Girls In Platform Boots
Kristen Stewart fascinates me. She is so uncomfortable with the idea of fame and being recognised that every trip up the red carpet is a shuddering mess of awkwardness, drawing even more attention to herself. It’s brilliant. Her next role as a leather-clad Joan Jett in ‘The Runaways’ is set to make her curl into herself, her anxiety causing her limbs to fold in on themselves until she’s simply a big ball of quivering self-loathing that has to be rolled up to the doors of the premiere by a grinning, simpering R-Patz. I cannot wait. It’s going to be a firey mix of big fat mum haircuts, silver platform boots, and the incredible comedic skills of Arrested Development’s Maebe. Despite the uncomfortable sight of that eerily adult kid, Dakota Fanning, in fishnets and a basque, this is set to be one awesome lipsticked rollercoaster of rock. (They should have a rollercoaster of rock at Thorpe Park. It could incorporate a special paint gun that shoots you with black and white makeup as you hurtle past, so everyone leaves the ride looking like a queasy member of Kiss).
Anyway, the release of the film means that now is the perfect time to look back over all those rock and roll girl groups who trod all over the rock and roll hall of fame in hot pants and bad hair. First up…
This band is amazing. They made history as the first all-woman band that wrote their own songs and played their own instruments to top the American album charts, and also sold over seven million albums worldwide. But enough with that Guinness World Records crap. Everyone always bangs on about lead singer Belinda Carlisle, but the best thing about this band was their guitarist Jane Wieldin, a punk princess who was BFFs with The Weirdos and The Germs. She also played Joan of Arc in ‘Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure’ – remember that scene where she goes crazy at an aerobics demonstration in a shopping mall and jumps on the stage and starts thrashing around? Amazing.
The band were also known for their so-called ‘Groupie Abuse’ – there’s an old VHS of them accosting a drunk male fan backstage at a show and shouting abuse at him until he strips off and wiggles his wotsit for their amusement. This footage also includes an ALLEGEDLY coked-up Carlisle rambling manically at the poor youth.
The band became notorious for their huge egos and drug binges – during an early UK tour with Madness they would steal milk off people’s front steps because they couldn’t afford food, and down cough medicine to get high. They’d also leave the stage every night covered in spit after skinheads had gobbed all over their faces. After four magical years their keyboardist Charlotte had to leave due to heroin abuse, and “a lot of screamin’ and hollerin’ jealousy'” pulled the band apart. Our golden girl Wielden, and that Carlisle bird left to pursue solo careers in 1985 and the group disbanded. However they reunited again in 1990 and have been playing together every couple of years since then.
“We were twisted, crazy, drug-addled sex fiends. But, you know, we were cute and bubbly too” – Wielden.
Despite having an awful name that makes them sound like some sort of wacky yoghurt, this threesome still holds the record for all-female group with the most chart entries in history. Founding members Keren Woodward and Sara Dahlin set up the band while still in pigtails and gym splits at St. Georges School for Girls in Bristol: “My first memory of Keren is with a great big Wagon Wheel stuffed in her mouth”. Siobhan Fahey joined them after meeting Dahlin at University where they both dressed like punks and freaked out the other fashion students.
Known for their boyish dress-sense – they mostly wore dungarees, and huge man-shirts, with their hair back-combed so it looked, well, awful – they turned down Malcolm McLaren (RIP) as their manager after he tried to sex them up. They went on to work with Pete Waterman (him of ‘Pop Idol’ fame) who called them “the most awkward act he’d ever worked with” after they frequently turned up late for everything, or not at all. However despite their laziness it was with him they released ‘Venus’, their smash hit.
Then Siobhan left to do ‘Shakespeare’s Sister’ (love that band) and the other two carried on regardless. They’re still going now, but it’s never been like it was back in the days of yore…
Well I couldn’t miss them out could I? It was either these guys or B*witched, and we all know how that turns out (smack, crack and whack).
