Tagged: Dusty Springfield

Hey, go listen to the new Adele album!

We’re in February now, which means people are releasing albums again. Yesterday, I listened to new stuff from Toro Y Moi, PJ Harvey, and Adele. I giggled at Urban Outfitters streaming Underneath the Pine, but that’s not unexpected. UO and retailers like American Eagle sell compilations upon occasion. As I mentioned in my review of TOKiMONSTA’s Midnight Menu, the first time I heard an Air song was at the mall. It makes sense. Both artists make music for looking at your ass in expensive jeans. Matter of fact, Chaz Bundick is straight up trying to make Air records.

By the way, if anyone has written on department stores using music as a part of brand identification, please let me know.

In anticipation of their official release dates later this month, NPR is streaming Harvey and Adele’s new albums. I’m sure most readers would expect that I’d devote some space to Harvey’s Let England Shake. However, I’d imagine that regular followers of this blog are already digging the new album and are excited about the short films that are accompanying it. They can probably also tell you that she didn’t peak with Rid Of Me and continues to make great records. They might even say that White Chalk is far more intense than To Bring You My Love. Regardless of whether you know this or not, do check it out.

Get a copy of Adele's 21 for your parents and rip a copy for yourself; image courtesy of wikimedia.org

But I thought I should trumpet my excitement about Adele’s 21. It might be a populist vote, and I strongly encourage fans who want to check out lesser-known artists to give a listen to Orgone and Andreya Triana. However, I’m a believer in supporting good musicians with universal appeal–folks like Jill Scott, Sharon Jones, and fellow Texans like Kelly Clarkson and Norah Jones. My mom might have acquired a taste for Joanna Newsom when I played “Sawdust and Diamonds” for her, but what’s not to love about these ladies?

The Grammys are this Sunday, and I plan to tune in and perhaps live Tweet alongside the folks over at In Media Res, who are devoting this week to critical explorations in pop music. I’ve got a cocktail riding on the Album of the Year winner. If it goes to Katy Perry, the hellmouth will open and we won’t have any new Septembers. You’ll recall Adele won two awards in 2009, including the contentious Best New Artist prize. I totally think she deserved it. I admitted my love for her (and my scorn for Vogue‘s sizeism) early in this blog’s run. My only reservation with 21 is that I don’t think there’s a song that matches lead single “Rolling In The Deep,” which opens the album and is powerful enough to bring about a Biblical flood. But “Rumour Has It” and “He Won’t Go” are also in heavy rotation, and her version of the Cure’s “Lovesong” honors the original (which I have tepid feelings for, as I don’t need Robert Smith when I have Siouxsie Sioux) and far exceeds the 311 cover. Adele’s sophomore album is exactly what it needs to be–accomplished, singular, and lousy with hits. She’s well on her way to becoming the Dusty Springfield of my generation, and is becoming our Adele in the process.

Pirate Radio is missing a girl’s own story

So, I caught a free screening of Pirate Radio last night (today is its opening day in the states). I don’t want to dishearten Richard Curtis fans who treasure Four Weddings and a Funeral and Love Actually (neither of which I’ve seen), but he dropped a big bloody bollock with this movie (known as The Boat That Rocked in the UK).

How can that be, you ask? It’s about a British pirate radio station during the mid-1960s. Its soundtrack boasts choice cuts from the British Invasion. And it’s got a charming cast. How can a movie be bad when it has Philip Seymour Hoffman and Bill Nighy and Nick Frost and Rhys Ifans and Rhys Darby and cast members from The IT Crowd, along with cameos from Emma Thompson and January Jones? Kenneth Branagh even goes all campy villain on us as the station’s bureaucratic nemesis (see also Wild Wild West, a terrible movie where he chews some scenery as the bad guy). That sounds great on paper. Even if it’s saddled with boomer era clichés about free love and rock music changing the world, it’s gotta be fun, right? Who doesn’t want to run a pirate radio station on a boat with these folks?

