Girls Like Us: The Women of the 70s Rate (TONIGHT, 10PM BST) | Page 7 | 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 have never heard of Judee before starting this rate and feel like she will become one of my favourite discoveries. Jesus Was A Cross Maker is phenomenal and reminds me of my two favs Tori Amos and Liz Phair.

    case/lang/veirs also recorded a tribute to her on their album.

    Lila likes this.
  2. I don’t know about Tori but Liz is actually a huge fan. I know she’s spoken about how much of an influence Judee was.
    JamesJupiter likes this.
  3. KamikazeHeart likes this.
  4. Maki likes this.
  5. Music Is Life likes this.
  6. FYC #7


    Buffy Sainte-Marie

    Songs in the rate:
    Soldier Blue

    Buffy Sainte-Marie is the most political artist here. Joan Baez was an icon of 60s protest movements, but she was allowed to be because her criticisms of America were relatively mainstream and in tune with the New Left at large. At the same time, Buffy was addressing concerns that remain part of the Left today – namely colonialism, environmentalism, the military-industrial complex and the plight of the American-Indian. Of course, she also wrote about Vietnam, just as Joan and so many others did, but she made her name on searing critiques of the government and institutions. The root of these critiques were her own identity and heritage; born on a Cree reservation in Canada before being adopted by a M’ikmaq couple in Massachusetts, her work is part of the tradition of First Nations music. Much of it addresses the systematic disenfranchisement and extermination of native populations, a topic that was profoundly controversial in the 1960s when she first emerged as a solo artist. They are protest songs in the true sense of the word – in an interview with The Independent a couple of years ago, she stated quite truthfully that “It didn’t all start with Bob Dylan!”. There is a tendency in music history to flatten the nature of the early folk scene into pre and post-Dylan, into protest singers and other folkies. Buffy is a reminder of the perversity of those divisions: her music was written in the style of her ancestors, addressing the concerns of her people and defying the conventions of even the contemporary Leftist music scene. Edwyn Collins once sang “Too many protest singers, not enough protest songs” and it’s a line that I’ve always loved, but Buffy truly was a great activist with intentions that have never wavered.

    Much of this protest came at personal cost to her. It is difficult to really describe how famous Buffy was in the 60s; both of her songs featured here were recorded after her commercial peak, but during the release of her first three albums from 1964-66, she was one of a few folk singers who truly managed to break the shackles of the Greenwich scene to achieve success on a different scale. Fame was never something she pursued and it is arguable perhaps that it was no harm when it began to elude her, but it provided a platform that was invaluable. Songs like Now That The Buffalo’s Gone and My Country Tis of Thy People You’re Dying are profoundly critical of governmental policy towards indigenous populations and exposed the realities of life on reservations, where children were often separated from families, infrastructure was barely extant and there was little semblance of self-governance. But Buffy’s music received such backlash from the musical establishment because it critiqued the Left too – from the very first lines (“Can you remember the times that you’ve held your head high / and told all your friends of your Indian claim, proud good lady and proud good man? / Some great great grandfather from Indian blood sprang and you feel in your heart for these ones”) Now That the Buffalo… targets the hypocrisy and inaction of the very protest singers she was so closely associated with. It is no surprise then that Buffy was blacklisted at some point in the late 1960s by a combination of the Johnson administration and powerful radio representatives like Ralph Emery – she said in 1999 that "I found out […] in the 1980s that President Johnson had been writing letters on White House stationery praising radio stations for suppressing my music.” Buffy represented a threat to the establishment in a way no other folk singer really did, because she vocally stood up for her heritage when a caricature of that very identity is inherent to America’s perception of itself.

