With Liz celebrating 60 years on the royal throne last week and the nation wrapping itself in bunting against the typical summer weather, flags flying high in support of the football and the London Olympics just around the corner, it can be expected for us here at Entertainment Cocktail to try and join in the patriotic mood. But here in the music department, it’s got Cat and Alicia thinking…about ‘British Queens of Rock’. Or the lack of. So, why is it Britain seems to be deprived of girls with guitars? And what do us British grrrrrls actually have to offer? We’ve been working hard to try and rustle up our nation’s very own top 10 that will give Liz a run for her crown!
Cat’s choice: FLORENCE WELCH
Of Florence and the Machine
We’ve all noticed that in the past few years women have taken the lead in the music industry, and it has to be said that one of the front runners is the fiery Goddess, Florence Welch. With her Renaissance inspired style and her mind-blowing vocals, she is one of the few females in the mainstream today who brings originality. So, therefore, SHE ROCKS. From songs like Kiss With a Fist to Shake it Out, she has established a strong following. She may be a baby compared to our other Queens, but Flo has heaps of potential and I can definitely see her sticking around for a while.
Alicia’s choice: LAUREN LAVERNE
One of the few examples of women in the more ‘alternative’ British music scene we have in the present day, Lauren Laverne has become a household name – so we had to give her a tiara at least! Lead singer and guitarist of the teen-punk band Kenickie, one of the most successful women-fronted/dominated bands of the UK riot grrrl scene, this fiery, bluntly-honest princess of indie rock saw their debut album ‘At The Club’ claiming a top ten chart position. Per usual, when a band breaks up, the singer fights for her right to retain a place in the musical realm, something that Laverne has done, and pretty well. After being a guest vocalist on a variety of singles in the early noughties, Laverne remains to still fight the women’s corner in music; a well know and respected DJ, presenter and writer, we can relax knowing this girl’s got our backs.
Cat’s choice: P J HARVEY
Are you shocked? You shouldn’t be. She makes every rock list there is, and with good reason, too. She’s an artist that makes me proud to be British. Her career has scoped over nearly 25 years, since she started from the band Automatic Dlamini to her being the only artist to have won two Mercury awards. Known for her alternative rock sound, it wasn’t until she released Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea that PJ Harvey landed huge success. The album incorporates a more mainstream rock, and lyrically is…amazing. And of course, we have Let England Shake; her most politically forthright album filled with protest songs (she even debuted the album on Andrew Marr’s morning politics show). All I have to say is, Polly Jean, you’ve done us proud!
Alicia’s choice: POLY STYRENE
Of X-ray Spex
We all know how vital the Punk and Riot scenes of the 80’s and 90’s were to the existence and recognition of women in music, so it’s only right that one of our top ten is a notable fore-runner for the cause. Poly Styrene (aka Marianne Elliot-Said) is perhaps as ‘Rock’n'Roll’ as you can get… what with running away from home aged just 15 with £3 in her pockets in order to travel the country festival to festival. And all before she became the legend of a woman she is today. Spurred on by seeing The Sex Pistols and thinking, ‘hey, I can do that‘, Poly Styrene went on to be described as the ‘archetype for modern-day feminist punk’, claiming a variety of spots in the UK music charts as lead singer of Punk-Rock, New Wave band ‘X-Ray Spex’, alongside the rightfully given seat at the round table of controversy. An inspiration to all us girl rockers out there, Poly Styrene, we salute you!
Cat: ELKIE BROOKS
Of Vinegar Joe
Before Elkie Brooks was big ballad singer, she was in a band called Vinegar Joe. And damn, she rocked! If you love music, go on youtube and watch a performance and then you’ll see why she has landed one of our precious spots on our list. Often her vocals were compared to Janis Joplin, as Elkie is quite blues-y and, Christ, she has a good set of lungs! In Vinegar Joe she earned the title of Wild Child of rock ‘n’ roll due to her energetic performances, however the band never won any chart success, but they earned a dedicated following from touring heavily, especially around the university circuit.