There’s so much wrong with this hack job of a movie. There’s a lot left unexplained. How did this ragtag group get a boat? Why is rock music illegal to broadcast in 1960s Great Britain? How are these radio personalities so famous? There’s also lots of truncated plot points and weird tonal shifts and nonsensical character motivations which I don’t think would have been aided by the original cut’s three-hour running time. The protagonist is a bloke named Carl (played by Tom Sturridge) who may or may not have been put on the boat by his mother to meet his dad, but I’m too bored to care. And that’s saying something, as his dad is played by Ralph Brown, who was Danny the Dealer in Withnail and I.

I’d also mention that it’s kinda disheartening to see Hoffman — who plays a crusty American deejay named the Count — spout rockist catchphrases like “a whop bam boo” and “young men and young women will always dream dreams and put those dreams into song” with stealy-eyed import. But it’s also kinda amazing. A lesser actor couldn’t pull it off. But Hoffman makes Count’s turn of phrase sound like some kind of rock deejay John McClane. Oh, and he almost drowns when the boat sinks. Except he doesn’t and emerges victoriously (and ridiculously) from the North Sea. Such is the power of rock. 

But I think you know what my big problem is. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the roles for women and girls are marginal and insultingly one-dimensional. While I think there may have been an effort to keep their presence ornmanental so as to make a commentary on the era’s regressive attitude toward gender and sexual politics, I think the movie exacerbates the problem rather than rectify it.

There are groovy birds (re: prostitutes, groupies, and moms) who board the ship to “service” the talent, sometimes pretending to love one crew member to get closer to another and wounding their pride. Awesome. 

There’s one woman in the crew — a lesbian named Felicity (played by Katherine Parkinson) who basically serves as the ship’s put-upon housewife. She does get a girlfriend, but this is given for too obvious, peripheral treatment to seem as real progress.

There are no musicians, except for women like Dusty Springfield, Skeeter Davis, and Sandy Shaw who function as playlist selections.

There are also huddles of simpering female fans who listen attentively to the radio — students, flight attendants, secretaries, cleaning ladies, mothers, wives, single women, waitresses, and shopgirls. None of them speak, though many giggle. They also lack names. Oh, correction. Kenneth Branaugh’s secretary Miss C (played by Sinead Matthews) sort of gets one.

Anyway, this sucks, and a likeable cast can’t salvage its suckitude. So I suggest instead of seeing this movie that you watch Jane Campion’s A Girl’s Own Story instead. Here’s a scene. Wish I could post the whole thing.

Made in 1984 and available on the Criterion Collection edition of Campion’s debut feature, Sweetie, this short focuses on a group of Australian schoolgirls who came of age during Beatlemania. It showcases the complex relationships girls have with their fandom, along with their homosocial friendships and burgeoning sexuality. It’s pretty awesome, and actually suggests what it may have been like to be a teenaged girl during rock’s golden era. Pirate Radio couldn’t be bothered.

Girl Groups, Girl Culture: Popular Music and Identity in the 1960s by Jacqueline Warwick

Cover to Girl Groups, Girl Culture (Routledge, 2007); image courtesy of routledgemusic.com

For financial reasons, I was only able to swing one day of Fun Fun Fun Fest so I’m blogging while many in this fair city are catching some good music in Waterloo Park. Although, admittedly, if you’re gonna do one day of the festival, I think yesterday was the way to go. I got to check several bands I’ve never seen before off my list: No Age (who I’ve missed by a marrow margin at least three times), Jesus Lizard, Pharcyde, Les Savy Fav, and Death.

But if you have the scratch, please make sure everyone sees one of Mika Miko’s last shows ever on the black stage at 2:55. I might try to get down there later just to hear it from the other side of the fence.

