Fireworks Magazine Online 80: Sisters In Rock

SISTERS IN ROCK

By Rob Evans

Has anybody ever written anything for you, dear reader? For Joe Walsh, Stevie Nicks wrote the poignant song that forms that question, but I'm sure our other Sisters this issue have penned songs for varying objects of their desires. In this latest instalment of Sisters In Rock we'll see tales of lost love and heartache, we'll battle drug addictions and we'll be donning our best black leathers just because we can. When the Eurythmics sang about sisters doing it for themselves, they could have written the manifesto for the likes of Joan Jett et al, such was their clarion call. From Lorraine Lewis through to Stevie Nicks, these sisters have done it their way and done it in their own inimitable style. Lady luck may have smiled on the likes of Fiona and Stevie Nicks by putting them and their music in the right hands, but it was ultimately their sheer talent that kept them there. So the next time you watch Stevie Nicks live at Red Rocks and she sings 'Beauty And The Beast', remember she's not looking at you, she's looking at me and I think that's exactly where this article came in.

STEVIE NICKS


Born in Phoenix, Arizona to parents Jess and Barbara Nicks, Stephanie Lynn Nicks would ultimately find fame as Stevie Nicks. Alongside Lyndsey Buckingham she would turn the fortunes of Fleetwood Mac from Blues-based rockers, into Soft Rock behemoths in the space of two albums.

Having met Buckingham at Menlo-Atherton High School, it would be a further two years before the two of them would work together in the band Fritz. From here they continued to write as a duo, eventually recording the Buckingham/Nicks album in '73. A commercial failure, it saw Buckingham taking a job with the Everly Brothers, whilst Nicks waited on tables and had a stint cleaning Keith Olsen's house.

It would be Olsen who would prove pivotal in the duo joining the Mac by playing Mick Fleetwood one of their tracks. Whilst the drummer was looking for recording studios for the next Mac opus, he initially only wanted Buckingham, but it was the latter's insistence that he and Nicks came as a pair that saw the duo land the gig.

From here it would prove to be a whirlwind of activity as the band released their 'S/T' album in '75 and then the ground-breaking 'Rumours' in '77, an album that saw them elevated to stadium status in a little over two years.
It was during the recording of the 'Tusk' album that Nicks started to stockpile songs for what would eventually be 'Bella Donna'. Released in '81, it saw Nicks recording some of her best work, and began a cycle that saw her working in tandem alongside the Mac as she released a plethora of solo albums throughout the eighties.

She's often been quoted as saying that she only ever wrote her best songs when she was in the darkest of places, and with a life like hers it was no wonder she came up with so many great songs. From the timeless beauty of Fleetwood Mac classics 'Rhiannon', 'Landslide' and 'Dreams' through to her equally flawless solo material such as 'Beauty And The Beast' and 'Leather And Lace', the depressive quality to Nicks' music was strangely uplifting.
She is arguably one of the most colourful females in the history of Rock. Her alleged affairs with the likes of Mick Fleetwood, Tom Petty, Rupert Hine, Joe Walsh and Don Henley – not to mention her addictions to both Cocaine and Klonopin – have enhanced her reputation almost as much as her music.

Still a part of Fleetwood Mac to this day, Nicks is currently promoting her solo tour in the states, a tour that sees her hitting the UK in July as support to Tom Petty in Hyde Park. With a new album from Fleetwood Mac planned for some time soon, she shows no sign of letting up just yet.

A huge influence on many a female performer, Stevie Nicks remains one of Rock's true Icons and a performer of some magnitude.

BEST MOMENT: It could be the epic 'Edge Of Seventeen' or the simplistic nature of 'Beauty And The Beast', but I would have to plump for 'Rhiannon', a story about an old Welsh witch from Fleetwood Mac's self-titled album.


