BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS, 1980 – Until Punk, for most of the entire history of hard rock, metal and just about everything else that a seventies teen would hear at the kegger held down by the old rock quarry, the music world was the aural equivalent to the clubhouse in “Our Gang” comedies.
“No Gurls Aloud.” It was such a prevalent notion on eight-track, cassette, in concert and on vinyl that it almost seemed like a rigid rule that would never be broken by the “weaker” sex.
Even one of the first female hard rock artists, April Lawton, from the sorta-supergroup Ramatam, was an early transgender pioneer whose alleged secret was that she was really a he – and that the truth was closely guarded by her record company and publicists.
The liberating ethos of Punk, with it’s “anyone can and SHOULD just do it” opened the floodgates and encouraged a concurrence of women being able to participate in the scene as more than groupies or earth mamas.
These days it is taken for granted that of course, women can command a stage with the same passion and confidence as their male counterparts. That is the triumph of punk’s proto-feminism and its wildly egalitarian approach to confounding the expectations of a moribund musical scene and the decaying, horrendously bloated seventies rock culture of excess and preciousness.
Almost overnight having a female vocalist for the guys to ogle went to an almost unheard of reality manifested in all-women line-ups creating edgy music tantamount to, and more often than not surpassing, the rock made by all dude acts in intensity and ardor.
In Boston, no other band approached music with the same fervor and abandon as Bound and Gagged.
Their first shows were strange, beautiful, chaotic and mind-blowingly cathartic. Challenging the status quo of the typical male rock image and the notions of straight femininity with equally intense aplomb and offhand malice, they either immediately enthralled you or drove you away, screaming back to your safe Pink Floyd records and bong collection.
The sound and lyrical content they managed to craft were uniquely fem yet astonishingly brutal in its execution. It heralded a sea change in music that still reverberates like an unholy gong of cultural revolution to this very day.
They were the first all-women band your humble narrator had ever seen. As related in Gurl Two, a trip to Boston to solicit bands to appear in a public radio/TV simulcast in “Wormtown” (the first ever in Massachusetts) began at the Rat where Bound and Gagged were opening for the Human Sexual Response.
They immediately short-circuited the scope and nature of any live “rawk” performance previously experienced. They exuded dangerous levels of intensity and a glaring stage presence that was freakish and uncommon for “girls” to display.
None more so that night than Gurl Twelve, Trude Kobe, the bass player and looming siren of their art-damaged punk rock vision.
Her chopped, black hair was plastered to her head like a helmet. Her bass swung like the ax of some hallucinatory Valkyrie warrior dissipating a slew of enemies with a single note.
She immediately challenged and changed nearly everything your humble narrator thought he knew about the still-mysterious opposite sex and what they were good for.
Standing in front of them they individually seemed approachable. Collectively they embodied change – sexual, cultural, musical and personal.
While watching them perform it was as if all of a sudden a bomb burst and, after the flash blindness subsided, everything became gloriously vivid and achingly clear in the brave new world that punk was offering up.
When you are a young, hetero dude, most anything of the opposite sex that ambulated on two legs would give rise to religiously verboten impurities and prurient psychodrama. It was the sad detritus of a culture that distilled the importance of women into one of two silos, receptacle or food source.
Along with like-minded gender revolutionaries around the world, Bound and Gagged began to change everything that was drawn into their orbit. Anyone with an eye to the future and an ear to the ground could tell that the times indeed were changing and this time it was gonna stick.
Within a few months of witnessing that first show at the Rat your humble narrator was doing sound for them at the Underground (see Gurl Eleven) and going to all the same parties and doing most of the same drugs.
One of the few drawbacks of getting to know artists who have had a profound effect on you is learning that they are really not that special.
While this happened with most bands and artists that would soon be known, it never happened with Gurl Twelve and the rest of her cohorts in artistic mayhem: Martha Swetzoff, Marcia Maglione-Flynn, Deniz Ozan-George, Wendy Stone and Britt (Barbara) Britton.
They grew as did the entire scene. Their music became more complex, freer, and incredibly, even more intense
They went from being brash openers to triumphant headliners with Trude never losing her looming stature and booming bass attacks.
The word on the street is that Trude is now either a high-priced, vicious attorney or, a Florida real-estate queen. Either notion is not far-fetched, and like James Williamson from the Stooges when he was a V.P. of tech at Sony, I wonder if the folks who meet with her know how many lives she changed with her axe.
No genders were altered in the writing of this article.
Your humble narrator Eugene Talmadge Biggs is the main character of “The Knockout Artist” and known for being a fighter with a glass jaw and getting knocked-out by complete strangers at parties.
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