Alternative Weekend: Punk Britannia - The Women

in music •  9 months ago  (edited)

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Introducing #alternativeweekend. Post an article that highlights THREE great songs that are either progressive or alternative and use the tag #alternativeweekend or use the ‘Focus on’ series if you like. There are no rules, just make your own!

If you have a short story or something to offer regarding an opinion on your songs, then share it with us!


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I don’t watch much TV, the only time I get is a little just before bedtime. I switch it on, channel flip and look for something that’s not a pile of crap which can be taxing at times.

Channel 9 occasionally contains music content, and I noticed Punk Britannia was showing a few nights back. The BBC produced a series of these ‘Britannia’ shows years ago, and some can be found on YouTube.

They always take me back to when I was a teenager, music-mad and wide-eyed at whatever was hitting the charts.

In the late seventies, Punk ruled for a few short years. The music was fierce, short and angry and at the time I was not a big fan of some of it.

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To me it was ‘normal music’ but now I see it was far from normal. Has there been anything this radical since those times?

I know @steevc will disagree but some of this music was composed, tuneful and thought-provoking.

Other songs were three cords and composed of four blokes screaming and yelling while making the loudest noises possible and giving everyone sneering looks.

Some Punks were women and took on this extreme voice which they all seemed to copy. This voice type because the 'standard' for most of them and this article will highlight some of them.


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Siouxsie & The Banshees – Hong Kong Garden (1978)

I was still at school when I first heard the Banshees and this oriental sounding song with those distinctive guitar chords.

Then I saw Siouxsie bouncing around the stage and that image struck me. It's not like I thought she was hot..., more scary, thought-provoking and someone viewed from afar.

The song was a hit and quite rightly so. I would love to know from my international friends if they have heard this song before.

It gains no radio play anymore but was well thought of at the time.


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X-Ray Spex – The Day the World Turned DayGlo (1978)

If I loved Hong Kong Garden, I couldn’t say the same for this band and that manic front leading woman named Poly Styrene. It seemed singers needed crazy fucking names in those days to garner attention.

If the name wasn’t enough, she had to wear bracers and wear a green turban when singing for more effect!

This song I watched on Punk Britannia and it was more compelling than the effect on me in 1978.

That droning wailing voice is something you would never hear in today's music. It's all so damn boring now and makes me long for a re-surge of 'something' to shake things up.


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Hazel O’Conner – Eighth Day (1980)

Despite having an Irish sounding surname, Hazel O’Conner was from England and had a splurge of hits around the turn of the decade.

I was hardly a fan then and am not now. She uses that ‘punk voice’ that the many female’s vocalists grabbed and used. Is her real voice like this, I doubt it.

Later O’Conner would produce a balled named ‘Will You’. Can ballads be sung with a punk voice? She seemed to get away with it and it was a hit, as well as this one.

Note the sneering look and anger as she sings. What would Simon Cowell make of this on the X-Factor?


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Lene Lovich – Bird Song (1979)

I won't use Lucky Number as my example of a fine example of that 'female punk voice' yet again. That was her big hit but not my favourite.

Bird Song was a much minor hit but had that epic feel to it, unlike most punk songs. Is that really her screaming at the start of this song, I always did wonder.

My late father used to take this piss out of Lene Lovich and begrudgingly watched Top of the Pops with me we only had one TV then.

Still, she was more inventive and original than bloody Des O'Conner and Johhny Mathis.

I think he may have been a closet fan.


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If you note the similarities between most of these and wonder where it all came from, well that’s easy. Johnny Rotten started it all with the Sex Pistols.

Many of these artists and bands freely admit they started bands after seeing them live around 1976.

The shook up the music scene for a few short years and you might think they are a load of old crap. But ask yourself, what of today’s chart music. It’s boring, lifeless and samey.

I for one would welcome Punk back in a heartbeat, at the very least it would wake me up.

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Siouxsie & The Banshees, and X-Ray Spex not really my cup of tea. They invoked a great feedback from the audience though, and this is quite important for performances. Although I don't care for the style and don't find it very melodic, I can appreciate certain aspects.

Hazel O’Conner – Eighth Day (1980) Was really something. I'm undecided if I like it, but it reminds me of David Bowie a bit, so I was pretty intrigued.

The Lene Lovich – Bird Song (1979), was odd, but I was really into it for some reason and enjoyed it. So eccentric, I think they probably had some really good psychedelics.

Thank you for sharing @slobberchops, I've never heard of any of these bands, I enjoyed the experience of listening to them with my morning coffee.

Thanks for looking and the feedback, I get little on music posts.. and have stunted them a somewhat for this reason.

I guess you were not around when these hit the (mostly) bottom reaches of the music charts?

I guess the only thing in common we have (so far) is Lene.. hehe...

I wasn't around, born in 86,
Most of my favorite music is from the 60s though :)

The sixties.., a decade of two halves I would say. I much prefer the late side of it.

I like it all, from the hippy Hendrix, to the high af Black Sabbath 🤪

Brings back memories.

I was 16 when the Sex Pistols hit the UK music scene. Despite a tiny weeny flirtation I largely gave raw punk a miss.

