Tag Archives: Rat Girl

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

Rat Girl Power

Kristin and Evelyn

During the 18th year of her life, Kristin Hersh went crazy, got signed, and made a baby. I first met her back then, in 1985, when she was the mesmerizing front person of the band Throwing Muses, and I was a college senior writing my first-ever newspaper article for pay. I had no idea everything she was going through or about to go through; I just knew I really liked the band, Throwing Muses, that she led with her half-sister Tanya Donelly.

Kristin reveals the depths of her despair that year in Rat Girl, the memoir released by Penguin last year, from which she performed excerpts at the Getty Center last night. It was an intense evening of profound psychological revelations, leavened by Hersh’s self-deprecating humor. Kristin imagines what people must have thought about her vocalizations: “It’s o nice they let that deaf girl sing.” Actually, those of us in the Rhode Island music scene knew she was gifted, the real deal. I wish I’d realized what hell she was going through — that I’d been a sympathetic shoulder, not a vulturistic journalist.

I wrote back in the fall, when I caught up with Kristin again for an article for the paper in which I first wrote about her, about how well written Rat Girl is. Her literary genius was clear to me again last night: She’s got a Sylvia Plath/Anais Nin vibe. She’s so the real deal.

I was blessed to have someone as talented as Kristin as my first assignment — maybe that’s why I’ve stayed with the game so long. If you care about music and writing, buy Rat Girl. It’s a dark book, a hard book. But as Kristin says, comparing Throwing Muses’s music to spinach, I swear it’s good for you.

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Filed under Populism