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This is an unedited version of an interview that I did with one of my musical heroes, Genya Ravan, that appeared in the Fall 2011 issue of Bitch Magazine. This version is longer and has more questions than the interview that was published. To see the interview as it appeared in Bitch, check out: Genya Ravan’s Official Website Press Page

“Walking In Different Circles”: An Interview with Genya Ravan

By Bess Korey

Goldie and the Gingerbreads

A picture of Genya Ravan with Goldie and the Gingerbreads during the 1960′s.

During the 1960’s, Genya Ravan was a founding member of the first all-female band ever signed to a major label, Goldie and the Gingerbreads. The band is finally getting some long overdue credit for their accomplishments at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame exhibit “Women Who Rock: Vision, Passion, Power”, which opened May 13th, 2011 and will be running until February 26th, 2012. Unfortunately Goldie and the Gingerbreads never broke big in the U.S., but they had a hit song in the U.K. called “Can’t You Hear My Heartbeat”. Their catchy pop sound and vocal harmonizing was reminiscent of other Girl Groups of the mid ‘60s, and because of that, their song “Walking In Different Circles” can be found on the Rhino Records box set, One Kiss Can Lead To Another: Girl Group Sounds, Lost & Found. Unlike most of their contemporaries that can be found on this box set, Goldie and the Gingerbreads played their own instruments and were not just a vocal group, which was a very groundbreaking thing for women to be doing at the time.

Listening to Goldie and the Gingerbreads, it is clear that Ravan is a talented singer, but her vocals sound a bit restrained when compared to the reckless abandon that she brought when she later fronted the all-male Jazz/Funk/Psychedelic influenced band Ten Wheel Drive, during the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. Her soulful performances with that band are comparable to the singing of artists like Janis Joplin and Aretha Franklin. After Ten Wheel Drive, Ravan became a solo artist and a record producer. Even today, record producing remains a male dominated field, so the fact that Ravan was breaking in to it during the ‘70s, adds to her pioneering status. She produced her own music, including her 1978 album Urban Desire; which fits in well with the Punk/New Wave sounds of the mid-late ‘70s yet still gives Ravan a chance to show off her raspy and soulful vocals; and she also produced the Dead Boys’ infamous first album, Young, Loud and Snotty.

Ravan continues to produce, perform and record music today. Her latest album, Undercover, came out in 2010. She is also a writer, and had her autobiography, Lollipop Lounge: Memoirs of a Rock and Roll Refugee, published in 2004. She is currently working on a screenplay based on that book, and would like Juliette Lewis to play her in the film. She also DJs on two different radio shows for Little Steven’s “Underground Garage”, “Goldie’s Garage” andChicks and Broads”, the latter being devoted to music by female artists. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Exhibit has brought her career full circle, and in the following interview, which took place during June 2011, Ravan talks about her amazing life and accomplishments.

BK: Are you happy with how Goldie and the Gingerbreads is being honored at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Exhibit?

GR: Right now we are honored in the R & R museum which is wonderful, I would like the actual Hall of Fame to honor us for being the first girls rock group, before we all die….Carol MacDonald, is already gone, she died two years ago. She was the Guitar player. I might also mention that I was the first female producer to produce acts other than themselves. Women had produced themselves by then, but not other acts.

When you were first starting out in Goldie and the Gingerbreads, did you have to fight being seen as a novelty since the idea of an all-female band was pretty much unheard of at the time?

We were considered a novelty till they heard us. Right from the first note, they knew they were hearing and watching something special.

 How did your male peers react to the band?

A woman will always be treated like the weaker softer sex, very hard for men to comprehend ‘women doing what men do’ even if it’s better. The USA was far more misogynist than the Euro men. In Europe they said, “Wow, you are great!” and in the USA the guys were like, “Do you broads really wanna be in this ruff business? Shouldn’t you be home married with children?” I never let it bother me, it drove me to become so good that the male musicians would get embarrassed when they followed us on stage, the thing that really always bothered me was, how a journalist would mention age….they do not say Mick Jagger is in his 30’s now…40’s now etc…or what the male groups wore that night.

What was the best thing about being in Goldie and the Gingerbreads?

The best thing about having put Goldie and The Gingerbreads together was that it was the best schooling of music anyone could get. I feel sorry for the musicians today, they don’t get a chance to play clubs, learn, jam…radio just sucks today…it’s a fast food industry…I loved the older times when you didn’t get a contract for recording cause of payola…you got it cause you were good and there was a future.

Do you have any plans to release a compilation of Goldie and the Gingerbreads’ music in the future?