I picked up more with the likes of The Stranglers, The Jam, The Clash.... Would they be classed as being born of Punk?

None of these female artists really grabbed me at the time, although I do remember I commissioned an interview with Hazel O'Connor when I was working for a news service some years later.

I picked up more with the likes of The Stranglers, The Jam, The Clash.... Would they be classed as being born of Punk?

Yes and no, The Stranglers was I a big fan of, especially Rattus Norvegicus.., it was loud, obnoxious and contained dodgy lyrics..., 'Ugly' the song always maked me laugh.

The Clash.. oh yes, The Jam in the very early days maybe, but they looked more like Mods to me later and then mainstream when The Bitterest Pill and co were released.. all bands I loved though.

I commissioned an interview with Hazel O'Connor when I was working for a news service some years later.

How did that go? @nathen007 will be impressed! He's a big fan.. see his comments.

I must admit I can't remember much about the interview, we had a new one each week. And I don't think it was one of the stand-out ones. It was in the late 90s so Hazel had passed the peak of her fame by then.

Totally impressed and by the way, that clip I posted was at possibly the best venue I've ever been to in the UK which is the Jazz Cafe in Camden. Used to go regularly in the 90s.

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That was a point I was going to raise that the genres kind of lost definition with New Wave and on a parallel track, bands like the Stranglers ...Jam and Clash, the Clash were being played in Indie and Goff clubs I attended in the very early 80s so you're right about them being born out of Punk and I'd suggest New Wave and then early New Romantics were punk reactionary movements.
None of this musical philosophising however changes the fact that @slobberchops has no taste when it comes to music lol ;-)

I also absolutely agree about there being no standout female artists from the late 70s to early 80s

I'd better keep quiet about some of the records in my collection from that time.

Although I do the believe The Wurzels are back in fashion now...

Shhhhhhh, be quiet or @steevc will be coming along with some folk music for us to listen to!!

Nothing wrong with The Wurzels! I have very broad tastes in music.

None of this musical philosophising however changes the fact that @slobberchops has no taste when it comes to music lol ;-)

Laughing off my chair here :) :)

How can you not be a fan of Hazel O'Conner ????!!! She was without a doubt the standout on your list. Siouxsie and the Banshees were totally overrated and Hong Kong Garden is an absolute dirge, as was Dear Prudence!! I'd also argue that none of these artists was 'punks'...Alternative, yes, and in Hazel's case, more New Wave but 8th day is a movie track in whoch she plays a punk! Will You, and its instrumental is one of my all-time top 20 tracks!! TWAT ;-)
.....no mention of Toyah?

LOLOLOL... I thought you might pipe up!

Siouxsie was part of the Bromley contingent who followed the Sex Pistols around though the later stuff was more Middle Eastern sounding.., Israel and Arabian Nights etc.., so punk roots for sure.

I was going to include Toyah but she was later around '81 and more New Wave with all that big colourful hair. I was a fan though she sang with a lisp.

Will You, and its instrumental is one of my all-time top 20 tracks!! TWAT ;-)

The punk ballad.., I remember it well but it just didn't fit my head somehow.

'*will you just politely say goodnight'

I'll freely admit to liking some punk stuff even if it's not what I choose to listen to all the time. Sometimes we just need something with energy and anger. Same with the heavier metal stuff. Punk was largely about attitude, but there were some talented musicians amongst them. I think you can still find modern music that has a similar spirit to punk, but it rarely troubles the charts. Not that I know what is in the charts these days.

Anarchy!

Not that I know what is in the charts these days.

That last bit bothers me, there will be some gems around and we are missing them. If only they would stand up and be seen.

I have no time to trawl though the humdrum to find them.

The internet can provide. I just don't listen to much music radio, but I got into loads of prog stuff through podcasts. I expect there are on-line radio stations playing current 'punk'.

WOW! 😎🧷
A wonderful journey into a musical past that is still alive.
Thank you.

8 think I had only heard of Siouxie! Will have to listen to the rest

I was not a fan of Hazel O'Conner, the other two make me laugh with the ridiculousness of it all. The big eyes, the images were extreme and provoked attention.

It's a real shame the younger generation missed all this craziness, it's all so conservative now. I'll cover the blokes in a future post.

Those Britannia music docos are great.

It is ridiculously anodine and conservative these days. Sigh

Look forward to it, now I'm off for some sun!! :0D

Is it getting any warmer? They day we left was almost a pool day.

I really liked The Donna's when they came out. It was a bit later I think, but it was still refreshing to hear something so different than what I had been use to from punk or alternative music. Nice post!

Great selection - don't recognise the Lene Lovich song.
I do love Siouxsie and the Banshees. Only seen them once, though.
The Mekons were punk-ish and have some great songs sung by the female members of the groups ('Born to Choose') being a classic.

Only seen them once

This was before my gig days, I love Siouxsie and the Banshees and did then. I can't say that for a lot of the other bands.

don't recognise the Lene Lovich song.

I would bet you remember Lucky Number, and Say When? Bird Song barely hit the top 40.

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