a lavishly (if not lasciviously) illustrated guide to bodacious bass babes
Belly/L7/Benny Sizzler's Gail Greenwood models the Official Bodacious Bass Babe Axe, the Gibson Thunderbird IV
There have been thousands of guitar goddesses from Joan Baez to Joan Jett, not to mention dozens of drum dolls (hi, Karen!), and even a few keyboard kittens (hi, Tori!). But no instrument in the rock arsenal twists the ol' lipstick tube quite like the bass guitar.
The Runaways' Jackie Fox show Lita Ford the proper way to play
"Queens of Noise" on the original bass-babe Thunderbird
Beat me, slap me, pluck me, use your fingers!
What is it about the bass that makes women wanna wrap their dainty fingers around those tree-trunk necks? Contrary to popular belief, bass is not an easy instrument to master; oh sure, you only play one note at a time, but for every chord coming out of the Stratocaster, bassists often hammer multiple separate notes (guitarists like to call this "soloing"). The damn things weigh a ton, the strings are like Roto-Rooters, and you have to pay close attention to the drummer, a death sentence in many bands. Still, bass is by far the most popular choice of instrument for girls who don't sing. Maybe it's got something to do with the rumble from the amps? "Good Vibrations," indeed (not incidentally performed on the original Beach Boys recording by embryo-bass babe Carol Kaye).
You know you're bodacious when you manage to break your Thunderbird's G-string like Sonic Youth's Kim Gordon
the curse of the bodacious bass babe
Van Halen vocalists. Deep Purple guitarists. Grateful Dead keyboard players. Spinal Tap drummers. Women musicians who specialize in four strings suffer from the same annoying tendency to wander off the plantation, as evidenced by the turnover in the Runaways (five!), L7 and Babes in Toyland (four and counting), Nashville Pussy, Elastica, Hole, the Pandoras and Girlschool (three apiece), and the Bangles, Precious Metal, Imperial Teen, Smashing Pumpkins, Vixen and the Slits (the terrible twos). And they say men can't make commitments...
Nashville Pussy's Tracy Almazan: T-Bird is da word!
the holy trinity of bodacious bass babe archtypes
Spotlight princess (sings lead, writes songs): Suzi Quatro, Johnette Napolitano, Bianca Butthole. Often morphs into guitar goddess (Juliana Hatfield, Aimee Mann, Jennifer Finch) or marries lead guitarist (Suzi again).
Synchronized periods (all-girl bands): Jackie Fox, Kathy Valentine, Michael Steele, Donna F. Think Witches of Eastwick with Ampeg SVTs.
One of the boys (token female): Tina Weymouth, Kim Gordon, Kim Deal, Sean Yseult. Shares dressing room, but not songwriting credits. Fuck (with) at your own peril.
In addition, there are various sub-genres, like cute bass chicks in babe bands with random boys (Hole, Elastica, Breeders, Nashville Pussy) and single-name bass babes (Kira, D'arcy, Britta, Greta B, Donna F, Mona).
But they all have one thing in common; they're cooler, louder and way more bodacious than you.
and now, the bodacious bass babe
Esteemed member of the Wrecking Crew (1960s L.A. studio aces), and possibly the most recorded bass player ever, Carol Kaye's credits are nothing less than the history of American rock, from Phil Spector's epic productions to the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds, from the Monkees to Frank Zappa, not to mention innumerable pop, jazz, swing, R&B and soul sessions, soundtracks and live television appearances. Literally the mother of contemporary electric bass.
The coolest cat in the Chinn/Chapman 1973 glitter litter, mixing glam-slam tribal stomps with leather-lust roots revivalism. Despite slobber-heavy publicity, America remained curiously indifferent (except for the crowd at Rodney Bingenheimer's English Disco in Hollywood, i.e. the Runaways) until Suzi was cast as Leather Tuscadero on Happy Days and finally topped the Yankee charts with "Stumblin' In." Verily the Elvis of bodacious bass babes.
In "Cherry Bomb," Cherie Currie sings, "I'm the fox you've been waiting for," and she was right, as Jackie (Fuchs) was the secret weapon in the classic Runaways lineup, her perky wholesomeness balancing the make-mine-Midol aggro approach of future metalsluts Joan Jett and Lita Ford. Responsible for instigating the curse of the bodacious bass babes (Fox was preceded by Micki Steele, who changed her name to Michael when she joined the Bangles, and Peggy Foster, then followed by Vicki Blue, who's recently directed a documentary about the Runaways called Edgeplay, and Laurie McAllister from the Orchids), and also the first cute bass chick to hang a Gibson Thunderbird off her skinny shoulders, she's now a Harvard-bred lawyer and thus the indirect inspiration for Legally Blonde.