    I wish I’d been able to include some of Buffy’s protest music in this rate, but the majority of it was recorded much earlier in the 1960s than my own constraints would allow. The songs I did choose highlight Buffy’s musical idiosyncrasies though. Illuminations, on which Poppies is the closing track, was a revolutionary album upon it’s release in 1969. It is much closer to modern experimental electronica than it is to folk – it was the first quadrophonic vocal album ever made and on many tracks, Poppies included, her voice is warped and altered by a Buchla synthesiser. Illuminations essentially marked the end of her commercial recording career and from 1976 she didn’t make an album for 16 years. Her activism never ended though. One of the most delightful things I learned while researching this was that through the late 70s and early 80s, Buffy appeared on Sesame Street as an educator on American-Indian culture. She also breastfed her son on air, the first instance of it ever broadcast. Although she returned to recording in the 90s and last released an album as recently as 2017, a collection of new material and updated versions of her old tracks. Her continued presence in the industry is both invaluable and surprising – the forces that conspired against her to silence her voice and her message were the most powerful in the nation, and she still won. Don’t you forget it.

    Further Listening/Viewing

    My favourite Buffy song (if you hadn't already guessed...)

    Another incredible protest track about the treatment of American-Indians

    The opening track on Illuminations

    Buffy's own version of her Oscar winning song for An Officer and A Gentleman, originally recorded by Jennifer Warnes and Joe Cocker

    Buffy explains breastfeeding to Big Bird
    pop3blow2, Filippa and JamesJupiter like this.
  7. I didn't have enough space, but just for good measure here's another lovely clip of Buffy on Sesame Street.

    And since I mentioned it and it's one of my favourite songs ever....

    Music Is Life, pop3blow2 and Filippa like this.
  8. Sent!
    Maki and Lila like this.
  9. Listened to "Between the Lines" last week and I was totally right about loving it! By far my favorite (so far).
    The production is so warm and well done, the lyrics are so beautifully written (and I relate to a certain amount of them), there is variety, but the album still remains very cohesive. I don't think there's a single weak track. The use of instruments is creative and makes it an even more interesting listen. Her voice is so pleasant and powerful at the same time, too.
    It's a bit mind-boggling to me how it isn't mentioned among the all-time best albums along with "Tapestry" and "Blue", because it's much better than those two and I still haven't shared my full thoughts on them.
    And, finally, I've found some proper song discoveries, including a potential 11!

    Oh, and I agree with @soratami about ABBA resemblance, there are definitely a few tracks that reminded me of their music.

    Let's see if Laura Nyro and her album are going to surpass Janis Ian (although I slightly doubt it).
    Music Is Life and Lila like this.
  10. I had the pleasure of seeing Buffy live perhaps five years ago - and it was stunning.

    She came on right before Björk at a festival, so most of the crowd wasn't really there to see her, but she really caught the audience (despite mostly consisting of 18-year olds who had probably never even heard of her), and was even applauded back for an encore. If you ever get the chance to see her live over the next years, take it.
    Lila likes this.
  11. I'm so glad you loved it. It's funny you mentioned how Blue and Tapestry are generally much better regarded because part of my decision in choosing the albums here was that I wanted to have those two canonical masterpieces against two cult classics that I think have been unfairly disregarded. It's no secret for me to say that Between The Lines in in my top 10 albums ever and I agree with you completely that it should be regarded as such.

    I missed her the last time she came to the UK which was just after Power in the Blood I think, so it would have been around the same time you saw her. I know she doesn't tour Europe that much so I'm just hoping I manage to catch her some day. I missed Joan Baez earlier this year because I didn't have the money when the tickets went on sale and I'm still kicking myself.
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2019
    Music Is Life and Maki like this.
  12. I'm so honoured to say that @KamikazeHeart has written an amazing essay as part of the next "The Ones Who Didn't Make It" interlude. I'll have a post in the same format as last time but later today there'll be a write-up from him, with a brief introduction by yours truly, on Melanie.

