Monday, March 30, 2020

Avoid GIllian G. Gaar's very bad book (Ava and C.I.)

Few books stand the test of time.  We realized that as we picked up Gillian G. Gaar's SHE'S A REBEL: THE HISTORY OF WOMEN IN ROCK & ROLL.  Were it not for self-isolation and the pandemic, we probably would have continued to ignore the book.

It had received praise.  From . . . feminists.

We're feminists.  But we're leery of any book pretending to be about music that only receives praise from feminists who never cover music.  Look, Ellen Willis praising the book?  We'd take that seriously.  The book came out in 1991 so Ellen could have praised it.  Ellen was a feminist who loved music and was one of the country's best music critics.  But Ellen took a pass, didn't she?

Susan Faludi loves the book and provides a dumb quote:  "Gillian Gaar proves that American rock & roll is not a boy's club" -- really, Gillian proved that -- talk about rendering the work of all the women who came before invisible.  Naomi Wolf babbles on with only the nonsense that Naomi can offer.  Then there's the idiotic Lindsy Van Gelder who wants to issue a statement.  Hey, Lindsy, when you apologize for "bra burning" being associated with feminism, we'll want to read your statement until then you're just travel writer who took a job at MS. because you couldn't get anything else at the time.

At least Lindsy's a lesbian.

We say that because too often this book is not about women who rocked (or even folked or even popped) but about women who had sex with other women  -- and sometimes these women included didn't even make music.

Lesbians and straight, bi and trans women have made great contributions to popular music -- whether it was rock music or not -- and a book about their contributions could be very interesting.  A book focusing on just one grouping of those females could also be very interesting.  Gaar writes as though she's more interested in the lesbian story but doesn't have the guts to say so in print.  It leads to many embarrassments.  We'll get to it.
But first, Lou Reed never identified as a woman.  He wasn't trans.  So why does he get more time in the book than, for example, Carly Simon.  In the actual text, Carly is mentioned in one sentence (two if you also include the book's introduction).  So much for women who rocked.  "You're So Vain" rocked.  The same cannot be said about many of the women that Gaar tongue bathes.

10 pages.  Ten.  Eleven if you count the introduction.  That's how many pages that Gaar spends tongue bathing Michelle Shocked.

To clear up reality for those who only know her from her career destroying move in San Francisco last decade, Michelle Shocked never mattered to music.

She performed live and someone recorded it.  It came out as an album and wasn't groundbreaking and didn't sell.  Her only hit was "Anchorage" and that was a minor hit.  She is of no value or importance to rock or to the notion of women in rock.

But ten pages.  Wow.  Ten.

You know how many pages trail blazer Stevie Nicks got in the book?


Stevie Nicks is a member of Fleetwood Mac and a solo artist.  She is responsible for Fleetwood Mac's only number one hit single to this day -- she wrote and sang lead on "Dreams."  Other hits she contributed to the group include "Landslide," "Rhiannon," "Gypsy," "Sara," "Paper Doll," "Say You Will" and "Silver Springs." Away from the group, she's scored hits with "Leather and Lace," "Edge of Seventeen," "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around," "Stand Back," "If Anyone Falls In Love," "Nightbird," "Talk To Me," "Needles & Pins," "Whenever I Call You Friend," "Gold," "Beautiful People Beautiful Problems," "Golden," "Bootylicious,"  "I Can't Wait,'' "Rooms On Fire," "Has Anyone Ever Written Anything For You," "Sometimes It's A Bitch," "Maybe Love Will Change Your Mind," "Every Day," "Sorcerer," "Secret Love" and "For What It's Worth."  In fact, let's note that last one because it's a song we love more with each passing year.

You're writing a book about women who rock and you don't even mention Stevie Nicks?

You're a disgrace, you're an embarrassment.  (Yes, the book was published in 1992 -- Stevie was already a trail blazing artist by the mid-seventies.)

We should also note that Christine McVie notched up a few solo hits (four on the US charts) as well as singing on and writing hits for Fleetwood Mac ("You Make Loving Fun," "Over My Head," "Say You Love Me," "Don't Stop," "Hold Me," "Think About Me," "Love In Store," "Little Lies," "Everywhere," "Save Me" and "As Long As You Follow").  How many pages does Christine McVie get in this book?  Zero.