Talking Heads tomboy who didn't bother with glam or gams, and thus became a worship-worthy icon who conclusively proved that a girl could make it in a "real" band on musical merit alone. So locked into the groove, she married drummer Chris Franz. Graduated to spotlight-princess status with the Tom Tom Club, then formed the first bodacious bass babe supergroup when she enlisted Johnette Napolitano to sing in the Heads. The only member of this list enshrined in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, David Byrne hasn't recorded a decent piece of music without her.
Given that the rest of the Go-Go's are musically dubious at best, Valentine adds much-needed muscle to the frothy fun (c.f. the beginning of "We Got the Beat," the break in "Head Over Heels," "Our Lips Are Sealed" in general). After spending 20 years in Army boots as the band's official ugly duckling, she's evolved into the swan of the sorority (check out the lead pic on the Go-Go's site and you'll understand why Belinda had to pose for Playboy and Jane wears corsets to compete), not to mention a guitar goddess with her solo spinoff, the Delphines, in which Dominique Davalos assumes auxiliary bass-babe duties.
There aren't many musicians who can slide seamlessly from Gang of Four to the B-52s, much less Robert Fripp to Ani DiFranco, but Sara Lee makes it all look and sound simple, even when she's giving much-needed funk lessons to the Indigo Girls.
The truth behind Sonic Youth, and by far their best singer, too, Gordon's four-to-the-floor foundation allows hubby Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo to spew screwdriver-enhanced bubbleskronk gloss on their Transformers-gone-haywire guitars while maintaining a semblance of melody amidst the cacaphoniness that often passes for art in their bohemian love pad. Sideline dabbles include discovering Hole and covering "Oh Bondage! Up Yours" with Free Kitten. Extra points for dressing like an Austin Powers extra to show off her killer legs, a rarity amongst one-of-the-boys bass babes.
Keeping up with crypto-guitarist Greg Ginn in Black Flag in their Phish-mugs-the-Misfits jam phase was easy compared to coping with Henry Rollins' sweat all over her frets (hence the fan on her amp). Forever immortalized as the trick answer to Who's Got the 10 1/2?, Kira (Roessler) was staggeringly cool in ways only Kim Deal can appreciate or approximate.
Proto-Runaway replaces Annette Zilinskas (Blood on the Saddle, Rain Parade) in the Bangles just in time for major-label meteor ride. Sings "September Gurls" better than Alex Chilton, which is really saying something.
'Til Tuesday songstress whose Beatlesque songs are thankfully more appealing than her tresses, which used to resemble a vat of cotton candy into which a naughty child had hurled a firecracker. Disastrous relationship with overrated simp-pop craftsman Jules Shear and not-altogether-unwarranted label apathy provides endless source material for solo career as bitter ice ferret. So serious, she has to hire comedians to provide between-song patter at "Acoustic Vaudeville" performances with her husband, overrated simp-pop craftsman Michael Penn.
Concrete Blonde is almost as good a band name as Blondie when it comes to accurately describing Johnette, a bodacious bass babe who's really more of a monstrous metal mama, a David Lee Goth who explores the same dark alleys as Anne Rice with serious Hendrixian flair, Roxy moxie and Tijuana-whorehouse panache. Best known for "Joey," the "Stairway to Heaven" of alcoholic love songs, and her exquisite taste in covers, including definitive versions of George Harrison's "Beware of Darkness," the Carpenters' "Hurting Each Other," and Cheap Trick's "Mandocello" (named for a bodacious bass in its own right).
History claims that Deal was the sole respondent to a Boston classified ad looking for a bassist who liked Peter, Paul & Mary and Hüsker Dü, which defined the Pixies pretty much perfectly. Switched to guitar goddess after forming the Breeders with marginally talented identical twin sister Kelley and bass babe's-babe (nudge, wink, see Sara Lee) Josephine Wiggs, sold more records in a week than Frank Black's career total, and became the alternative/grrl Axl Rose after requiring nine years to record utterly underwhelming third Breeders album, Title TK. In 2004, she's back in Black with the Pixies' much-needed comeback.
