Rockbitch


Rockbitch

We get a lot of submissions from bands that like to perform in various states of undress, up to and including full genital exposure. It will not surprise you to learn that 99% of these bands are dudes. Guys love whipping it out in public, and doing so in the name of rock ‘n’ roll stopped being a transgressive act a long time ago. When Blink-182 does something, it’s officially no longer any big shakes.

For women, it’s different. Thanks to our society’s inherent sexism and double standards, female sexuality is still taboo in ways that male sexuality is not. So the fact that a band like Rockbitch ever existed is a fairly remarkable thing.

Rockbitch was a British hard rock group that emerged from the ashes of another band called Red Abyss. From the start, Red Abyss embodied many of the same principles that later came to characterize Rockbitch: It was female fronted (though the drummer, and occasionally other members of the revolving lineup, were men), communal and sex-positive. But compared to Rockbitch, Red Abyss’s lyrics and stage show were comparatively tame: “We were hiding our lifestyle behind a facade,” reads the band’s official bio, written by their guitarist, Lisa “Babe” Wills, “self-censoring our natural behaviour.”

Part of the problem was that, while fans and promoters encouraged and even rewarded outrageous behavior by male rock bands, they tended to frown upon similar antics coming from the ladies of Red Abyss. “Male bands with whom we were sharing a stage would perform screaming out their fake rebellious bullshit about sex and satan — then insult us to our faces saying that we shouldn’t be fucking all those men and women in our dressing rooms, and did our parents know how we behaved?”

Red Abyss also encountered straight-up sexism at every turn: booking agents refusing to deal with their female manager, male sound guys and venue employees assuming they didn’t know how to play their instruments or outright sabotaging their sets, venue owners insisting on handing the money to a male roadie rather than to a female band member. “We were, bluntly, being treated like shit.” This, by the way, wasn’t happening in some pre–women’s lib Mad Men past. This was in the ’90s.

Eventually, the women of Red Abyss had had enough. They became the darker, heavier, more sexually aggressive beast called Rockbitch.

For a few years, up until they disbanded in 2002, Rockbitch was probably the raunchiest band on the planet. Many of the band members performed naked, or nearly so. Songs like “Fistfuck” would be acted out onstage. During every show, they’d toss a “Golden Condom” into the audience and invite whoever caught it, male or female, to come backstage and fuck several members of the band. (“Babe” Wills liked to point out that, of everyone who ever caught the Golden Condom, the only ones who would chicken out were the men, some of whom apparently assumed it was a joke. Rockbitch’s in-your-face female sexuality was, and still is, highly intimidating to many men. Including, we must admit, us.)

None of this was done for shock value, at least not primarily. As outlined in various essays and manifestos on the band’s website, Rockbitch’s mission was to destigmatize female sexuality and sex in general. And hard rock seemed like the perfect vehicle for doing so. “When a woman can’t even strip to the waist and play a bitching, head-down guitar riff, have her lead singer fuck her with a strap-on whilst a stage surfer licks her feet without authorities wanting to ban over 18’s from coming to see it — well, what has the world of rock and rebellion come to!?” their website playfully asks. (And no, that’s not an exaggerated description of their live show.)

By 2000, Rockbitch’s lineup had become all-female: founder/matriarch Amanda “The Bitch” Smith-Skinner on fretless bass, Julie Worland on vocals, Lisa “Babe” Wills on lead guitar, Luci the “Stage Slut” on rhythm guitar, Nikki Fay on keyboards and Jo Heeley on drums, plus two or three “Sex Magick Priestesses” who danced and facilitated some of the sexual rituals. The band’s former lead guitarist, Tony “The Beast,” stayed on as the band’s manager and producer — no doubt in part to run occasional interference with sexist bookers and venue owners.

Musically, the band played theatrical, heavy rock, highlighted by Worland’s operatic vocals, The Bitch’s fluid, often funky basslines and Babe’s scorching guitar. Here’s a good example, a track called “Sex & The Devil” that also happens to features a weirdly witchy video, with the Rockbitches cavorting half-naked in the forest:

