grlz - women ahead of their time!

Varous Artists

Various Artists: GRLZ
Label: Crippled Dick Hot Wax!
Catalogue No. CDHW 099
Release Date: August 2005
Distribution Germany: Alive!
Distribution World: MDM
Vinyl limited edition, non-exclusive distribution
Both covers available in limited edition fluorescent two-colour

Women ahead of their time

Track listing:

01. Maximum Joy: Stretch (1981)
02. Ludus: Breaking The Rules (1983)
03. Dorothy: Softness (1980)
04. JaJaJa: Katzrap (1982)
05. Bow Wow Wow: C-30, C-60, C-90 ANDA! (1980)
06. Delta 5: Mind Your Own Business (1980)
07. Slits: I Heard It Thru The Grapevine (tbc)
08. Rip, Rig and Panic: Storm The Reality Asylum (1982)
09. Anna Domino: Zanna (1988)
10. New Age Steppers: Fade Away (1981)
11. Rip, Rig and Panic: Sunken Love (1982)
12. Nicolle Meyer: Nowhere By Mir (1983)

Liner notes by Vivien Goldman
To be released in august 2005

Background information

Ladies to the mike, please!
After a long stint of male dominance during the 70s – with only a few scattered exceptions to prove the rule – the birth of punk manifested the dawn of a new self-confidence: awkward girl bands like The Slits, Au Pairs or German variant Mania D decided to cause a stir in their dick-dominated surroundings. The cliché of the dishwashing female reduced to rearing offspring and shooting the odd admiring glance at her strong breadwinner was about to undergo a radical U-turn – many of the era’s pivotal bands featured women right at the frontline.

Kickstarted by provocative pop actionists like Valie Export in the early 70s, this new feminist attitude was picked up and perpetuated by her musical sisters in mind.

Nevertheless, this compilation does not dwell on the political statements behind the scene’s artistic emancipation, but rather highlights its singers’ newfound musical self-confidence. All tracks featured here simply bristle with untainted, exuberant freshness:

Formed in 1979, Bristol band Maximum Joy was the brainchild of Janine Rainforth (vocals/violin/clarinet) and Tony Wrafter (saxophone/trumpet). Emerging from the wake of the infamous Pop Group, Maximum Joy soon came up with their very own take on the post-punk Bristol sound.
Other founder members included Charlie Llewellyn (drums, previously of Glaxo Babies), Dan Catsis (bass, previously of Pop Group & Glaxo Babies) and John Waddington (guitar, previously of Pop Group).
Quickly snapped up by Dick O’Dell’s Y Records, Maximum Joy’s first single Stretch not only graced the NME Indie Top Ten, but also became a big underground hit all over the world. Unsurprisingly, Radio 1’s late, great John Peel was a big fan and the band recorded several seminal Peel Sessions, followed by four more singles and the LP Station MXJY.

In August 1978, Liverpool native Linder Sterling and guitarist Arthur Kadmon decided to form a new band – and less than two months later Ludus performed their very first show at Manchester’s Factory Club, supporting the Pop Group.
While their debut EP The Visit - combining angular, jazz-informed chords with Linder’s unflinching lyrical exploration of sexual politics and cultural anxiety - entered the UK Indie chart at 32, Ludus continued to conquer the venues around Manchester with bands like Psychedelic Furs, Joy Division or Monochrome Set. Unlike their peers, Ludus never used an outside producer, although the ubiquitous Martin Hannett (who worked with Joy Divison, Magazine and other Factory bands) expressed strong interest, as did ex-Van der Graaf Generator mainman Peter Hammill who edited some of their songs.
In 1982, the group opted for a richer, more expansive sound and – now a fully-fledged 7-piece band - recorded an excellent four-song BBC radio session for John Peel. Due to their enlarged line-up, Ludus live performances became increasingly rare, one of the last being a seminal show at the Hacienda in Manchester where Linder performed in a dress made of leftover chicken meat sewn onto layers of black netting. As a cunning take on Buck’s Fizz’ famous Eurovision skirt wizardry, she finally whipped aside her dress to reveal a large black dildo. Highlighting one of Linder’s pivotal concerns – the cultural exploitation of women – this act was nevertheless unlikely to launch the group into the wider mainstream. Linder: „At the same time, they were showing lots of soft porn at the Hacienda and thought it was really cool. Being a vegetarian, I took my revenge - I got some meat from a Chinese restaurant, all the discarded entrails...The Hacienda was still male preserve. They were panicking – „It’s going to stain the floors!“ – and expelled the bloodied Linder from the cocktail bar.“
Prior to the show, her cronies had placed paper plates adorned with cigarette stubs and red-stained tampons on each and every table. „Tony Wilson (then boss of Factory Records and the Hacienda) came in and went fucking spare. He went completely bananas. I have never seen him lose it like that before – he is normally the urbane Mr. Cool, you know. He was incredibly shaken by it, so they put them all away. But then Linder came up with her trump card of a dress.“
Ludus, who broke up in 1984, recorded several records for Disques du Crepuscule, Sordide Sentimental, New Hormones etc.