Blake Baby bass babe and voluntary virgin Juliana Hatfield eloped platonically with preppie drug casualty Evan Dando, discovered Nirvana's Bleach and Dinosaur Jr.'s You're Living All Over Me, and became the official troubled-teen troubadour of My So-Called Life when not grinding out perpetually-verging-on-great fuzz-warped complaint-rock like Aimee Mann's bratty little sister (see "My Sister," which is really about herself), or perhaps the girl Paul Westerberg (schizophrenic tendency to release acoustic and electric albums simultaneously, hides best songs on her EPs, disingenuous lack of concern regarding career and/or beauty process). Bass-babe parallel universe serendipity: reunited with the Blake Babies in 2001 with the same album title (God Bless the...) as the Go-Go's used for their reunion album a few months later.
Founding member of L7 best remembered for her scathing Lollapalooza diary, Finch changed her name (she's now known as "Precious"), her hair color (blonde) and instrument (rhythm guitar) when she helped form Imperial Teenybop "CaliPhonic pop" quartet OtherStarPeople with Junko Ito handling bass chores.
Ridiculously attractive, not to mention terminally bodacious, bass babe who survived stints with Tanya Donnelly in Belly, Donita Sparks in L7 and Bif Naked (urp) before plotting world overthrow via custom underwear (yellow in front, brown in back) in her new band, Benny Sizzler.
Most recent L7 bass victim who's plucked a mean G-string for everyone from Stone Fox to Hammers of Misfortune to honorary boy bass babe Tommy Stinson (Replacements/Guns 'N Roses 2.0) to Exene Cervenka's Auntie Christ. Currently touring with porn parolee P!nk.
Perky Precision pummelpony for perennially passed-over Chapel Hill indie stalwarts Superchunk just may be the inspiration for Michelle Rubin, literature's first bodacious bass babe character in David Menconi's Off The Record, a not-so-veiled alterna-biography of stupendously overrated alt.country dipwad Ryan Adams.
Lovably luscious Noo Yawk doll from the L7-after-the-lobotomy Lunachicks sports by far the most impressive bodacious bass babe tattoo array.
Babes in Toyland definitely put the grrrl in grind, grimace and grate, unleashing an unholy wail of perturbingly toxic-shocking femcore that made Courtney Love sound like Celine Dion. Herman replaced original bass babe Michelle Leon just in time to get signed to Reprise during the Great Grunge Talent Rodeo of the early 1990s. Subsequently replaced on recent reunion tours by Jesse Farmer and Maggie Dune.
In addition to scoring a perfect 10 in the "Wire Appreciation 101" compulsories with her we-hate-men(strual) mates in the everlastingly exasperated Elastica, Annie took copious notes during the lecture on how to surgically attach a cigarette to her lips like Ron Wood. Succeeded by Abby Travis, who was replaced by Shelia Chipperfield.
D'Arcy (Wretzky-Brown) spent a decade learning not to smirk at Billy Corgan, only to be uncermoniously dumped from Smashing Pumpkins for purported drug dalliances mere microseconds before the band collapsed under the weight of its own pseudo-indie prog-pomp pretensions, to be replaced by Melissa Auf der Maur for the band's gratefully final tour, and by Paz Lenchantin in Billy's new (but already defunct) band, Zwan.
Tragically gorgeous Janitor Joe bass babe joined Hole (replacing Leslie Hardy), then inconveniently overdosed on heroin in her bathtub two months after Kurt Cobain died in 1994. Subsequently replaced by the irrepressibly yer-a-peony Melissa Auf der Maur.
melissa auf der maur
Well, you already know most of her official biography from the previous two listings. Auf der Maur has also played bass for Ric Ocasek, fronted a Black Sabbath tribute called Hand of Doom, formed an all-babe band called The Chelsea, purportedly started a supergroup called the Virgins with Smashed Pumpkin James Iha and (B)ryan Adams, and is making a go of a solo album tentatively and imaginatively entitled Auf der Maur. Oh, and she dated Foo Fighter/Nirvana prosecution witness Dave Grohl, as if Courtney didn't hate her enough already.
cassandra (tia carrere)
Wayne's World fetishista and all-around galpal Cassandra Wong (played by Tia Carrere) fronts local poodle-puss combo Crucial Taunt and bangs bodaciously (if not altogether accurately) on partytime-excellent covers of Hendrix's "Fire" and the Sweet's "Ballroom Blitz."
It's not much of a leap to Famous Monsters from White Zombie, but Sean Yseult (Shauna Reynolds) made it easy when she stopped dating Rob Cummings, aka the bozo who pulled an Alice Cooper and renamed himself after their band. Dopey creepshow fixation continues unabated with her latest project, Rock City Morgue.
