The Leading Ladies of Post-Punk.

This episode features a line-up of tracks of powerful female front women. This collection of songs celebrates independence, creativity, wild mood swings, and weirdness. We picked leading ladies expressing themselves in ways far beyond what is expected of the archetypical “nice girl.”.  

These ladies have made quite an impression by refusing to be sexualized to sell records, not holding back, and letting their personalities shine through in their performances. We celebrate them in this episode.

Blondie – Hanging on the Telephone

I like the unpolished energy of this one. The track is from 1978 from their third album “Parallel Lines”

Blondie is an American rock band co-founded by singer Debbie Harry and guitarist Chris Stein. The band pioneered the American new wave scene in the mid-1970s in New York. You undoubtedly know hits like Rapture, Heart of Glass, and Atomic. They were a mainstream success in the UK and Australia, but back in their home country, they were always seen as an underground band.

I dug op some fun facts:

  • Did you know Blondie was first called “The Angel and the Snake”? They soon renamed the band Blondie because of Debbie’s hair color. Also, cab drivers and workers called her when they saw her walking on the street, “hey, blondie!”
  • Debbie Started singing in a church choir and also worked as a Playboy Bunny for nine months after a brief job as a waitress.

They disbanded after 6 albums in 1982.

Lene Lovich – Bird Song

Lene Lovich is an American girl from Detroit, born Lili-Marlene Premilovich. She emigrated to England with her parents when she was 13 years old.  She met guitarist and songwriter Les Chappell in England, who later became her lifelong music collaborator and partner.

In 1975, she joined the band the Diversions. Also, she wrote some weird and outspoken lyrics to Cerrone’s smash disco super hit single “Supernature” shortly afterward. You know that track, right? This is the only disco hit I know that has hardcore dystopic vegetarian lyrics…

After the band broke up, Lovich recorded a demo which Lene played to Dave Robinson of the legendary label Stiff Records. Some of her label mates were the Damned, Elvis Costello, Ian Dury, Devo, The Pogues, and Madness.

Lovich’s debut studio album Stateless, released in 1978 on Stiff Records, produced the single “Lucky Number.” Aged 30 years old in 1979, she peaked at number 3 on the UK Singles Chart and was a leading figure in the New Wave music scene. This is “Bird Song” by Lene Lovich.

So this was a track from her second album, “Flex,” released in 1979. The same year, she became fast friends with Dutch rock ‘n roll junkie and singer Herman Brood and the German singer Nina Hagen. Lovich and Hagen appeared together in the Rock ‘n Roll movie Cha Cha, starring Herman Brood; together, the three created the film’s soundtrack. Lene also released a single with Nina Hagen, “Don’t Kill the Animals,” returning once again to her vegetarianism theme.  I’ll continue the story with Nina Hagen in a bit.

Sidewalks and Skeletons & CASHFORGOLD – Eternal Rest

Sidewalks and Skeletons is the solo-project of UK artist Jake Lee, who grew up playing in many different bands as a deathcore guitarist. Must say that I’m not familiar with that genre. Deatrkock however..

Jake created the name “Sidewalks and Skeletons” as a metaphor for the things that remain after death. Namely: “The earth you walked, and your bones: They are all that is left behind.”

Most of his music falls in the micro-genre called Witch House. It’s characterized by dark occult themes, also the artwork. Think of a band like Crystal Castles for instance. You will hear a lot of chopped up and time stretched obscure samples.

Emerging in the early 2010’s, the vibe of witch house was inspired by paranormal films such as The Blair Witch Project, Twin Peaks, Charmed, and various horror themed videos and pop culture references.

Nina Hagen – Unbeschreiblich Weiblich

Born and raised in East Berlin, communist East Germany, Nina Hagen began her career as an actress, appearing in several German films alongside her mother. In her twenties, she joined the band Automobil and released the single “Du hast den Farbfilm vergessen.” When her stepfather’s East German citizenship was withdrawn in 1976, Hagen followed him to Hamburg.

Shortly afterwards, she was offered a record deal from CBS Records and formed the Nina Hagen Band. Their excellent debut album Nina Hagen Band was released in late 1978, got great reviews and was a commercial success. The band released one more album, Unbehagen, before their break-up in 1979, when as mentioned before, she joined Herman Brood and Lene Lovich.

Sadly these days most tracks from the album Nina Hagen Band are hard to find and not available on the streaming services. This is why I picked this excellent track, to share with you guys.  This song, “Unbeschreiblich Weiblich”, is in German, so I’ll explain it. In her twenties, people asked Nina if she was thinking about having children and being a mother, some even called it “fulfilling your duty as a woman”.

In the lyrics, Nina counters by singing that she and she alone determines what happened with her body, and she definitely doesn’t feel she has an obligation to become a mother. She says I don’t need to become pregnant because I already feel unbelievably feminine. “Unbeschreiblich Weiblich”

Fun fact, even though she married Herman Brood in 1979 (primarily to promote their movie), she had a baby just a year later. The father was Herman Broods’ guitar player Ferdinand Karmelk. However, before her daughter Cosma Shiva was born, she had already left him and emigrated to Los Angeles.

Xmal Deutschland – Augen-blick

We covered these guys earlier with a different track. Formed in 1980 in Hamburg. Actually, I should not say guys but girls since they are an all-female band.

They released most of their music on my favorite label of all time, 4AD records. They got their introduction to the 4AD record label by touring with bands like The Mission, The Cult, and Cocteau Twins. Cocteau Twins helped the band get a spot on 4AD.

However, the label wanted Xmal Deutschland to go into a different direction with their music and they refused. Resulting in little to no promotion from their label. I believe they made 3 albums in total, could be 4. Anja was later involved in the house music scene in the 90’s and visual art.

Ellen ten Damme – Natürträne

The third part in this story trilogy is Ellen ten Damme. She is extraordinarily multi-talented. Ten damme is a Dutch actress with several major movie roles and parts in several Dutch TV series and theatre shows. She is also a performer, singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. Ten Damme sings and acts in four languages (Dutch, English, French and German) and plays piano, keyboards, guitar and violin. During her school years Ellen was an enthusiastic gymnast, and one of her trademarks is incorporating gymnastic tricks or even circus acts into her shows.

Coincidentally, there is another connection to Lovich and Hagen, again, via Herman Brood, who we might play another time. He passed away but Ten Damme performed recently as the lead singer of Herman Brood’s band Wild Romance, honoring his legacy and getting rave reviews. She always was a big fan, Herman even participated on one of her first albums, Kill Your Darlings. auda

The track I have selected is also in German, as Nina Hagen first released it on that iconic 1979 album Nina Hagen Band. The song is called “Natürträne”, it’s from Ellen’s CD “Berlin” from 2014. This is a live cut of her concert at the Royal Dutch Concertgebouw in Amsterdam. It’s a reasonably straightforward cover of the original track, which in itself is not a straightforward song at all 🙂

The performance showcased both the talent of Nina Hagen as a writer of quickly escalating songs and the singing talent of Ellen ten Damme, who sings a beautiful homage to Hagen – and can actually pull off this challenging track live. Quite a feat!

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