Monday, July 25, 2022

TV: EPIX disappears one woman after another in WOMEN WHO ROCK

Documentaries?  Forget truthful, these days we'd settle on them being just fact-based since they apparently can no longer handle factual.  We realized how low the genre had sunk when EPIX began airing their four-part mini-series WOMEN WHO ROCK.



Alarms really start to go off about 16 minutes into the first hour as you see Wanda Jackson performing "Hard Headed Woman" and the screen tells you it's 1960 as critic and Janis Joplin biographer Holly George Warren states, "Back in the day, Doris Day was kind of the role model just to stand there and sweetly sing and Wanda puts all this raunch into it with that amazing voice and . . ." 

Oh, okay, we get it.  Facts don't matter at all in this garbage being foisted off as history.  

Doris Day was a big band singer.  She started in 1938 and lasted through WWII.  What does that have to do with 1960?  Before the 40s are over, Doris Day has become a movie star and is no longer touring.  She still has hit records but she doesn't tour.  Is Holly that stupid?  Is she confusing Doris performing "It's Magic" in 1949's ROMANCE ON THE HIGH SEAS with an actual concert?  

Maybe Holly should have noted that Wanda didn't write "Hard Headed Woman" and didn't have a hit with it.  She performed it.  After Elvis Presley took the song to number one.  Took it to number one in 1958, we should note.  So later, in a concert, she's covering Elvis' hit record and signing it like she's Elvis.  Oh, what a breakthrough for women! -- if you're a fool.

Should we point out that the footage that they're attributing to 1960 is actually Wanda performing on November 29, 1958.  You can find it all over YOUTUBE and people producing a so-called documentary should have found it and credited it correctly.

And, by the way, Doris Day was an excellent singer.  A real one.  And she didn't disown her heritage or 'find God' and rebuke her past hits -- something many others can't say.  Wanda Jackson had a brief career in rockabilly and then did ballads and then returned to country.  Is there a reason that Margo Price is in this special?  She makes country today but for some reason, women like Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn and so many others aren't noted.  And where's Kitty Wells who, like Wanda, played the guitar and who crossed over from country to the pop charts years before Wanda in 1952 with "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels."  Though they were eager to include blues and gospel in the birth of rock, somehow the makers of this 'documentary' didn't seem to grasp that both folk and country music also gave birth to rock.


Before we got to Wanda -- an artist whose hits were never played in the mini-series -- we were told that this or that woman was responsible for women in rock.  Some of that was questionable as well.  It was also questionable to start with Mavis Staples during this period because Mavis wasn't even born until 1939 and she notes she didn't begin performing with her family until 1949 (she may be referring to the early training her father gave her and her siblings since most histories of The Staple Sisters use 1950 as the start date).  And it was questionable to bring up Aretha Franklin's name before Wanda Jackson and discuss her in terms of the 1950s while including footage of Aretha performing her 1967 hit "Respect."

Odetta comes up in the sixties discussion despite Odetta beginning her solo career in the fifties and finding success in the fifties.  Nina Simone is also dropped into the sixties discussion.  Macy Gray wants you to know that various issues "made her life really difficult"one of them, we believe, would be the fact that she had her first hit in 1958 but she's being shoehorned into the 60s.

G*ddamn in a song ("Missippi G*ddam") is what stood out for the ridiculous Tori Amos.  (Nona Hendryx make some meaningful statements regarding Nina and she's the only one who does.)

The sixties period is appalling over and over.  This year, rock legend Ronnie Spector died.  She's not mentioned by name in the four hour mini-series.  She does pop up in a photo with other members of the Ronnettes (whose hits include "Be My Baby" and "Walking In The Rain") but she's not identified.  The only one of four people in the photo identified on camera in this supposed special honoring women?  Producer Phil Spector -- who abused Ronnie in their marriage and who died in prison after being convicted of killing Lana Clarkson.  

Let's hear it for . . . the boy?

The mini-series is a nightmare from start to finish.

Diana Ross would be completely ignored if not for a photo that pops up during the eighties (a seventies photos) without any caption or any mention of her and if not for Julianna Escobedo Shepherd and singer-songwriter Rickie Lee Jones who speak intelligently about her in the one minute and ten seconds devoted to Diana. 

One minute and ten seconds.

