A veteran of the riot grrrl scene of the ’90s, Louisa Rachel Solomon played in bands Lucky Tiger and The Syndicate before forming The Shondes in 2006. Louisa’s bounding basslines and the furious finesse of her voice have seen the band release two demos and three albums, 2008’s The Red Sea, 2010’s My Dear One (Fanatic Records), and 2011’s Searchlights (Exotic Fever Records).
Louisa is also an outspoken activist regarding the Israeli occupation of Palestine. The Shondes’ “I Watched The Temple Fall” addresses this issue with aplomb. And just a touch of punk-rock Klezmer chutzpah.
Bassist Jennifer Leitham has played on over a hundred jazz albums, alongside such notables as Mel Torme, Doc Severinsen, Woody Herman, George Shearing, Gerry Mulligan, Peggy Lee, Joe Pass, and Cleo Laine. A left-handed double-bass player, she’s also been credited as “Lefty,” “Southpaw,” or “John.”
Here’s Jennifer and Trio, performing her composition “Split Brain.”
And here she is noodling around at Winter NAMM 2012. I could watch clips like this all day.
A veteran of some of the most prestigious stages throughout the world, Jennifer challenged the conservative social mores of the Jazz world when she transitioned gender in 2001. She is the subject of the 2012 documentary, I Stand Corrected.
Vickie Blue replaced Jackie Fox as bassist for The Runaways in 1977, playing with them for just over a year before leaving the band in 1978 due to medical problems. After The Runaways split up in 1979, Vickie formed a band with singer Cherie Currie (Currie-Blue Band) and the duo appeared in the film This Is Spinal Tap. Here’s a circa 1978 The Runaways performance featuring Vickie on bass.
Today, Vickie calls herself Victoria Tischler-Blue and works primarily as a film producer, director, writer, and photographer. She directed the controversial 2004 documentary, Edgeplay: A Film About The Runaways, which has been described as “a rock n’ roll Rashomon”, and the 2005 Suzi Quatro documentary, Naked Under Leather.
Recently, Victoria directed Suzi Quatro’s video for her 2011 cover of Goldfrapp’s “Strict Machine”, which adds a few lyrics from Quatro’s “Can the Can” to jaw-dropping effect.
Jackie Fox became The Runaways’ third bassist in 1975, after being “discovered” by the self-proclaimed “mayor of the Sunset Strip,” Rodney Bingenheimer, and being presented to The Runaways’ Svengali/manager, Kim Fowley, shortly thereafter. Though she auditioned to be the group’s lead guitarist, that role was claimed by rocker Lita Ford, and Jackie replaced short-term bassist Peggy Foster. She was fifteen years old.
Though Jackie didn’t play on The Runaways’ 1976 debut album (Blondie bassist Nigel Harrison did), she did play on second studio album Queens of Noise, and on The Runaways’ 1977 Live in Japan album.
It was during the 1977 Japan tour that Jackie grew distraught over her bandmates’ inability to get along, deciding ultimately to quit the band. She was replaced by Vicki Blue.
In subsequent years, Jackie worked as a record company promotions executive, modeling agent, and Tony Robbins seminar promoter. In 1980, she appeared as a contestant on TV’s The Dating Game.
Today, Jackie is an entertainment attorney, having attended Harvard with classmate Barack Obama. She appeared in her The Runaways’ replacement Victory Tischler-Blue’s 2005 documentary film Edgeplay: A film about The Runaways, and has written columns for the Huffington Post.
Founding Runaways bassist Michael “Mikki” Steele was fired from the band (reportedly for calling the band’s debut single “Cherry Bomb” stupid) shortly after its inception (and shortly before its commercial breakthrough), but her bass and vocal talents have kept The Runaways’ earliest demos in demand for decades.
Michael and her bass went on to play with Elton Duck, Slow Children, Nadia Kapiche, and Snakefinger before replacing The Bangles’ bassist Annette Zilinskas in 1983. The rest is history. Michael played bass and sang on the band’s most memorable hits, including “Manic Monday,” “Walk Like an Egyptian,” and their cover of Big Star’s “September Gurls.”
Michael hit her stride as a songwriter on 1988 album Everything, but The Bangles soon broke up. She remained musically active, playing in a mix of bands (Crash Wisdom, Continential Drifters) and recording a solo album and planning a tour that were both shelved by record company management. In the late 90s, The Bangles talked of regrouping, eventually reuniting to record 2003’s Doll Revolution, which included three Michael Steele compositions, “Nickel Romeo,” “Between The Two,” and “Song For A Good Son.” Subsequent tours were complicated by various members’ family concerns. In 2005, Michael officially called it quits, parting company with The Bangles. Today, Michael is reportedly still involved in music, though in a behind-the-scenes capacity.