I believe there is enough to put out a full CD.  I am not sure the quality of those records would hold up now, the other problem is the singles are on different labels, some on Atlantic records, some on Decca England, some on Spokane Scepter records, it would be hard to get an ok from all of them to put it all together…I will be trying ….someone tried to bootleg a CD, but its not only Goldie and the Gingerbreads, it’s also my first group The Escorts.

Ten Wheel Drive Band

Genya with Ten Wheel Drive.

Was it a big change for you going from an all-female band to being in a band with all males when you joined Ten Wheel Drive?

Man oh man yes……but there was a bit of a break between the two bands, I had joined a male jazz trio because the drummer was a boyfriend [at the time]…Les Demerle, who is a great drummer. As far as Ten Wheel Drive, the feeling was not as warm as having a bunch of girlfriends in the same band…Ten Wheel Drive left me lonely many a time…I was used to hugging and kissing after a [Goldie and the Gingerbreads] show, uh uh, not with male players, especially Jazz players in TWD…they just do their thing and go smoke a joint.

Did people react differently to Ten Wheel Drive because there were male musicians involved than they did to Goldie and the Gingerbreads as an all-female band?

Well, the shock of Goldie and The Gingerbreads when curtains went up, was always a great thing to look at from stage…..I loved it…I always had something to prove, to work hard at.

What is your favorite memory from your time in Ten Wheel Drive?

Getting to jump on stage when playing with people like The Allman Brothers at the Whisky in LA when working opposite them…Having Janis Joplin jump on stage with me at the Scene Club NYC…I loved clubs, TWD really only did larger venues…So when I would get to a smaller club I could get a more personal performance. Like the old days with Goldie and The Gingerbreads.

Did you feel as if you had any trouble being taken seriously as a woman record producer since it is typically a job that males do?

I always got  resistance especially from engineers, but  I would fire engineers if they didn’t give me what I wanted,  and if it was an artist giving me a hard time, I would  pass on them too… I took no chances when it came to my reputation. I remember an engineer telling me how nervous he was about me because he heard I was tuff on them, I said, “Just give me what I want and I’m an angel”…The part that bothers me is when a male producer says what he wants, he is called a genius, when I say what I want, I’m hard to work with!

What is your favorite album that you have ever done?

URBAN DESIRE for sure…Basically, this was  the first time, I was able to produce myself, and it was the most recognition any of my albums ever had, it was the most picked album for two weeks in the trades, me and Springsteen’s record…..(my record company decided to close shop as I was climbing up the charts ). Ever since then, I have produced myself,  I have had enough experience by then  to do that. When I produce myself I have to step away from me and ego…ah, you think that’s easy? I have let certain vocals go on records that I was not all that thrilled with but they worked some sort of magic, you have to be pretty experienced to do that, it’s not easy standing away from yourself. Also those days I always worked with engineers, today I engineer myself with the magic of Pro Tools… on my computer… but and this is a big but….there are pros and cons here for not being in a studio, but rather working out of your own house. I like working with some tension…so I give myself deadlines too. “You’re never alone with a schizophrenic” haha.

What are your favorite bands to DJ on your radio shows?

Ah so many, new ones are a group from Europe, Fake Elegance is one of them,…and  for my Chicks and Broads show…I still play the hell out of my older women: Baby Washington, Darlene Love, a new group called Spanking Charlene…the Sweet Inspirations…. Sissy Houston is in that [last] group (mother of Whitney Houston), the Ting Tings, Tegan and Sara…

Genya Ravan Album Undercover

What inspired your latest album Undercover?

Well I work best under pressure, so when I was signed to labels they would say, “We need to have that record finished by such and such”, that’s when I would do my best writing. Today, there is no pressure, there are no labels, such a sad time… I’m so glad I came on the scene when I did…those were the best music years….just look at what we had then….but back to the question.  I came up with my  Undercover CD by thinking about some songs I always wanted to sing, and decided to do my versions of them…I like doing that, it’s sort of old school, like jamming on stage with players you never played with before, and letting magic happen.

This story first appeared on Bitch Magazine’s Blog during April of 2009. I titled it The Secret History of Women In Rock- Charlotte and Christine Vinnedge of the Luv’d Ones, and was hoping that it could turn into a series of blogs on that website where I could chronicle underrated all-female bands from the ’60s-’80s, but that never came to pass. Now that I have started this blog as a place for my work,  I will try and carry out that goal here.