    Also, 5 voters in and the current leader is....surprising, to say the least.
  13. Choosing the albums to feature in this rate was relatively easy. Blue and Tapestry were obvious choices, and I wanted to promote Between the Lines and New York Tendaberry, two wonderful albums I often feel get left behind. Picking the songs for the extras section was much harder though, and it's why I decided to do the brief interlude posts about the women I cut at the last minute. There was so much amazing music made by women in this decade that I wanted to shine a light on as much of it as possible. One of the artists I cut was Melanie Safka, known mononymously as Melanie, whose most famous song is the almost ubiquitous Brand New Key, a track I've always had a terrible soft spot for. For many of the artists I cut the reasons were practical: lack of availability of their music, for example, or them not fitting easily into the date parameters I set. In Melanie's case, it was more that she faded from my mind a little. I know that's a terrible thing to say when @KamikazeHeart has wonderfully written a few hundred words on her for me, but it's something he himself touches on. Melanie had a fantastic voice, a handful of great singles and one really wonderful album but she doesn't quite have the same artistic stature as a lot of the ladies here do. A big part of this undertaking for me was being able to put some artists I think have been unfairly forgotten back in the spotlight, but sometimes that unfairness is in itself a legacy, something that makes someone memorable to you. Melanie's pop hits are lovely but I somehow didn't feel that same urgency. As Vashti Bunyan (who I'll get to this weekend) once sang, "some things just stick in your mind...."

    The Ones Who Didn't Make It: Guest Edition


    by @KamikazeHeart


    Few artists capture the essence of “hippie” as much as Melanie. Her artistry is well summarized by words such as flower power, peace and Woodstock. But there’s far more than meets the eye to Melanie’s musical legacy - most notably she’s probably one of the most comedic and funniest songwriters of her time. But more on that later.

    Like many of her folk peers, Melanie started her career in Greenwich Village in the late 60s, singing in small clubs and gaining the attention of record companies. She released a few singles with Columbia Records, before getting the chance to release an album with Buddah Records, primarily successful with soul acts such as Gladys Knight & The Pips, The Isley Brothers and Bill Withers. (One of their acts - The Edwin Hawkins Singers - would later go on to collaborate with Melanie on one of her biggest hits. But more on that later.)

    Melanie’s debut album - Born to Be, was released in 1968. It was sparsely produced compared to some of her later albums, but there was no mistaking her identity. The combination of Melanie’s big voice (she’s a wailer alright - often compared to Janis Joplin at the time), solemn folk ballads and quirky comedy was unique of its time. The album went by quite silently in the US, but some of the songs were picked up by radio stations across Europe and she also got some TV performances:

    What came to finally launch her career was a string of unlikely and incredible events - perhaps of the cosmic kind that best can be described as the stars aligning in Melanie’s favor. You’ve probably heard of a little music festival called Woodstock which was held in 1969. Melanie wasn’t scheduled to appear - her name is nowhere on the legendary Woodstock poster - but one way or another she had found her way backstage just as the divas in The Incredible String Band (!) refused to perform due to rain. Melanie was asked to perform, and walked out on stage in the evening rain. It was dark - very dark - and the audience greeted her by lighting up lighters and matches in the rain. She's later described this moment as a unique spiritual experience; "At that moment, 500,000 people saw me have this spiritual awakening because I realised that I wasn't a body. The body is a separate thing to whatever you want to call it, the spirit or the soul or whatever. The actual being of me was not that body. I left."

    You’ll see she’s tangibly nervous, she was only 22 years old at the time, and probably taken back by the size of the audience (the total audience estimate for Woodstock ranges from 400 000 to 500 000 people). While her performance itself wasn’t featured on the famed Woodstock documentary and thus didn’t elevate her fame notably, the people lighting up the night did inspire Melanie to write her song Lay Down (Candles in the Rain), a massive 8-minute gospel epic in which she got help from the previously mentioned Edwin Hawkins Singers with vocals. It became her first top ten hit in the US, and the album also spawned a UK hit with her cover of Rolling Stones’ Ruby Tuesday.

