Muses and Runaways

In Rat Girl, her memoir about the early days of her band Throwing Muses, Kristin Hersh recalls how reporters would hound her with questions about the fact that the band was fronted by teenage girls. Of course Kristin’s and Tanya’s cute, blond looks was a terrific angle — in part because they sounded nothing like cheerleaders. (“They’re nobody’s blondes,” I wrote earnestly — hey, it was my first byline!) There was no bubblegum sound and jailbait look to the Muses. They really were from another planet, it seemed.

Watching Kristin perform from Rat Girl Saturday, I thought about how different their trajectory was from the Runaways a decade earlier. And yet, there were also similarities. Hersh never talks about it now, but the Muses had a controlling, creepy manager figure whom they fired soon after signing to 4AD. Ken Goes also began peddling demos by another band that I thought sounded too Velvets-ish — the Pixies wound up dumping the Fowleyesque figure too.

The Muses would never have performed in corsets, but they battled for legitimacy just as the Runaways did — to be understood as musicians, not girl musicians. Kristin writes about having had a stalker. The drugs she had to battle with were the ones prescribed by doctors to control her manic depression. Not to mention, New England in 1985 was a very different place from Hollywood in 1975. The Muses were witches in Puritan turf. The Runaways were Babylon’s house band.

Both bands (including great Muses drummer Dave Narcizo) were brave and fierce even as they made themselves open and vulnerable. “Fuck you, stand up!” Hersh and Donelly used to scream. Decades later, I don’t think either band has ever gotten the credit they deserve.

(I know I said I would write about my interviews with Kim Fowley and Toby Mamis this week but I have Kristin on the brain. Those posts soon.)

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Filed under Populism, Queens of Noise

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