Mika Miko’s exceptional presence on this year’s bill seems as good a place as any to remember that, as Melissa at GRCA astutely pointed out in her recent post, this year boasts a very dudecentric line-up. So I’ll review Jacqueline Warwick’s book Girl Groups, Girl Culture: Popular Music and Identity in the 1960s book in the hopes that at least one historically significant girl group or all-female band will reunite for next year’s FFFF like Death did this year. And like the Shangri-Las did at CBGB’s in 1977.

As much as I hate comparing women’s work so as to pit them in opposition, Warwick’s book is a tremendous example of how effective it can be to narrow the scope of the cultural moment being covered, something I wish Charlotte Greig would have considered when penning her book on girl groups. While Greig truncates the history of the girl group era in order to broaden the definition of what a girl group is, Warwick focuses primarily on this brief but important moment in history (roughly between 1958 and 1965), considering its ongoing influence as an epilogue.

By taking this approach, Warwick considers the girl group era and its participants from several different, often surprising, areas of inquiry. As a result, she proves the cultural signficance of a popular form dismissed by many as superficial, polished, and phony who instead tend to favor rock music’s supposed transcendent raw authenticity, and argues strongly that this binary construction is inherently gendered. Duh, and amen.

Warwick posits that one of the most important things about the girl group era was its insistence on putting girls and young women in the spotlight, introducing a complex, celebratoryn and at times contradictory performance of what the author calls “girlness”. Often, these ladies were working class, and of African American or mixed racial and ethnic heritage. They had few options for financial mobility and minimal career prospects being marriage, motherhood, clerical jobs, and day labor. Forming vocal groups together and cutting records gave them access to other opportuntities toward professional advancement and personal growth, expanding the idea of girlhood as an identity across race and class lines. 

Sometimes these groupings resulted in the cultivation of considerable, devoted fan bases that, in The Supremes and The Ronnettes’ cases, were comparable to Beatlemania. Some of those fans were even other male-only rock bands, like The Beach Boys, The Beatles, and later, The Ramones. Take that, pop-rock, girl-boy binaries!

In other words, I’m telling you to read this book.

One thing I appreciate about Warwick’s book from the outset is the celebration of the female voice. As I’ve long believed and argued extensively in this blog, we cannot give short-shrift to singers. While they can assuredly be tokenized and objectified, but they can also be empowered, embodied, and forge their own agency. Heartenly, she finds much going on with the voice, a distinct instrument no matter how it may have been manipulated or homogenized by label owners like Motown’s Barry Gordy and producers like Phil Spector and his overwhelming wall of sound. She hears the genteel precision of Diana Ross’s soprano, the urgent purr of Ronnie Spector’s husky alto, the untrained wavering of Shirelle Shirley Owens’s pitch, the gutteral inflections on Supreme Florence Ballard’s tone, the put-on nasal affectations of Broadway-trained groups like The Angels, the racial dimensions of Dusty Springfield’s blue-eyed soul, and the teenaged monotone of Shangri-La Mary Weiss.

She also hears these girls singing to one another, often in their own forms of feminine dialect and for the purposes of providing support and advice. On record, acts like The Dixie Cups, The Crystals, Betty Everett, and The Velvelettes would pepper their songs with seemingly nonsensical words and phrases like “iko iko,” “da doo ron ron,” “shoop,” and “doo lang doo lang,” often provided by backing vocalists as a means of support for the lead vocalist, who might be intimating her feelings about burgeoning romance or her conflicted feelings in the aftermath of a break-up.

Often, these girls were providing one another moral support and providing advice as well. While Warwick notes that advice songs tended to be the domain of girl groups with African American members like The Velvelettes, The Shirelles, The Chiffons, and The Marvelettes, they often imparted wisdom to their audiences that they learned from their mothers or their sisters, as well as sharing what they’ve learned from their own experiences. In doing so, these songs provided a counterargument to the assertion that girl groups only sang about boys and also expanded female discourse in popular music by including the words and experiences of generations of women into then present-day pop songs by girls.  

