Girls Like Us: The Women of the 70s Rate (TONIGHT, 10PM BST) | Page 5 | The Popjustice Forum

Girls Like Us: The Women of the 70s Rate (TONIGHT, 10PM BST)

Discussion in 'Charts, rates etc' started by Lila, Jun 10, 2019.


Which is your favourite album here?

  1. Blue - Joni Mitchell

    9 vote(s)
  2. Between the Lines - Janis Ian

    2 vote(s)
  3. New York Tendaberry - Laura Nyro

    1 vote(s)
  4. Tapestry - Carole King

    9 vote(s)
  1. I absolutely hate (and am a bit shocked) to say this, but both "Tapestry" and "Blue" left me a bit cold and indifferent on the first few listens. I sincerely hope that that will change.

    And I have a certain feeling that Janis Ian's album will end up being my favorite out of the four, don't know exactly why.

    I got to catch up with those write-ups, they are lovely.
    soratami and Lila like this.
  2. With Blue, I'd definitely recommend giving it a few plays! It's one of my favourite albums ever but it still took me a little while to 'get' it and her voice can take a bit of getting used to if you've never heard it before. That being said, I hope you do love the Janis album. It's making me a little sad no one has voted for it in the poll!
    Last edited: Jun 22, 2019
    soratami, Eric Generic and Maki like this.
  3. FYC #4


    Dory Previn

    Songs in the rate:
    Scared to Be Alone
    I Dance and Dance and Smile and Smile

    (Dory Previn had a difficult life and this post might be upsetting for any survivors of abuse. I apologise in advance but I truly felt it was important to include, as Dory herself did in her songs.)

    I remember it was mentioned last week that @Remorque didn’t think any of the main four here are great singers. There’s certainly room for debate on that front and I’m sure it’s something that will come up again as the rate progresses. Dory Previn, though, was indisputably not a very good singer. She could hold a tune, of course, but her voice wasn’t particularly strong or even melodic. In some of her songs she comes close to talking the lyrics, such as in parts of Beware of Young Girls, her most famous track (for reasons we’ll get to later). She was also not a particularly accomplished guitar player. Without trying to turn this opening into a list of her musical flaws, I genuinely think it’s important to note the extent to which her compositions are relatively simple, owing to the fact that she was self-taught late in life and only able to play a handful of chords. Robert Christgau once commented, in a remark not atypical of the sentiment many music critics held towards the female singer-songwriters of the time, "If I found a cat trapped in a washing machine, I wouldn't set up a recording studio there – I'd just open the door."

    All of this being said, Dory never aimed to sit next to Joni, Carole, Laura and so on in terms of musical prowess. She was a lyricist above anything else, a poet in her own way, and the music came later. Throughout the 1950s, she worked for MGM as a film lyricist and was ultimately nominated for three Oscars for her work with then-husband André Previn in the 60s. There is no clear throughline between this early work and the six albums of the 1970s that make up what we would consider to be her canonical output. Her film work is largely poppy and accompanied by André, rather than self-played; with the exception of her lyrics for Dionne Warwick’s (Theme From) Valley of the Dolls, it’s also considerably less harrowing. There are compositional similarities in terms of the way lines are structured, yes, but the two aspects of her career are truly leagues apart.

    Dory suffered from mental illness for almost all of her life. The daughter of an alcoholic mother and a father prone to depression and other psychiatric problems induced by exposure to gas during the First World War, her childhood was extraordinarily volatile. Her father vacillated between praising her skills as a dancer and denying she was his daughter during bouts of paranoia. In one period of several months, he held the family in their living room at gunpoint before locking himself in the attic. Her adult life was peppered with serious health crises: in 1965, she was hospitalised after a breakdown and underwent electroconvulsive shock therapy in 1970 after a second breakdown on an airplane, triggered by her fear of flying and painful divorce. It was both of these events, as well as her personal history, that influenced the change in her musical direction from 1970 onwards. Encouraged to write lyrics again as a form of therapy, she began to explicitly address her emotional life in song. The results were On My Way to Where¸ a reference to her failure to stay on the plane and the loss of her sense of purpose after the dissolution of her marriage.

