By Princess Stomper
“Do you make this kind of statement about male artists? You should. You really should.” – Everett True, 2011
Tell you what: I’m going to sit this one out and let the little angel and devil that sit on my shoulders slug this one out. I’ll let you decide which is which.
Why does everybody pick on Kate Bush, like that’s the only talented female they can think of?
It’s a numbers game. Using the grand science of finger-in-the-air, let’s assume that one rock band out of 20 has a female member and one band in 100 is all-female. Solo acts in that side of the spectrum – leaving aside the female-dominated pop ranks of Kylie and Madonna – are rarer still. So when everyone picks on Kate Bush as being an example of a woman who changed the way that we think about music and music performance, it’s because we’re not overwhelmed with alternatives.
And yet there are many men as great as Kate Bush?
I could point to David Bowie or even Thom Yorke for having that lack of inhibition – that willingness to make themselves look ridiculous, but come out the other side and be awe-inspiring. I could point to their oft-imitated, distinctive voices. I could point to their ability to be vulnerable and aloof at the same time. I could point to many things … before asking myself why I’m only naming two men.
Let’s just pick on one little teeny-weeny short-lived scene: the No Wave movement of New York at the turn of the 80s. I’ve only heard a couple of Ut tracks, but they were extraordinary. Lydia Lunch is patchy, but I can think of a fair few acts of either gender that simply would not exist without her. As for Kim Gordon, well, you know who she is. So that’s three game-changers from 30 years ago. With my finger-in-the-air mathematics, surely that means that we should be able to find maybe 150 all-male genre-defining acts from that post-punk era. I mean, it’s a numbers game, right? So how many can you name? Acts who have had that kind of impact; that kind of legacy. Acts who have passed beyond ‘genre leader’ into legend. How many did you get to? 10? 15?
Let’s be generous and say 20. That’s not counting the 130 other post-punk acts that were pretty good or very good but just didn’t quite make the grade. They reflected and toyed with music as it stood but they didn’t change it into something new. I’m an equal opportunities drill instructor: if I’m not letting the ladies off the hook on this one, the gents don’t get a free ride, either. According to that particular piece of pretzel logic, if only 20 stand where 150 should be, then my three women are 7.5 per cent more accomplished than their male counterparts. Or, if you prefer, there’s a 92.5 per cent deficit of male talent.