The Secret History of Women In Rock- Charlotte and Christine Vinnedge of the Luv’d Ones

By Bess Korey

Luv'd Ones group performing

Charlotte and Christine Vinnedge were two sisters that decided to step outside of traditional gender roles and play Rock music together during the mid-‘60s. They became the foundation of two different bands, the Tremolons and the Luv’d Ones, and were acting on Feminist principles before the Second Wave of Feminism had even become a national movement. Being ahead of their time ended up hurting them more than helping, and even though the Luv’d Ones had the talent and drive needed to become a huge success, their band leader Charlotte was not willing to comply with what was proper behavior for women in a man’s world, and the band ended up paying the price for her rebelliousness.

Charlotte was the eldest of her 7 siblings, and the Vinnedge girls grew up in an atypical household for the time. It may have been the ‘60s, but they came of age during the early to mid part of the decade, and the country was still having a ‘50s hangover when it came to the roles of women. Instead of being groomed to be housewives and mothers like many of their peers were, they were encouraged to follow their dream of playing music by both of their parents, and their father even built them a studio in the basement of their Niles, Michigan home. In 1964, women that wanted to be involved with music had limited choices for what they could do; they could be a folkie and play acoustic guitar like Joan Baez, or they could be a pop singer like Lesley Gore, or they could join a singing group like the Supremes. The idea of women playing Rock music was pretty much unheard of. If they did choose to start their own band and play their own instruments, they were expected to be cute and wear matching outfits, to play cover versions of popular songs instead of writing their own material, and to embrace the fact that they were nothing more than a novelty.

When the Tremolons started playing together in 1964, they were temporarily willing to adhere to the guidelines above. The group consisted of: Charlotte on lead guitar and vocals, Christine on bass guitar, Mary Gallagher on rhythm guitar and Faith Orem on drums. This line-up would stick together for close to 5 years and would later morph into the Luv’d Ones. Christine’s son and Charlotte’s nephew, John Sorensen, was not born yet when the Tremolons formed, but was raised on his Aunt and Mother’s stories of their ‘60s musical escapades, and had this to say about their earlier band, “They actually sort of followed the Beatles-esque type look, they had matching outfits and their hair in the ’60s bobs that they had back then for girls. They were not allowed to do what they wanted to artistically. The record labels and managers they were meeting with wanted them to fit a mold and [dictate] the kind of music that they played. They were at a crossroads. Did they do what they wanted to do artistically or were they supposed to listen to those guys [and change themselves in order to] make it [in the music business]? They decided to go a different route and the Luv’d Ones was the breakout from the Tremolons.”

By forming the Luv’d Ones, the girls were finally able to assert their individuality and Charlotte could showcase her songwriting skills, thus enabling the band to stretch their musicianship to new depths. Though they were more pop oriented early on, and were influenced by popular genres such as surf and girl (singing) groups, the deep emotions that lurked below the surface of their music made it more than just frivolous pop. Charlotte was influenced by the underrated ‘60s Garage Rock Visionary, Sean Boniwell of Music Machine, to not be afraid to touch on the darker side of life. Her low alto voice fit those kind of themes well. She also tuned her guitar down to a lower pitch, which became her trademark, and was able to wail on it just like her hero, Jimi Hendrix, which led to her being nicknamed the “female Jimi Hendrix” by her musical peers. On the Sundazed release, Truth Gotta Stand, her musical progression with the band can be heard; from playing catchy yet melancholic pop songs, to dark Psychedelic masterpieces which are way ahead of their time and could even be considered Proto-Goth.

Picture of Luv'd Ones album cover.

The aforementioned Sundazed release is a collection of singles, demos, and live material. Unfortunately the Luv’d Ones were never able to record a full length album. They did record some singles for Chicago’s Dunwich Records and managed to get some radio airplay in the Mid-West, but it was the band’s initial rejection of being controlled and not wanting to act like a cookie-cutter female group, that led to their commercial failure. Sorensen overheard his Mom and Aunt talking about the difficulties they had with that label, and this is what he recalls, “They pressed several singles through Dunwich. The label didn’t know what they had [when it came to the group's talent] and the group went a different way. Char was a very headstrong bandleader. She wanted things her way when it came to what direction the band would go, and the problem with that was that it was the ’60s and she was female. Record executives just weren’t listening to a woman in the ’60s who told them what she and her group wanted to do. They frowned at that. It was back when [the general male attitude was that] women raised children, made dinner, stayed at home and the man put food on the table and went to work.”

Though Charlotte and the band were disappointed that they were unable to achieve the commercial success they deserved, it did not cause them to break-up. In 1969, Christine became pregnant with John so she quit, and since they were unable to continue without such an important member they disbanded. In the early ‘70s, Charlotte went on to record a Hendrix tribute album with a former Hendrix bass player named Billy Cox. The album was called Nitro Function, and it ended up being a huge hit in Europe, finally giving Charlotte a taste of success. Unfortunately, the album was mostly unknown in the States, and the Luv’d Ones remain to be as well.

