Girls With Guitars

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At the end of the movie 10 Things I Hate About You (which is a rather adorable modernized version of Shakespeare’s The Taming of The Shrew), the two main characters reconcile when Patrick (played by Heath Ledger, rest in peace) gifts Kat (Julia Stiles) a Fender Strat.

"Why should I live up to other people's expectations instead of my own?" asks Kat. INDEED.

“Why should I live up to other people’s expectations instead of my own?” asks Kat.

She accepts the gift with aplomb but tells him, “You can’t just buy me a guitar every time you screw up, you know.”

“Yeah, I know,” he says.  “But then there’s always drums and bass and even maybe one day a tambourine.”

Well, at least the scriptwriters were intelligent enough to be realistic with their audience. The man will fuck up.  Again.  It’s a fact of life. Acknowledging it – with a dose of indulgent humor from the “shrew” – makes the character of the “shrew tamer” much more lickable.

Err…  Likable, I mean.



I was remembering that scene while scrolling through some of my favorite saved musical selections on YouTube, because the female-fronted band Letters To Cleo featured heavily in the movie, and it’s their cover of Cheap Trick’s I Want You To Want Me that accompanies the reconciliation kiss in the final scene.  Bad ReputationWith the opening scene of 10 Things featuring another female rocker – Joan Jett’s unmistakable vocals on Bad Reputation – I got to thinking about how rare it is to find such a feminine-centric soundtrack. Besides Kay Hanley (lead singer of Letters to Cleo) and Joan Jett, the movie also highlights female talents such as the bands Save Ferris and The Cardigans and soloists Jessica Riddle and Joan Armatrading.  The official soundtrack, however, is Jett-less. Which I find vastly annoying. Because without female artists like Joan Jett (and Ann and Nancy Wilson and Pat Benatar, to name a few) to pave the rocky road (pun intended) in decades past, the female artists whose work is represented on the soundtrack may well have never have had the chance for their voice to be heard.

The music industry (all genres) has always been male dominated, and Women Who Rock are few and far between.

*shaking fist*

Where art thou, femme rockers?

Oh, sure, there are female vocalists.  These days, they are pretty little studio-glammed, auto-tuned Miss Muffets who are considered “old” at age 30 and “fat” if their dress size is any higher than a 4.  (You don’t always have to be who they want you to be, you know says Kat in 10 Things.  I wish more women – regardless of their occupations – would recognize that simple fact.)  But what ever happened to girls with guitars?

My husband and I have differing opinions on why rock & rollers are a dying breed (he is admittedly qualified to argue the point), and even moreso on why there are so few females who sell music as opposed to selling sex (or rather, selling a sexualized version of their physical self).  It is a debate that would take eons to resolve, but one thing we agree on is this:  Success is born of opportunity, grit, talent, and drive.  You must have plenty of each and be willing to take the right risk(s) at the right time(s) if you are going to Make It. Running from rejection does not a star make.

“Don’t let anyone,” says Heath Ledger in 10 Things, ever make you feel like you don’t deserve what you want.”

Joan Jett made a career out of that stance, not allowing gender expectations or anyone else’s idea of What She Should Do get in the way of her dreams.  She talks about her first and only guitar lesson in an interview:

I walked in and said, “Teach me how to play rock ‘n’ roll.”  And the guy brought out sheet music and tried to teach me  On Top of Old Smoky.  That was the last lesson I ever took.  Being told that girls can’t play rock ‘n’ roll – I mean, even as a kid, it was so illogical to me – it’s like, what do you mean?  That girls can’t master the instruments?  I’m in school with girls playing cello and violin and Beethoven and Bach.  You don’t mean they can’t master the instrument.  What you mean is they’re not allowed, socially – it’s a societal thing.  You’re not allowed to play rock ‘n’ roll because rock ‘n’ roll means you’re covering Sticky Fingers. Rock ‘n’ roll means Whole Lotta Love.  You go listen to these songs and albums again and realize how dirty they sound, how much sex is dripping from them.  And that kind of stuff is very threatening.

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Runaways 1975

The Runaways lineup in late ’75 included Jackie Fox. Other bass guitarists over the years included Micki Steele, Peggy Foster, Vicki Blue, and Laurie McAllister.