So this outfit was the brainchild of Kim Fowley, a Malcolm McLaren svengali figure, and Joan Jett. Jett was raised on Black Sabbath and T Rex, and at the age of 15 moved to LA and started hanging out in the Hollywood rock clubs. It was at one of these underage dives, the appropriately named Sugar Shack, that Jett and Fowley met Cherie Curie.
A middle class surfer with a Bowie obsession, Curie was the blonde bombshell they’d been looking for, and despite being only 15 she was quick to don a white basque and fishnet stockings and sing about being a “Cherry Bomb” while nurturing a quaaludes habit. The girls were famously manipulated and exploited – Cherie recalls how, three weeks after joining The Ruanaways, the band was sat down in a San Diego hotel room and forced to watch one of the band’s authority figures, “engage in sex with a young girl” as a sort of initiation to rock and roll. Part way through Cherie got up to leave, but was admonished by said authority figure, “Down dog”.
Cherie says, “I pretended I was cool, but I was really frightened”. Jett also remembers how people would constantly try to pigeonhole them as a dangerous bunch of violent bitches. “We played a show in Chicago and some guy was asking what we were doing before we were in the band, and I said, “Well we went to school” and he said, “And when you weren’t at school?” to which I replied, “Well we babysat”. Which is true, I used to do babysitting. Anyway he kept probing further, “So what would you do if the child wouldn’t go to sleep and gave you a hard time?” And I said, “Well I’d spank them, like their mother told me to”. Next day the headline read: The Runaways are child beaters”.
After releasing two albums and headlining over bands like Van Halen and The Ramones, The Runaways found the pressure, exploitation and drugs too much. Curie was told she was in the terminal stages of a cocaine addiction, and Jett was sick of being constantly under Fowley’s control, so they parted ways with him and their label. While Jett went on to have her own career as lead singer in band Joan Jett & The Blackhearts, Curie became an accomplished chainsaw artist (WTF) and is now signed as an artist to Jett’s Blackheart records.
Nowadays everyone knows Lauren Laverne for her witty repartee on BBC 6 music, her deadpan delivery on The Culture Show, and her mad writing skills, but do you know where it all started? Well travel back in time with me now to 1994. While ‘Spice Girls’ were warbling about girl power, a baby-faced 20 year old from Sunderland called Lauren Gofton was impressing all with her lyrical prowess, and singing about cocaine and drinking cider in the park with her mates at murky dives around Newcastle. After signing to EMI Laverne and her cohorts, which includes Lauren’s little brother Jonny X (AKA Pete Gofton, AKA the lead guitarist/producer of the excellent ‘Frankie and The Heartstrings’) set a-fire the loins of slack-jawed grungy teenage boys around the country. High points included being firmly taken under the smelly and surgically enhanced wing of Courtney Love:
“They’re a big bunch of sex, that band Kenickie. They’re a big, raw-boned bunch of fucking sex — all three of them and the boy. I hope they get good. I hope we’re a good example to them, I hope this record’s huge and then the big labels will start sniffing around and then those big fucking raw-boned sexy Newcastle girls will be huge and have Number Ones”.
Anyway, their first album ‘At The Club’ did pretty well, and they toured the country in a van decorated with Christmas decorations, with a bottle of lime cordial full of vodka in their hands. However when their second album ‘Get In’ didn’t really cut it, they decided to call it a day in 1998, Laverne famously proclaiming “We were Kenicke…A bunch of fuckwits” at their last gig. The band cited their hatred of music industry big wigs as their reason for splitting, which obviously led to an outpouring of support on their fan sites. My favourite was this piece of political witticism:
Q. How many members of Kenicke does it take to change a lightbulb?
A. All four. But, while they’re fitting the bulb, their record label will take away the stool they’re standing on.
Not to pick favourites, but Kenicke live on in my heart forever. I regret their demise more than that of any other band.