It cannot be ignored that while many girl group songs were written by men, not all of them were. As mentioned elsewhere, Brill Building stalwarts like Cynthia Weil, Ellie Greenwich, and Carole King were of paramount importance to the era. Many of these women, like Greenwich, wrote about seemingly teenage issues like young love and treated it as legitimate, at times giving it life-and-death importance, as she did on The Shangri-Las’ “Leader of the Pack.” 

King is a particularly interesting case as well. Before striking out on her own as a solo artist, she wrote many important songs for girl groups. Some songs, like The Crystals’ “He Hit Me (And It Felt Like a Kiss)” address the troubling and dangerous aspects of patriarchy and oppression, and have been covered to harrowing effect by bands like Hole and Grizzly Bear.

Other songs King penned gesture toward the era’s prescience regarding shifting cultural attitudes toward feminism, female agency, and sexual autonomy, as on The Shirelles’ anthemic “Will You Love Me Tomorrow?” 

Girl groups were also clearly singing with one another, as girl groups often were comprised of siblings and relatives who wore matching outfits and performed intricate choreography to suggest that these girls were a unit, despite at times having clearly defined lead singers and stars who (especially in Diana Ross’s case) were thin and had a more conventional look and sound.

It was this image coordination that made The Ronnettes able to ingratiate night clubs when they were underaged, gave them the confidence to perform at those night clubs, and provided them with a sense of belonging that made them tough enough to brave any New York City street. It also makes this sense of actual or engineered sisterhood and camderadie seem especially fragile when success encroaches on it, as the tragic dimensions of Estelle Bennett and Florence Ballard‘s post-girl group lives remind. 

Warwick shies from making any explicitly queer connections to girl groups beyond passing references to Springfield and Lesley Gore’s orientations and their relationships with the closet. I would have liked a bit more discussion of the queer dynamics of the groups’ homosocial bonding both on- and off-record. A brief appraisal of queer fandom (seemingly most pronounced among certain circles of gay men, though not exclusively) would also have been appreciated.

That said, I do appreciate Warwick reminding her readers of girl groups’ continued impact. As this is the section of the book that gets less focus, it would be worthwhile to read Warwick’s and Greig’s books together to get a larger sense of how punk, hip hop, and contemporary pop music were influenced by girl groups.

I would hasten to add country music to the list of genres that were shaped by this era. Given last night’s Saturday Night Live, which featured crossover star Taylor Swift as both host and musical guest (a rare opportunity for most pop stars, unless they are Justin or Britney). Watching her play a brace-faced teenager in a skit about parents who are worse drivers than their kids and her performance of “You Belong To Me” complete with careful, song-appropriate gestures, it was clear to me that the girl group era continues. As Mika Miko performs one of their last shows later today, I’ll wonder where it’ll permeate next.

Post-punk’s not-so-typical girls

Today’s post is dedicated to Paige Jones, a 14-year-old girl who requested to smash garden gnomes with a bass guitar for a charity while recovering from jaw surgery (thanks to Evan for sharing the news item). Dressed as AC/DC’s Angus Young. Something tells me that the late, great Dusty Springfield, who used to smash glass objects before and after performances, would appreciate this. Jones’s mum may find her strange, but I hope she considers it a source of pride. I’d gladly buy this girl a gnome and then stand back and watch her do damage.

Perhaps a stretch, but Jones reminds me of the English post-punk women and girls I adore. A big watershed moment as a music geek was discovering post-punk. Not so coincidentally, a big feminist moment for me was discovering many of the women involved with it. I’ve mentioned folks like Pat Place and Cynthia Sley of Bush Tetras earlier. I recently highlighted The B-52s, though did not explicitly discuss vocalists Kate Pierson and Cindy Wilson, two of my favorite Southern girls — perhaps necessitating their own post wherein I might also fold in Pylon’s Vanessa Briscoe Hay, a fellow Athens resident. Today, amid this deliciously gloomy weather, I thought I’d bring up a few a couple of noteworthy post-punk birds on the other side of the Atlantic.

