Episode #7: Women who Rocked the 70s
“Try (Just a Little Bit Harder) by Janis Joplin (1969)
“FInest Lovin’ Man” by Bonnie Raitt (1971)
“Dreams” by Fleetwood Mac (1977)
“Over My Head” by Fleetwood Mac (1975)
“Barracuda” by Heart (1977)
“Brass in Pocket” by The Pretenders (1979)
03:00 Amy begins the episode by pointing out that rock and roll is a patriarchy. To deny that would be to avoid the whole point of the podcast so an episode that is specfiically about women who rocked the 70s.
2:00 Amy provides a brief recap of the Women’s Strike for Equality on August 26, 1970 with a reminder that gender discrimination in employment was included in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as an attempt to get the Act to fail. Oops.
04:00 Was Janis Joplin “one of the guys?” Joe McDonald of Country Joe and the Fish said that she was most definitely not one of the guys and “sexism killed her.” Amy theorizes, though, that Janis did believe she needed to compete with the men and exuded a “live in the moment philosophy.” This is illustrated by playing Janis’s famous quote about it all being “the same fucking day.”
06:30 A recap of Janis Joplin’s show in Louisville, Kentucky in June 1970 reminds us of the intensity of Janis’s performances. Everyone had a good time except the security guards who were told that Janis “demanded” that the crowd be allowed to dance to her music. “Try (Just a Little Bit Harder)” is the song that got the crowd off their folding chairs and onto their feet.
11:15 Janis sang about the blues of disappointment, not lack. There is some irony that Janis entertained her male fans by singing about her disappointment in men or her perception that she was disappointing them. What would have happened to women in rock had she lived? Amy theorizes that women in rock would not have been such a novelty if Janis Joplin had not died four months after the Louisville show.
14:00 It seems that the record labels did not know how to promote their female artists, especially a blues artist like Bonnie Raitt. However, was Bonnie Raitt’s debut album any more blues than music from The Allman Brothers? Maybe not. Amy then plays “Finest Lovin’ Man” from the Bonnie Raitt album from 1971, which illustrates that Bonnie is a guitar goddess and maybe not more bluesy than The Allman Brothers.
17:00 Bonnie, like Janis Joplin, got into the alcoholic lifestyle that she thought was required of her as a musician that hung out with men. She thought that was the road to respect but it was actually the road to getting dropped by Warner Brothers.
18:20 Stevie Nicks was the first woman to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice when she was inducted as a solo artist in March 2019.
20:00 Stevie Nicks and Christine McVie wrote some of Fleetwood Mac’s most popular hits. It was very unique to have two women in a band and for those women to have such a prominent place in the band. Can you believe that “Dreams” was the only #1 single that the band ever had? Stevie wrote that with Lyndsey Buckingham in mind.
23:13 Stevie does not think that she had to deal with as much sexism as some women in music had to deal with. She said that she and Christine vowed that they would not let themselves be treated like second class citizens and that they would fight for themselves and for other women. Christine wrote “Over My Head” and sang lead vocals on that song, which was Fleetwood Mac’s first Top 20 hit in their new revamped style after Stevie and Lyndsey joined the band. She wrote their second one, too: “Say You Love Me.”
26:00 Mushroom Records, the record label that signed Heart in the 1970s, started a gross rumor about Ann Wilson and Nancy Wilson, who are sisters. They insinuated that Ann and Nancy were lovers with a disgusting ad in Rolling Stone, prompting a radio promoter to ask Ann about her “lover,” prompting Ann to write “Barracuda” in 1977.
28:58 Ann Wilson points out that she was routinely sexually harassed but in the 70s, she would have been fired, not the harasser, if she complained.
29:50 Heart, like Journey, Foreigner, and similar bands found more mainstream success in the 1980s when they embraced area rock personas. And sang power ballads.
31:30 “Brass in Pocket” by The Pretenders was released in the U.K. in November 1979. Even though Chrissie Hynde doesn’t like to think of it as a feminist anthem, it kind of is because it is a song about a woman taking some sexual control. She wanted it to be a traditional rock song but we had not progressed yet to the point that women could sing songs like that and we don’t think, “hey, a woman is singing that.” Still, “Brass in Pocket” represents progress. The fact that she wrote it and it was a hit is important. Things will not be perfect in the 80s for women in music but there will be progress.
SOURCES USED TO CREATE THIS EPISODE
Dalton, David. “Janis Joplin’s Full Tilt Boogie Ride.” Rolling Stone. August 10, 1970. https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-news/janis-joplins-full-tilt-boogie-ride-254786
Grant, Sarah. “Heart’s Ann Wilson on Sexism in Rock, Why #MeToo is a ‘Power Issue.’ Rolling Stone. January 17. 2018. https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-features/hearts-ann-wilson-on-sexism-in-rock-why-metoo-is-a-power-issue-126503/
“Janis Joplin: The Queen of Rock.” NPR. January 13, 2013. https://www.npr.org/2013/01/19/169799810/janis-joplin-the-queen-of-rock
McNair, James. “The Story Behind Brass in Pocket” Louder. November 26, 2016. https://www.loudersound.com/features/the-story-behind-the-song-brass-in-pocket-by-the-pretend
O’Brien, Lucy. She Bop II: The Definitive History of Women in Rock, Pop, and Soul. New York: Continuum Publishing. 2004.
Robinson, Lisa. “New Again: Chrissie Hynde” Interview. October 25, 2016. https://www.interviewmagazine.com/music/new-again-chrissie-hynde
Sheffield, Rob. “Stevie Nicks: Wisdom from the Rock and Roll Legend.” Rolling Stone. February 28, 2019. https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-features/stevie-nicks-interview-tom-petty-drag-queens-game-of-thrones-prince-801112/