Frock Rock: Women Performing Popular Music

Frock Rock: Women Performing Popular Music

Frock Rock: Women Performing Popular Music

Frock Rock: Women Performing Popular Music

Synopsis

This is the first ethnographic study of women's popular music-making. It is based on over 100 in-depth interviews as well as participant observation by the author, a sociologist, who has herself played in various bands since punk. Bayton covers the period from the late 1970s until the mid 1990s, focusing mainly on women instrumentalists in female and mixed bands. Amongst others, interviewees include Skin from Skunk Anansie, Debbie Smith from Echobelly, Candida Doyle from Pulp, Gail Greenwood from Belly and L7, Natasha Atlas from Transglobal Underground, and Vie Subversa from Poison Girls. Although female vocalists have always been common, women playing instruments in bands are still proportionally rare. Frock Rock explores the social factors that keep women from playing and those routes that have enabled women's involvement. The book then examines the everyday worlds of women's music-making from bands just starting up to the professional stage: songwriting, rehearsing, the first gig, getting a manager, record companies, recording, and touring. Easy to read and packed with fascinating quotes, Frock Rock makes an invaluable contribution to the field of popular music studies and will become a key text in cultural studies, media studies, women's studies, and sociology of culture courses.

Excerpt

This book is a sociological study of women in contemporary popular music in the UK from the 1970s to the 1990s. Its focus is on instrumentalists, rather than singers; local music-making rather than international stardom. It is written with more than one potential readership in mind. Primarily, it is for students and academics in the fields of popular music, cultural and media studies, women's studies, and sociology. Hopefully, it can also be read as a guide for women considering a career in music-making, to show what the problems are likely to be and to demonstrate how others have successfully resisted and dealt with them. Lastly, it is for the general reader interested in popular music.

The book is based on ethnographic research undertaken for a Ph.D. in the 1980s and updated in 1995-6. In 1978 I became a member of Oxford's first all-women band--the Mistakes. As a sociologist by training, I became increasingly fascinated by the world of rock bands. Gradually moving from observant participation to full 'participant observation', I registered for a research degree at Warwick University and decided to widen the scope of my fieldwork by undertaking indepth interviews with women musicians at various career stages: starting out, semi-professional, and fully professional. In all, I undertook forty-nine interviews. Most of these were lengthy--over two hours, the longest taking nine hours. They were structured by an interview schedule containing over 200 questions and recorded on tape. Alongside this, I undertook observation at women's music workshops. I also carried out innumerable brief informal unstructured interviews with men and women working in the record business, in recording studios, on music magazines, sound engineers, and so forth. Lastly, I went to hundreds of gigs. (Standard equipment: camera, tape recorder, notebook, and DMs.) The main questions I had in my mind were as follows. First, why were so comparatively few women playing instruments in bands? Second, what was special about those rare individuals who were doing it? Third, what were their experiences in playing music and how did their careers work?

In 1990 I obtained my Ph.D. and should have published a book, but my life partner became seriously ill and soon died. It was 1995 before I felt able to write a book, by which time my original fieldwork had become history, so I decided to repeat the entire research to obtain contemporary comparative data. This gave me two 'snapshots' to compare: one of the early to mid-1980s and one of the . . .

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