History is supposedly written by the victors. Most devotees of early American punk and hardcore could probably rattle off the travails of Henry Rollins’s time in Black Flag or Ian MacKaye’s memories of the 80s D.C. hardcore scene, as the two have told their stories ad nauseam. But how many know the story of the all-women San Diego band the Dinettes, whose one-time drummer Shawn Kerri created the Circle Jerks’s iconic Skank Man image? Or that of St. Louis teenage girl quintet the Welders, who covered Andy Kaufman and sang about being prudes?
For Hit Girls, local writer and rocker Jen B. Larson painstakingly compiled nearly 300 pages of biographies on women in (mostly U.S.) punk bands from 1975 through 1983. She purposely focused on lesser-known acts, doing the crucial work of bringing them into the spotlight and securing their places in the annals of punk history. The book’s format is reminiscent of punk zines; interviews with band members are sprinkled throughout the book. Bands are sorted chronologically and by geography; the midwest’s section is particularly robust, highlighting everyone from Chicago’s Da! to Ohio’s Chi-Pig. Hit Girls makes clear that the 90s riot grrrl movement wasn’t the first time women dominated punk; those artists were reclaiming space forged by pioneers like Alice Bag, Tina Bell, and Adele Bertei. In an introductory essay, Bag notes the importance of claiming space and explains how doing so brings about change “that starts from within and spills out into the lives of those around us.”
best of chicago: arts & culture
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