One thing that may misinform people’s of England’s gynocentric contributions to post-punk was that it was anti-sex. I think that two things may have shaped this misconception: 1) those proper British women and girls, some of whom went to university, couldn’t have possibly wanted to get laid, and 2) some of the female musicians associated with it were/gay (particularly Lesley Woods, The Au Pairs’s way-rad/ical frontwoman). And if we know our chauvinism, we can easily apply the feminism = man-hating = lesbianism = anti-sex equation. Bra-fucking-vo, patriarchy.

Oh, there’s one other thing that I think made British women and girls involved with post-punk considered asexual, if not hostile toward the zesty enterprise (to use the parlance of Maude Lebowski). To put it bluntly, they were not considered sexy, at least not in the normative, telegenic sense. Too plain, too normal, not Debbie Harry enough (perhaps missing the commentary the Blondie frontwoman was making on the homogenization and commodification of normative female beauty).

But that doesn’t mean they weren’t interested in sex or sexy. It just wasn’t the only thing they were interested in and the only way they knew how to project themselves. They were also interested in art, politics, nuclear fall-out, disco, bass lines, menstruation, feminism, body odor, and many other issues at the fore or at the margins of their work. So I thought I’d highlight some acts I think were super-important in shaping British post-punk.

The Au Pairs performing “Come Again,” featured in the music documentary, Urgh! A Music War.

Delta 5 performing “Anticipation” on Top of the Pops. Mind your own business with this Leeds quintet, or, as Simon Reynolds noted in Rip It Up and Start Again, bassist Bethan Peters might slam your face against a wall. Especially if you’re a member of the National Front.

Penetration performing “Lovers of Outrage” at the Reading Festival in 1978. Lead singer Pauline Murray got her start following The Sex Pistols, recorded briefly as a member of The Invisible Girls, and was hugely influenced by Patti Smith.

Young Marble Giants’ “real girl” lead singer Alison Statton avoids eye contact during a BBC performance of “Wurlitzer Jukebox”, inspiring thousands of other indie rock vocalists for generations to come. The band still performs intermittently, though not usually making eye contact.

Fan-made Ludus music video for “Mutilate.” It’s a little hard to find footage of the band’s infamous performances, but not as hard to find singer Linder Sterling’s art.

Hopefully, generations of strange girls will carry on in their messy, funky spirit, whether it be plugging in a guitar, or using it to smash a garden gnome.

“I’d much rather be with the girls” – Girl groups endure

Summer is a party-time kind of season. It’s also a road-trip kind of season. Recently, I lent an item for both a party and a road trip to some friends that will be the subject of this post. It’s Rhino Records’ girl group anthology One Kiss Can Lead to Another. 120 classic and obscure girl group tracks from the 1960s. These songs are timeless and go with everything. Not a morning person? Throw this on for your morning commute. Having a party? This is sure to please. Doing chores around the house and want to wink knowingly at your own domestication? Here’s your soundtrack.

Image of One Kiss Can Lead to Another

Image of One Kiss Can Lead to Another

Yes, this collection has been around for a long time (summer 2005). It’s even been around my house for a long time — my partner got it for me Christmas 2007. It’s a little pricey — retail value is around $70 — but in my estimation, it’s worth it. It is at once a fun party favor guaranteed to get people dancing, a site of feminist discourse, an incredibly well-preserved piece of musical history, and a tasty pop culture artifact. And for all you commodity fetishists who like your semiology, I have to point out that the collection comes in a hat box, each volume is packaged to look like a compact mirror with a reflective panel inside, and each disc is designed to look like a powder puff. You even get a diary that goes with it that contains multiple critical essays and key information on each song.

I admit that when I originally received this collection, I was a little disheartened by what I originally perceived as a very limited notion of gender in popular music. Ironically enough, I was cooking when I listened to the first disc and was like “all these songs are about girls being subservient to men.” Later, when Vivian Girls appropriated the girl group sound to make garage rock and shoegaze’s indebtedness to the Spector Sound more pronounced (and I had a good two years of post-structuralist theory under my belt), I revisited this collection and was pleasantly surprised at just how much was going on.