But ten pages for the insignificant Michelle Schocked?  Michelle never mattered.  She never sold albums, she never wrote a song that had any lasting value.  She was never an influencer.  She did pretend to be a lesbian at the time Gaar was writing her bad book and apparently that is all it took.  Pose as a lesbian and Gaar's in love -- blindly in love.

As we all know today, Michelle Shocked is not a lesbian, she's a loud and proud homophobe.  She broadcast that from the stage in San Francisco in March of 2013:

I was in a prayer meeting yesterday and you gotta appreciate how scared … folks on that side of the equation are. I mean, from their vantage point, and I really shouldn’t say ‘their,’ ’cause it’s mine, too, we are nearly at the end of time. And from our vantage point, we’re gonna be, uh, I think maybe Chinese water torture is gonna be the means, the method, once Prop 8 gets instated and once preachers are held at gunpoint and forced to marry the homosexuals, I’m pretty sure that that will be the signal for Jesus to come on back. You said you wanted reality. If someone would be so gracious as to tweet out that Michelle Shocked just said from stage, ‘God hates fa**ots.’ Would you do it now?

That's the woman Gillian Gaar couldn't stop tongue bathing for ten pages in her hideous book.

Again, Michelle was posing as a lesbian when Gaar wrote her book.  Posing as a lesbian.  A lesbian who married a man before Gaar's book was released.  But in 1988 and 1989 especially, Michelle was deliberately misleading the public by claiming she was a lesbian.  (She would later try to insist that she never claimed such a thing.  Too bad for her, the interviews she gave to the gay press back then still exist.)

A lot of women have posed as lesbian to the press -- or marketed themselves as such -- when they weren't.  Melissa Shocked is one, Holly Near is another and Ani DiFranco rounds out the unholy trinity.  Of the three, only Ani deserves to be in a book about women in rock based on artistic contributions.  Ani's not in the book (by the time the book was published, Ani had released her third album, apparently Gaar wasn't in the know about much of anything).  While Ani's not present, Holly Near endlessly is.  Yammering on and, no, we don't need to hear that Holly was on an episode of THE MOD SQUAD or anything else.  She was a fat woman hired to play young fat women on several TV shows.  And, for the record, this 'role' on THE MOD SQUAD, we all do grasp that Gaar is leaving out the name of the character Holly played -- "clerk."  The TV appearances listed have nothing to do with music and, more to the point, had nothing to do with acting.

Cris Williamson earned her place in the book.  She's an artist. 1975's THE CHANGER AND THE CHANGED is a classic -- a major classic -- and she has other albums as well that have stood the test of time.  She is short changed when a do-nothing like Michelle Shocked is given ten pages.

We also question the inclusion of WOMEN SOUND -- a sound company that provided audio speakers and microphones to a concert and to some speaking gigs (Gloria Steinem, etc).  Speaking gigs aren't rock and roll.  What was the point?

Time and again, we're taken away from actual accomplishments in the musical industry for nonsense like that or like Michelle Shocked or other b.s.

Real women who rocked -- or popped or folked -- are overlooked completely (Stevie Nicks, Christine McVie, Ani DiFranco, etc) or shortchanged (Cher -- one and a half pages for Cher a woman who has produced a number one chart hit in every decade since the sixties, a woman who has one of the best selling tours, a woman who has lasted six decades on the music charts and counting; Diana Ross, Carly Simon, Joni Mitchell, Etta James whose career apparently ended in the 50s because Gaar ignores James' classic work in the 60s and 70s, etc).

Real artists are ignored and short changed.  The book is a joke and demonstrates nothing of value.  One more example, in a snit fit of rage, John Phillips briefly pulled Michelle Phillips' co-writing credit on "California Dreamin'" -- instead of exploring that or the sexism involved, Gaar accepts it as warranted.  Michelle earned her co-writing credit on all of the songs she co-wrote (six were recorded by the group).  In a book supposedly about women in rock and the hardships they endured, Gaar refused to question John Phillips' attempt to erase Michelle's credit.  She didn't even note that, for example, for years John Phillips had falsely claimed credit for writing "500 Miles" -- Hedy West wrote that song.

Gaar accomplished nothing with her useless book.  "SHE" may be A REBEL but "SHE" clearly does not refer to Gaar.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
Poll1 { display:none; }