Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The 'B' Girls: Fun You! Not Fuck You.

I have to say, I'm not sure what the "B" in 'B' Girls implies.  But some cursory internet research leads me to believe that the definition leads me to believe they are referring to women employed by bars, nightclubs, what have you, to act as a companion to male customers and induce them to buy drinks. 

Nevertheless, this is not your primordial Riot Girrrl Dishrags or Curse.  Presumably, these were a bunch of fun-loving gals who reportedly decided to start a band in the washroom of a 1977 Thin Lizzy concert in Toronto.

(That is to say, I believe the decision to start a band was made in the washroom, not to play there, lol.)


Of course, by all accounts, they had no songwriting or musical experience.  What they had, however, was attitude and panache.  They had met that summer at Toronto's do-it-yourself punk rock club, The Crash 'n' Burn.  Later, they play their first gig at back-alley gay bar, Club Davids, joining the Viletones on stage.  They play two sets of the only six songs they know.  Their sound is in direct contrast to the the noisy, sweaty punk rock of contemporaries The Curse, Viletones or The Ugly:  good, clean fun dressed up in matching striped sweaters.

While many Toronto punk bands played at legendary New York City clubs CBGB and Max's Kansas City, The 'B' Girls actually moved to the Big Apple. They were supposed to play their first gig at Max's, sharing the bill with The Romantics.  But a huge blizzard led to the show being cancelled.  But they're determined to stay and play a make-up date: later that week, Hilly Krystal of CBGB puts them on the same bill with The Poles, also from Toronto.  The Poles, are reportedly not amused.  The Romantics, meanwhile, leave town without playing.

However, The Clash happen to be in the crowd that night.  The two groups strike up a friendly alliance.  Mick Jones and company ask The 'B' Girls to open for them on their upcoming North American tour.  They're slotted to open for The Clash for their first Toronto appearance.  But vocalist Lucasta Ross reportedly quits the night before the show.

So rhythm guitarist Xenia Splawinski takes over on lead vocals.  Renee Chetsky takes over lead guitar while Marcy Saddy (late of London, Ontario's Demics) replaces Rhonda Ross on drums.

 The Clash return to Toronto a year later, with the Girls opening once more at the prestigious O'Keefe Centre.  Promoters are quickly dismayed when fans go nuts and start ripping apart one of Canada's finest concert halls.  The two bands would also tour the Western parts of North America.  Mick Jones even produces three studio recordings for the girls.

But it wasn't just Mick Jones.  Debbie Harry would play a role in the development of The 'B' Girls:

They ask the Blondie lead singer to produce a late-night session at New York's The Power Station recording studio.  She produces a demo version of Eddie Schwartz's "Two Hearts".  In return, the girls open for Blondie on stage and sing backup live and on the Autoamerican LP. 

Cynthia Ross, who reportedly has been acting as group manager, gets sisterly advice from Debbie, continuously warning her of the men in the recording biz, who would try to change the girls, and take away their artistic freedom. 

But the record company managers would keep trying, attempting to impose their their own vision of the band.  But the girls resist every attempt: they turn down choreographers, the suggestion of session musicians and every other recommendation that was contrary to the spirit of the band and the times.  The 'B' Girls persevered for the sake of their own artistic freedom, sleeping on floors and opening for Johnny Thunders in NYC's shit-hole bars. 

Still, it seemed to be paying off, with the result being that the girls had a hell of a time.  They became darlings of the Sid Vicious, Johnny Thunders, Joe Ramone and Stiv Bators set.  Cynthia was even engaged to the Dead Boys vocalist for a time. 

The 'B' Girls - "High School Dance"

Along the way, they shared a CBGB poetry bill with Allen Ginsberg (!).  One unnamed poet reportedly went so long, that The 'B' Girls went next door to The Ramones' loft.  They changed clothes and returned to the club wearing matching pink pyjamas. 

Not the matching pink pyjamas. 

No other band from Toronto's punk rock scene was as well-woven into any city as The 'B' Girls were in New York.  Johnny Thunders, The Ramones, Post-Runaway/Pre-Blackheart Joan Jett: they all jumped up on their stage to join them in musical frivolity. 

Meanwhile, the expected record deal never materialized: 

Polygram Records U.K. flew in three times to check out The 'B' Girls.  The girls kept waiting for a better offer. 

The Copelands of FBI and IRS Records waited.  They finally released The Go-Go's six months later. 

The Ritz's Jerry Brandt kept them waiting outside his office for a gig they never got. 

Phil Spector kept them waiting so long, they fell asleep in his waiting room. 

The 'B' Girls waiting until 1982 before breaking up; no record label ever signed them. 

The girls have since reformed for several reunion gigs over the past several years. 

Who says girls can't rock? 

The 'B' Girls (1977-1981):

1The 'B' Girls'B' Side2:14

2The 'B' GirlsHearts In His Eyes3:44

3The 'B' GirlsHeartbreaker2:26

4The 'B' GirlsAlibi (Demo)3:09

5The 'B' GirlsWho Says Girls Can't Rock3:15

6The 'B' GirlsBoys Are Drinking3:06

7The 'B' GirlsTwo Hearts #1 (Longer Version)3:23

8The 'B' GirlsAlibi (1980)3:10

9The 'B' GirlsJealousy2:28

10The 'B' GirlsFun At The Beach2:18

11The 'B' GirlsTwo Hearts #2 (Shorter Version)3:17

12The 'B' GirlsAngel Doesn't Shoot A Gun2:14

13The 'B' GirlsMystery3:25

14The 'B' GirlsAlibi (1979)2:46

15The 'B' GirlsBig Girl4:00

16The 'B' GirlsSavage Fever3:19

17The 'B' GirlsChinese Rocks3:00

18The 'B' GirlsLong Distance Love3:20

19The 'B' GirlsFun At The Beach2:18


Dave said...

You never know when you'll find out about some old obscure band that is awesome, like this! Great Upload, Thanks.

Anonymous said...

awesome blog!

Anonymous said...

thats how blondie started because debra harry was in the b-girls