Lead-singers, instrumentalists, fanzine contributors, fashion designers, actresses, all-female bands…. from the beginning women have made significant contributions to the punk rock music and its subculture. Most of them became iconic females during the years that influenced the music today.
Female-led bands like The Patti Smith Group and Blondie gained popularity in the 1970s and played a key role in the development of punk rock above all US and UK at that time and then they continued to influence the future generation.
These women also plugged into the feminist movement, and spoke out about the issues facing them in their songs or in their music…
Transgressive, creative, independent and with very great musical abilities, they were born to be punk rockers!
In the music scene it has often been difficult to emerge for a woman and the idea of the “rebel woman” was very strange in the past for most people. It was very uncommon a female musician.
Debbie Harrie, called “Moon” because of her pale face, started to love makeup when she was only 10 years old. Her zebra dress became famous because it was originally a pillow that she found in the garbage on the street. Find a pillow and make it fashion is really punk! Stretch and short clothes, red lips, blonde hair, pale skin, and sexy tights, this was Debbie Harrie when she became the front girl of Blondie that became the pioneers of the American punk rock and new wave scenes in the 1970s.
And Joan Jett? This young rebel woman with a leather jacket and stretch black jeans was the guitarist of the popular female band The Runaways: she wanted to do only what she wanted. She said: “Other people will call me a rebel, but just I feel like I’m living my life and doing what I want to do. Sometimes people call that rebellion, especially when you are a woman”. Many people spoke about his doubt sexuality but it doesn’t interest us, a bad reputation? Maybe, but she did what she wanted. Nico, the “femme fatale” of the Velvet Underground is a very jewel of the proto-punk period. Rare beauty, a voice with an unusual timbre, a very charming female who became the “muse” of Andy Warhol. Lou Reed was the frontman of the Velvet Underground but the journalists always wanted to interview her because of her personality.
She had a difficult and anguished past, the death of his father when she was a child, the drug abuse and the personal “spectres”… But all these elements didn’t obstruct her creative nature. Actress for “La dolce vita” of Federico Fellini, a model in London and then model for the father of Pop Art Andy Warhol. Thanks to him, she met Velvet Underground and this changed forever her life.
With the release of their debut album “Velvet Underground and Nico” (with the famous cover of the banana of Warhol) she became very popular. We can’t forget influential Patti Smith, a complete artist: singer, songwriter, poet… She significantly influenced all the New York City punk rock scene. Patti was a very great attraction at CBGB’s, the famous club where many famous punk rock bands like Ramones and Blondie played frequently. The release of the debut album “Horses” marks the beginning of the punk era.
Artists like Suzi Quatro are considered to be major influences in the early British punk culture. Quatro refused to be sexualized by the media and indirectly dealt with the issue of sexism by embracing a tough, rocker persona while producing music that could thrive in the mainstream.
And the grandmother of the punk? Poly, the front women of the band X-Ray Spex was the archetype of the modern punk girl. Bipolar, a rebel but just talented musician at the age of 15 with local bands but at 18 she just recorded her first album with the X-Ray Spex. She was vegetarian and involved in the Hare Krishna movement, feminist and against every form of racism, she developed a strong self-conscious and she described herself as a deliberate underachiever.
Many women in the punk scene developed her self-conscious and the veteran Becky Bondage, the famous front women of Vice Squad, is one of them. She’s a singer, guitarist, and songwriter: she is vegetarian and fights for the animal rights. She’s a professional musician and she often says about her “I’m very noisy” but she thinks only that Punk is not “chaos” but professionalism too! Her first gig with Vice Squad was at Bristol University and now she’s very popular all over the world.
The feminism current of 70’s and 80’s found the maximal expressions in the riot grrrl movement of 90’s: homemade magazines used as zines and group meetings to talk about rights, domestic abuse, and female empowerment. Bikini Kill was one of the most famous feminist band of the ‘90s, born at first as a fanzine and then as a punk rock band. They aren’t sexist and a lot of men supported both the band and the movement, they wanted only to give the right place to the girls in the punk music scene too. They were simply underground, rebels and punks. After the 90’s, we arrive in the 2000’s… to the current punk singer and guitarist Brody Dalle.
Sourpuss, Distillers, Spinnerette, solo career and again Distillers, she is a very charming woman that, despite her difficult childhood, started to play the guitar at the age of 13 and there she found a refuge. At first in Australia with Sourpuss and then in the US she has shown (as her previous female punk rockers) that a woman can be a professional and talented musician like a man.
“THEY SAY WOMEN DON’T PLAY GUITAR AS WELL AS MEN, I DON’T PLAY THE GUITAR WITH MY FUCKING VAGINA…..SO WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES IT MAKE?” ~ Brody Dalle