Burst into prominence on a duet of Van Morrison's "Wild Night" with hapless farmputz John Mellencamp, signed to Madonna's Maverick label, released several outstanding albums of free-form funkafied activitism that's decades ahead of whatever makes Lauryn Hill listenable, contributed to many movie soundtracks, probably the most talented musician on this list, and to this day, nobody can spell her name correctly.
Melora Creager puts the ether back into "ethereal," taking the bodacious bass babe concept to its logical extreme by presenting three of them simultaneously. Playing cellos. In corsets. Occasionally remixed by Marilyn Manson. Without irony.
Named after a line from the intro to the live version of Ted Nugent's "Wang Dang Sweet Poontang," which is all you need to know about them both musically and spiritually, Nashville Pussy has been graced by three bodacious babe bassists, starting with 6'3" Corey Parks, whose blowjobs were legendary for more reasons than you might expect. Now with the Hunns.
From Helldorado (where she served as guitarist) and the Wives (likewise as drummer). Alas, Almazan (or is it Almazon?) didn't last long enough in Nashville Pussy to even get "Eat Me" tattooed across her stomach like the coquettish Ms. Parks.
Nashville Pussy #3 (well, #4, if you count founding guitarist Ruyter Suys) started in Famous Monsters with Sean Yseult, and moonlights with the Hazard County Girls.
Prince has always had a soft spot (ahem) for feminine form and function in his bands ("Wendy?" "Yes, Lisa." "Is the water warm enough?" "Yes, Lisa." "Shall we begin?" "Yes, Lisa"), and Rhonda Smith has been living up (or down) to his purple majesty's exceptionally high bass standards in the New Power Generation for several years running.
Despite being forced to put up with Dean Wareham's penchant for just-slightly-too-arch cover tunes (this year, it's the Rolling Stones' "Waiting on a Friend" and Kraftwerk's "Neon Lights"), Britta Phillips adds both Nico elegance and Maureen Tucker bounce to New York's enduring (and occasionally endearing) Velvet Underground remake/remodel, Luna.
Also known as Mrs. Dave Vanian in the Damned, Patsy has plucked for the Bags, Legal Weapon, Fur Bible (with Kid Congo), Sisters of Mercy and the Gun Club.
val(erie) (rosario dawson)
Like their cartoon cousins in the Archies, the original Josie and the Pussycats lineup included many babes, but none playing bass (tambourine being the preferred implement of detonation), a grievous oversight thankfully rectified in the big-screen, live-action version of their escapades that was a billion times better than anyone had a right to expect (although Rosario really should share her royalties with Alyson Palmer of New York's mucho-underappreciated Betty, not to be confused with Betty Blowtorch below, much less Veronica's slavepal). The soundtrack album, featuring shredder-rific vocals by Letters to Cleo crooner Kay Hanley, is equally ferocious, if not downright bodacious. Still hard to believe they got away with a name like that in comic books targeted to kids.
Her parents preferred Bianca Halstead, but imminent fame as lead nutcrusher in Betty Blowtorch required a more suitably simian moniker. Career was tragically unplugged when she was killed in a car crash in 2001. Butthole's Crüe-to-be-kind fuckbuddies continue her mission to make W.A.S.P. look quaint via the much-better-monikered Blare Bitch Project.
Among her numerous credits, self-proclaimed "bass guitar goddess" Greta B was a secret member of L7 for the recording of Triple Platinum: The Beauty Process, and currently thumps for AV-squad faculty supervisor Moby when not acquitting herself with the dulcet tones (think Rammstein date-rapes the Melvins) of her own band, Atomizer.
What's exceptionally exceptional about the Donnas is the way they're so blatant about being such predators, completely turning the tables on traditional "me man, you Hole" mating rituals and acting like nothing less than four female Mick Jaggers in permanent heat. And their major-label debut, Spend the Night, is their Rocks, Rock and Roll Over and Rocket to Russia rolled into one huge cheeba that should be permanently jammed in your Camaro's 8-track accordingly. Not to mention Maya Ford's (white, just like Jackie Fox) Thunderbird.
Hard-workin' Nashville bass babe gets her big break when she meets Tom Scholz and joins the latest incarnation of Boston. Nice, er, amps.
How can you miss in a Danish duo called the Raveonettes who reportedly play every song in Bb major?