Alicia’s choice: CHRISTINE MCVIE
Of Fleetwood Mac
If you haven’t heard of this woman’s career, off with your head! Notorious for being a key member of one of the biggest bands in music history 101, the mastermind behind many hits including ‘Don’t Stop’ and ‘Songbird‘ (Yes, that song which has come to be one of the biggest and most covered hits in music; where would Eva Cassidy have been without it?!) and finding herself rightly inducted in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 1998, polishing up Christine McVie’s crown as one of the top ten British Queens of Rock was no question. Dare I say it, McVie to me is what Stevie Nicks is to the U.S. of A, yet I sometimes fear, as with many overlooked female musicians, she doesn’t get the recognition she deserves. With her low, husked voice, there is an interesting quality to McVie that has always intrigued me in her music, not just her outstanding songwriting abilities (although, they’re pretty helpful too), and I feel that after years of never wanting for the spotlight, it’s time to salute her as the amazing SOLO artist she is. All in all, not a bad career for what started out as being a session musician, huh?
Cat’s choice: SIOUXSIE SOUX
Of Siouxsie and the Banshees
Siouxsie Soux is the Queen of Punk Rock. With her Gothic style and unique vocals, Siouxsie, real name Susan Janet Ballion, paved the way for females in the rock industry, which in the seventies was still a man’s game. Starting out as being a ‘member’ in the Bromley Contingent, (a group of eccentric teenagers who loyally followed the Sex Pistols), she soon made her first television appearance with the Pistols on that infamous episode of the Bill Grundy show. Y’know, with all the swearing on TV, which created a media uproar that labeled her as ‘Siouxsie’s a Punk Shocker.’ Soon after, Siouxsie and bassist Steven Severin joined together to make Siouxsie and the Banshees, and from then on, history. With hits like Hong Kong Garden, Happy House and Peek-a-boo, she is one of the few females who have dominated rock and have become one of Britain’s female rock icons. Go, Sioux!
Alicia’s choice: LITA FORD
Of The Runaways
British-born Lita Ford has come to be one of the biggest female names in rock music, not only for being one of the few recognised female guitarists out there, but for being one fifth of infamous all-girl band ‘The Runaways’. This is the band that gave the world the names of Joan Jett and Cherie Currie, and gave girls the green light to pick up the guitars and the drumsticks, to grab hold of the microphone, and give the world a piece of their minds. But, unfortunately, due to ‘musical differences’ (punk-rock vs hard-rock), the band members went their separate ways. As Joan Jett immediately became a household name amongst the world’s rock musicians, Ford struggled to get her solo career off the ground. But the hardcore ‘Rock’n'Roll’ Queen she is, Ford went onto score a top ten hit in the US with ‘Close My Eyes Forever’ featuring the Prince of Darkness himself, Ozzy Ozbourne. If THAT’S not an induction into the Majestic family, I don’t know what is. Currently touring with Poison and Def Leopard, she’s still showing the world just how hard girls can rock!
Cat’s choice: JULIE DRISCOLL
of Julie Driscoll and the Brian Auger Trinity
Okay, so you could say that Julie Driscoll and the Brian Auger Trinity might not be rock, but in my books, Julie Driscoll is one of the early pioneers for all females in the music industry. Known for her imaginative covers of Bob Dylan’s The Wheels on Fire (you may have heard if you’re a fan of Ab Fab) and Donovan’s Season of the Witch. Her vibrant image set her apart from her contemporaries with her shaven hair and striking costume and make-up choices. C’mon, guys, that is pretty rock ‘n’ roll! So, on behalf of Entertainment Cocktail, we hereby announce you as one of Brit Queens of rock!
Alicia’s choice: IT’S BONNIE FRICKIN’ TYLER!
All hail the one and only! Possibly the biggest claim us girls have to the British Rock bloodline and probably the only woman to have survived the male dominated realm of the 70’s and 80’s ‘rock of ages’, Welsh firecracker Bonnie has managed to ‘hold out’ through the spangled spandex web of glam rock and hard-nut punk riots, staring into the flames ‘bright eyed’ and ready to claim her throne. Not only is her bravery to battle on through such a masculine-run and undermining media nation more than admirable, the results of which succeeding with her being recognised as the first Welsh woman in the history of music to claim a position in the US top 100 billboard, but we salute her hauntingly distinctive tone of voice, produced through damaging her vocal cords at a young age, and her fight to still belt out those power ballad classics. Now that’s what I call hard-core ‘Rock’n’Roll’.
So there you have it! Cat and Alicia’s Top Ten British Queens of Rock! In the present day, we may still be ‘holding out for a hero’. But with the path laid ahead by these women, we see no reason why our generation’s UK Queen of Rock shouldn’t turn up on the doorstep, clutching onto her glass, knee-high boot very soon.