For as long as I could listen to my own music, I have loved rock. It all began one fateful night in seventh grade when I discovered the wonders of Pandora Music, a free radio service online that has since devolved in light of giants like Spotify. Despite this, the website will always hold a special place in my heart for gifting me a love of indie rock and dozens of artists that I still listen to today. Pandora was my constant companion: In the obnoxious red headphones I carried with me everywhere, on the shotty Mac desktop that sat on my dresser at home, blasting Grizzly Bear until the dogs came home. It’s where I discovered The Strokes, Feist, Interpol, everything that has shaped the seemingly eternal angst that fuels my love for rock. But most of all, what I found with Pandora’s help was music that I could really call mine for the first time.
I grew up in a musical household, my dad’s baritone echoing through the house as he practiced his own songs, my mom’s soprano yelling lyrics to Duran Duran and Roxy Music. My sister and I watched Shania Twain’s “Up” tour DVD an estimated million times between the ages of five and 10. It’s the reason I have such a love for folk music, for ’80s pop-rock, for classic bands like The Beatles and soul artists like Donny Hathaway. I am eternally grateful to my parents for giving me such a crack education on what makes a good song good and a bad song bad. But as much as I love that music, as much as it has colored my life with joy and connection, it was never truly my own. I never felt the same sense of delight that came with the discovery of contemporary artists I loved, ones that I knew would keep making music for me to enjoy for years to come. My first concert without adult supervision was Arcade Fire’s “Reflektor” tour for my 15th birthday, a fact that I will always be proud of. It was my choice, after all, even though my mother claims that she knew their music before they broke out of Canada.
And in this feeling of ownership over my own music taste, the happiest surprise I could have found was the world of women who rock. A few months ago, I was given Evelyn McDonnell’s anthology of women in music titled “Women Who Rock” by a mentor, and it immediately threw me back to that moment in middle school when I realized how big the world was for a girl who loved music. We tend to think of rock, especially classic rock, as a huge boys club full of illicit sex, drugs and thrashing drummers. I was afraid to go to a punk show until just last summer for this very reason. But through music journalism and books like “Women Who Rock,” it’s plain to see that this just isn’t the truth. Sure, women have a harder time breaking into the business and definitely did in the past more so than today, but they are there. They’re in the crowds at every show I go to, in the bathrooms of dingy clubs reapplying lipstick and shooting smiles to other girls. I have made some great friends avoiding mosh pits at concerts, as we huddle on the sides together as hyped-up teenage boys ram into each other in the center of the pit.
It’s the sense of togetherness that really catapulted me into wanting to write about music in the first place, as I explored the world of rock and slowly began to notice just how many incredible women painted the genre’s history and future. There are so many women who will forever be credited with creating rock as it is: Patti Smith, Siouxsie Sioux, Joan Jett and hundreds more. But there are also some stories that don’t get the spotlight as much as they should, those like Carol Kaye that I’ve highlighted in columns past. Nonetheless, they still stay in the hearts of those who listen to rock and love it, especially the girls who find power in the grit and glitter of hearing a woman’s voice above pounding guitar and drums. Nothing will ever destroy the bonds that female musicians and fans have fostered over years of creativity and resistance to the tropes that still blanket much of rock music. There’s a Kim Gordon quote that most music fans know and love: “Girls invented punk rock, not England.” This is true of much of music ― even in the moments where men took the stage, women have always been rocking just as hard.