As you probably got from that video, besides all the sexual themes and imagery, an element of paganism runs through Rockbitch’s music and philosophy — though Babe is quick to point out on the band’s website that they are neither Wiccans nor Satanists. As best as we understand it — and I admit, as a couple of uptight dudes in monogamous relationships, our understanding is probably shaky — they celebrate sex itself as sacred, particularly the acts of cunnilingus and vaginal penetration, which they describe as forms of “cunt worship,” the vagina being the source of all human life and therefore the most sacred component of human sexuality. This worship/celebration of sex extends, paganistically, to the worship of nature in general; although their website stops short of describing many of the group’s offstage rituals, or explaining the full meaning of their many onstage ones (“we are intensely private people,” Babe explains in her “brief and grudging account of part of our belief system”), their are a few photographs showing things like an “earth-fucking ritual” and a “serpent initiation ritual,” suggesting that the cult of Rockbitch is a fairly elaborate one that extends far beyond just the music and sex acts.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the authorities tended to lose their shit over Rockbitch. The band was banned from performing at many venues, and their music and album artwork was heavily censored in many countries. It’s not clear what role if any this played in the band’s eventual breakup. but it couldn’t have been easy for the women to tour or get distribution for their music.

Rockbitch only released one studio album, 1999’s Motor Driven Bimbo, plus a live album, Rockbitch Live in Amsterdam; during their brief run, the Netherlands seemed to have been one of the few countries where the band was able to tour on a regular basis. A second album, Psychic Attack, was never officially released but has been widely bootlegged and can be found on various torrent sites. Motor Driven Bimbo is out of print, but copies occasionally surface on Amazon and elsewhere, often selling for $100 or more.

Post-Rockbitch, the band’s full lineup resurfaced in a clothed, less theatrical incarnation called MT-TV. But that group soon disbanded, as well. Amanda Smith-Skinner and Jo Heeley later teamed up with singer-songwriter Erin Bennett to form another all-female band called Syren, but tragically, that group dissolved after Heeley died of breast cancer in 2012. Other former Rockbitch members have, as far as we’ve been able to tell, retired from making music — though according to their Facebook page, they still live and work together as a commune.

We’ve known about Rockbitch for years, but were reluctant at first to add them to the Weird List because to do so seemed sexist. So it was a bunch of women with guitars and their tits out — so what? A bunch of men doing the same thing would be met nowadays with a collective shrug. To add them to our compendium of extreme music felt like yet another example of the very double standard in music that Rockbitch railed against.

But as well researched the band further (while our wives were at work), we decided that regardless of their gender, Rockbitch were truly unique. No other band in history, male, female or coed, ever randomized the groupie selection process as radically as Rockbitch did with their Golden Condom, or made oral sex and vaginal penetration such a routine part of their stage show. Rockbitch incorporated sex into rock ‘n’ roll performance in a way that’s never been done before or since. And as powerful, liberated women, they made that sex a political act. A Rockbitch show was a rock concert, neopagan ritual and radical feminist performance-art piece all in one. And lots of people got laid. That’s the truly awesome kind of weirdness this blog was designed to celebrate.

We’ll leave you one more video, for a track from Psychic Attack called “Breathe.” This appears to be a fan-made mashup of strange naked zombie go-go dance animation and video from one of several concert documentaries made about the band, probably 2002’s Sex, Death and Magick (which, if you’re so inclined, and are over 18, you can watch in full on YouTube).

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About weirdestband

Founder of Weirdest Band in the World.

Posted on January 4, 2015, in Band of the Week and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. Wow, a bunch of skanks getting screwed by audience members is so liberating. Maybe the guys didn’t chicken out, and were just grossed out? This is interesting to say the least, but only in the “how many antidepressants are these women gulping down these days” sorta way.

  2. A response to the comment by Gem and the article on Rockbitch above:

    Ah, the politics of physical appearance! How an entire socio-sexual political stance is rendered invalid by a random arrangement of facial and body features! How their svelt figures protected the RB women from slings and arrows, government persecution, Christian death threats and petty music reviewers lying about their standard of musicianship! What a jolly jape!

    Rockbitch never found the need to slag off other bands, performance artists or other creative people for their efforts to redress the imbalance in the perceptions of female sexuality or other acts of sexual positivism. They accepted that we all do what we can.

    Here are a couple of example of Rockbitch ‘arrogance’ and ‘special and unique snowflake’*** ‘narcissism’;

    …Rockbitch were patrons, performers at and supporters of the Sex Maniac’s Ball. An annual event that was started by Tuppy Owens in the 80’s, dedicated to raising funds, acceptence, awareness and sexual/relationship resources for people with disabilities via the Outsiders Charity….

    …Rockbitch were connected to an underground network of Doctors and healthcare professionals who would put them in contact with individuals so outside of the conventional attractiveness spectrum that the vast majority of society would shun them with disgust and loathing. The aged, the disabled, the socially challenged…. (Underground as jobs would have been lost for such ‘unprofessional’ humanism)

    …All these individuals were treated with respect, dignity, and as sexual beings. The glories of sex were shared and explored with them – not by a bunch of narcissists bestowing their pseudo-benevolent sexual largesse from on high with tongs and smelling salts, but by some women randomly lucky enough to have the faces and bodies that the vast majority of the planet seem to want to fuck.

