Monday, October 25, 2010

V.A.- Girls With Guitars


In 1989, back in the days of vinyl, Ace Records issued their first collection of "Girls With Guitars". Some young folk out there worship that album, it seems. Now, after a mere 15-year wait, a second compilation is unleashed. Grey area releases abound in this bizarre musical genre, where the sounds of 1960s girl groups and garage bands collide in a mess of grunge and glamour. Ace give those pesky b**tl*gg*rs a lesson in how to do the job properly, natch. 


Pride of place, and half the space, is given to a clutch of gen-u-ine axe-toting all-girl bands. Goldie and the Gingerbreads hold the highest profile, their four tracks dating from a time when their fame had spread not much further than Greenwich Village. They would soon become fixtures on the British scene, touring with the Stones and the Kinks. Cover stars the Girls were a sister act from Los Angeles, so highly regarded in the biz that guitar manufacturers Fender sponsored them. Dylan liked them so much he hired them to play at his birthday bash. Back in the day, the Pandoras were constantly in demand on the college circuit of New England, as were the Daughters Of Eve in the environs of Chicago, yet parking lot gigs were the speciality of the Hairem, Sacramento's answer to the Shaggs. The Hairem would achieve greater notoriety as She, also included here. 

Philly-based Kathy Lynn and the Playboys were one and the same group as funky instrumentalists the Buena Vistas, it transpires. If you've read the book On The Bus you might be familiar with the name Denise Kaufman, aka Mary Microgram of the Merry Pranksters, Ken Kesey's infamous troop of hippie nomads. Previously, she had fleetingly led Denise and Company, purveyors of one of the most sought after of all garage girl 45s. On a different tack, offerings by the Percells and Al Casey with the K-C-Ettes are direct descendents of Duane Eddy's (Dance With The) Guitar Man, while Sugar and the Spices actually comprised Casey's wife and the former Mrs Eddy. The said Corky Casey is interviewed in the action-packed 20-page booklet, along with Darlene Love of the K-C-Ettes, drummer Debbie Pomeroy of the Daughters Of Eve and Patti Valentine of Cincinnati duo the 2 Of Clubs. Also from Cincy, soul trio the Charmaines lend their voices to a track by axe-god Lonnie Mack. They also backed up James Brown in their time - 'nuff said. 

Were Shadow Morton's Beattle-ettes (sic) and the Shangri-Las one and the same group? How do Memphis's own Shangs-clones the Goodees sound doing a Swingin' Medallions biggie? Is Pat Powdrill and the Powerdrills' cut the best slab of West Coast girl-psych around? And did the Angels and the Tomboys play their own instruments, or just sound as if they did? (He asked, patronisingly). Listen and decide for yourselves. ~ By Mick Patrick

1. Girls - My Baby (2:06)
2. Tomboys - I'd Rather Fight Than Switch (2:22)
3. Angels - Get Away From Me (1:54)
4. Denise & Company - Boy, What'll You Do Then (2:30)
5. Goldie & the Gingerbreads - Chew Chew Fee Fi Fum (2:11)
6. Beattle-Ettes - Only Seventeen (1:57)
7. Sugar & The Spices - Do the Dog (2:09)
8. Kathy Lynn & the Playboys - I Got a Guy (1:57)
9. The Goodees - Double Shot (Of My Baby's Love) (2:58)
10. The Pandoras - (I Could Write a Book) About My Baby (2:14)
11. Pat Powdrill/Powerdrills - They Are the Lonely (2:37)
12. 2 of Clubs - Heart (2:43)
13. The Daughters of Eve - Help Me Boy (2:32)
14. Goldie & the Gingerbreads - Skinny Vinnie (2:05)
15. The Percells - Hully Gully Guitar (2:50)
16. Kathy Lynn & the Playboys - Rock City (2:04)
17. Lonnie Mack/The Charmaines - Sticks and Stones (2:14)
18. Goldie & the Gingerbreads - Take My Hand (2:42)
19. Sugar & The Spices - Boys Can Be Mean (2:03)
20. Al Casey/K-C-Ettes - Guitars, Guitars, Guitars (2:03)
21. Goldie & the Gingerbreads - V.I.P. (1:58)
22. Hairem - Come on Along (2:18)
23. Girls - My Love (3:21)
24. She - Outta Reach (2:25)



To clear up some inevitable confusion right off the bat, this does not feature the same music as the 1989 LP compilation also titled Girls With Guitars, which came out on Impact, a subsidiary of Ace, the same label that put out the 2004 CD also titled Girls With Guitars [Ace]. The 1989 Impact LP bearing this title was devoted entirely to '60s female British acts, with the exception of Goldie & the Gingerbreads, an American band who were based in Britain in the mid-'60s. The 2004 Ace CD called Girls With Guitars [Ace] has 24 entirely different tracks, all of them by American-'60s girl groups, many (though not all) of whom played their own instruments. Goldie & the Gingerbreads appear on the 2004 Girls With Guitars [Ace] as well, but are represented by four mid-'60s tracks that don't appear on the 1989 Girls with Guitars LP. Got all that? Moving on to the music, it's okay and usually competent enough to avoid categorization as mere novelty. But it's not great -- it's mid-level period-'60s rock (actually from 1963-70), reflecting girl group, soul, British Invasion, and pop-rock trends of the day. Some of it has the raw guitar rock approach associated with garage rock, but not all of it does, by any means. Few will have heard of any of these acts, save perhaps Goldie & the Gingerbreads (whose tracks are only so-so); one-time Ikette Pat Powdrill, represented by an atypical (for her) piece of typical 1966 L.A. flower power pop/rock, "They Are the Lonely"; and, perhaps, She, who got some notoriety decades later after Ace issued a CD of that garage band's material. There's also Lonnie Mack, who's not a woman, of course, but whose "Sticks and Stones" featured vocals by women singers the Charmaines. Some of the standout tracks are the Beatlettes' "Only Seventeen," one of the most British Invasion-influenced songs on the disc (as if you couldn't tell from the group's name), though some of the melody borrows liberally from Lesley Gore's "She's a Fool"; "Help Me Boy," the Daughters of Eve's awkward, gender-adjusted cover of the Animals' hit "Help Me Girl"; the Girls' moody 1965 single "My Baby"/"My Love"; and the 2 of Clubs' version of Petula Clark's "Heart" (which actually charted in Billboard in the "bubbling under" section of the Hot Hundred in 1966), a song strong enough that it's hard to ruin, though both Clark and the Remains did better versions. This anthology will benefit from much stronger distribution than the many volumes in the Girls in the Garage series, the best-known anthologies of the small-'60s girl group/garage group genre. But to be honest, if you cherry-picked the best tracks from that series into one or two volumes, you'd have collections that would blow Girls With Guitars [Ace] out of the water.



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