Women’s History Month – Women Who Rock: Ladies of the 80s

15 Mar

Oh, the sweet, blessed 80s heaped with big hair, leather and anything goes. We’re walking right into my wheelhouse with this decade, having been weaned on the teat of MTV, and the Ladies of the 80s were too. This was a time when musicians weren’t just heard but seen. Image was everything, and artists were now faced with the task of making music videos to propel their hit songs. What emerged was a handful of women who became iconic for their voices, their talent and their keen fashion sense.

pat b

Click to watch Pat Benatar’s “You Better Run”

Pat Benatar – Benatar was in heavy rotation in the early days of MTV. In fact, “You Better Run” was the second music video to air on the network right behind the Buggles’ “Video Killed the Radio Star.” Her killer mezzo-soprano voice not only cracked the glass ceiling in a male-dominated medium, it shattered it down to the ground.

pretenders

Click to watch the Pretenders’ “Brass in Pocket”

Chrissie Hynde – Read Chrissie Hynde’s take on How to Be a Lady Rocker. Enough said.

joan jett

Click to watch a clip of Joan Jett & Michael J. Fox in Light of Day

lita

Click to watch Lita Ford’s “Kiss Me Deadly”

Joan Jett and Lita Ford – Post-Runaways, Joan Jett and Lita Ford went their separate ways in near every sense of the word. Lita Ford went the slick, sexy, metal maiden route while Joan Jett went down the road of straightforward, ballsy rock n’ roll.

annie lennox

Click to watch the Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams”

Annie Lennox – Lennox is synonymous with the word androgyny during her stint as lead singer for the Eurythmics in the 80s. Her signature orange buzz cut and uniform of tailored men’s suits are still replicated in fashion today, but Lennox didn’t wear short hair or men’s suits because she wanted to be a man. She once said to Grazia Magazine, “I wanted to wear a suit to show that I am equal to a man, not that I wanted to be one, or that I was gay — which is what it was interpreted as…but there you go.”

siouxsie sioux

Click to watch Siouxsie and the Banshees’ “Hong Kong Garden”

Siouxsie Sioux – Siouxsie Sioux was an authentic outcast, an original misfit doll rocking the punk scene in the late 70s and 80s, who spawned a look mirrored in modern day musicians like PJ Harvey and Karen O. Siouxsie and the Banshees had a much farther reach with their sound, influencing U2, the Cure, Jane’s Addiction, Santigold, LCD Soundsystem and a dozen others.  

sonic youth

Click to hear Sonic Youth’s “Star Power”

Kim Gordon – Sonic Youth was labeled alt-rock when they staked their claim on the musical landscape in the early 80s, but when Grunge infiltrated…just about everything a decade later, Sonic Youth became the genre’s First Family. Bassist and singer Kim Gordon was one of the original Riot Grrrls, wearing baby doll dresses and swimming in her oversized cardis long before Grunge not only became a music movement, but a fashion one, as well. 

go-gos

Click to watch the Go-Go’s “Our Lips Are Sealed”

bangles

Click to watch the Bangles’ “Hazy Shade of Winter”

The Go-Go’s and The Bangles – At the onset, the Go-Go’s were all raunch and punk, the Bangles were retro garage rock and Paisley Underground, but both bands became polished pop sweethearts proving chicks with guitars could rock as hard as the boys.

cyndi lauper

Click to watch Cyndi Lauper’s “She Bop”

Cyndi Lauper – “Girls just wanna have fun, but some of us wanna be in a rock band, too!” Lauper said as host of the PBS documentary, Women Who Rock. Lauper was a crazy technicolor mashup of those who inspired her to become rock star. Stevie Nicks, Ann and Nancy Wilson, the Runaways and Deborah Harry were all in there, mixed together and creating a style in Cyndi Lauper that was entirely individual and new.

vixen

Click to watch Vixen’s “Edge of a Broken Heart”

Vixen – Upon finding this picture of Vixen, a one-hit wonder all-female Hair Metal band, I fully realized how much androgyny was going on with the 80s Hair Metal scene. I mean, yes, no duh, the guys in Poison and Motley Crue definitely had the “Dude Looks Like a Lady” thing licked, but the ladies in Vixen kind of had a whole  “Girls who are boys/who like boys to be girls” vibe going on.

I went back and forth about mentioning one more lady from the 80s, and perhaps the lady of the 80s. The women who have found their way onto this list have helped shaped my sphere of influence, and those who know me would think I’ve fallen and bumped my head had I not mentioned one woman in particular. While I think she rocks, she is not, technically, a woman who rocks, so I’ll simply say this…

“There’s only one queen and that’s…”

madge vogue

Click to watch Madonna’s 1990 MTV Awards performance of “Vogue”

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