Women of the Underground: Music – Zora Von Burden
In the week when The Sunday Times declared that females everywhere will only be true women when they start admiring the French woman “in dry cleaned jeans… eating steak tartare… while her perfectly behaved children sit quietly reading”, there seems little left to do for our sex but attach that misguided rag to the nearest firework and give thanks for women like Lydia Lunch. When Zora Von Burden asked Lunch if she’d ever collaborated with someone off the back of a romantic encounter, the 52-year-old battleaxe answered, sniffily: “This question assumes I lead with my cunt and then formulate a project from it. In fact it is the exact opposite.”
Lunch is one of the 20 women featured in Zora Von Burden’s new book: Women Of The Underground: Music. Von Burden’s entire project seems led by the cunt, given the repeated assertions from most of her subjects that questioning their achievements in a gender context is somewhat reductive.
“I’ve been asked many times how does it feel to be a girl in a band,” says Teresa Taylor of Butthole Surfers, in between anecdotes about vomit and LSD and giving herself an aneurism. “It’s like how does it feel to be anything.”
Moe Tucker of The Velvet Underground says overcoming masculine drummer stereotypes “was never an issue” and Cosey Fanni Tutti of Throbbing Gristle says that “discriminating on ground of gender [is] illogical”.
These are exceptional women and their denial of the gender divide says more about them than it does their time. The stories collected here are electric and rude, flying out of drug dens and transvestite boudoirs and a beer vat in San Francisco where the Butthole Surfers lived for a while. Von Burden intervenes little, wisely keeping each introduction to a page-long biography before the Q&As begin.
But the suggestion that these women are part of some ‘cult of the woman-outsider’ — rather than simply celebrated individuals — niggles, and the cover shot of a frightening-looking Kembra Pfahler of The Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black on a black background hardly helps. Really these women are as diverse as a Dulux catalogue and sticking them all under one cover as ‘wacky females’ irks.
Still, in an age where girls are more interested in budget boob jobs than burning bras, it’s a relief to hear from women who want more in life than a pair of clean jeans and some well behaved kids. Hazel Sheffield