In 2009, both Charlotte and Christine have passed away, but their music remained an important part of both their lives until the very end. Sorensen feels grateful to have had a chance to grow up around these strong and talented women. He says, “I was weaned on the music, and it was funny because even when I was growing up I admired my mother and Aunt and I knew from an early age, from just listening to the music and without anyone else telling me, that they were ahead of their time. They did something that nobody else around them had heard of. There was no other band that came out of the ’60s that had their sound or attitude. I was very proud of them and I knew they were doing something unusual.”

Daughters of Eve

Debi Pomeroy and Andrea Levin Parnes share their recollections of being members of Chicago’s first all-girl band.

By Bess Korey

An edited version of this story appeared in the Spring 2009 issue of Ugly Things.  I first found out about this band back in the ’90s when I acquired volume 1 of Girls in the Garage and they left an impression on me that has lasted until this day.

Daughters of Eve 45

During the mid-late 1960′s, the Rogers Park/Edgewater neighborhoods of Chicago were a hotbed of youth culture activity. Senn High School, located on Ridge Road, near Hollywood Avenue, was the home base of two local bands, the Daughters of Eve and the Dirty Wurds. It was more than just the High School that tied these bands together, a pair of siblings played an integral part in the formation of these groups as well. Debi and Justin Pomeroy shared a love and enthusiasm for music that was encouraged by their father, whom happened to be a Pastor. He went on to be nicknamed the “Rock N’ Roll Preacher”, for being willing to go above and beyond the call of duty to help his kids make their musical dreams come true. When Justin started a Chicago Blues influenced, Garage Band, called the Dirty Wurds, the “Rock N’ Roll Preacher” became their manager. In an era when the idea of women playing in Rock bands was seen as an anomaly, Debi’s father was still willing to nurture her musical aspirations as well.

The renowned Chicago Music Institution, Old Town School of Folk Music, which was located by Wells Street and North Avenue at the time, ended up playing a key role in the Pomeroys’ musical story.  Justin and Debi were both enthralled with the Folk music scene which was occurring there, and it inspired them to re-create that scene in their own neighborhood of Edgewater, which was located about 20 minutes north of the school. Debi says, “I was studying at the Old Town School of Folk Music, which is where I learned to play guitar, and my brother and I were having hootenannies in our basement. We’d go down to Old Town School of Folk Music and we’d beg these Folk artists to come perform at our hootenannies, and they would. We had the stage set up, and the lighting, and it would be packed [with people]. We had great music, and we’d have a lot of our friends playing. It was just all about music back in those days, and it continued on when I started in the Daughters of Eve.”

Andrea “Andee” Levin [Parnes] was learning to play guitar around the same time Debi was, and also took inspiration from the Folk scene. “I was really interested in Folk music. I was listening to Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Peter, Paul & Mary, and I was copying all of their stuff. I would put the needle on the record and listen and try to figure out what chord it was, and continue back and forth, and then finally I ended up knowing what I was doing, and practiced so hard that I was actually getting quite good at Folk music.”

At that time, Debi, Justin and Andrea were all attending Senn. Justin stood out at school for being a rebel that was ahead of his time. He was the first guy there to have long hair, and it was before the hippies had made it fashionable. Andrea ended up meeting Justin before she met Debi, and was able to bond with him over their love of Folk. It wasn’t until Justin had invited her over to the Pomeroy house that Debi was able to meet her. The house was connected to their father’s church, which had a gymnasium inside of it, and the kids were able to use it as a music practice space.

Debi vividly remembers the first time she saw Andrea. “She [Andrea] came over to the house, she had long red hair, and she always wore black, and I thought, ‘Wow, that’s a pretty cool chick. Who is she?’ I was getting ready for rehearsal with my surf band and I had to carry all of my equipment to the church gymnasium. We were in the gym, [Andrea was there] so I asked, “Who is she?” [And was told], “Oh that’s Andee.”

Debi played lead guitar in that surf band and was the only female member. Becoming friends with Andrea gave her a chance to play music with girls too. Andrea, Debi and a friend named Sue started a trio together where they all played guitar and sang. This trio played together just for fun, but it foreshadows the musical direction that both Andrea and Debi would end up going in soon after that.

