Ellen Foley, what a waste, right? Only three albums? That sort of makes her the musical equivalent of a cock-tease, doesn’t it? You want more, but all you get is a Meatloaf song & a track off Sandinistas. You want more & all you get is a minor showing on a BOC album.
Stop right there! I gotta know right now!
I have a love & hate relationship with female vocalists. It’s probably as much of a range thing as it is a presentation thing. Mind you, I am a closeted Sheryl Crow fan. I’ll admit that to you, while I am anonymous on the internet…fairly anonymous…but put me in a group of my friends & I’ve never listened to God Bless this Mess. I never even heard of it & I certainly wasn’t waiting for its release.
I might be a straight male, but I think that gives me the right to say things like that. Being a closeted Sheryl Crow fan gives anyone the right to throw out a post about female vocalists. It means that, yes, you listen to female rockers.
No one is a closeted Koko Taylor fan. Everyone is out & proud about listening to Koko Taylor. She’s like Ella Fitzgerald, everyone listens to her & nobody denies it.
That might not be true. Everyone that is deadly serious about music listens to them. They are two completely different singers, but no one is going to say that they hate them, at least not in polite company.
They are the type of singers where it really is only the people that hate them that are in the closet. They are the female equivalents of Buddy Guy, everyone loves them.
You loved Buddy’s Born Under a Bad Sign. You loved Koko’s Born Under a Bad Sign. But you know that when they did it together it was the best blues you ever heard. It was like they were daring each other to be the best. You just have to crank that up.
The only difference between the two is that Buddy Guy is really a great person. If you’ve ever lived in Chicago, you’ve probably met him, & you can testify to that fact. Buddy Guy will sit down & talk to you, he’s all Southern Hospitality. He doesn’t seem to notice that your jaw is on the floor & you can’t make out a syllable in response to whatever it was he said to you. To you he is a legend, but to him, you are just two guys hanging out in his bar.
Koko Taylor was a snob. Everyone is sort of a snob compared to Buddy Guy. I’m a snob compared to Buddy Guy. But Koko Taylor was a snob compared to just about anyone.
Koko Taylor was a diva.
Now the divas have range, most of them, but they don’t really have that presentation. Most of them don’t.
Koko had presentation, Franklin had presentation…but they were blues artists weren’t they? You sort of have to have a presence when you’re a woman trying to make it in the blues.
Don’t mess with mother nature.
Fitzgerald doesn’t count, she was otherworldly. She was like listening to an angel &, most importantly, she was before the divas.
Most of the other divas, the ones that you don’t associate with pure blues, lack the presentation. Even Whitney Houston lacked that presentation that really turns you on to female vocalists.
There are the other bands too with decent female leads that you really can’t complain about:
Hole…their only good album.
The Cranberries & Zoombie & Twister were the only tracks she really ripped apart.
The Sundays, well she had an otherworldly voice as well, didn’t she?
They are good bands but you get the feeling that they are holding back, don’t you?
It’s why most of the rock you listen to is sung by men, isn’t it? And yet you tend to give women a pass.
I think it’s a gender thing. The whole women have to be restrained thing. It could be fun in the bedroom, but it really doesn’t work with music does it? Even the divas are restrained.
We will go this far & no further.
Do you love me? Will you love me forever?
Ellen Foley didn’t seem to have that restraint. When she sang it didn’t seem like anything was holding her back. If you ever saw her, she was just a little thing, not at all like Koko Taylor. You can’t help but imagine that Ellen Foley used every inch of her body when she sang.
When she wanted to, Ellen Foley seemed like a force of fucking nature when she sang.
The B52s…God I hate them. But the redhead on the B52s, Kate Pierson, was the same way. She was wasted on 80s pop. She had her moments where you knew, if she had a decent band behind her & a better genera of music she could have been a goddess.
You don’t believe me?
Candy with Iggy Pop.
Tina Turner is the same way & I hate to admit it, but I think Ellen Foley has the better voice. They have that same quality. They could both walk up to a microphone & you know there was nothing that could hold them back.
It might not be a gender thing, at least the restraint thing. It might not be restraint at all. It might be a gender thing as far as confidence goes. Studies show that women aren’t as confident as men are.
I’ve done speeches. I’ve had photography gigs. Some of them have gone either way. The ones that were always my best were the ones where I walked in thinking that I was going to nail it.
I had a really complicated shoot for a hair salon once. It was utter chaos & horrible light. It was back in the last days of Kodachrome & Paul Simon is still pissed they took it away.
Give us those nice bright colors. Give us the greens of summer. Makes you think all the world’s a sunny day.
Kodachrome used to be like an anthem when you were in the trade. Back in the day. Yeah, all you photographers out there, you know you listened to it on repeat.
Of course when I was learning all that crap in high school, we had The Joshua Tree stuck in the CD player. It’s U2 that reminds me of the darkroom now. To this day I still smell fixer whenever I hear With or Without You.
There were models & hair dressers & cosmetics & wardrobe changes & I walked in there thinking that I was going to rip it apart. It turned out to be my best work. It always turns out that way.
You make a speech & you think you’re going to rip it apart & you do. You walk into a shoot thinking that you are the best thing since Robert Capa & you are. You still have to know your shit, but that confidence, that “fuck you, I’m gonna nail this bitch,” that cockiness, it makes you better than you actually are.
I think it’s the same thing. Tina Turner, Ellen Foley, Koko Taylor, I think what made them stand out is that, when they walked up to the microphone, they knew they were going to rip it apart.
It’s not too much to ask. I mean, with the exception of a few artists here & there, you ignore the men that restrain themselves don’t you? They have to be doing something awesome with their instruments to get you to listen to a guy that’s reserved & restrained all the time. Either that, or you’re a Barry Manilow fan, by nature, & you can go fuck yourself.
And yet Ellen Foley only gives us three fucking albums of it.