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Part 1 of Heavy Metal Women
I’ve been reluctant to sit down and write a post specifically about women in Metal up until now. I don’t differentiate between bands with male or female vocalists in any genres. But when I first started listening to heavy music as a pre-teen, it was wall to wall dudes in every band. It seemed to be an exclusively male arena like team sports, or being the badass in an action movie (Women’s soccer World Cups weren’t yet a global thing, and I hadn’t seen Ellen Ripley in Aliens yet).
I’ve previously written about my baptism in popular music, which was a glorious bonfire of pop, Motörhead, and hair metal. The frontmen of Heavy bands, were all dudes. Lemmy, Jon Bon Jovi, Axl Rose etc. At the same time, Seattle band Heart were making a comeback after some 70s success and implosion. In June 1987 they released a single called ‘Alone’. It’s a power ballad and actually a cover of a previously released song. It starts with a piano and Ann Wilson softly singing mournfully, before it explodes into a full 1980s hair metal anthem. The video features Ann Wilson crooning the song wearing a widows veil and her sister Nancy high-kicking around the stage on guitar. I was in love with Ann. I decided there and then that I was going to marry her and write songs for Heart as my career. Two minutes later in the video, Nancy is seen riding a black horse towards the camera lens.
I was then confused, as I felt I might need to marry her too. I was eleven years old so I was telling this important news to whoever would listen.
I’d really lose my mind over Heart a few years later when they released the megahit ‘All I Wanna Do Is Make Love To You’. By now I was a teenager, so I kept my thoughts to myself on that one.
But what Heart really did for me (and early in my formative years), was to show that women could be rockers. I’d later come to learn that Heart had already earned their place in the Rock pantheon of greats with tracks like the much harder sounding ‘Barracuda’ from 1977.
To add to this, they are the most successful female fronted Hard Rock band of all time. The album ‘Bad Animals’ featured several chart topping hits, as did its follow up ‘Brigade’ released in 1990 with the aforementioned ‘All I Wanna Do Is Make Love To You’. Every Heart album has sold in the millions. The Wilson sisters are genuine rock royalty and are so embedded in the rock culture of Seattle that they were included on the soundtrack to ‘Singles’ (alongside the likes of Alice In Chains and Pearl Jam). In fact they actually owned the famous Studio X (then called Bad Animals Studio) during the 90s, where albums by Hole, Soundgarden, and REM were recorded.
I was obsessed with the single ‘Alone’. It was a number one hit in the U.S. and reached number 3 in the UK top 40. Heart are still active and while they’ve gone through many line-up changes, the Wilson sisters have been the constant since they joined the band.
I’ll leave you with a clip of the Wilson sisters performing ‘Stairway To Heaven’ in front of the surviving members of Led Zeppelin.
Next post: Another million selling album released by a rock band in 1987 with two Female Vocalists. If you don’t remember what it was, stay tuned!