Debi was never intimidated by the fact that the world of mid-‘60s Rock music was male dominated. Her passion for music drove her past the boundaries of what was feminine and what was masculine. Feminine was being a folkie and playing acoustic guitar. She rejected this notion by playing electric guitar, and then she developed an interest in playing drums, and that became her instrument of choice. Debi’s involvement in Rock musicianship proves that Justin wasn’t the only member of the Pomeroy family that was ahead of their time. This was 10 years before Heart and the Runaways, and the idea of women as Rock musicians was hardly a blip on the mainstream radar. But just because the mainstream was unaware of the fact that women wanted to play Rock music, doesn’t mean that this desire didn’t exist. Debi wasn’t alone; there were many other women that had developed the same interest, and they went on to start bands like: the Luv’d Ones, Hairem/She, the Ace of Cups, the Feminine Complex, the Daisy Chain, the Shaggs, and a plethora of others. In the 2000’s, many of these groups have finally gotten the recognition they deserve, and have even had their music re-released by labels like Sundazed and Ace Records, but for the decades preceding that, they were mostly forgotten, and the chauvinistic nature of music journalism could perhaps be blamed for their omission from the annals of Rock history.

Andrea had been following the female folkie path before Debi had come into her life. Even after they became friends, she hadn’t developed much of an interest in playing Rock music, but this was soon to change. Debi’s transformation from guitarist to drummer led to an important musical opportunity being presented her way. This happened during 1966 when she was 15 years old. Debi says, “Carl Bonafede [who was a famous Chicago DJ, and the manager of the Buckinghams; a Chicago group who went on to national renown with hits like "Kind Of A Drag" and "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy" ]  was looking to start an all-girl band [to be the Buckinghams' sister group]. Marsha Tomal [Guitar and Vocals] and Judy Johnson [Also on Guitar and Vocals, had already both joined the group at that point] knew John, a friend of mine at the time, and we were jamming in the basement [of her house, her brother was there too, and she was playing someone else's drum kit], and John said, “Hey, would you like to audition for an all-girl band? You play really good drums.” [And she said], “But I don’t have a drum kit.” And he said that was ok, that I could bring the kit in the basement [to the audition] and told me about the band and how they had management. So we went out to Marsha’s house, and I auditioned [for Carl] and I guess I did everything right. Carl said, “Wow, we’ve got to get you a set of drums!” So he went over to talk to my parents, and said “Debi’s a really good drummer.” and asked for my parents to buy me a set of drums.”

 

Debi Pomeroy playing drums

Debi Pomeroy on the drums with Daughters of Eve.

This group would go on to be called the Daughters of Eve [DOE]. The “Rock N’ Roll Preacher” was the one who coined this name. He had mentioned that all girls were the Daughters of Eve, and those involved agreed that it would be a good name for the group. Marsha, Judy and Debi became a fixture of the group, but the line-up wasn’t quite cemented yet. Andrea says, “Debi, being a drummer, was recruited to be in an all-girl band. It was Marsha, Judy and Debi, and some bass player, whose name I don’t even know, because she apparently flaked out all of the time and never made it to rehearsals. There was this one Saturday that Debi invited Sue and I [to DOE's practice], so we went there and they couldn’t start their practice because the bass player didn’t show up. So Carl was going nuts, ranting and raving, and the band was bummed out because they couldn’t practice without the bass player there. Up until this point, I had never picked up a bass. But I was good musician, I knew my music, so I said, “How bout I fill in until she gets here?” So they gave me a [bass] guitar and I just started playing. I don’t even know how I knew how to do it [play bass] but I just did. I guess Carl was impressed, because he asked if I wanted to be in the band.”

Because of her Folk background, Andrea had some reservations about joining a Rock band, but it was ultimately her parents that made the decision for her. Carl had called them up and was able to charm them into letting their daughter join the band. Andrea reluctantly agreed to do it. This reluctance did not stick with her in the long run, and she started to enjoy being in the band.

Carl was all business and wasted no time in getting some gigs together for the girls once Andrea was in the band. Though the fact that they were an all-girl band was enough to make them a novelty, Carl still wanted them to have a gimmick, and that was for them to wear matching outfits. Andrea recalls one of the outfits that they had to wear with much disdain. “We ended up with these outfits that were so God awful, they were like green jeans and a burgundy colored velour V neck, and not only were they God awful, but we actually had pictures taken in them. That was the first uniform when we actually got work.”

Once they had begun gigging, interest quickly grew in the band, and they started to draw a following. The girls were received well, even by male audiences, and Andrea feels as if it was more than just the novelty factor which drew people to them. She says, “We had a good sound and a good energy, and the audience was always very receptive, just thrilled. I never felt that anyone was looking at us going, “Oh My God, who do they think they are?”  It was like, “Wow, you guys are great, and you’re girls!”  It was a novelty, but I don’t think they were thrilled [with the band's performances], or just liked us, [only] cuz it was a novelty. They really liked the music.”