Ireland's JJ72 is on its second bodacious bass babe, with former Valve Sarah Fox recently replacing Hilary Woods.
Banging bass for Sammy Hagar's post-Halen Waboritas, Mona (Gnader) has also played with Tommy Tutone, Wayne Perkins and Gene Parsons.
"I came across your site via Greta B--she & I became friendly because we both play righty basses upside down. I really like your site and was wondering if you have to be famous or can a regular struggling bass player get a mention?"
"Though I'm not world renowned, I was a professional drummer for almost 20 years and switched instruments about five years ago when my last band, Oh Mr. Grant!, broke up, so I've been pretty much a veteran of the NYC club scene for a long time. Here is my ex-band's site, spnyc.com: my likeness is still there, however, and there's a music page where you can check out some MP3s."
Coolio. Similar bassists can request likewise treatment; the major need is a nice photo of you and your instrument. Email me @ drclueful (at) hotmail.com
rebecca julia brown
Better known as Katie in School of Rock, extra points are scored for the McCartney nod with the Hofner bass.
Two bodacious bass babes, a boy ringer, a singer named Drama, and a love song to Harry Potter sung from Ginny Weasley's perspective. You have just seen the future of rock and roll. Dress accordingly.
more bodacious bass babes!
Alex Rylance, Julia Farey (Precious Metal)
Stephanie Koles (Catholic Girls)
Maria Hughes (Sizer Barker)
Gail Ann Dorsey (David Bowie, Bryan Ferry)
Candy Del Mar (Cramps)
Coleen (Devil Doll)
Anna Kjellberg (Drain Sth, Superfix, Hanzel und Gre-Tyl)
Melanie Sisneros (Sinergy, the Iron Maidens, New Eden)
Debbie Googe (My Bloody Valentine)
Elizabeth Davis (7 Year Bitch)
Mary Huff (Southern Culture on the Skids)
Stephanie Koles (Catholic Girls)
Enid Williams, Gil Weston, Tracey Lamb (Girlschool)
Faye Hunter (Let's Active)
Gina Burch (Raincoats)
Glenda Lee (King Chango)
Gwynne Kahn/Nipper Seaturtle, Debbie Menday, Julie Patchouli (Pandoras)
Isabel Reyes-Feeney (Chicks)
Jean Millington (Fanny)
Jo Dunne (We've Got a Fuzzbox, and We're Gonna Use It!)
Johanna Asplund (Sahara Hotnights)
Jone Stebbins, Lynn Perko (Imperial Teen)
Karen Blankfeld (Wednesday Week)
Kathi Wilcox (Bikini Kill)
Lorna Doom (Germs)
Maggie Vail (Bangs)
Roxie (Loud Pipes)
Rebecca Mercurio (Redheaded Stepchild)
Rebecca Young (Rye)
Robin Fox (Rebel Pebbles)
Romi Mori (Gun Club, Freeheat)
Share Pedersen, Maxine Petrucci, Rana Ross (Vixen)
Stevie Conlon (Barely Standing)
Susan Stenger (Band of Susans)
Suzi Gutsy, Tessa Pollitt (Slits)
Tracy Wormworth (Waitresses, Sting, The Rosie O'Donnell Show)
bodacious bass babe links!
Thunderbird IV - The Official Bodacious Bass Babe Axe
Loudith Faire - where chicks rule!
Blood Sisters - Women In Heavy Music
Bad Ass Bitch Bands - exactly what it says
Metal Maidens - Dutch treat
Woman Rock - um, yeah!
Blockbuster - A Glitter Glam Rock Experience
The ultimate bodacious bass babe compilation, featuring the Donnas, Switchblade Kitten, OtherStarPeople and an all-star band, Tube Tops 2000, with both Kathy Valentine AND Melissa Auf der Maur, covering David Bowie, Suzi Quatro, T. Rex, Mott the Hoople, the Sweet, Slade, Mudd and Gary Glitter. Produced by Rodney Bingenheimer, the KROQ legend who's the Alan Freed, Sam Phillips and George Martin of bodacious-babe brilliance. Get it before it gets you.
The Chris Clark web galaxy
Click here to visit my home page
Click here to read the first chapter from my new rock and roll novel, Fluke
Click here to visit "The Great Rock and Roll (Hall of Fame) Swindle"
Click here to visit my collection of rockin' guitar tabs
Click here to visit "Christmassacre: The All-Time Best Rock and Roll Christmas Songs"
Comments and crits: drclueful (at) hotmail (dot) comupdated May 23, 2004