Saturday, September 24, 2011

Rock Music Post 1: Ladies of the Dark

This post includes women in music who shaped and molded the punk, goth and other related post-punk genres.

These ladies often sing and write songs with themes that are of a dark nature. Siouxsie Sioux sings "Happy House" a song with a sarcastic twist. Kate Bush's yearning "Army Dreamers" is a chilling song about the effects of war and a mother's grieving her sons death during military maneuvers.

In their own unique way each of these ladies are trendsetters in music and have influenced several women in music today.

Alice Bag

Born in Los Angeles, California Alice Bag fronted the punk band The Bags. Alice took her stage name and band name (as well as other member Pat Bag) from an early gimmick they used early in their career in which they would wear a grocery bag over their head when they performed a gig.

The Bags - We Don't Need The English (1978)

Kate Bush

The English born Kate Bush got her start at the young age of 16 when she was signed to EMI Records in 1975. Pink Floyd's David Gilmour. Gilmour received a Kate Bush demo from a friend. He was impressed with what he heard and recommended that EMI give her a listen. Kate Bush's eclectic vocal, lyrical and musical style have made her one of the UK's most successful female performers of the past 40 years.

Kate's most successful album is 1985's "Hounds Of Love", which includes her classic hit "running Up That Hill (A Deal With God). Other big hits include "Wuthering Heights" (1978) (Pat Benatar remade this song in 1980) and "Don't Give Up" ( duet with Peter Gabriel)(1986).

Dinah Cancer

 For the past 30 years Dinah Cancer has been a driving force in the punk rock, horror and death rock genres of music. cancer is best remembered as the vocalist for the Los Angeles punk rock band 45 Grave. The original band was together from 1979 to 1985. The band reformed in 1989 though due to the death of Rob Ritter better known as Rob Grave (bass player) in 1990 the band disbanded again. finally in 2004 reunited again for an anniversary tour. Dinah Cancer was the only original member in this lineup which includes Rikk Agnew (formerly of Christian Death). In 2010 Rikk's brother Frank Agnew (TSOL, Social Distortion, The Adolescents) joined the band.

In their original lineup, 45 Grave released only one studio album which was 1983's "Sleep In Safety". All the songs were written by Dinah along with her band members. The album, with songs steeped in topics of death and dark spirits, has become a goth and deathrock classic. It contains the hit "Partytime".

Before forming 45 Grave, Dinah played in Castration Squad a band formed by Alice Bag of The Bags. In the early 80's Cancer dated Nikki sixx of Motley Crue, but ended up marrying Paul Cutler band member of 45 Grave.

Exene Cervenka

In 1977, 21-year-old vocalist Exene Cervenka met 23-year-old bass player John Doe at a poetry workshop in Venice, California. Very shortly afterwards --along with guitarist Billy Zoom and drummer D.J. Bonebrake--they would form X, a band as representative as any of early '80s Los Angeles punk.

X released  their first album "Los Angeles" in 1980. The album's title track was deemed controversial in mentioning the hatred the song's main character had for varying races, lifestyles and cultures.

In 1985 Exene along with X band members John Doe and DJ Bonebrake and Dave Alvin (of the Blasters and Flesh Eaters) formed the country punk band The Knitters. The Knitters released two albums including 1985's "Poor Little Critter On The Road" which is considered a country-punk classic.

To date Exene has released 5 solo albums and one collaboration album with Lydia Lunch. Exene's solo albums have all touched on folk tinged country sounds with hints of punk. Her lyrical themes range from alcohol addiction to social injustice, women in trouble, and white trash culture. Her first solo album "Old Wive's Tales" was released in 1989. Her second solo album 1990's "Running Sacred" is considered her best by many.

Nina Hagen

Nina Hagen is one of the most outlandish female rockers in the history of music. Her vocal styles mixes operatic undertones with screams of rage and gothic moans and groans. 
Nina a German singer/songwriter and actress (born in 1955) and was an opera prodigy by the age of nine, began her career in Poland singer cover tunes of Tina Turner and Janis Joplin songs. In 1977 Nina formed the Nina Hagen Band and released their debut album in 1978. The debut album included a German version of the Tubes' "White Punks On Dope". The song brought critical acclaim to Nina Hagen and helped to grow her fan base. 

The second album Unbehagen included a German remake of Lene Lovich's "Lucky Number", this song also helped to further expand Hagen's fan base.

In all Hagen has released 16 studio albums with her most successful being 1983's "Fearless" also released as "Angstlos" in Germany. Fearless contains Hagen's biggest hits "New York, New York" and "Zarah". Both of which were huge dance club hits. "New York, New York" reached #9 on the U.S. Billboard Dance Club Chart and "Zarah" reached #45 on the same chart later in '83.

New York, New York - English Version

New York, New York - German Version

Lene Lovich

Lene Lovich was one of the most revered new wave/goth singer/songwriter/musicians in the late 70's and early 80's. Her quirky vocals and upbeat music scored a non-stop parade of dance club hits from 1979-1982 including "Lucky Number", "Home", "New Toy", "It's You, Only You" and "Blue Hotel".