Debi also felt as if the audience reaction to their band was very positive, and was even able to compare their smaller scale of success with that of the Beatles. She says, “I got to go to their [The Beatles] concert and after that day, I just couldn’t believe what kind of impact they had on people, especially the girls. And then when I got into Daughters of Eve, and we played, it felt kind of like the same feeling, because all the boys [in the audience] got all crazy, since they had never seen an all-girl band play [before]. When you’re young like that, you can go, “Wow, we’re like the Beatles!” It’s such a fantastic feeling to have people like you, and want to hear you play.”

The band’s success with Andrea as a member ended up being pretty short lived. She had only been 13 at the time she joined, and found herself in the middle of a tug of war between her parents and Carl. Debi says, “It just so happened that Judy’s parents didn’t get along with Carl, and Andee’s parents didn’t get along with Carl. It was a constant struggle. That was the only bad part about the whole thing, when you’re young, because you’re at your parents’ mercy.”

These circumstances had an affect on Andrea prematurely exiting the band. The group continued on without her, but Debi feels as if things weren’t the same. This definitely had to do with the fact that Andrea and her were such close friends. But despite that, Debi stuck with the band, and remained their drummer up until their demise in late 1968. The band had two other bass players before they broke up, a girl that Debi had known who was named Mary Lou, and a girl who Carl had found who was named Lori Wax.

During their two and a half years together, they put out 4 singles, all of which remain hard to find today and have never been released together on a CD [Note: Debi has these songs in her own personal collection, and would like to put them out on CD someday]. As for their musical output which can be obtained at this current time, their breathtaking cover of the Animals’ “Help Me Girl”, which was gender-bended and re-titled, “Help Me Boy”, can be heard on the compilation, Girls With Guitars [Ace Records].  The dreamy, otherworldly sound of the music, and the enchanting vocals, entices the listener, and makes their version stand out dramatically from the original Animals’ track. A more upbeat, as compared to the melancholic feel of the former song, surf influenced number, “Don’t Waste My Time” can be heard on Illinois in the ’60s: Volume 1 of the Psychedelic States [Gear Fab]  and on Volume 1 of the ’90s compilation series, Girls In The Garage [Romulan Records].

All these years later, Andrea and Debi remain friends. Although both women no longer live in Chicago, having both relocated to California since the ’60s, music remains an important part of their lives. More than 40 years later, Debi continues to play drums, and has created an extremely lengthy band resume for herself; which included a brief association with an all-girl Garage band from Michigan called the Luv’d Ones, whose lead singer and guitarist, Char[lotte] Vinnedge,  was thought of by Debi, and by others, as the female version of Jimi Hendrix. Before leaving Chicago, Debi was also in another all-female group of a different genre, Country, called Jeannie Wright and the Western Wonders. After moving to L.A. during the late ’60s, Debi went on to play with numerous other groups including Marlane and the Swinging Dolls, and the drummer she replaced in that group, Jenny Jones,  became a famous Talk Show host in the ’90s. Her drumming skills even drew the attention of Rock Svengali, Kim Fowley, who considered adding her to the line-up of his soon to be legendary all-girl band, The Runaways, but changed his mind when he found out that she was older than her young looking appearance. The Runaways, like their predecessors DOE, were meant to be a teen only band. DOE had even turned away a female musician in her 20s who wanted to join because she was considered too old, and ironically enough, the same thing ended up happening to Debi 10 years later.

After DOE, Andrea was in another all-female, Chicago group, called the Weaker Sex. It was a bit of a departure from her former band, being a 6-piece group, including horns, and having a funkier sound. After moving to California, shortly before Debi did in 1969, Andrea decided to give up the Rock N’ Roll Lifestyle, and became a wife and mother. Her love of music remained permanently ingrained in her, and even though she was no longer playing in bands, she took on the profession of being a music teacher, and continues to impart her musical wisdom on students today. Andrea, as well as Debi, come across as much younger than the middle-aged women that they are, and this definitely has to do with the fact that neither of them has let go of the youthful, rebellious spirit of Rock N’ Roll that began to shape their lives when they were in DOE.

Girls In The Garage:

An Interview with Julie Patchouli of the Pandoras

By Bess Korey

The following interview appeared in the too short-lived, Feminist magazine, Girlistic, during Fall of 2007, and an earlier, edited version appeared on Venus Zine’s website during February of 2007.

The Pandoras in front of a GTO

From left to right: Melanie Vammen, Paula Pierce, Julie Patchouli and Karen Blankfield.

