After being told by her guitar teacher at 15 that girls "don’t play electric guitar," Jett became one of the most successful women in rock n’ roll, despite continual pressure from The Runaways manager Kim Fowley to sexualise their image. “He wanted us to be young fuckable jailbait,” Jett said of Fowley. “Assholes still come up to us and think we get laid all the time. I just look at them and either I get angry or I think it's really funny”. After being rejected by twenty three record companies, Jett decided to create Blackheart records, one of the first women to do so, and is still going strong. Now who’s laughing?
This wailing Texan hedonist was known for holding her own, whether it was with drinking, men, or music. The staggering ego of Jim Morrison proved no match for Joplin - when at a party in LA - Morrison started mouthing off and tried to force Joplin’s head into his crotch. Naturally she told him to fuck off, but when that didn’t work and he grabbed her by the hair, she smashed him over the head with her bottle of Southern Comfort, knocking him out cold. He totally deserved it.
Any reference to women in music who don’t take shit (or rather take too much and run around the streets in a bra crying) would not be complete without mentioning Amy. Of course it was always tricky to steer the focus away from the booze, the crack, the day-old mice video with Pete Doherty, shoddy performances, public breakdowns, and so on. But she did it all under her own volition, oh... and the massive success of Back to Black. She pleaded guilty to assault in January 2011 after attending a pantomime in Milton Keynes and kicked the theatre manager in the groin when he asked her to stop heckling the performers. Incendiary, but very much missed nonetheless.
As one of the founding members of The Divinyls, Amphlett tore up stages with her unique blend of sexual goddess-meets-schoolgirl-brat in her trademark white shirt and tunic ensemble. She was no different off stage either. In a disturbingly honest moment in Pleasure and Pain: My Life, she recounts how she was the understudy for Marcia Hines in Jesus Christ Superstar, but desperately wanted the lead part. One night while driving to the club for a performance, she saw Hines’ Jaguar race past, take off into the air and land in a ditch. So naturally, she kept driving without checking on Hines, scoring the part of Mary Magdelene.
The queen of neo-soul has never been one to shy away from controversy and has always been very candid about her music, her relationship,s and her battles with addiction. So unsurprisingly, Badu’s video for ‘Window Seat’ has landed her in trouble with the law, which is essentially a home video of her stripping naked through the city streets of Dallas, Texas in an attempt to confront censorship laws. She is deftly unapologetic about said video. Her male fans feel the same way.
Smith defied gender and labelling, becoming one of the most influential women in the punk and rock n’ roll scenes. Her androgynous looks and fierce attitude meant that she could pretty much do whatever she wanted. This included inviting music journalists up to her hotel room whilst still in bed with whoever she was sleeping with at the time, leaving many a journo confused, but ready with a good story.
Chan Marshall unfortunately became as well known for her sketchy booze-fuelled performances as her soulful and distinctive songwriting in her early career. After drinking most of the day, she would wash down some Xanax (an anti-anxiety prescription medication) with a bottle of scotch then stumble onto stage. Accounts from this time have reported her mooning the audience, playing three chords of a song only to change her mind and start a different one, and that she would play fragments of a different song then told the audience to get out, encouraging them to sue her. But like every good Southern girl, this was before she found God. These days, she's still a reticent performer, but has found a way to down her emotions, while conversely giving emotionally-charged performances. One-of-a-kind.
A performer like no other, Björk’s association with the political left has gotten her into a few heated diplomatic situations over the years. During a show in Shanghai, she dedicated the song ‘Declare Independence’ to the Tibetan freedom movement, garnering backlash from China, who accused her of breaking Chinese law and saying that she “hurt Chinese people’s feelings”. In another incident, she attacked a photographer on arrival at Auckland International Airport en-route to the Big Day Out. An artist who has always marched to her own unique beat, regardless of press follies.
Brought up in a small town in Ireland, Sinead O’Connor was known for being a slightly eccentric artist, and later found out that she had undiagnosed bi-polar disorder. In 1992 she appeared on Saturday Night Live3m> to perform the Bob Marley song ‘War’, but ended up changing the lyrics and preceded to tear up a photo of the Pope in front of the camera saying “fight the real enemy”. She also dated Chili Peppers frontman Anthony Kiedis briefly, but dumped him suddenly... obviously realising who the real enemy was.
As with Amy Winehouse, no women-in-rock list is quite complete without mentioning the oddities of the lipstick-smeared Ms Love. Plagued by years of self-abuse, addiction, and arrests (not to mention becoming a widow at 29), Love’s almost autobiographical portrayal of Flynt’s addict wife in The People Vs Larry Flint got her nominated for a Golden Globe. Love recently recounted that she used to have to stick pins in Kurt Cobain’s testicles in order to wake him up from heroin-induced unconsciousness. Ouch.
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