„When 19-year-old Dorothy first walked into the reception of the Industrial Records office, no one was quite sure what to expect. But it only took one play of the tape she’d made with young Scots guitarist Alex Fergusson and our minds were made up – HIT was stamped all over it! These songs may not be what you would expect from our label, but we have never been afraid to do something different if we believe in it. And you can take it from us – Dorothy got what it takes!“ Tony Graves (Industrial Records)
Produced and arranged by Alex Fergusson (Psychic TV) this is indeed a very unusual record for infamous label Industrial Records (Home of Throbbing Gristle and SPK). “From 1979 to 1981 I had a song assignment deal with Southern music in London - I could use their 8-track studio to demo songs as long as they got the publishing rights. I wrote a variety of songs during that period and Industrial records liked I Confess so much that they wanted to put it out as a single, so we needed a B-side. Genesis P. Orridge gave me the lyrics to Softness. I knew Gen from when I was in Alternative TV, so it is interesting that Softness should become my first musical collaboration with him!” Alex Fergusson (January 2005)

With New York singer Julie Jigsaw, Pyrolator drummer Frank Samba and Wietn Wito on bass and guitar the three members of Ja Ja Ja (German for „Yes Yes Yes“) first met in the early 80s. A little later, in 1982, Ja Ja Ja went on to release their No Wave-inspired 7” Katzrap on infamous Dusseldorf Label Atatak (Der Plan, Pyrolator, Holger Hiller, Andreas Dorau). The single’s great success at home and abroad was swiftly followed by an untitled long player, which unfortunately didn’t manage to capture their debut’s explosive freshness.

Following on from the success of the Sex Pistols, Bow Wow Wow turned out to be yet another of U.K. manager Malcolm McLaren’s ingenious brainchilds. In the early '80s, McLaren brought together the three musicians behind Adam Ant - Matthew Ashman (guitar), Leigh Gorman (bass) and David Barbarossa (drums) - with teenage singing sensation Annabella Lwin.
As Matthew put it: “I was an Ant. It was a horrendous experience. I’m really glad I’m out of the band. McLaren came along to be our manager in the Ants and he told us to kick Adam out. So we did. Adam was writing all of the songs before McLaren came along… and Adam wasn’t very good, really. I didn’t really like him. He wasn’t very good at dancing and I thought he was a bit old. He was 25…so, we kicked him out.”
Legend has it that McLaren discovered the 14-year-old Myant Myant Aye (Burmese for “cool, cool, high”) when she was singing in a North London dry cleaner’s where she helped out after school. To simplify pronunciation for English speakers, McLaren decided to change the Burmese-born immigrant’s name to Annabella Lwin (pronounced Lu-win).
In keeping with McLaren’s knack for stirring publicity, Bow Wow Wow’s debut release was the world’s first-ever cassette single. In July 1980, EMI released C30, C60, C90, Go (backed by Sun, Sea, and Piracy) on cassette only in the U.K. The single was followed by another cassette-only, U.K.–only release, Your Cassette Pet, featuring eight snappy tracks. Off this EP one vinyl single, W.O.R.K. (N.O. Nah No No My Daddy Don’t), was released in March1981, backed by C30, C60, C90, Anda.
In 1983, Lwin decided to quit the group to pursue a solo career and the remaining three changed their name to the Chiefs of Relief. Both Lwin and the Chiefs went on to issue their own albums. In 1995, Ashman succumbed to diabetes and a reformed Bow Wow Wow resurfaced in 1998 with Wild in the U.S.A., featuring both remixes and live recordings from the reunion tour.

Initially inspired by the success of local heroes The Mekons and Gang of Four, Leeds’ Delta 5 later emerged as one of the key figures of feminist New Wave. Formed in 1979 by vocalist/guitarist Julz Sale, fretless bassist Ros Allen and bassist Bethan Peters, the group started out as a lark, but with the later addition of guitarist Alan Briggs and drummer Kelvin Knight, Delta 5’s debut single Mind Your Own Business thrust them to the forefront of Leeds’ post-punk community. Frequently linked to Gang of Four - in addition to a similarly abrasive funk sound, Delta 5 were also at the vanguard of Rock Against Racism and Knight once sat in for Gang drummer Hugo Burnham - the group's importance as political leaders rose in the wake of a notorious street attack on its members by right-wing thugs. Their unique two-bass rhythm section clearly set them apart from their peers, and the success of their second single You culminated in a triumphant U.S. tour. In 1981, upon leaving Rough Trade to sign with Charisma subsidiary Pre, Delta 5 issued their debut LP, See the Whirl. Despite featuring some of their early singles, much of the record fell prey to over-production - a critical and commercial failure. The group disbanded shortly after its release. (Jason Ankeny, All Music Guide)

