These are the 1972 liner notes from the album Mountain Moving Day which featured both the Chicago and the New Haven Women's Liberation Rock Bands Both the Chicago Women’s Liberation Rock Band and the New Haven Women’s Liberation Rock Band were begun about 2 1/2 years ago by women in and around the women’s movement in our two cities. At that time some of us were already musicians who had gotten an education in sexism by playing in male bands. Some of us were fugitives of high school marching bands, folk music groups and Mrs. Porter’s music recitals. Some of us had stashed unplayed instruments under our beds years ago. And some of us were would-be musicians, learning to play for the first time. All of us wanted to create a new kind of band and a new kind of music, though we had no clear idea how to do that.
We knew what we didn’t want: the whole male rock trip with its insulting lyrics, battering-ram style and contempt for the audience. We didn’t want to write the female counterpart of songs like “Under My Thumb,” “Back-Street Girl,” “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World” where men say to us ‘you’re beneath contempt and we will celebrate your degradation.’ We had to think of some other way to make a hit besides bumping and grinding like Mick Jagger, raping and burning our guitars like Jimi Hendrix, or whacking off on stage like Jim Morrison. We didn’t want to pulverize our audience’s (and our own) eardrums with 1010 decibels. As performers we didn’t want to get off by trashing the people we played for, and we didn’t want to have a star backed up by a squad of secondary musicians.
But what did we want anyway? We knew that we wanted to make music that would embody the radical, feminist, humanitarian vision we shared. And the lyric were the obvious place to begin—the field was wide open. Most of the rock songs women have sung till now were about the pain men cause us—the pain that’s supposed to define us as women. We didn’t want to deny that tradition (women struggled hard for the right to sing even that much) bvt we wanted to sing about how the pain doesn’t have to be there—how we fight and struggle and love to make it change. At first it was easiest to write new lyrics to old songs, but as time has gone on we have begun to write entirely new material (the record contains examples from both these phases).
We also had to demystify the priesthood of the instrument and the amplifier— move and set up the equipment, find the fuses, fix the feedback, mike, monitor and control it all ourselves. We had to try to break down the barriers that usually exist between performers and audiences by rapping a lot between songs about who we are, what we’re doing, and where our songs come from. Whenever possible we’ve played in places where people can dance, done some theatre and comedy, passed out lyrics so people could sing with us, and invited other women to come and jam with us.
The hardest thing to deal with was the music itself—what could we make out of such a motley collection of tastes, backgrounds and instruments? We had started from scratch, not by fitting accomplished musicians into traditional slots. We had no leaders, arrangers, managers, agents, roadies—even equipment or instruments. We thought of the bands as collectives, so we wanted to learn together and work toward eliminating the inequalities of (musical) power that existed among us. Our progress has been slow and difficult-it has come out of thousands of hours spent practicing, teaching each other, taking lessons, listening to other bands, jamming, writing and working all kinds of things out with each other. Over the past 2 1/2 years each band has evolved its own material and style which is partly the result of the combination of instruments we happened to end up with and largely the result of our efforts to make collective, non-assaultive joyful rock music.
WHAT WE DO:
We are the ‘agit-rock’ arm of our respective women’s movements. In Chicago this means we are a chapter of the Chicago Women’s Liberation Union (more about this later). In New Haven we are all members of New Haven Women’s Liberation. We go places where leaflets can’t go—college dances, women’s conferences, rallies, benefits, festivals, prisons and miscellaneous events. And perhaps we say things that leaflets can’t say because we have music and performance to help us generate for those few hours while we’re playing some glimpse of the world we’d like to see happen. Some of our jobs have been more than just exciting—we and the audience have shared in a deeply-felt celebration of our vision. At others we’ve been met with bad vibes, hostile men, inadequate electricity, freezing weather.
We charge for our performances according to what people can pay, and so far have spent our earnings on equipment, transportation, food, drink, rent for rehearsal space and donations to the women’s movement. We don’t see the bands as profit-making (all of us have other jobs which support us) but as part of what needs to be done to change the culture of this society.
What we all want to do is use the power of rock to transform what the world is like into a vision of what the world could be like; create an atmosphere where women are free enough to struggle to be free, and make a new kind of culture that is an affirmation of ourselves and of all people.
We in the Chicago band wanted to add just a little note about the organization that we’re a part of because we feel that it has been important to us and to the women in Chicago. This is the Chicago Women’s Liberation Union, which is the only on-going radical feminist organization of its type in the country. In its three years it has provided a political unity and sense of direction for much of the women’s movement in Chicago. Some of the projects included in the Union are:
Women’s Graphics Collective (original feminist art & posters)
Liberation School for Women (alternative education for and about women)
Health Project (which fights to keep city maternity centers open and offers pregnancy testing and health referrals)
Work Work Group (to equalize salary and job differentials for city employees)
Womankind (a women’s newspaper)
Rape Crisis Center