    There’s a considerable difference in production comparing her previous albums to Candles in the Rain - not least in the huge Lay Down, but she also amped up Ruby Tuesday into something rockier than the original, which was almost acoustic in comparison. Curiously enough, the album also spawned what is possibly Melanie’s most known song today, despite not being a hit back then: What Have They Done To My Song Ma, obviously inspired by Edith Piaf with its accordion, Melanie exaggerating her vibrato and a few lines in French. This one was brought to closer attention by a more contemporary performer in recent years together with Melanie…

    She churned out albums in a rapid pace - remember it wasn’t unusual to release one or two albums a year back then - and the quality did perhaps suffer a bit due to the high tempo. She got the occasional top 40 hit, before her commercial swan song would be released in the form of her first and last #1 - Brand New Key, in 1971. It was as obviously Freudian as a train entering a tunnel, with the key line being “Oh, I got a brand new pair of roller skates, you got a brand new key”. It was inspired by... well, let’s hear what Melanie herself says about it:

    "I was fasting with a 27-day fast on water. I broke the fast and went back to my life living in New Jersey and we were going to a flea market around six in the morning. On the way back… and I had just broken the fast, from the flea market, we passed a McDonald's and the aroma hit me, and I had been a vegetarian before the fast. So we pulled into the McDonald's and I got the whole works... the burger, the shake, and the fries… and no sooner after I finished that last bite of my burger… that song was in my head. The aroma brought back memories of roller skating and learning to ride a bike and the vision of my dad holding the back fender of the tire. And me saying to my dad... 'You’re holding, you’re holding, you’re holding, right?' Then I’d look back and he wasn’t holding and I’d fall. So that whole thing came back to me and came out in this song.”

    Well then. Anyway - while Melanie’s career quite rapidly faded into a cult following, she’s always released albums, toured frequently and maintained a solid fanbase. She did go on to have a final career highlight with the 1976 album Photograph - perhaps the album that put Melanie closest to this rate’s peers like Laura Nyro and Janis Ian, with its lush and baroque 70s production. It was a commercial failure but received lots of praise from critics and is widely seen as her best album among her fans. Have a listen to the delicate flutes, strings and heartbroken vocals of this career-defining track:

    You will find that her discography on Spotify is a HOT MESS. Her album rights have unfortunately gone through hell due to her (now dead) husband selling them off and mishandling them, which she only found out about after he passed some years ago.

    It’s unfortunately resulted in one of the messiest Spotify album discographies I’ve ever seen. There are re-recordings, bootlegs, bonkers covers albums (A Latin-flavored of I Will Survive is her sixth most popular song on Spotify?!) and quite frankly some of the most offensive cover art I’ve ever seen thrown together in Paint:


    In many ways Melanie was the first quirky guitar girl of pop music. She’s often been covered, by everybody from an 11-year old Björk to Emiliana Torrini and last year she was brought to attention by the American Idol-winner. She’s never been as defining or commercially successful as the ones we actually do rate in this contest, but I can’t think of anyone else who could both sing and write about peace and putting down your weapons in one song, and then go on to make the audience roll on the floor from laughing about Freudian metaphors with the next song. If you’re interested in more I’d recommend checking out a compilation like Beautiful People to get started, and if you want her best studio album just go straight for Photograph. It is seriously so, so very good and in a better world it would have the legacy that would render it part of this rate.​
    DirtyKnees, abael, Filippa and 2 others like this.
  14. What a great guest post @KamikazeHeart

    I have pretty much only listened to music/artists from this rate this week ( finalizing some commentary while setting up a new computer). It's been great, but also left me slightly emotionally drained!
    Lila likes this.
  15. I listened to New York Tendaberry 4 times in one week while writing the intro post and I was literally all cried out by the end of it.
    pop3blow2 likes this.
  16. Scores & commentary submitted!

    Borderline 'Mandy & Vanessa Rate' level notes for a few songs here (i.e. mini-essays). Considering that I wouldn't have Mandy or Vanessa without the women here, that seems proper.
    Lila likes this.
  17. Maki likes this.
  18. I still haven't listened to "New York Tendaberry" and a few of the extras.
    Hopefully five days will be enough for me to arrange and send the scores.
    Lila likes this.
  19. Today I learned that the women of this rate really do show up everywhere. Kanye sampling Laura:

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