Poison Ivy playing Irving Plaza, NYC, in 2005
Photo by Minervasteel / CC BY-SA

As seen in Guitar Girl Magazine Issue 11 – Spring 2020 – SoCal Inspired

Although iconic punk bands like the Ramones, the Sex Pistols, and Green Day come to mind, there are plenty of iconic female punk rockers on top of the list. Patti Smith, Chrissie Hynde, the Go-Go’s, Exene Cervenka, Alice Bag, Debbie Harry, Joan Jett, Poison Ivy, the Germs, Hole, Pussy Riot, Shonen Knife, and so many more. Since its inception in the early ‘70s, influences from the UK and NYC made their way to Southern California and sparked a vibrant, energetic underground music scene. Since that time, the genre has branched into more specific subgenres — surf punk, cow punk, hardcore punk, horror punk, Christian punk, Latin punk, queercore, to name just a few, and has made its way into mainstream music. Just Google it, it’s amazing!

Merriam-Webster defines punk rock as “rock music marked by extreme and often deliberately offensive expressions of alienation and social discontent.” Punk music emerged as younger musicians full of angst steered away from conventional rock. They were rebellious, they wanted to express their social and political views, their anger, and for some, their feelings of “fitting in” and conforming to societal norms.

Alice Bag at the Hong Kong Café

Along with the punk rock scene came fanzines and a fashion culture of leather jackets, studded and spiked jewelry and accessories, and mohawk hairstyles.

In 2017, educator, author, poet, and artist Stacy Russo of Southern California captured the stories of women from the ‘70s and ‘80s in the SoCal punk rock scene in a unique book titled We Were Going to Change the World: Interviews with Women from the 1970s & 1980s Southern California Punk Rock Scene. What makes Russo’s book interesting is she wanted to touch all aspects of the era, not just the musicians, but the fans, the journalists behind the fanzines, the DJs, and photographers — all the women that made an impact.

Russo grew up in the punk rock scene in during this time which had a major influence on her life. We asked Russo during an interview with her if she found a common thread among the women she interviewed. She said, “Most described themselves as not living a traditional life, not fitting stereotypical roles for women, or simply feeling different and like an outsider.”

The Go-Go’s at Antone’s in Austin, TX. Belinda Carlisle (vocals) and Kathy Valentine (bass)
Photo by Ron Baker (Kingsnake) from Austin, Texas / CC BY-SA

There are so many terrific female musicians in the punk rock genre, so have fun exploring. We’re just mentioning a few here!

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