50 GIRLS WHO ROCKED THE PLANET
By Georgie Kimpton
The greatest thing about having been born a ‘Baby Boomer’ is that my life coincided beautifully with the birth and development of ‘pop culture’.
50 GIRLS WHO
ROCKED THE PLANET
The greatest thing about having been born a ‘Baby Boomer’ is that my life
coincided beautifully with the birth and development of ‘pop culture’.
B.B’s such as myself were all born after the Second World War, approximately
between the years, 1947 and 1957, me being Class of 54. Somehow this birthright defined us in a very unique way. Being born into a time of peace, optimism and developing wealth, we were blessed with a sense of confidence, ambition and a healthy dose of cynicism. In the wars that had blighted the lives of our parents and grandparents, men had been called to arms and responded without question. By the time of Vietnam,
the attitude was quite different and artists like Joan Baez were brazenly taking the government to task. Yoko Ono was screaming her mantra, ‘Give peace a chance! We had seen the horror of nuclear warfare and had raised the intellectual bar sufficiently enough to realise that peace inevitably came
from negotiation and not from conflict.
Of course when I was little more than three or four years old, the Cultural
Revolution to which I would later, so eagerly attach myself, was already well
and truly underway. As I sat and soaked up the delights of Bill and Ben, and
the Woodentops, a teenaged trucker from Tupelo, Mississippi had already lit the
bonfire that would soon incinerate the monochrome world of the early Twentieth Century.
By 1960 a new world order was rising from its ashes.Politics and morality were being
placed under the microscope as never before and increasingly my generation were finding them wanting and in need of change.
The movies, fashion, and satirical comedy were all leading the charge but there
was one force beyond all others and that was music.
British stars were emulating the incredible successes of U.S. rockers like Elvis
and Buddy Holly. Soon we had our own Teen Idols in the shape of Adam Faith, Billy Fury and of course, the everlasting marvel, Cliff Richard.
When I was eight years old, my mother, already painfully aware of my almost
psychotic passion for music bought me a tiny transistor radio for Christmas.
Curled up in bed on Boxing Night 1962, and listening to a crackling, distant
station called Luxembourg, I heard a record called ‘Love me do’ by the Beatles, and even at such a tender age, I somehow knew that the world was about to change forever.
One short year later the Fab Four were, as they say in the trade,
spitting hits! By courtesy of this extraordinary success and in no lesser measure, a happy ‘coincidence’ of management, another little door was unexpectedly opened and through it strode
a young nightclub cloakroom attendant by the name of Priscilla Maria Veronica White, AKA Cilla Black. Armed with a Lennon and McCartney penned tune, Cilla managed an astonishing top 40
entry with ‘Love of the Loved. Astonishing, perhaps but this great achievement was to prove no ‘one off’. Indeed before anybody even had time to close this tiny portal of opportunity,
another lady strolled through in Cilla’s shadow. The young scouser’s moment of glory was to be short lived as she was quite literally eclipsed only one month later by
Dusty Springfield who’s first solo single, ‘I only want to be with you’
smashed into the U.K. Top Five. Dusty
Cilla had struck the first blows for Girl Power and during the wonder year of 1964 many women were to take advantage including Marianne Faithfull, Twinkle and Sandie Shaw. These were the women of the Baby Boom, who dared to nurse aspirations that stretched way beyond marriage and maternity. Here was a new breed of woman who would not be playing ‘groupie’ to the stars of the revolution. They were not to be viewers but activists. These pioneers of feminism opened the door for many others to pass through as we will discover here in my chart...50 Girls who rocked the Planet!
Perhaps before commencing the countdown, I should explain a little about the
criteria applied. Firstly I must point out that where I hope my list will resonate and reflect a reasonably broad consensus, it is entirely subjective and I fully accept from the outset that there is unlikely to be another living soul who agrees emphatically. Indeed I’ve had to deliberate hard and long and every space could have been filled two or three times over.
Of course everyone on the list had to tick the main box: specifically that they
have produced excellent musical recordings and performances, but over and above this, I have focused on that special few who endeavoured to push boundaries in the delivery of their art. These are women who have moved me by their intensity, bravery and in some cases just sheer anarchic, psychotic behaviour.
These women have played guitars, shaved their heads, spoken out on religious
and social issues, they’ve tinkered with taboos and stared authoritarianism in
the eye. These guide lines may lead you, quite understandably into expecting
names like Madonna and Britney to be soon hurtling from the tunnel, after all
Spears shaved her head, didn’t she? Then there was that kiss! At the 2003 MTV
Awards Madge and Brit took the opportunity to fan their individual career
flames by snogging each other’s faces off. When it comes to exposing the Lady Garden, Brit has no rival, but this is all Red Top fodder and utterly vacuous. Where’s the music? Where’s the message?
I realise that many, indeed most commentators are bound to criticise a list
such as this which does not include Madonna, but such critics will have missed
the point. This list is not based on commercial success and unit shifting,
indeed a number of my nifty fifty like Lydia Lunch and Lucy Cotter, have enjoyed very little in the way of fame or fortune as their offerings have been considered less than radio friendly.
The chart is naturally current and includes a number of contemporary cutting edge artists such as Polly Scattergood, Lily Allen, Regina Spektor, Avril Lavigne and Amy Winehouse. That said, I have confined myself to women who found their footing in the post Baby Boomer era, hence do not expect to find Billie Holiday, Judy Garland or Sarah Vaughan despite their otherwise undeniable credentials.
My final criterion is genre. This chart is ostensibly Rock / Pop, and
therefore, predominantly ‘white’. Responding to an earlier version of this
work, there were those who described the entire exercise as a ‘master class in
sexism.’ With this in mind, I would hate to add ‘Racism’ to the charge sheet,
but like Billie and Judy, do not expect to find Soul Divas like Aretha Franklin
or Missy Elliot. Alternatively you may hold out some hope for characters like
Skunk Anansie’s Skin, Grace Jones or perhaps, PP Arnold.
That’s the preamble. It’s time to reveal our first artist. Who is number fifty
in our chart of 50 Girls who rocked the Planet!