The first thing that immediately hit me about the collection is how good it sounded. The folks at Rhino took great pains to make sure these songs, some of which were all but lost because the last few out-of-print copies and master tapes were damaged, destroyed, or missing, sound brand new. These songs were originally recorded, arranged, produced, and mastered with the car stereo in mind, and damn if they don’t sound as shiny and clean as the lines on a 1961 mint-condition Corvette.

The other thing that struck me about the collection is how the term “girl group” is less a catch-all term for female pop and pop-informed R&B acts primarily active during the first half of the 1960s and actually a pretty diverse, borderless signifier. All kinds of interesting influences and sounds are in this collection — songs informed by pop, R&B, country, blues, rockabilly, folk, bossa nova, jazz and songs that would help to inform dub, reggae, hip hop, and electronic music.

While I have yet only confirmed that two pieces on this collection were actually sampled in other songs (Daedelus lifted the vocal, hand clap, and drum tracks of The Pin-Ups’ “Lookin’ for Boys” for “Fair-Weather Friends,” Saint Etienne borrowed from Dusty Springfield’s “I Can’t Wait to See My Baby’s Face” for “Nothing Can Stop Us Now”), I am also struck by how sample-friendly a lot of these songs are. The Flirtations’ “Nothing But a Heartache” and The Jewels’ “Opportunity,” among many others, could easily be incorporated into any hip hop track (specifically one that 9th Wonder is producing).

Which also lets you in on how weird and ground-breaking a lot of these songs are. Listen to the reverb-laden a capella opener for The Chiffons’ “Nobody Knows What’s Goin’ On (In My Mind But Me)” and you get a sense for how ESG and Luscious Jackson came to their sound. Keep your ears open for the eerie theramin arrangement in Julie Driscoll’s stately break-up anthem “I Know You Love Me Not.” A song like The Bitter Sweets’ “What a Lonely Way to Start the Summertime” has a hollowed-out, haunted psychedelic sound that may have left quite an impression on Broadcast. Songs like “Nightmare” by The Whyte Boots easily draw a line from girl groups to L7. Some dance songs, like The Goodies’ “Sophisticated Boom Boom” and Marsha Gee’s “Peanut Duck” have an effortless quirky cool to them that no hipster can fake. And that doesn’t even get into The Tammys admittedly un-PC rave-up “Egyptian Shumba” that The Black Kids covered, but couldn’t match the original’s manic glee.

In addition to obscure songs by minor recording artists once left to dust in storage vaults, you get little-heard songs by bigger names. Behold the woozy drum syncopation with Cher’s deep alto in “Dream Baby.” Behold the sugary urgency of Dolly Parton’s “Don’t Drop Out.” Behold the cinematic majesty of The Shangri-Las’ “The Train to Kansas City.” Listen for The Supremes’ “When the Lovelight Starts Shining Through His Eyes” and The Ronettes’ “He Did It” (one of the few early cuts Rhino could get a hold of without having to involve producer Phil Spector). Get dirty with Wanda Jackson’s “Funnel of Love” and Lulu’s “I’ll Come Running” (which features future Zeppelin ax-man Jimmy Page on guitar). Even folks like mod it-girl Twiggy got a shot at the pop charts with the proper little ditty “When I Think of You.”

There are also songs that were obscure and later became popular when other people (perhaps unsurprisingly, primarily white artists) covered them. P.P. Arnold got to Cat Stevens’s “The First Cut is the Deepest” first. Former Cookies member Earl-Jean scored a minor hit with Gerry Goffin and Carole King’s “I’m Into Somethin’ Good” a year before Herman’s Hermits rode it the top of the pop charts in 1965. Dee Dee Warwick made minimal commotion with “You’re No Good” before Betty Everett and Linda Ronstadt got ahold of it.