Lovich was born in Detroit, Michigan and raised in Hull, England. She formed her first band (a funk outfit) in 1975 but did not achieve success so she moved on. In 1977 Lene wrote lyrics to music composed by French musician Cerrone. The outcome was the disco classic "Supernature". By now Lene's career was off to a good start. She was signed to Stiff records in 1978 and her first official single was released "I Think We're Alone Now" ( a cover of the Tommy James and Shondells classic) with "Lucky Number" on the b-side. "Lucky Number" ended up garnering more attention so the single was rereleased in early 1979 this time with "Lucky Number" as the a-side. The song ended up reaching #3 in the Uk and #18 in Austria. Lene had her first legitimate hit. The song also fared extremely well in many underground and disco dance clubs in the U.S. and has become a dance club classic.

Lydia Lunch

Born in 1959, New York native Lydia Lunch is a poet, singer, songwriter and actress who got her start in the New York No Wave post-punk era. Her work typically features provocative and confrontational delivery and has maintained an anti-commercial ethic, operating independently of major labels and distributors.

Lydia earned her surname "Lunch" when she lived in a communal household of artists and musicians in new York City. Lydia would steal lunches for her starving artist friends. While living in this commune she met and friended Kitty Bruce the daughter of Lenny Bruce.

lunch recorded several singles with her band Teenage Jesus and the Jerks in 1978 and 1979. Toward the end of 1979 she released her first solo album "Queen of Siam". The album sold poorly but did achieve cult status for Lunch. The album features her off-key and snarling vocals, especially on her cover version of the pop song "Spooky".Lunch has remained active on the music scene releasing an EP with Mars Volta musician Omar Rodriguez-Lopez in 2007.

Lunch has released 13 spoken word albums and EP's.

Siouxsie Sioux

Siouxsie Sioux is the Goddess of Goth and the Queen of Post Punk. Her voice and music have inspired a generation like no other singer of her time. Siouxsie Sioux is not only a singer but a lifestyle and a guide of glam fashion and attitude.

Sioux was born Susan Janet Ballion in 1957 in London, England. As a young teenager her earliest musical influences were David Bowie, Lou Reed, Marc Bolan, Bryan Ferry of Roxy Music and Iggy Pop. She was a loner who found solace in her music and art.

In 1976 Siouxsie and friend Steve Severin decided to form a band. They played a few punk festivals and other gigs and by 1977 they formed Siouxsie and the Banshees. Severin played bass in the band. In 1978 they released their first single "Hong Kong Garden" which was an instant hit reaching #7 on the UK singles chart and was the beginning of an amazingly successful career in which Siouxsie and her Banshees recorded 11 studio of which 9 reached the top 20 in the UK and 6 charted in the U.S. Their biggest hit in the UK was a 1983 cover of the Beatles "Dear Prudence" which reached #3. In the U.S. their biggest hit was 1991's "Kiss Them For Me" which made it all the way to #23.

Poly Styrene

Poly Styrene is a trendsetter in many ways. She is one of the first and very few black female singers in punk rock. Born Marianne Joan Elliot-Said in 1957 the British punk rock singer, songwriter and musician fronted the pioneering punk rock band X-Ray Spex.

As a teenager, Marianne was a "barefoot hippie". At age 15, she ran away from home with £3 in her pocket, and hitchhiked from one music festival to another, staying at hippie crash pads. She thought of this as a challenge to survive. The adventure ended when she stepped on a rusty nail while bathing in a stream and had to be treated for septicaemia.

Poly recorded her first demo with producer Ted Bunting in 1975, when she was just 16 years old, and released her first, reggae, single, "Silly Billy"/"What A Way", as "Mari Elliott" in 1976. After that Poly formed X-Ray Spex with Jak Airport (Jack Stafford) on guitars, Paul Dean on bass, Paul 'B. P.' Hurding on drums, and Lora Logic (born Susan Whitby) on saxophone. This latter instrument was an atypical addition to the standard punk instrumental line-up, and became one of the group's most distinctive features. Although the groups most extraordinary feature was Poly's voice. Her voice has been variously described as "effervescently discordant" and "powerful enough to drill holes through sheet metal".

Unorthodox in appearance, she wore thick braces on her teeth and once stated that "I said that I wasn't a sex symbol and that if anybody tried to make me one I'd shave my head tomorrow". She later actually did at Johnny Rotten's flat prior to a concert at Victoria Park. 

X-Ray Spex released only two studio albums 1978's classic "Germ Free Adolescents" and 1995's "Conscious Consumer" by a newly reformed X-Ray Spex. Poly released three solo albums including 1980's "Translucence", which featured a quieter jazzy sound as opposed to X-Ray Spex's raucous thrashing punk rock.

Sadly Poly Styrene passed away at the young age of 53 on April 25, 2011. She had been treated for breast cancer which ended up spreading to her spine and lungs. RIP Poly your legacy will live on in our memories.



  1. Nice to see the ladies of Goth noticed for a change! Excellent post!!



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