Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Stiff Girls: Rachel, Jane and Chrissie

Punk (and for our current purposes, new wave) began as a centralized phenomenon, you were either from New York or London or you moved your sorry-ass there toute fuckin' suite. However as that 'new music' spread, the phenomenon of the regional scene (like Liverpool or Detroit once were) re-ignited. An early example of such localized hype, would be the city of Akron, Ohio. When that city's weird-punks Devo, signed to Stiff Records circa 1978 (forever confuzzling the course of rock history) it led to a locust-like descent of A & R men upon the rubber capital of the world. Other than the Rubber City Rebels, what they found there was a whole lotta estrogen.

Rachel Sweet

Rachel Sweet, pushed as a sex object by her different record labels starting at the tender age of fifteen, is the missing link between Tanya Tucker and Brittany Spears ('course neither of them were backed by power-pop titans, the Records!) She moved from a country-ish sound, to a more slick rock style before joining teen idol Rex Smith in mush-land. (Two of MRML's favourites pop-punk bands have given props to Rachel; Berkley's Mr. T. Experience covered "Whats' in the Cuckoo Clock"and Victoria's Bum, in the song "O Cookie" asked, "Whatever happened to Rachel Sweet/Oh man, she sure was pretty/I miss her singing a country song - yes I do").

Download Rachel Sweet's B-A-B-Y 7"

Jane Aire

Another Akron belter signed to Stiff was Jane Aire, was again backed by a group of British boys, the Belvederes later called the Edge (no connection to the U2 effects-whiz).

Download Jane Aire's Yankee Wheels 7"

The Pretenders (Chrissie Hynde)

In 1979 when this buzz about Akron was peaking, an ex-Akronite (and then London rock scribe) Chrissie Hynde was putting together a tough-as-nails (British) band called the Pretenders, While she never signed to Stiff, her band's first single was produced by Stiff's early guiding light, Mr. Nick Lowe. Chrissie's career has some dizzying ascents and some steep downslides and but she's survived and is still rocking damn hard.

Download Chrissie + Co.'s Stop Yer Sobbin' 7"

45 Revolutions and MRML began a brief and ill-advised feud on the identity of Akron's finest female vocalist. 45 argued for Jane first, followed by Rachel with Chrissie taking up the rear, while MRML argued that it was Chrissie numero uno, with Jane in the middle of the pack and Rachel taking home the bronze medal. (Neither of us mentioned Patty Donahue of the Waitresses - go figure!)

{So now MRML Readers, make your vote for Akron's finest female vocalist - just click 'comment' and type in your first choice - and second and third if your are so inclined.}

Turns out it's Chrissie, no matter how you tot up the votes but it's actually Rachel in second and Jane taking home the bronze. You never know how these things will turn out. Thanks for your wry, amusing ballots.

(The first and last pictures were the best available images of Lori Petty in the Stiff shirt she wore in the movie version of Tank - Girl - sharper images would be welcome.)


  1. Well, if we're talkin' strictly vocal prowess I gotta give the nod to Chrissie--but if the award goes to the most accomplished Akron native I think I'd vote Rachel Sweet. After her Stiff contract was up she stormed Hollywood, acting, writing and even producing some of the great TV comedies like Dharma & Greg, George Lopez and the immortal Sports Night. Plus she had a role in possibly the all-time greatest sitcom episode, Seinfeld's "The Contest."

  2. Chrissie, Chrissie, and Chrissie in that order.

  3. I concur with Lemonflag - Chrissie, Chrissie and Chrissie without any shadow of doubt.

  4. Ygor ("It's pronounced eye-gore")

    Those are some pretty impressive credentials for Ms. Sweet (coulda been a Bond character) so I'll consider that a vote for her.

    I laughed out loud (people who write LOL never seem to mean it - so I spelled it out.)

    That's two big votes for Chrissie thus far (though I suppose in the final tally I'll include W.T.'s and my vote).

  5. Just on the basis of "Stop Your Sobbing" it would be Crissie.

    As to Stiff women, though, my heart belongs to Kirsty MacColl's "They Don't Know," an amazing piece of singing/arranging, and possibly the best sound on a Stiff record ever. She is missed.

