I suddenly find myself completely intoxicated and under the influence of some of my musical heroines. Their contribution to the musical arena sets them apart both in performance and originality. I return to their albums constantly for inspiration. Being fully immersed under their spell I am redressed with the creative armoury they offer in their lyrics, song structure, chords and rhythms.
Sing it loud
I first came to know Björk when she was in The Sugarcubes in the late 80’s. Her distinctive voice soared over the jangle of 80’s guitar and drumming. The Icelandic accent was novel and completely fresh. In 1993 her debut album was released. I remember playing her album on cassette and playing it loud in my car on those hot (too hot sometimes) Bris-vegas nights.
But it wasn’t until I listened to Homogenic that I first fully appreciated her talent to create sounds that could span genres from electronic through pop to trip hop and everything in-between. She was continuously pushing the boundaries and re-inventing her sound and performance.
In 2000 (Y2K? Did that happen?!!), I watched Björk act in the film Dancer in The Dark. If you haven’t seen it, is I fully recommend it. Although this Danish musical drama directed by Lars von Trier (who also did amazing films such as Melancholia and Dogville) is not for the faint-hearted. Wow! Björk delivered a heart-stopping performance. Bravo!
When science and music meet
Recently, Björk and I reunite again in her lasted venture creating soundtracks for science animations. As a biomedical scientist, I love to point my students towards more creative ways of learning about life at the microscopic level. In collaboration with the extremely talented Drew Berry (medical animator), Björk’s Hollow is outstanding. Bellissimo!
2. Stevie Nicks
I think every female-fronted band has a poster of Stevie Nicks in their studio. Of course, Stevie is best known for contribution to the Fleetwood Mac, but I feel she is set apart by her voice and lyrics. Edge of Seventeen is probably my all-time favourite.
Dance with me
You can find me in The Haunt (with Guy, Jay, Mark and Fletcher) punching the air, dancing and singing – well we did that once but in our dreams, we are there every Saturday night.
Check out this first version of the unreleased official video. This is the third single from her 1981 solo debut, Bella Donna.
In memory of Tom Petty
Dark Star Mark and I were fortunate enough to see Stevie and the late Tom Petty perform in Hyde Park, London. I filmed a snippet of show my iPhone: Stevie Nicks and Tom Petty
3. PJ Harvey
We are back in my Candy, driving down to Byron Bay where the dolphins surf and we sip gin and tonics getting high. It is a 3-4 hour drive from Brisbane to Byron Bay and one of the tapes in the car’s tape collection will always include PJ Harvey. My favourite album is 4-Track Demos. Every song was perfect for screaming along to while driving down the coast.
I remember watching a documentary on Polly’s early tours in Manchester, UK. She didn’t speak much but when she sang and strummed that Fender Telecaster she owned the air that audience used to breathe. I was truly captivated and from the late 90s I became a PJ Harvey fan. It was also helped that bands like Hole, Bikini Kill and Sleater-Kinney were putting out equally punchy riot-grrrl sounds. Music Heaven.
The track, Claudine has everything I love about PJ’s sound: double vocal tracks, guitar chug and dark and mysterious lyrics.
Her musical soulmate, John Parish, brought another dimension to PJ’s sounds. I particularly love Black Hearted Love. The sound is definitely more produced, but it is brilliantly balanced with the guitar sounds, vocals and the dark lyrics. I wouldn’t be surprise if St Vincent is under the influence of PJ. I’ll be seeing St Vincent this year in London, so I’ll report back…
4. Janis Joplin
Piece of heart
I wish Janis was still with us.
But she was an artist, like the late Amy Winehouse and Sandy Denny, was taken from us too young and at the peak of their careers. My heart breaks when I think that Amy’s demise followed a similar pattern to Janis’. Both wore their hearts on their sleeve, which spawned some of the most heart-wrenching songs ever written.
When I listen to Janis I am drawn into her world of hurt and pain. This artist produced work that will stand the test of time because the music is soaked in authenticity and passion. I almost take comfort in her songs because they give musical language to my own suffering.
Down the rabbit hole
We all suffer in some form or another. And perhaps that is the role of the musician, the artist, to give suffering, that is mostly indescribable, a language that can only be felt and understood through our senses.
I guess this is why I am intoxicated by my musical heroines. They keep taking me back to places in my memory of times of acute suffering as well as blissful happiness. In this way they keep influencing both my song-writing and performances.
So I follow my heroines down the rabbit hole and draw from the well of my life’s loves and losses for fresh sources of material for Simonne and The Dark Stars.