Also, not all of these songs are about boys who treat girls bad. Yes, that’s a component and the folks at Rhino would be ignoring a huge lyrical motif and its pre-second wave context by omitting the tracks about fellas who “lie sly, slick, and shy,” as The Velvelettes sing in “Needle in a Haystack.” And by putting these songs in a larger context, lyrics like “I know he’s cheating on me, but I don’t care” in The Angels’ “I Adore Him” play both dated and baldly disturbing. 

I also think by acknowledging the racial aspects of girl group may also help confront the fact that many of these groups were comprised of African American girls, many of whom had to deal with the ingrained lack of social or economic value placed on the romantic love and family units built by people of color in white society. A song like The Fabulettes’ “Try the Worrying Way,” which is about how a heavy-set woman becomes skinny as a result of her partner’s infidelity, cannot be read without this context and becomes profoundly sad with it.

The raced component, alongside issues of age, is crucial to understanding what girl groups contributed — a space for young women and young women of color, many of whom were working class and had minimal opportunities in the job market, to be a part of the work force. This isn’t to absent that many of these groups were designed, produced, and controlled by men. But some were not, or found ways out of it.

But there’s much more going on in these songs than waiting for boys to shape up. For one, there are a lot of break-up anthems. There are elegant songs like “Walking In Different Circles” from Goldie and the Gingerbreads. There are poignant odes to post-break-up autonomy like Reparata and the Delrons’ “I’m Nobody’s Baby Now.” There are also almost-love songs like Sandie Shaw’s “Girl Don’t Come” (which was written and arranged by Burt Bacharach). There are maternal warnings of men’s true nature in Cathy Saint’s “Big Bad World.” There are humorous rejections in The Hollywood Jills’ “He Makes Me So Mad.” And, importantly, there are sneering kiss-offs and odes to female bonding like Donna Lynn’s “I’d Much Rather Be With the Girls” (originally written by and for The Rolling Stones).

For me, it’s not hard to read all of these break-up songs and anthems to being single and out with girlfriends as having a queer element to them. The renouncement of stupid boys, or heterosexual courtship altogether, is heightened by girls singing to, for, and most importantly, with one another. In close proximity. In intimate spaces. In matching outfits.

You also get lots of songs about death, many, like The Goodees’ “Condition Red,” that recount dark, grisly tales of parental disapproval, juvenile delinquency, and racing accidents gone horribly wrong. This was the era where boys beefed it on motorcycles, after all. Indeed, this teen angst bullshit has a body count.

You even get critiques about the fleetingness of youth, the plastic lies of feminine consumerism, and the urgency of action in songs like Toni Basil’s anthem “I’m 28,” which I fully intend to sing drunk at my birthday party in two years.

Oddly enough, she was 23 when she recorded it. She’s 65 now and still working. I think she did okay for herself.

But there are also celebratory songs about love (many explicitly heterosexual, some more ambiguous). These songs are important too, particularly because most of these songs were sung (and, in some cases, written) by unmarried teenagers. Though marriage was the stated goal in many of these songs, it hadn’t happened yet. Thus, it was pretty easy to dismiss these songs, performed by teenage girls, as frivilous. But they aren’t. The feelings, regardless of how artfully or artlessly worded, are real and amplified by mammoth orchestration and pop-song immediacy. Take a song like The Girlfriends’ “My One and Only Jimmy Boy.” A giddy, up-tempo ode to love on the surface, its hook, soaring vocals, and wall-of-sound production takes teen love to “Hulk smash” levels of power and might.

And, of course, a lot of these songs were written by women. Carole King, in addition to singing two songs included in the anthology, wrote many of these hits, along with fellow Brill Building dwellers Ellie Greenwich and Cynthia Weil and many other independent female songwriters.

Thus, this collection has the best that any feminist music geek could hope for — sites of discourse that have, to borrow from American Bandstand, “a good beat and you can dance to it.”