A Phil Spector classic reached the number one spot on the Billboard Hot 100 back in 1962, today. The Crystals’ “He’s a Rebel” followed the predictable, but beloved, girl group formula: sickly-sweet names, infectious, unironic songs of love, longing, and disillusionment, and spellbinding women. Although the bands were usually divided between the “good girls” and “bad girls” (depending on the size of their false lashes and Priscilla Presley bouffant), the musical groups blurred social and racial barriers. The craze spread to Europe, with the advent of yé-yé — addictive female-fronted pop from France, Italy, and beyond. Feral House explores that phenomenon in their upcoming book, Yé Yé! Girls of 60’s French Pop, available on November 12. We wanted to take this opportunity to point out a few girl groups that deserve more mention. Feel free to add to our list in the comments, below.
One of the earliest rock girl groups to sign to a major label, Fanny was championed by David Bowie — who succinctly described their allure in a 1999 interview with Rolling Stone:
“One of the most important female bands in American rock has been buried without a trace. And that is Fanny. They were one of the finest fucking rock bands of their time, in about 1973. They were extraordinary: They wrote everything, they played like motherfuckers, they were just colossal and wonderful, and nobody’s ever mentioned them. They’re as important as anybody else who’s ever been, ever; it just wasn’t their time. Revivify Fanny. And I will feel that my work is done.”
Lee Hazlewood dubbed the Detroit group Honey Ltd. (although he called them “the lil’ darlin’s”) and produced their self-titled debut album, which hasn’t been given a full release until this year. Light in the Attic just issued the lost LP, full of swoon-worthy melodies and vocals.
Gerry Goffin and Carole King were behind this track from the Brooklyn R&B girl group — who later became backup singers for Ray Charles. It blows many from the era away, but never quite achieved the same fame.
Char Vinnedge from The Tremolons headed this 1960’s group. Fuzzy favorite “Up Down Sue” was given an unexpected plug by Patton Oswalt last year.
The What Four
Garage girls The What Four, promoted by Mile Davis producer Teo Macero, sang about “destroying boys” and “digging love” with a cheeky, freakbeat edge.
The American Breed made The Outsiders’ “Bend Me, Shape Me” famous, but The Models (who were actual models) created this killer, fuzzed-out version in 1966.
The Pleasure Seekers
Detroit’s Pleasure Seekers was Suzi Quatro’s first band (she was 15-years-old), which she joined with sisters Patti, Arlene, and Nancy. “It was a tough road. The suits (record companies) always wanted us to go tits and ass, Vegas style and we were having none of it,” Patti reflected in an interview. “They wouldn’t let us write (we did anyway), and we were misbooked at times into country club-type places were our rock sound was too much for the staid clientele. Soon we were well on cue with bro booking us, and playing the club circuit and every college, and then concert halls — graduating to major pop festivals, the major ballrooms, including The Grande Ballroom, etc., with the legends.”
The Kim Sisters
Korean girl trio the Kim Sisters performed for American soldiers as children to help the family survive and later relocated to pursue a career in Las Vegas — where Ed Sullivan discovered them. They were known for performing lively covers of American hits (they were the first Asian band to do so), but the women played all their own instruments and boasted charming stage personas.
Hailing from Indonesia, garage-pop group Dara Puspita was active in the ‘60s and ’70s — despite government oppression (Indonesian president Sukarno outlawed American-style rock and roll, and ordered the destruction of Beatles albums, American books, and films). You can stream more of their work over here.
Dorothy & the Vampires were managed by producer Harry Martinez — who worked with several boy bands during that time as well. They only released two singles, but their sound captures a beautiful slice of the Singapore music scene from the 1960s. You can stream “Cold Rain Song” over here.