In 1984, an all-female band called The Pandoras released their first album, It’s About Time. Twenty-three years later, the time has yet to arrive for The Pandoras to get their due for being such a trailblazing and influential band. Hailing from Los Angeles, California, The Pandoras were involved with the city’s burgeoning Paisley Underground scene, which was at its peak during the early to mid ’80s. The bands in this scene all shared a love of ’60s Garage and Psychedelic music, and revived that sound in their own unique ways. The Pandoras remained true to the roots of the music that they were influenced by, but the fact that they were playing a genre that was male-dominated in the past, as well as in the scene that they were a part of, definitely put a new spin on things. It wasn’t just their sex that made them stand out; they were also an exceptionally talented band. It’s About Time, and their second album, Stop Pretending, were highly acclaimed by critics, and they were the darlings of their local press because of it. Legendary L.A. DJ Rodney Bingenheimer was a huge fan of the band as well, and played them regularly on his radio show Rodney on the ROQ.

The Pandoras were not afraid to be vulgar, daring, and sexually provocative, all of which was considered inappropriate female behavior during that period. Their radical approach, and the fact that during their prime, they stayed true to themselves and to their sound, is likely what left them out of the race to be labeled America’s Sweethearts with The Go-Go’s and the Bangles.

The Pandoras’ story is a rather complicated one because there were many line-up changes over the years. However, there was always one person at the group’s core, and that was Paula Pierce. She remained a band member throughout all of the changes, and was the group’s leader, songwriter, guitarist, and singer. Her tragic and untimely death in 1991 from a brain aneurysm led to the group’s final dissolution. When Paula decided to oust three of the group’s original members, Gwynne Kahn, Bambi Conway, and Casey from the band, and have them be replaced by Julie Patchouli, Melanie Vammen, and Karen Blankfield, it didn’t just lead to drama, it led to an all out war. Gwynne, Bambi, and Casey had been the line-up that played with Paula on It’s About Time. Gwynne claimed that she had come up with the idea for the band with Paula, and because of that, she felt she was just as entitled to use the name. The exiled members tried to start their own version of the Pandoras, but since Paula had written all of the songs, they did not make it very far without her. The supposed antics of the two warring factors of the group, the Pauladoras and the Gwynnedoras, were eaten up by the fans and the local press.

Julie Patchouli entered the group in the midst of the Pauladoras and Gwynnedoras drama. She was the bass player between 1984 and 1986, and she has been kind enough to share her side of the Pandoras’ story.

Julie Patchouli on Bass

Patchouli playing bass in the studio with the Pandoras.

 

Bess Korey: How aware of the Pandoras were you before you joined, and how did you become involved?

Julie Patchouli: In 1979, I had just begun collecting records, first Punk and then 60s garage 45s and Pebbles compilations. It was at the Hollywood Record Swap Meet that I met Paula Pierce. We hit it off immediately and talked at length about our love for ’60s garage music. We specifically discussed how stupid it was that NOT one single girl band had ever tried to replicate this sound. She went on to tell me about The Pandoras and how she was breaking that myth with their sound. She told me she planned on revamping the band completely and wanted all new blood in the band. She asked me to come over to her apartment where we began jamming together and I learned all of the bass for the songs. It’s About Time had just been released on Voxx Records. Almost immediately she dumped Gwynne Kahn, Bambi Conway, and Casey from the band. I had never heard of The Pandoras before.

What bands were you most influenced by when you joined the Pandoras?

The bands I loved most were: Question Mark and The Mysterians, The Standells, Chocolate Watchband, 13th Floor Elevators, and Dutch 60’s bands like: Q65, The Outsiders, and Ugly Things. I also looked up to a few women in film, particularly Tura Satana, the tough cookie in a film called Faster Pussycat Kill, Kill. Tura in the film played a Karate chopping, man eating femme fatale that didn’t let men push her around, revolutionary for a ’60s movie and ironically enough was The Pandoras philosophy as well. I am still in contact with Tura today, she loves The Pandoras.

What would you most like people to know about Paula?

Paula Pierce was an amazing person, I will always have a great deal of respect for her. Paula’s gruff and often snotty demeanor was certainly very appealing to me and was a breath of fresh air, because so many girl bands at the time were very girly girl, cutesy pop sounding with melodic and harmonious vocals, i.e. Bangles and Go-Go’s. But, we were not the Bangles or the Go-Go’s!! Paula would write a song for the band and it was written in such a way that it captures you (the listener) and then sucks you in. It was like, you just can’t believe that girls are doing this kind of music. In today’s music, I understand that this is very common place. But in the 1980′s it was unheard of unless you were in a punk band. Personally, Paula was a lot of fun to hang out with, at the same time she was intensely serious about her music and her writing. Paula inherently knew what the public wanted and she gave it, without disappointment.

How would you describe the Pandoras’ sound, especially to someone whom has never heard them before?