    On My Way to Where is anchored by the infamous Beware of Young Girls, which I think requires an explanation of its own. Although it is quite possibly her most famous song, I chose not to include it her as a representation of her work. Dory wrote of pain at it’s most deeply felt, about life, religion, fame, unhappiness, abuse, her father, the Hindenburg disaster, the world as a whole. Beware of Young Girls is a product of that pain, of the acute hurt she felt at the failure of her marriage and, more particularly, the failure of her husband. It is also beneath her; a proto-Better Than Revenge (@ohnostalgia look away now) it paints an unsubtle portrait of Mia Farrow, who, at twenty-four, had become pregnant with André Previn’s child and, at least in Dory’s eyes, caused him to leave her. When she sings “Beware of young girls / too often they crave to cry at a wedding and dance on a grave”, it’s a timely reminder that as much as these women were trailblazers, they weren’t always as progressive as we might want them to be. Dory and André made up in 1997 and she ultimately expressed regret over the song, although not, as far as I am aware, to Mia herself.

    In the opening post of this rate, I mentioned how Janis Ian has often been called corny and cast aside for her emotional honesty. Dory takes this to a new level. There is a plainness to her words that surpasses everything else here – many of her songs are direct accounts of her life and the things she suffered and listening to them can sometimes be difficult. It moves beyond the ‘embarrassing’ tag that confessional music is often given to something far more confrontational; sometimes, it’s like she’s asking you directly to account for her sorrow. And we can’t, of course. But in her openness, her willingness to portray the darkest emotional crevices, she provides relatability for those of us who sometimes feel so far past that we cannot imagine hearing ourselves in music. The first time I heard I Dance and Dance and Smile and Smile I felt like all the air had left the room after just the first line alone – someone, finally, knew what I felt and wasn’t afraid to say it. As this kind of song-writing becomes more and more common (I’m thinking of MUNA’s debut album, but there are many more), it’s worth remembering who did it first.

    Further Listening/Viewing

    One of my favourite Dory songs

    Since I gave it such promotion....

    The entire 12 minutes of the second side of her 1971 album Reflections in a Mud Puddle. It's a song cycle called Taps, Tremors and Time-Steps: One Last Dance for My Father and deals with her feelings surrounding his death. I Dance and Dance... is taken from here.

    Living legend Alan Cummings sings I Dance and Dance

    For more information on Dory, I'd recommend the episode of the You Must Remember This podcast entitled "Mia Farrow in the 60s, Part Two: Mia & Dory."​
    Last edited: Jun 23, 2019
  4. Apologies for the double post, but I think that Alan Cummings cover is really interesting. It taps into what I think is the subconscious queer aspect of the song, so I'd love to hear what some of you think of it, as opposed to just me as a straight woman ruminating!
    soratami likes this.
  5. I had no idea Dory Previn was related to Andre....doh...showing my ignorance here.
    Lila likes this.
  6. So, I 'discovered' Sybille Baier in 2012. At the time I thought she was a newish artist I had just missed out on (since the album came in the mid 00's). I think she randomly appeared in a Spotify suggestion list for me or something. I just listened to her music at the time, but never really looked her up. I had no idea she was a 70's singer until now & I am fascinated.
    Last edited: Jun 23, 2019
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  7. That was part of the reason I didn’t include her! I think a lot of people consider the album as being a 2006 release. I’m fascinated by her too though, especially by the fact that she just continues to go about her private life and doesn’t give interviews or performances.
    soratami likes this.
  8. This playlist is PERFECT for a Sunday listening!
  9. Not to double post but as I was listening to “New York Tendaberry” just now as she sang “firecrackers break” someone launched a firework and my life is complete
  10. That song is just sensationally beautiful. It might actually be my favourite on the album.
  11. Laura Nyro's work was completely unknown to me and it's blown me the fuck away.

    Oh, wow.
  12. Yes at another Laura convert! @Petty Mayonnaise I hope you’re also still stanning so that @pop3blow2 and I are not so alone!
  13. I’m going to try and post two shorter write ups tomorrow, on Kate & Anna McGarrigle and Judee Sill.