Stevie Nicks

JOAN JETT


When Joan Marie Larkin was born in a suburb of Pennsylvania in September '58, I doubt her parents ever considered for one minute that she would go on to be a cultural icon for women everywhere, never mind be dubbed the Queen of Rock.
Hanging around Rodney Bingenheimer's English Disco in the mid-seventies, Joan Jett was allegedly discovered by Kim Fowley, who gave Jett's number to Sandy West, resulting in the girls putting the Runaways together. Alongside Lita Ford, Cherie Currie and Jackie Fox, both Jett and West were responsible for a band that was teenage jailbait at the very worst and Rock 'n' Roll genocide at the very best.

It was this classic line-up that released three trail blazing, Punk infused Rock albums. The kind that saw parents locking up their sons as these teenage Lolita's prowled the land. The zenith of their achievements came when they hit Japan to scenes of mass hysteria; they were, after all, the fourth largest imported band behind Led Zep, KISS and ABBA.

With West and Currie quitting in quick succession shortly after the Japanese tour, the Runaways limped on as Jett assumed lead vocals. A final couple of albums saw them eventually split up in '79, a move that forced Jett to start a solo career.
Hooking up with former Tommy James and the Shondell's guitarist, Kenny Laguna, would prove to be a pivotal moment as he suggested that they form their own label, Blackheart Records, after they were ignominiously turned down by twenty three record companies.

From here on in she never looked back and whilst her debut showed promise, it would be its follow up that would kick down the doors and see Jett lauded from afar. 'I Love Rock 'N' Roll' was released in '81, but it wouldn't be until early '82 that its title track would top the Billboard Hot 100 for several weeks. Originally recorded by Arrows, Jett had demoed this track in '79 with the Sex Pistol's Paul Cook and Steve Jones, but it was alongside her band, The Blackhearts, that Jett finally got the recognition she so richly deserved.

I saw Jett on this tour, playing to a half empty Liverpool Empire as she blistered her way through a set of high octane Rock 'n' Roll. On the tour bus afterwards she was charm personified, a young boy's crush for sure, signing my album, "Keep dancing, love Joan Jett."

Selling over ten million copies, Jett never looked back on those bleak late seventies years, she was now part of the mainstream. A glut of albums followed, but after her eighties heyday she never hit the singles charts again.
Still playing live to this day, her last album 'Unvarnished' was released in 2013 and limped into the Billboard chart at forty seven. A recent 'Rock 'n' Roll Hall Of Fame' Inductee, Jett works actively as a campaigner for PETA and can be seen Stateside, alongside Boston, throughout this summer.

BEST MOMENT: The video for 'I Hate Myself For Loving You'. Did anybody other than Elvis and Suzi Quatro ever look this good in black leather? I mean, did they?


Joan Jett


FIONA


Describing herself as multipersonalitied on her website, the effervescent and lovely Fiona Flanagan was born in New Jersey in the early sixties. Thanks to some pushy teachers who recognised her talent, she was thrown into school productions and the rest is history.

Fiona moved to New York and worked a day job for celebrated photographer Andrew Unangst, whose work included Andy Warhol, she cut a series of demos alongside Eddie Offord (Yes) and the Dixie Dregs.
In turn these led her to the doors of Atlantic Records and Jason Flom, who fought off a counter bid from Columbia and got the young chanteuse's signature. Liking the fact that he wanted to push her into more of a Rock direction, Fiona was quickly on-board a ride that would last right through the eighties and beyond.

Produced by Peppy Marchello (Good Rats), her debut boasted a fine supporting cast that included the likes of Bobby Mesanno (Starz) and Joe Franco (Twisted Sister). Released in '85, her self-titled debut still has a certain charm to this day and showcases to perfection why Atlantic had high hopes of her being the next Benatar.

