'Girl Groups' in Rock Music

Welcome to THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English. I’m Phoebe Zimmermann. In the later years of the twentieth century, female musicians helped define new sounds in popular music. These bands are often called "girl groups." This week, learn about three of the most influential.

During the nineteen-seventies, guitar bands filled popular radio. One of the first all-female guitar bands on the radio was the Runaways. They appeared with their first album in nineteen-seventy-six.

The music of the Runaways had the sounds of all-male heavy metal bands like Kiss and Aerosmith. But listeners could also hear the influence of punk music. Groups like the Sex Pistols and the Ramones made this kind of music popular.

Here, from that first album by the Runaways, is a song called "Cherry Bomb."

Like other rock and roll groups, the Runaways sang about teen-age rebellion. But here the girls in the songs did everything that boys did. One song was about breaking out of a jail for teen-age girls. The song is called “Dead End Justice.”

Three of the Runaways -- Lita Ford, Cherie [sheh-REE] Currie and Joan Jett -- went on to separate lives as performers. But before the group broke up, they made two more recordings together. Here is the title song from their album "Queens of Noise."

In the nineteen-sixties, the Beach Boys defined the California sound ...

... but in the nineteen-eighties, it was the Go-Go's.

Like the Runaways, the Go-Go's were influenced by the punk movement. But their music was more fun. In fact, their carefree sound influenced a lot of the "new wave" music of the nineteen-eighties.

The Go-Go's had one of their first hits with this song from nineteen-eighty-one, "We Got the Beat”:

Most of the songs by the Go-Go's were written or co-written by guitarist Charlotte Caffey. A strong guitar and drums drove the sound, carried along by electronic pianos and led by the strong voice of Belinda Carlisle.

This song, “Vacation,” is still played in American dance places.

The Go-Go's broke up in nineteen-eighty-five. During the nineteen-nineties, they worked together from time to time. And they released a few collections of older material. Then, in two-thousand-one, the five members reunited and produced the album "God Bless the Go-Go's." The band continues to perform together.

“God Bless the Go-Go's” kept with the sound that made them famous. The album includes this love song called “Stuck in My Car.”

In the early nineteen-nineties, music produced independently of large record companies became more and more popular. The city of Seattle, in the Pacific Northwest, became known for what people called grunge music. All-male bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam became famous.

In nineteen-ninety-four, two young women, Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein, formed a group. They called it Sleater-Kinney. They named it after a road near the city where they met in college: Olympia, Washington, south of Seattle.

Their first album was released by an independent record company, Chainsaw Records of Olympia. Here is “Slow Song” from that album.

Sleater-Kinney was part of a movement in punk music from the early nineteen-nineties known as "riot grrl" [girl] ... G-R-R-L. This movement was an answer to the mostly male culture of punk music. It started with all-female groups like Bikini Kill and Bratmobile.

Sleater-Kinney is not as widely known as other bands in the country. Yet in two-thousand-one, Time magazine declared this three-member group "America's Best Rock Band." The words to their songs are both personal and political. Many of the songs have to do with women’s rights. This one speaks out against sexual violence. The song is called “#1 [number one] Must Have.”

Sleater-Kinney has recorded six albums so far. For their third album, “Dig Me Out,” they left Chainsaw Records. Since then, the band has been with another independent record company, called Kill Rock Stars.

They recorded their most recent album, “One Beat,” in two-thousand-two. It has been the biggest success to date for Sleater-Kinney. It includes this song, called “Oh.”

Many music critics say the Runaways, the Go-Go's, and Sleater-Kinney have had a big effect on an industry where males hold most of the power. In fact, some consider them among the most influential groups ever to record music in America.

Our program was written by Robert Brumfield and produced by Caty Weaver. I'm Phoebe Zimmermann. Join us again next week for the VOA Special English program, THIS IS AMERICA. We leave you with a Sleater-Kinney song. It's called “You’re No Rock ‘n Roll Fun.”