Already a sought-after session musician when she joined David Bowie’s band in 1995, Gail Ann Dorsey has also played with Tears for Fears, Indigo Girls, Gang of Four, Lenny Kravitz, Charlie Watts, Gwen Stefani, and many others. But it’s Gail’s work in Bowie’s band, particularly when matched with guitarist Reeves Gabrels, that shines. Like here, when she implants a throbbing, beating heart into Bowie’s classic Queen collaboration, “Under Pressure.”
Or here. “Heroes.”
And we’ll just have to see if Bowie’s new album kicks off a tour. But if it does, I’m willing to bet that Gail will be there, backing him up.
Sara Lee was already an accomplished bassist when she joined Gang of Four in the early 1980s, having played with Robert Fripp in League of Gentlemen. “I Love a Man in a Uniform” from the Gang of Four album Songs of the Free showcases Sara’s talents–for singing as well as playing the bass–very nicely, though the song was banned in the UK shortly after its release in 1992 because Britain went to war with Argentina in the Falklands Islands.
After Gang of Four, Sara became a sought-after session and touring bassist, playing with such acts as the Thompson Twins, the B-52s, Indigo Girls. and Ani DeFranco. In 2000, Sara released her first solo album, Make It Beautiful on Difranco’s Righteous Babe records.
But you really want to listen to League of Gentlemen…
Lyn-Z worked as a window display artist and assisted painter Ron English before joining Mindless Self Indulgence in 2001. Often noted for wearing an exaggerated schoolgirl uniform on stage, Lyn-Z is also known for augmenting her aggressive playing style with back bends, stage dives, and pratfalls.
In 2007, Lyn-Z married My Chemical Romance leader, Gerard Way backstage at the final date of Linkin Park’s Projekt Revolution tour. The pair have a daughter, Bandit Lee Way, born in 2009.
As Lindsey Way, Lyn-Z regularly exhibits her visual art, including her thirteen-diorama series inspired by Henry Darger, Mary Blair, and Georges Melies, “Hush.”
When Coventry, UK grindcore band Bolt Thrower’s founding bass player, Gavin Ward, decided to switch to rhythm guitar in 1987, the replacement bassist he enlisted didn’t bother showing up. So Ward encouraged his then-girlfriend to try out for the band. A quarter century later, Jo Bench is still not just showing up, but providing the dark low end that keeps the now-venerable Warhammer-inspired metal titans penetrating eardrums like sonic ballistae.
Although Jo’s been playing death metal practically since the genre’s inception, female musicians remain a rarity in the world of extreme metal, though that tide may be changing.
When asked in an interview whether she had to work harder to be taken seriously by her bandmates, Jo said, “I don’t think I have to work harder than any of the other members, we all work pretty hard, so just as hard is enough. The important thing is to remember that I’m the bassist first, and being female is secondary when it comes to the band. We’’ve never promoted the fact I was female, I’ve never done solo photo sessions, or any kind of self-promotion and I think I have gained more respect because of it.”
Suzi Quatro changed the game. After playing in Detroit garage bands with her sisters in the 1960s, including chart-hitting act The Pleasure Seekers, Suzy emerged as a solo artist in the early 1970s, becoming the first female bass player to achieve rock-star status. Suzy’s success was abroad at first, scoring her first #1 hit in Portugal in 1972. Hits followed in the UK, Europe, and Australia.
It took television to bring Suzy home to America. In 1977, Suzy began a recurrent role on TV series Happy Days, where she played Leather Tuscadero, younger sister of motorcycle stuntwoman (and Fonzie love interest) Pinky Tuscadero. Leather was a rock’n’roller with a troubled past in the show’s weirdly-stylized, alternate-reality 1950s. Cynical readers will also note that 1977 was the season Happy Days infamously jumped the shark.
In a 2012 interview, Suzy said: “Before I did what I did, we didn’t have a place in rock ‘n’ roll. Not really. You had your Grace Slicks and all that, but that’s not what I did. I was the first to be taken seriously as a female rock ‘n’ roll musician and singer. That hadn’t been done before. I played the boys at their own game. For everybody that came afterward, it was a little bit easier, which is good. I’m proud of that. If I have a legacy, that’s what it is.”