Jett – who was (finally!) inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year – got her start in music as a guitarist and vocalist for the band The Runaways, which she established together with drummer Sandy West.  The all-girl rock band was active from 1975-1980 and featured the talents of Lita Ford, Micki Steele (who later went on to walk like an Egyptian; the bass guitar position seemed impossible to fill for any length of time), and Cherie Currie, who were all teenagers when they started. Things were not all sunshine and roses for the band (um, helloooteenagers, I tell you!), and eventually they parted ways.

After the dissolution of The Runaways and subsequently being turned down by 23 record labels for a solo album, Jett established Blackheart Records with songwriter Kenny Laguna.  It was a move without precedent.  (Blackheart Records is, to date, the oldest indie label in the United States.)  Joan Jett and The Blackhearts went on to succeed with a string of top 40 hits, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Because she went after her dreams.

Was it easy?  No.

Nothing worth having is ever easy.

“You’ve got to fight for what you believe in,” Jett told Rolling Stone magazine.  “If you don’t try, you’ll always wonder and that’s a horrible way to live.”

I, for one, am glad she tried.  And she never stopped trying.

Because I love rock and roll.

And because…

Well, let’s just say that girls with guitars strike a chord with me.


You can expect to hear more on this topic in the future.

Do you love rock & roll?
Which women rock you?

0 thoughts on “Girls With Guitars

  1. williamsjoel22

    I don’t care for “Girls with guitars” What I do miss are the “Girl Groups” like The Shirelles, Martha and the Vandellas or how about the Ronettes?

    1. Mrs Fever Post author

      And here I thought you were a country music fan! There are more girls with guitars in that genre – and have been, consistently – than in any other.

      I’m a little surprised at your chosen era for representative female performers, but I certainly can’t fault your taste. How about The Supremes? Or The Angels? (Lots of people have ‘never heard of them’. Except they have. My boyfriend’s back and you’re gonna be in trouble…)

      Girl Groups are hard to come by in any form these days.

      1. williamsjoel22

        I am a country music fan and I still don’t like “Country Girls with Guitars”. Look at all the greats; Buck Owens, Hank Williams, or Merle Haggard. No girls with guitars… It’s like when Tom Petty told Stevie Nicks who wanted to join his group; “There will be no girls in the Heartbreakers”… 🙁

        The only girl I kinda like with a guitar is Sheryl Crow…

        1. Mrs Fever Post author

          “The greats?” I’m not sure whether to be amused or insulted by that comment. *frown*

          The idea that you believe there are no female ‘greats’ is mind boggling. Women have to fight HARD to break through in the music business. Loretta Lynn, The Judds… Without all the barriers they – and women like them – broke through, there would never be a place for the Sheryl Crows of today.

          And Stevie Nicks – whose relationship with Tom Petty is incredibly complicated – doesn’t play guitar. She plays the tambourine.

          Also: FYI, country music is rapidly losing its female audience, due to the decided lack of female representation.

          1. williamsjoel22

            Sorry to offend, Mrs. Fever 🙁 Yes, Loretta Lynn, Tammy Wynette, or even Ellie Goulding and Adele are all great female vocalists and performers. (Although, they don’t rock or don’t have to do much with a guitar)
            OK, female rockers … I think they are ALL missing one important ingredient …. Testosterone!!! 🙂

          2. Mrs Fever Post author

            Shoe leather. Methinks you like the taste of it tonight, my friend.

            Open mouth, insert foot. 😉

            I’m not going to turn this into an argument; I am, however, going to clear up a few misapprehensions you seem to be laboring under.

            Loretta Lynn:

            Hmmm… Seems to me she’s PLAYING A GUITAR. o_O

            My husband thinks you are having a typical male disconnect when it comes to understanding musicianship, in that ‘playing guitar’ – to your way of thinking – equates to ‘lead guitarist’. That, and the gender stereotyping that says ‘girls sing’ and ‘boys play guitar’, are probably blocking you from seeing that plenty of female artists who sing ALSO PLAY GUITAR.

            Let’s take my favorite girl crush for example:

            Or an example from your preferred genre, perhaps?

            ‘Nough said.

            Oh, and THIS:

            OK, female rockers … I think they are ALL missing one important ingredient …. Testosterone!!!

            Um, no. Females – whether rockers or not – do not lack testosterone. It is the key ingredient in the hormonal cocktail that allows us to have orgasms. But I will save the biology lesson for another day. 🙂

    1. Mrs Fever Post author

      Hmmm… You’re groaning?