    How are everyone’s ballots coming along, for those of you who’ve started?
    soratami and pop3blow2 like this.
  14. I’ve had a nightmare day so had no time for any write ups, sadly. To bump the thread though, here’s a summery Joni bop. I actually have one of the lyrics from this as a tattoo.

  15. Anyone ready for a quickfire FYC?

    FYC #5


    Kate & Anna McGarrigle

    Songs in the rate:
    Heart Like A Wheel
    Talk to Me of Mendocino

    Kate & Anna McGarrigle are really the apotheosis of folkie-ism, which is ironic considering they formed their group as an answer to what they perceived as the flaws and failings of the contemporary folk scene. As sisters who grew up in a small community in Canada, family was always central to their music – it explains, of course, why they finally found success together after Kate spent a long time pursuing it on her own in the 60s, but it is also a key part of their continuing myth. The success of the duo is intrinsically wound up in that of Loudon Wainwright, another great folk singer and Kate’s husband, and their children, Rufus and Martha. I’ve spent so much time in these posts lamenting the way these women’s lives and narratives have been subsumed by men, but for once I feel comfortable mentioning it here. Loudon and Kate divorced in 1976 but retained a mutual admiration for each other, and Rufus and Martha have both drawn on their mother’s work. The music of the sisters is truly traditional folk, more in the tradition of roots revivalism than even Joan Baez’s early work. This is something that is sonically most evident on their second album, Dancer with Bruised Knees, but it permeates everything; their fascination with the Quebecois folk music of their hometown led Anna to write Complainte pour Ste Catherine in that style and they ultimately recorded Entre le jeunesse et la sagesse (or, more commonly, The French Record) in 1980. The fusion of these interests, their family ties, reverence for their hometown and the traditions of American folk, were imbued with their own musical quirks. There is nothing on their debut album, for example, that sounds like what anyone else was doing at the time. It is neither straightforward folk nor a singer-songwriter album, but uniquely and fascinatingly ‘Kate & Anna’. Tell My Sister, one of my favourite songs of theirs and the title of the compilation Anna put together after Kate’s death, is undoubtedly a folk song, but there’s saxophone there and the composition changes mid-way through to the point that it almost transfigures into a jazz track. It’s spellbinding and like nothing else.

    Kate and Anna largely shared song-writing abilities, but Kate was perhaps the most well-known of the two, despite being younger. She was louder and more acerbic, and already established in the Greenwich folk scene she had so much distaste for by the time she formed the duo with Anna. But Anna was just as accomplished a songwriter – Heart Like A Wheel, perhaps their most famous and enduring track, was penned by her alone. It is, at least in my opinion, the crowning glory of their discography. Even as they differed in temperament, their relationship remained fulsome until Kate’s death, perhaps because their priorities were always the same. Although not reluctant live performers (unlike Dory Previn), they always valued a normal life over a musical one. It was for this reason that they remained on hiatus through almost all of the 1980s – music was art for them, yes, but it always took a backseat to family, even as it encompassed those same principles. There is no concept of careerism in their history; rather, music was something they did because they loved it. This is reflected in the somewhat ramshackle way they came to form their group. Having been in a band together in high school with two friends called the Mountain City Four, Anna led a relatively quiet life in Montreal until Kate contacted her from New York and they began exchanging songs. It’s how Heart Like A Wheel came to be originally recorded by Linda Ronstadt, amongst other tracks. Kate and Anna’s discography is fascinating and worthy of greater exploration than I could provide here, but I can only say that I hope they manage to do well. The songs I’ve included are truly some of my favourites of all time and I very much hope they can come to mean as much to you as they have for me.

    Further Listening/Viewing

    As mentioned above...

    One of my very favourites by them

    A last minute cut from the rate, because I thought it'd get tanked for being too folk

    A great song from Pronto Monto, their more 'pop' album produced by David Nichtern

    Linda, Kate and Anna sing Heart Like A Wheel together
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2019
  16. ‘Blue’ really is one of the greatest albums of all time. Discovered it retrospectively. Rickie Lee Jones self titled debut is right up there too.
    Trouble in Paradise and Lila like this.
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