Diana Ross had her first number one hit in 1964.  She is one of the main artists who broke down the color barrier in the sixties -- that was on the radio, that was on TV, that was in teenage magazines, and that was in night clubs and in Las Vegas.  Diana and the Supremes were one of the few American groups who charted regularly during the British invasion -- in fact, they'd have 12 number one pop hits in the sixties. They were the first group of women to top BILLBOARD's top 200 album chart.  They remain the best selling vocal group of all time.  Diana Ross and the Supremes had 26 songs in the 1960s that were top forty pop hits.  In 1970, Diana went solo and not only was she a movie star in the 70s, she was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress. And she would have 26 top forty hits on the pop charts, 26 on the top forty dance charts, 39 on the top forty R&B charts, and 28 on the top forty AC charts (that includes this year's "Turn Up The Sunshine").  




And, actually, add one more to each of those tallies since she was a featured vocalist on "We Are The World" which did go to number one on the pop, dance, R&B and AC charts.

Diana gets one minute and ten seconds.  

Labelle gets over four minutes.  Now we're not talking the original group of the Bluebelles that started in the sixties.  They've already been covered in the mini-series before we get to the 70s.  Labelle is the group that begins in 1970 and lasts until 1976.  Six years.  In 1972, they have their first chart hit performing "It's Gonna Take A Miracle" with Laura Nyro.  They will have six more songs chart -- on pop, AC, Dance or R&B -- in the life of the group with only four of those songs ever going top forty on any chart and only two going top ten.

But they get four minutes. 

Again, not talking about the sixties girl group that Cindy Birdsong was part of until she left to join Diana Ross and the Supremes -- that group had hits.  We're talking about Labelle and they get four minutes.  

And, guess what, not one of those minutes notes Laura Nyro.  

In fact, Laura's never noted at all.  The woman who founded the female singer-songwriter genre is not noted.  There would be no Carole King without Laura Nyro.

'W-w-wait, Ava and C.I., Carole was writing music with lyricist Gerry Goffin in the 60s!! They had hits!!!'


Yes, the wrote hits for others.  Carole has talked at length of how they'd pretend to be Aretha or the Monkees or the Drifters and write a song for them.  Pretend to be.  Then Carole move to the west coast and tried to be part of a group (The City) and that would flop (even though they recorded her "You've Got A Friend").  And then in 1970, she recorded a solo album WRITER and it flopped and made no impression.  1971's TAPESTRY?  Lou Adler gave her Laura's albums -- MORE THAN A NEW DISCOVERY, ELI AND THE THIRTEENTH CONFESSION, NEW YORK TENDABERRY and CHRISTMAS AND THE BEADS OF SWEAT.  He told her that's the sound to go for.  And she went for it -- as those around her at the time can tell you.

She wasn't pretending to be a Drifter or Little Eva on TAPESTRY, she was pretending to be Laura Nyro.  And that's how she ended up with her only album that's a classic-- by trying to copy Laura.  If that's not a testament to Laura's power and place in history, we don't know what is.

But Laura gets overlooked -- even though she's the only female singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell's ever thought worthy of a comparison to herself.  

Carly's never mentioned.  Right, a special on women who rock without Carly Simon and "You're So Vain" being mentioned.  It would be like ignoring Alanis Morissette and "You Ought To Know." That's because we're stuck with the nonsense of Bonnie Raitt.  


Bonnie is wonderful . . . as an a.c. artist appealing to middle-aged people in the 90s.  She records and she tours and she's nothing special.  She's given chance after chance 1972 until 1982 when WARNERS dumps her.  She released 'albums.'  Song collections that were meaningless and not true albums.  They made no statements, there was no cohesion.  In the mid-80s, she's recording Bryan Adams' "No Way To Treat A Lady" and really begins to connect -- including a July 4, 1986 Farm Aid performance that was a true turnaround as Bonnie connected with a daytime audience -- a daytime one -- like she'd never done before with any audience.  Even "No Way To Treat A Lady" worked -- it placed Bonnie, as she performed it, into a new perspective and the crowd fell in love with her.  It was this new love that was mined on 1989's summer release NICK OF TIME which would go on to spawn three top forty adult contemporary hits in 1990 -- and not top forty pop hit.  


If that seems harsh to you, it's also factual.  And before the revisionary history of this century began, the truth could be told.  "Unpredictable and unpackagable" -- that's what Patricia Romanowski wrote in the chapter on Bonnie in 1997's THE ROLLING STONE BOOK OF WOMEN IN ROCK.  Romanowski notes, "From 1974's STREETLIGHTS to her last WARNER release over a decade later, Raitt gave over control to a series of big-name producers including Jerry Ragovoy (STREETLIGHTS), Paul Rothschild (HOME PLATE and SWEET FORGIVENESS) and Peter Asher (THE GLOW).  At least that's who critics blamed as they questioned why Raitt couldn't make an album as good as her music."