      Well, I suppose it’s possible that you have indigestion. But my words *do* have a tendency to affect men in peculiar ways. 😛

  2. williamsjoel22

    Oh Mrs. Fever, you are GOOD…LOL!!! 🙂
    Still … I don’t care for. female rockers. It’s like watching an all women NFL team, trying to get to the Super Bowl. They just don’t have what it takes …. 🙁

  3. Jayne

    What is Mr Williamsjoel22’s background? If the women groups he misses gives any info, I’d guess – admittedly blindly -that rocker women confuse and threaten his sense of “rockers” ( men rockers)m. If he’s here, I’m sure he’s someone I’d enjoy talking to about anything. Out of curiosity though, What would he think about Grace Slick – intelligent and all female and all rocker. I haven’t seen her play a guitar so she’s different but still a rocker. For women to be in that once male dominated rocker role, changes the definition. I think that is what people find hard to deal with – the new definition change disturbs people. This subject doesn’t disturb me because it’s agrowing, natural change from my perspective . xo, J

    1. Mrs Fever Post author

      He’s young. And I am admittedly shocked that he – or anyone who reads this blog – would have such a “girls can’t” or “girls aren’t good enough” attitude. Especially if they know anything at all about my background. But, as I said, there is an ass for every seat. And sometimes people can be totally blind to how much if an ass they are being.

      Grace Slick… *shudder* She’s a very scary person. Vocal talent, for sure. But narcissistic sociopaths scare the shit out of me, especially when they’ve used recreational drugs extensively. A volatile cocktail of brain chemistry, to be sure. You should watch some of her interviews.

      Grace Potter, on the other hand… Totally dig that chick! 😀

      1. Jayne

        : ) I have watched her interviews – recently. I didn’t find her scary at all. Narcissistic sociopath? I think that’s pretty hard of a judgement on her…in the context of when she was popular. 60’s 70’s. Any woman who dares to be herself always gets that sort of judgement form many kinds. Maybe I didn’t listen to the one interview that she would match your assessment but putting her in context is oimportant to judging her from back then.imo

        1. Mrs Fever Post author

          I’m working right now but I will try to send you some links later. She talks about trying to slip Nixon LSD, and how she “made” Jefferson Airplane (she didn’t – though she was instrumental in dismantling them), and a few other things. Being involved with a musician brings me into contact with a lot of people, and the industry is like the small town of your nightmares. I know enough to avoid her. Was she talented? Yes. Would I invite her into my home? No way in hell.

          1. Jayne

            I saw that one where she intended to drop tabs into the water. Crazy? Yes Unusual tactics of that time and place – I don’t think so. It was the time of raging against the machine and the Man for sure. As for the group – she was a raging alcoholic who could care less for societies accepted norms and that WAS the norm for that era. I just meant to bring her up as a large female “rocker” icon for that guy to judge. I don’t think she plays an instrument like Joan Jet does but does Pat Benatar?

          2. Mrs Fever Post author

            I have relatives who were on various FBI lists during that time period. I’m familiar with the attitude, but I don’t condone it.

            Pat Benatar does not play guitar to my knlowledge; her instrument is her voice. She’s operatically trained and has a technical superiority that is absent from most performers. She and Joan Jett and the Wilson sisters (who *do* play guitar) all fronted bands that wouldn’t have existed – or seen success – without them. I have the utmost respect for Benatar’s talent, and for her leadership in the genre. I still have Wide Awake In Dreamland on cassette (cassette!) and I think it is one of my favorite rock albums of all time. 🙂

  4. wildoats1962

    Folk singers, acoustic guitars, Lots of women there, as Mitt would say binders full of ’em. Laurie Anderson is interesting. She experiments with unusual techniques. But what would you expect from an album titled “Big Science”. In “O Superman” she uses vocal sampling for the music. Her voice IS the instrument. “From the Air” reminds me of why I don’t like flying.

        1. Mrs Fever Post author

          Was said coworker modeling the underoos? *raised eyebrows*

          I read a post by another blogger recently about his annual summer work gathering / company retreat type thing, during which a few people got rid of their unders and went straight for the roo-ing, if you know what I mean. I am always astounded when people get involved with their coworkers that way. “No Fraternization” rules exist for a reason. I have never even been tempted. But then, I’ve never had a coworker brag about their Batman underoos.

          I have, however, run into a colleague at a swing club. That was… Interesting. *snort*