A few days before 2017 ended, Bono, the lead singer for the band U2 was on the cover of and gave an interview to Rolling Stones Magazine in which he said, and I quote (because I literally cannot make this stuff up), “I think music has gotten very girly”. He did say that “there are some good things about that”, but then he went on to say that “hip-hop is the only place for young male anger at the moment—and that’s not good”.
Sadly, Bono wasn’t finished talking. “In the end, what is rock & roll? Rage is at the heart of it,” he said. “Some great rock & roll tends to have that, which is why the Who were such a great band. Or Pearl Jam. Eddie has that rage.” So, basically, according to Bono, music is, or should be, about ‘young male anger’ (As if the entire history of the human race hasn’t been about male anger). Whatever that means.
Anyway, Joan Jett would agree that rage is at the heart of Rock & Roll. However, she remembers the 70’s and 80’s a lot differently that Bono does. In fact, Joan Jett was quoted saying “anger for women in music, for me, stemmed from the f**king principle. It was about being told that a girl couldn’t play guitar when you’re sitting in school next to girls playing violin and cello and Beethoven and Bach. The anger came from not been given a chance, from being told to shut up and sit down and act like a lady. Once you start throwing that kind of s**t around, it’s war!”
You see, Punk music introduced aggressive, all-female bands like The Slits and front-women like Siouxie Sioux into the punk music scene. What’s so remarkable is that these women never had to play objects, seductresses, lovers, or anything of the sort. Yet they still managed to manifest the power in their sexuality, their intelligence and their anger.
In the late ’70s, women strode out as leaders in punk music scenes, so I decided to make a short list of female-led Punk bands that are worth a listen.
First up, the Runaways, formed entirely by teenage women, they are best known for their guitarists Joan Jett and Lita Ford.
Now, the Runaways didn’t technically start out as a punk band, however, they did become associated with several London and New York punks, especially due to Joan Jett’s orientation towards glam and punk.
You can listen to their song ‘Cherry Bomb’ here.
Next on the list (not that the order matters), are the Slits. Arising in 1976 from former members of a band called ‘Flowers of Romance’, the almost all-female Slits had a very different sound from the Runaways. Like the Clash, the Slits evolved from raw street punk to grabbing some reggae ideas and creating a weirder sound than anything before them (even though later male post-punk bands like ‘Swell Maps’ took a lot from this sound).
You can listen to their song ‘Typical Girl’ here.
Siouxsie and the Banshees
You may remember I mentioned Siouxsie Sioux during the introduction. Well, here she is again.
She started her career as a Sex Pistols follower, but she stood out amongst the crowd. When she finally decided to take the stage herself, she was utterly confident and in control. Not only that, but she was modern and completely unlike any other female singer (before or since). She also gets credit for being one of the creators of Goth Rock.
Watch her perform ‘Hong Kong Garden’ here.
Finally, I have to mention Patti Smith. In my opinion, Patti Smith is easily one of the most influential punk rockers from the 70’s. In fact, she was nicknamed ‘the godmother of punk’. Her music and sound were deeply influenced by feminism and poetry, which makes her very interesting to listen to.
You can listen to her sing ‘Gloria’ here.