entire life from birth until now. It will have all never before seen photos. It’s a real art project, It’s going to be an art book. I’m actually doing the follow up to Rebel Heart which is Rebel Soul and I’ll pick up where Rebel Heart left off. I’ve been diligently working on that for almost three years now. And, I’m also doing a beauty book. People always ask me what my tips and my secrets are so I decided I’m going to do that. It’s going to be very spiritual, it’s going to talk about your inner state of mind and where you’re at artistically and spiritually emanates in your physical being.”

Bebe Buell first moved to New York after high school where she worked as a model. She posed for Playboy as Miss November in 1974. “As soon as I posed for Playboy which was really just a job for me and if people knew what it was like to do a Playboy shoot it’s very professional. It’s like doing a modelling job except there’s no clothes. You’re there to make a nice photo. I had no idea the backlash I was going to get. But that changed- look what happened in the 90s. Everyone did Playboy including Cindy Crawford. And now fashion magazines have more nudity in them than Playboy.” Although, she was always drawn to music. She quickly found her way to Max’s Kansas City and CBGB. Bebe Buell is still close friends with Patti Smith and Debbie Harry whom she met early on, “They’re my girlfriends, these are people I’ve known since I was a young, young girl. I knew Patti when she was a poet, I knew her before she ever started singing. When she did her first singing engagement it was just she and Lenny Kaye. She was up there doing her poetry and then she would break into half song, half poetry- I saw all of those gigs, I watched every single one of them. As far as Debbie, she was always a singer. I probably should have gotten started sooner than I did. But I had that modelling thing that Patti and Debbie didn’t have which gave me a lot of security financially. It gave me the ability to be independent. But as soon as I felt that I could, I was in it. By ’78, ’79, I was tinkering. By ’80 I had formed my first band the B-Sides. And by ’81 my first record was out. I got to work pretty quick.”


After the B-Sides, Buell formed the Gargoyles and then the Bebe Buell band. Now, she’s working on a brand new band and show called Bebe Buell and the Rebel Souls which includes Bebe’s husband, Jim Walls on guitar and Mindy Wright on drums. Their debut show, called “Baring It All” will take place October 27th at the Bluebird Cafe in Nashville. “It’s a two hour show, you will travel through my entire life. We’ll start from the very first record I put out, Covers Girl, and we will play songs and travel through my entire catalog in the first hour. The last hour of the show will be all of my new songs, all the stuff I’ve written since I’ve been in Nashville.”

If having three books in the works and a new band isn’t enough, Buell also has a movie in the works as well as hosting a TV show. The movie will be completely set and created in Nashville. She has written it and cast it and will star in it as well as co-direct it. “It’s my love letter to Nashville.” The TV show she will host is called Routes of Rock, in which Buell will guide viewers through legendary locations where famous bands were created, albums were made and rock n’ roll history was born. How she has time for all of it, I do not know. “I’m not afraid of hard work, never have been.”

Courtesy of Bebe Buell, Photo by Alan Mercer
Courtesy of Bebe Buell, Photo by Alan Mercer

Having dated a lot of high profile musicians, in Rebel Heart, Buell speaks of her relationship with Elvis Costello and how in love she was with him. Their relationship did not end well. After reading the book, I had to know if they two of them ever made up. “You know, I thought we had. Around 2012, when Linda (Ramone) threw the Commando book release party for Johnny Ramone at CBGB, he came to that party and we hugged and he told me everything was okay. I thought we had sort of made amends. We would pass each other on the street because he lived a block away from my daughter and his twins went to the same school that my grandson went to and we would tip our hats and I thought we were in a good place. When he played here in Nashville he gave me the best tickets in the house. He gave me second row, seat B. It was a little joke we had when we were dating, get it? B-B. I thought everything was okay. But then his book came out and I read his paragraph that he canoodled in there and I thought, good lord, what’s wrong with him? First of all, I’ve never owned eight pieces of luggage in my life. Anybody that knows me knows that I travel light. This whole fantasy that he created about me showing up- by the way, he says I showed up with eight pieces of luggage? It was upsetting, I was in Los Angeles and he was calling me and courting me and he’s the one that flew me to London. He wanted me to be there with him for his birthday. And at that point, he had convinced me he was separated from his wife and getting a divorce. There’s two sides to every story. I’ve had to endure whatever came from that but at the same time I hold my head up high because I believe people are not stupid. Elvis is very transparent, if you want to know how he felt and what’s going on in his life, all you have to do is listen to his songs. I didn’t write the songs, he did, so he has every right to say what he wants. I don’t feel defined by him. There was a time when I did, and I loved him so much it was embarrassing. I was also in my twenties, I’ve grown up a lot. As far as I was concerned, I thought we had made amends. He had me backstage at the Nashville show. It came as a very big shock to me when the book came out. I hope that he has found the happiness that he deserves. I want him to be happy. When you really love someone as much as I loved him, you get joy when you see them happy. I just can’t let it get to me anymore. When I look at the relationship I have with my daughter’s father, I don’t care if Elvis Costello likes me or not. Nick Lowe said the best thing, ‘ I don’t what he’s so upset about, all she ever did was talk about how wonderful he was and what a great lover he was.’ You live and you learn and you grow up. And I have such a beautiful relationship with Steven (Tyler), that’s the man I created a child with. Steven’s been in my life for 43 years. I figure that’s what’s important, family.”bebe hot wacks

Bebe Buell is a wonderful and strong role model for women out there and she hopes to continue to empower women of all ages. “Pop culture will try to define you by who’s on your arm. They don’t do that to men. You have to let that roll off your back and continue your journey. I don’t like being defined by the people I’ve had relationships with, that seems kind of wrong. I don’t think any woman should be defined by that.”


An avid rock musician and enthusiast as well as a rock history buff.

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