Bonnie has a tale to tell and she's a wonderful influence once she gets her act together but stop pretending that was true in the `1970s.  It wasn't.  It's not until 1986 that she's really starting to connect and it's not until 1987 when she gets clean that she's able to start really steering her career.  Beginning in 1990, she is a chart presence and clearly an influence but she doesn't belong in the 70s unless you're talking about how she misfired over and over and failed to connect or make a real impression. 

Also omitted from the 70s?  Too many to ever note.  We do think it's sad that Melanie Safka is ignored.  The mini-series is not about rock music despite the title (and the pretense).   But if you're going to call it rock and you're going to cover the 70s, you need to note Melanie because she's at all the rock festivals of the decade.  She is the festival queen.

However, when you can go through the sixties in a mini-series entitled WOMEN WHO ROCK and not note Michelle Phillips or the Mamas and the Papas (Cass Elliot is noted only for her reaction to Janis Joplin performing live -- not for anything she sang or did) or Grace Slick or Sandy Denny or Jackie DeShannon, or  . . . .


Nancy Wilson notes that her band Heart and Fleetwood Mac were two of the few groups that had women in them.  She means men and women.  She apparently hadn't heard of the Mamas and the Papas or Jefferson Airplane or Jefferson Starship or Sly and the Family Stone or The 5th Dimension or The Velvet Underground (with or without Nico) or Blondie or Fairport Convention or The Seekers or . . .

Sorry, Nancy, we love you and we know you were edited poorly -- as were all the subjects.

Let's talk about that.


Chaka Khan, Norah Jones, Shania Twain, Jody Watley, the awful Joan Jett, Nona Hendryx, Mavis Staple, Tori Amos, Sheryl Crow, Rickie Lee Jones, Aimee Mann, Susanna Hoffs, Tina Weymouth, Merry Clayton, Kate Pierson, Margo Price, Natalie Merchant, Sheila E and Pat Benatar are among the women artists featured.


We know a number of those women.  And we know who influenced them.  So we asked a few, "What the f**k?"


We were told they mentioned Carly, they mentioned Grace, they mentioned Tracy Chapman and Janet Jackson and Michelle and Cass and --


It was edited out.


The segments were pre-planned.  Noting how a woman reads the lyrics to a Sheryl Crow song (not really a Sheryl Crow song in terms of who actually wrote it) on camera, we were told the woman balked at it but went along.  That's why she stumbles on camera as she reads it.  They brought albums -- vinyl ones -- to all the tapings, the producers did.  Many of our friends refused to handle the vinyl and refused to read lyrics on camera.  The producers would play the vinyl and try to encourage the interview subjects to bop along to it.


They would, when asked about this or that artist, reply and those comments were included.


But when asked about their influences, they would cite their own, real influences.  And this would be scissored out of their interviews.  


The producers wanted certain artists pushed.  And that's the real lesson here, don't let a man 'famous' for men's underwear, another man who is responsible for HGTV programming and a woman whose big credit is a TV special about ONLYFANS sex performers make a documentary about women in music.


Sheryl Crow is a nothing.  Her first album that hit was TUESDAY NIGHT MUSIC CLUB.  She wasn't responsible for it.  A man killed himself because of that claim -- that falsehood.  Sheryl was failing and failing and failing.  She joined a group of men who had a workshop and, with them, she wrote some songs.  Now "All I Want To Do Is Have Some Fun" is not Sheryl's song.  She's never written imagery like that again because she didn't write it in the first place.  Or take "Leaving Las Vegas" which Sheryl lied to David Letterman on national television and claimed she wrote when, in fact, David Baerwald came up with the idea and wrote it with Kevin Gilbert, Brian MacLeod, Bill Bottrell, David Ricketts and Sheryl Crow.  But there she was lying to David that she had written an autobiographical song.  

On the mini-series, Sheryl wants you to know about the sexism involved in her career.  People didn't think she wrote her songs, she huffs.  Because she didn't.  She co-wrote.  And then she wants you to know that a man (Bill Bottrell) walked out on the recording of her follow up album.  She doesn't explain that he walked out because of the fact that she was lying about the songs in interviews, taking credit she didn't deserve.  She just has the man in a huff and wants you to know that, thank heavens, Trina Shoemaker was in the studio because Trina engineered the album and it was great to work with a woman.

Really?  Because she's the eighth listed engineer or assistant engineer listed on the album's credits  -- eighth listed and behind seven men.  In fact, she's the 26th listed name on the credits -- of 38 names.  If Trina's the sole engineer, she certainly didn't get credit for it.