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Hooking up with Beau Hill (Shanghai, Airbourne) for her sophomore album, 'Beyond The Pale', Flanagan would eventually marry and divorce the hotshot producer, but not before she'd managed to deliver a fine album. According to Malcolm Dome in the Rock Candy reissue, Fiona recorded a version of 'Alone' – the I-Ten song that Heart turned into a huge chart hit – but it was left off the album at Hill's insistence, much to both Jason Flom and Fiona's chagrin.
It was here that she first worked with Kip Winger, a man that would form another part of Fiona's elaborate puzzle when he worked on her third album, 'Heart Like A Gun'. It was this album that gave the New Jersey gal one of her most requested MTV songs in the shape of 'Everything You Do (You're Sexing Me)', a duet with the aforementioned Winger. Produced in the main by Keith Olsen (Whitesnake), 'Heart Like A Gun' was a commercial flop but it saw Flanagan having a hand in composing all but one of its ten tracks, something she'd never done before.

Fiona also made a semi decent stab at acting, appearing alongside Bob Dylan and Rupert Everett in the woeful 'Hearts On Fire', as well as an episode of Miami Vice.

With an album for Geffen ('Squeeze') turning out to be her swansong, Fiona limped out of the spotlight for several years. Hooking up with Robin Beck and the House Of Lords guys she recorded one of the best albums of her career in the shape of 'Unbroken' and with an appearance at Firefest in 2012, she pulled out all the stops to give an exalted performance. One of the friendliest and most charming people that I've ever met, Fiona is a class unto herself.

BEST MOMENT: Her last album, 'Unbroken', showed that not even a duet with Kip Winger could keep this girl down.


Fiona Fireworks

LORRAINE LEWIS


Admit it, you were really envious of that lollipop on the inside front cover of Femme Fatale's debut CD, but is it really nearly thirty years since that album came out? In the interim years Lorraine Lewis put her name to a myriad of projects but she'll always be remembered as the girl who was looking for the big one.

Formed in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Femme Fatale was signed to MCA for their self-titled debut, an album which was released in '88. Lorraine had big ambitions of being the female version of Dave Lee Roth after she witnessed Van Halen in concert at a young age. As she said to me at the time, "I didn't want to sleep with Dave, I wanted to be Dave!"

As Femme Fatale's debut hit the streets, the likes of MTV were all over their videos for 'Looking For The Big One' and 'Falling In And Out Of Love', helping them notch up healthy sales of nearly three hundred thousand albums along the way. After touring with Cheap Trick the label dropped them as they planned their second album. Lorraine tried to keep the band together, they went their separate ways.

Landing an indie deal almost straight away, the solo career of Lorraine Lewis amounted to her releasing 'Chains' on the 'Don't Tell Mom The Babysitters Dead' soundtrack and little else. As solo careers go, it hardly set the world on fire.
From here she seemed to keep a low profile before returning in 2000 with 'Snowball', a messy collaboration that saw her embrace a Grunge inspired stance that sounded a million miles away from Femme Fatale.

After a short lived dalliance in the country music market, releasing a poorly received CD in '02, she hooked up with Roxy Petrucci (Vixen, Madame X) in Roktopus, a short lived collaboration that saw Lewis trying to re-capture her youth, but failing miserably. Poor songs are poor songs and these babies were going nowhere faster than Lewis's career at the time.

Via L.A Nookie - a band featuring Share Pederson (Vixen), Alex Kane (Anti Product) and Lisa Leveridge (Hole) – and a TV show called the "Ex Wives Of Rock", Lewis wound up back in Femme Fatale. Surrounded by an all-female cast, this version of the fatal ones has been doing the rounds in the States and is due to hit these shores later in the year at Hard Rock Hell.

All in all, Lewis's career has been colourful and exciting and although she never got to experience the musical 'big one', she did enjoy a few small ones along the way.

BEST MOMENT: The videos for both 'Looking For The Big One' and 'Falling In And Out Of Love' still make me smile to this day. Full of lewd sexual innuendo and the kind of choreography that Heaven's Edge built a career on, what's not to love?


Lorraine Lewis

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