So many girl bands at that time were sugarcoated, pop radio music. The Pandoras consciously avoided this stereotype. The Pandoras had sex appeal, i.e. the bikini beach single where we all posed in bikinis standing in front of surf boards on the beach. Our sound is best described as authentically raucous ’60s distorted garage music, at its disturbingly best with a hint of surf musical influence (Ventures) thrown in for good measure. Paula’s vocals expressed that same punk angst and pent up teen frustration heard by our ’60s male predecessors. Her rebellious twangy/fuzz guitar and gut wrenching wails, were the creme de la creme. Paula always expressed that women could sound, act and do anything that male bands could do, but even better. Not only did she express this heavily, she demanded it. We were a rebellion spawned from a millennium of typical girl bands that were too scared to break out of the proverbial cutesy mold.

Do you think that the feud between the Pauladoras and Gwynnedoras was exaggerated by the press and the fans, or was it really as dramatic as people claimed it was?

The feud was propaganda, mostly created by Gwynne. Gwynne clearly intended to take the name, The Pandoras, and sensationalized it to the press. Unfortunately for Gwynne, Paula had already purchased the legal rights. As far as hurting us, The Real Pandoras, it didn’t hurt a thing because we had already established our distinctive sound, released/recorded material, and had a concrete fan base.

Considering that you all were young children during the ’60s, how did you know so much about the decade – it’s music, fashion, pop culture etc?

Both of my parents were young and rebellious in the sixties (my mom-20 yrs. old and my dad- 22 yrs. old). I did not have a typical Leave it to Beaver type family. My dad rode a Harley and loved Steppenwolf, my mom was more of a Hippie type, into Bob Dylan and Joan Baez. My cousin Malu was a Monkees and Beatles fanatic. I remember she had all four of The Beatles Bobble head dolls. I would come over to visit her and we would play 45 rpm records on her little turntable and dance to them in her bedroom. Awww yes, I remember dancing to I’m Not Your Stepping Stone in moonlight was true bliss. So even though I was young in ’66, I was heavily influenced by family. Later on, I began to collect everything sixties, including magazines, clothing, newspapers, books, etc., you name it.

Do you feel the band was respected by your male audience and peers; and was it any easier to be in an all-female band in the ’80s than it would have been in the ’60s or ’70s?

I think overall The Pandoras did earn a certain amount of respect with our male counterparts, however in the beginning we were not taken seriously. We were thought of as some kind of burlesque stage act that happened to play musical instruments. But respect is earned. It certainly was a lot easier in the ’80s than it would have been in the ’60s or ’70s, especially because of the nature of our music. The only one female that I can think of that even came close to our sound in ’60s/’70s was Janis Joplin and that was Blues, not ‘60s Garage Music.

What all-female bands that came after the Pandoras have you enjoyed most? Also, what have you been up to musically since the Pandoras, and how much of a role does Garage music play in your life now?

I have to be honest here, I have not been impressed by many all girl bands until very recently. I love a band out of Seattle called The Hot Rollers, they are very cool with a great stage presence, they do a cover of the Pandoras’ song You Don’t Satisfy that would make Paula proud. They have a website at www.thehotrollers.com. Another great band I recently heard is from Brazil called, The Lunettes. They do a great song called Cherry and I love it! You just gotta hear it! They have a MySpace profile.

After leaving the Pandoras, I joined a band called Out Of the Fire, produced by the famous Bruce Joyner, lead man and crooner of the late seventies band ‘Bruce Joyner and the Unknowns’. I toured with OOTF and played on our album entitled Out Of the Fire into the Frying Pan, also I played bass on a few recordings for Bruce Joyner and The Plantations. These days my schedule is too frantic for playing music. Currently, I am a full-time nursing student, and I also have a ten year old daughter. Maintaining the Pandoras’ website takes a lot of my time as well.

Do you still keep in touch with any other Pandoras’ members?

I am still in contact with Karen Blankfeld, the drummer of The Pandoras. I have contacted Melanie Vammen and Kim Shattuck [who joined the group after Patchouli’s departure, and later went on to front The Muffs, which Vammen was briefly a part of as well]. Kim gave me some feedback regarding the website. The Pandoras have accomplished at least one thing, to encourage all women musicians out there that they can do it, and not to let anyone hinder you in your music and in your life. Being a part of The Pandoras was a milestone for me in my life and my wish is that we influence many bands in the future. I have so much respect for what Paula so emphatically believed in and expressed in her music and in her life. In 2004, I created The Pandoras Official Website, dedicated to the memory and the music of Paula and The Pandoras at www.thepandoras.com and a MySpace Music profile has been designed and maintained by me at www.myspace.com/the1pandoras.

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