As a follow up to the massive TUESDAY NIGHT MUSIC CLUB, the album sold.  But it sold less, far less, than TUESDAY NIGHT MUSIC CLUB and set the pattern for every Sheryl album which would sell less and less and less until she ends up selling 20,000 albums.  

Sheryl was a nothing and she is one of the reasons that Best Rock Female Vocal got dropped from the Grammys.  She wasn't that good but she kept getting nominated -- while actual women who could sing rock were ignored.  



That's what the program specializes in.  Over and over.  

Kathleen Hanna. She fronted grunge band Bikini Kill. The Deal sisters of The Breeders, Elastica, The Cranberries, Sleeper, the Cardigans are ignored in the mini-series.

We wish they'd ignored Kathleen.

No, we're not claiming that, like Sheryl Crow, Kathleen is undeserving of attention.  Kathleen deserves attention but the mini-series only pretends to to acknowledge her.  We hear people talk about her.  We see her onstage performing.  We even here from her.  She talks to the camera.

But, back up, we see her onstage performing.  



We see her.

Was she the Charlie Chaplin of music?  That's what the mini-series makes her into.  Even when she's performing, we don't hear her singing.  Her lips are moving but there's no sound.

Apparently, Bikini Kill was too abrasive for the delicate ears of producers John Varvatos and Derik Murray and director Jessica Hooper.  We can see Kathleen and we can hear about her but we can't hear her perform.  It's disgusting.

And it's disgusting to put fake ass Joan Jett on this project.  She's 63 and it took her turning 60 to finally come out -- while pretending she was always out!  She spent the 80s playing a virgin who lived with her manager and his wife.  She spent the 90s and the 00s and the bulk of the 10s in denial. She's nothing but a product.  Suzi Quatro is big in England and stars playing Leather Tuscadero on HAPPY DAYS in 1977 and Joan crushes hard.  It helps take away the sting of playing guitar in Cherie Currie's band -- because that's what the Runaways were -- Cherie's band.  Excuse us, Cherie's back up band.  Now Joan was having sex with Cherie so maybe she was a little more "I'm With The Band" than other members but she was the back up.  Cherie cruised out of the band and it flailed around with Joan as the lead singer before collapsing.

Joan is a nothing.  Musically, she is Sha Na Na -- but with less talent and charisma.  Off stage, she will never live down watching 36-year-old Kim Fowley rape 16-year-old Jackie Fuchs and laugh.  She lies today and tries to pretend she didn't know about it until Jackie spoke publicly of it in 2015 but she knew, all the Runaways knew.  Cherie talked about it in a 2004 documentary. And Victory Tischler-Blue (who replaced Jackie Fuchs in the band) noted that everyone in the band knew about it.  But Joan, who Jackie saw watching as she tried to push the man off her, tries to play like she had no idea at all and, lies, that if she had known about it, she would have tried to stop it.

Joan is a fake and imposter.  She's about as real as The Monkees.  When we called out NPR for getting something wrong about her hit -- a major thing -- they reluctantly corrected it and told us that their source for that had been Joan herself.  That's not a surprise, Joan's a liar.

And maybe people need to take responsibility for the 'facts' that they amplify.  That's NPR, that's this piece of trash documentary.entitled WOMEN WHO ROCK.

Watching the hideous Ann Power reduce Tina Turner to a wig and what she wore -- not as a primal force in music, not as a one-of-a-kind singer, a woman who had one of the most successful tours of all time, you realize how sad and pathetic this mini-series is.  And when you grasp that nonsense is being celebrated from the 80s while Tracy Chapman -- an artist who played guitar, who wrote her own songs and whose voice is instantly identifiable -- isn't even mentioned?  While Madonna and Cyndi Lauper are celebrated but Janet Jackson is rendered invisible?  In the 1980s alone, Janet had ten top forty hits on the R&B charts (seven went number one) and eight top ten pop hits (two of which went number one).  Somehow she is disappeared.


Trouble as well is a WOMEN WHO ROCK mini-series that never names Cher in any decade but she is shown when Nancy Wilson is insulting women who "seemed ornamental to me [. . .] dolled up and [. . .] demure," you realize what garbage EPIX has decided to broadcast.  Nancy wasn't speaking of Cher.  Clearly, in the 60s, Cher was the essence of a hippie and she was never demure -- not in the 60s, not in the 70s, not in the 80s, not in the 90s, not in the 00s, not in the 10s and not today.  But it's telling how the producers and director used Nancy comments to slam Cher and how the slam was all they wanted to offer about Cher in a four-part mini-series entitled WOMEN WHO ROCK.  In fact, that probably says just about everything there is to say about how WOMEN WHO ROCK distorts women's history and their accomplishments.

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