    There are indeed social trends and pressures according to attractiveness but yet, it is a biological urge to pull the best you can. Remember that.

    Interesting that all the negative terms that the comment maker Gems have used are sexually pejorative ones…sluts…nymphomaniacs…! I pro-offer the theory that Gems has internalised and upholds the current western, monotheistic, anti-sex, anti-female culture more than they think they have… a post-modern, politically-correct, third-wave feminist hostility probably based on actually quite liking tits… n’est pas…hmm?

    The lead singer Julie, was constantly targeted for her weight in articles and reviews – so much so that she took to wearing pants with BIG ASS across the back. She was a UK dress size 14. The bass player was a size 16. Yes indeed, the keyboard player Nikki, the guitarist Luci were size 6 and 10 respectively. To slag them off for their thinness is a dumb as slagging someone off for being fat. Those were the bodies they had. The world is a spectrum.

    I was, and still am a size 12 without diet or effort. That’s just genetics. Stop being so silly about it.

    I and we still live our life according to our pro-women and pro-sex principles. Sometimes I get sent stuff on Rockbitch which is how I came across this piece. Thank you guys for a cracking article. You have understood where we were coming from and obviously respect and love women.

    That mashup was really sweet!, but if you can, track down the actual official video for Breathe. It was rated the most obscene music video of all time in a countdown hosted by Alice Cooper, lovely chap. The video was on a no longer sold & very hard to find VHS called ‘Sex Death Magic’, – something I was very proud of and felt to be the best expression of our occult sex practices and how they were the crucible of band and the music. That’s a corker too, but don’t let the kids find it…

    Love,

    Lisa ‘Babe’ Wills…

    (A big fan of Mylie Cyrus and Dolly Parton, the Rock Bitch Goddesses who came before and after us in the musical timeline. And what is a ‘bitch’ but a female that doesn’t do what it is told?)

    (**; quite possibly the BEST insult EVER thrown at us. I nearly pissed my self laughing. A true gem indeed!)

  3. Golden condoms!! \m/ \m/

  4. It’s easy to be sex worshiping goddesses while being thin and conventionally attractive. Lords of Acid already broke ground in the area of promoting female sexuality, and did so in a more creative way. Lords of Acid also promotes various forms of sexuality for everyone, and makes their music about the enjoyment of sex. Where Rockbitch made the show about gaining attention for themselves, not that different from pop stars who flaunt how fuckable they are. Upholding the standard sexuality is to be celebrated, if the sex goddesses look like what mainstream society finds attractive.

    I hope those of you who come across this post understand what I’m trying to say. There is a huge difference between the messages, “Everybody fuck!” and, “Look at what a pretty little rebel I am! Watch me perform sex acts on stage, maybe if you’re lucky you can fuck me and my friends!” The first message is inclusive, the second message comes across like a nymphomaniac in love with herself and thinks she’s giving such a gift to let people fuck her, bitch indeed.

    In conclusion it’s been done before, done better, and done in a way that doesn’t uphold the tired idea that sexuality should be exclusive to the mainstream attractive woman. No wonder men wanted nothing to do with them. It’s not about having an aggressive sexuality, it’s putting forth the message if the band members could fuck their twins they would. Sex is best when it’s shared and fun. Not when it comes from a place of narcissism and viewing yourself as unattainable. You might be thinking, “What about the golden condoms?” they still send the message of thinking they’re just such special and unique snowflakes of course people would be honored to have sex with them, It’s arrogant just the same as a male rockstar with groupies.

    Lords of Acid just send the message “Fuck who you want, me, that guy, that girl, I don’t care we’re here to celebrate sex!” That is a message that deserves to be acknowledged. Not a group of metal sluts acting as if what they’re doing is any more revolutionary than being Ariana Grande.

    • I like Rockbitch, I think they’re great and deserve more recognition, but I have to agree with you 100% about inclusiveness. They may’ve called themselves feminists and pansexuals, still, what they did onstage fit into the typical cis-hetero-male erotic fantasies. Nothing wrong with that, it’s just sad that many more years might pass before we witness a genuinely pansexual and liberated music act (particularly in heavy metal, which is my favourite genre): with openly non-hetero males, transgender and non-binary people as band members.
      P.S. I don’t know much about Lords of Acid, but after your comment I’m going to learn more about them.

  5. Those girls were unique, they deserve better!

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