  6. Chrissie wins this hands down. I love the underdog and Rachel Sweet was great but where are all these acts today (including some of the better known ones from the 70-80's?) Chrissie made only 9 records and is still today a vital performer (saw her in Boston last week and she killed it! and aren't voices supposed to get weaker with age??...not hers...huge voice!). I think only a very large talent could survive 30 years with such a small output! Now hurry up with the follow up to Break Up The Concrete! PS Her recorded ouput aged very well..now dinnit?

  7. Crozier
    Yeah expanding past Akron and making it the "Women of Stiff (sounds like a calender) would complicate matters. Kirsty has some amazing work (for some reason I feel that her cover of "You Just Haven't Earned It Yet Baby" is one of her highest points but there's a lot to choose from.)

  8. Anon
    Yeah I was impressed by "Boots of Chinese Plastic" - Chrisy is still kicking ass. I never realized it was so few albums she'd done (I s'pose that's one around every three years). It's quite the body of work tough and it is hard to imagine the other ladies in question having enough material for a box set

  9. 1. Jane
    2. Chrissie
    3. Rachel

    True, Rachel's appearance in Seinfeld wins her some points, and true, Chrissie's first four singles ("Talk Of The Town" especially is quite beautiful) are pretty great, but:
    (a) "Yankee Wheels" is super-glorious and is so MYSTERIOUS that hearing it confuses me for the rest of the day
    (b) Jane was (probably still is, I don't know) extremely cute. I met her once and immediately got myself a Jane-alike girlfriend.

  10. chrissie for gold and silver.
    but i have patti donohue for bronze.

    unless I can vote for Stiv Baotors... then he wins.

  11. LDK
    Chrissie has a sexy personae but she's never really been cute per se.

    Hey just we're going on about Akron doesn't mean you can drag Cleveland into this!
    (But seriously,Stiv did make quite the lady on that "Like a Virgin" 12" didn't he?
    Sidenote: this long-forgotten band, Sons of the Dessert, had a great song called "Legs Just Like Stiv".

  12. 1) Rachel
    2) Chrissie
    3) Jane

  13. Akron, Cleveland... to this Noo Yawker, after 12th avenue in Manhattan, it's one nameless flyover till you get to Cali.

  14. Ah, fly-over country - forgotten till the next election cycle.

    (It's hard to believe Ohio, with the already mentioned bands plus the Pagans, Pere Ubu et al once had such a strong cultural influence.)

  15. Chrissie all the way. "Technically" Rachel is a better singer but Chrissie is friggin' Chrissie (as any firebombed McDonald's would tell you)!

  16. Rachel, Rachel, and Chrissie.

    Final answer

  17. Turns out it's Chrissie, no matter how you tot up the votes but it's actually Rachel in second and Jane taking home the bronze. You never know how these things will turn out. Thanks for your wry, amusing ballots.

  18. Hey, I'm late to the party, I bought both 'B-A-B-Y' and 'Stop Your Sobbing' when they came out, lost interest in Chrissie Hynde but never lost the interest in Rachel Sweet

    Have to agree with the vote for Kirsty MacColl - just listen to 'They Don't Know' - sheer quality, and yes, sadly gone

  19. Calling it Stiff Girls might have been confusing since I focused on women from Akron (and included one singer not even on Stiff)

    Kirsty was amazing as a singer and a writer, I can't say I lvoe all of what she did but their are parts of her catalog that I can listen to over and over again.

  20. a tangent for you, that may be of no interest at all. the cover for the stop your sobbing single was riffed on by some band called rise years later - they used a tighter shot of the kid holding his shoes, and it was fuzzed up with some added noise.

  21. Postbear
    Of interest to me?
    I own that record
    "Little Cosa" is a Canadian punk classic (or it should be!)

  22. It's got to be Jane Aire and the Belvederes by a mile! Check out the album... And tell me where I can get it on digital.

    Although Pearl Harbor and the Explosions does come up close on the rail with Drivin' In fact she pips it with that track.

    Where are they now?



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