For the short time of their existence, Britain’s infamous Pop Group proved what crazed middle-class boys are capable when they disdain all compromise: lots of hot air, plenty of noise, fragile moments of beauty and a brand new view of their surroundings. Sceptics might need to take a look at their successors to understand this band’s true importance: Mark Stewart, a cornerstone of Adrian Sherwood’s seminal On-U-Sound label as Mark Stewart the Mafia, took in a certain Tricky whose trip hop might have taken a very different turn if not for this fateful flatmate. Jon Waddington inspired the amazing Maximum Joy to exceptional deeds. Bruce Smith played with the Slits, Public Image, Soul II Soul and Björk. Simon Underwood stormed the charts with Pigbag – and, last but not least, Gareth Sager and Bruce Smith founded Rip, Rig & Panic, the depoliticised, jazz-influenced offshoot of the Pop Group closely linked to the New Age Steppers - both vital springboards for upcoming superstar Neneh Cherry.
Named after a terrific '60s jazz album by Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Rip, Rig & Panic provided the answer to the question: What happens when avant-garde post-punks collide headlong with a pop/soul singer and play mutant jazz? In 1980, Rip, Rig & Panic started out as quintessential avant-garde bohemians. They eschewed pop for a more primal, percussive foundation (slightly reggae, slightly Afro-pop), suffused with free jazz, soulful singing and Cecil Taylor-inspired piano mania. But despite the music’s palpable intensity, it wasn't based on dry academic seriousness. Quite the contrary: Rip, Rig & Panic were all about fun and playfulness. Even the song titles (Constant Drudgery Is Harmful to Soul, Spirit & Health and Those Eskimo Women Speak Frankly) sounded more like surreal announcements than traditional, catchy song titles. Arguably the most likable bunch of avant-garde types ever to record music, Rip, Rig & Panic called it a day after three mostly wonderful, if somewhat inconsistent records.

In the mid-80s Tokyo-born American Anna Domino was part of the active Brussels scene where many "immigrants" from the States and England contributed to an exiting, experimental musical climate (among others Blaine L. Reininger, Tuxedomoon, the Legendary Pink Dots, Isabelle Antena and Paul Haig). While many of these artists released their aural experiments on independent record label Les Disques du Crépuscule, Domino’s first album was published by Factory Records. Gifted with "the voice of the erotic, tense, despairing, Peggy Lee-meets-Nico”, she was considered “post-modern platinum” (Smart magazine) and her single Zanna marked the pinnacle of an immensely fruitful collaboration with Luc van Acker (who later went on to work with Ministry and the Revolting Cocks).

In January 1981, the New Age Steppers’ eponymous album debut was the first long player to be released by Adrian Sherwood’s seminal On-U Sound label – only preceded by their version of Junior Byle’s classic Fade Away for the label’s first ever 7" single.
The reputed driving force behind NAS was the Slit’s vocalist Arianna Foster a.k.a. Ari Up, one of the original "girls with attitude" bands. The Slits, along with other UK outfits like the Clash and the Ruts, felt closely associated with the rebel axis of reggae music. Along with Ari came Neneh Cherry, stepdaughter of jazz legend Don and a few years short of international stardom, to mash up the leftfield Indie-funk scene with Rip Rig and Panic. From the same band came Bruce Smith and Sean "Hogg" Oliver, although drummer Bruce had earlier been a founder member of the controversial Pop Group, as had guitarist John Waddington and vocalist Mark Stewart who would later produce some of the most radical and brutal music ever to be committed to vinyl on his first two solo albums for On-U.
Keith Levene from Public Image Limited joined the melee after the second album, while Style Scott from Jamaica’s reigning rhythm machine Roots Radics and George Oban of top UK roots outfit Aswad supplied the necessary drum and bass foundation and credibility. From the UK, Creation Rebel’s Charlie "Eskimo Fox" and "Crucial" Tony Phillips provided the link with Adrian Sherwood’s previous studio work. In addition, Vivien Goldman and Vikki Aspinall were both recruited from the collective that constituted the all-female Rough Trade band The Raincoats while Steve Beresford was perhaps best known for his Flying Lizards association.
Released in the summer of 1982, Action Battlefield was the NAS's second album for On-U Sound, followed by their 1983’s swansong Foundation Steppers.

In 1978, during one of her brief stints in London, French-American model Nicolle Meyer (famous for her collaboration with photographer Guy Bourdin in the late 70s and early 80s) came across musician Gottfried Tollmann who was in the middle of finishing his first record with the Fred Banana Combo. The band soon came to the attention of production luminary Conny Plank (Kraftwerk, Ultravox, Eurythmics, DAF etc.) who went on to produce four of their albums for different major labels. When, in 1980, Nicolle and Gottfried decided to marry, Nicolle was already playing drums on one of the tracks on the the first LP (Disco Dreams) and singing along. During these recording sessions the ardent autodidact continued to hone her skills and became a fully-fledged singer and drummer on the following albums. Early live performances (of which the band played up to 200 a year) were attended by Gottfried’s teacher Joseph Beuys, who in turn agreed to be photographed by Nicolle Meyer over the following of years. This close connection between art and music became the focus of their Paris years, and by the end of 1989 Tollmann had opened an art gallery cum recording studio in the Bastille district.
By 1990, the band decided to go separate ways – as did Gottfried and Nicolle. The latter now works as an author and designer and travels between her homes in New York and Mexico.

To be released in august 2005
(translation sonja commentz)

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