Top Ten Grrrl Rock Memoir Wishlist

12th Apr 2012


Following last week’s news that Carrie Brownstein from Sleater-Kinney is writing a memoir, we started thinking about our favourite autobiographies by music’s fiercest first ladies.

We’re already ridiculously excited about the forthcoming autobiographies by Beth Ditto, Cyndi Lauper and Courtney Love, but here are ten other rock’n’roll heroines whose stories we’d love to read:

1. Siouxsie Sioux

Last year’s winner of the Q Award for Outstanding Contribution to Music, Siouxsie Sioux remains punk rock’s reigning queen. From 1978 début single Hong Kong Garden to her current solo career, she has broken countless boundaries and redefined genres along the way.

Siouxsie is both beloved and critically-acclaimed by a long list of musicians. She is cited as an influence by PJ Harvey, Beth Ditto, Shirley Manson, Ana Matronic and many more, and has collaborated with the likes of John Cale, Marc Almond and Morrissey.

Siouxsie has never yet written her own memoir, although an authorised biography, Siouxsie and the Banshees, features the band’s stories and photographs from their personal collections.

2. PJ Harvey

Polly Jean has won hearts and prizes aplenty during a musical career spanning several decades. Her celebrity fans include Courtney Love and Madonna, and in 2001, she became the first woman ever to win the prestigious Mercury Music Prize.

Notoriously private when it comes to her personal life, we’re unlikely to see an autobiography dishing the dirt on her infamous exes (including Nick Cave and Vincent Gallo), but we’re sure her hordes of fans would welcome an insight into the woman who’s been critically-acclaimed all over the world.

Until then, the closest you’ll get is unofficial biography Siren Rising, but beware; it was published in 2004, so her latest achievements, including the many accolades for last year’s Let England Shake, won’t be featured.

3. Joan Jett

From topping the Billboard Hot 100 for six straight weeks with Joan Jett & The Blackhearts‘ 1982 cover of I Love Rock ‘n ‘Roll, to her unique but often-imitated sense of style (we’ve all seen Noel Fielding wearing those jumpsuits), Joan Jett is the undisputed Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll.

Continuing to perform and tour to this day, she was a producer for the film The Runaways, focusing on The Runaways’ path to fame and the friendship between Jett and lead singer Cherie Currie.

A collection of photos, Joan Jett, was released to tie in with the film, and there’s an unofficial biography, Bad Reputation. Or for a first-hand account, read Cherie Currie’s Neon Angel: A Memoir of a Runaway, which the film was based on.

4. Debbie Harry

Frontwoman of new wave punk pioneers Blondie, we bet Debbie Harry has got some shocking and salacious stories, about her days as a  regular at Studio 54 and Max’s Kansas City, her first band The Stilletos and her long-running musical career.

Since the 1990s Blondie reunion, she’s once again been touring and recording with her old bandmates, with latest album Panic of Girls coming out only last year.

A biography, Platinum Blonde, includes essays based on interviews with John Waters, RuPaul and others, while Debbie Harry also appears several times in Jayne County‘s brilliant autobiography, Man Enough to be a Woman.

5. Kathleen Hanna

Le Tigre and Bikini Kill were synonymous with the riot grrrl movement, and both bands owe that in large part to their fierce and outspoken frontwoman, Kathleen Hanna.

Bikini Kill was originally a zine of the same name, a response to sexism in the punk rock scene, and they became a band on the advice of cult writer Kathy Acker.

Hanna’s discography includes collaborations with Joan Jett, Chicks on Speed and Huggy Bear, and we’re sure she’s got a lot of stories about the friends and enemies she’s made during her musical career.

6. JD Samson

Yeah, yeah. We know JD Samson was in Le Tigre with Kathleen Hanna, but still. We’d love to read JD’s memoir all the same. A self-styled ‘gender outlaw’ bringing butches to our photo calendars, making electropunk with MEN and blogging for the Huffington Post about the battle between being creative and financially secure, she’s become a queer icon, and we love her for it.

And we bet she’s got all sorts of stories about playing alongside Peaches and The Gossip, appearing in John Cameron Mitchell’s film Shortbus, and having a lighthouse for a penis in the video for the anthemic MEN single Who Am I To Feel So Free?

7. Jessicka Addams

Nineties scream queen Jessicka was the frontwoman of goth rockers Jack Off Jill and later Scarling, who were described by Robert Smith as “dark, desperate, chaotic, gorgeous pop music, the sound of the end of the world.”

Now living in Los Angeles and making art including a recent exhibition of bunny masks, she was rumoured to be writing a book for a while. But as of 2010 she announced it had been put on hold, with other projects taking precedence.

In the meantime, Jessicka makes several cameos in former boyfriend Marilyn Manson‘s book, Long Hard Road Out of Hell. Or for more from Jessicka, read her blog.

8. Juliette Lewis

She’s acted alongside Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Quentin Tarantino, Johnny Depp and many more, rocked out all over the world with Juliette and the Licks, and brought roller derby to the masses with Ellen Page and Drew Barrymore in Whip It.

Currently focusing on a solo music career, Juliette Lewis’ life has been an eventful one, from her first leading role at the age of twelve, through early brushes with the law to international stardom.

We’d love to know what it was like to work with such revered actors, directors and musicians, not to mention find out more about her celebrity BFFs (like how she formed The Licks after going to see Blondie with Hole drummer Patty Schemel).

9. Madonna

The self-styled Queen of Pop has been the subject of countless books, including Lucy O’Brien‘s in-depth study Like an Icon, but she’s yet to tell her story herself (although she is the author of several popular children’s books), and her controversial coffee table book Sex is now long out-of-print.

The world’s all-time top-selling female recording artist, she’s collaborated with all sorts of renowned musicians, designers and artists, reinvented her music and image many times over and been a significant influence on fashion and music throughout her thirty-year career.

A renowned control freak and revisionist when it comes to her history, image and career, perhaps it’s no surprise that she’s yet to put her name to a definitive version, though with all her celebrity connections we’re sure it’d be an intriguing read.

10. Poison Ivy

A founding member of punk garage icons The Cramps, Poison Ivy was wearing leopard-print, torn tights and tarnished tiaras long before it became grrrl rock uniform.

With her late husband Lux Interior and their bandmates, the rockabilly legends were infamous all over the world for their distinctive sound, B-movie influences and theatrical onstage antics.

A one-time New York dominatrix (her wages funded the recording of The Cramps’ first album, Gravest Hits), a regular on the renowned stages of CBGB’s and Max’s Kansas City and an all-round rock goddess, we know she’s got some scandalous stories, and we want to read them.

What do you reckon? Which rock’n’roll women would make your music memoir wishlist? And which existing autobiographies should we read instead?

Jane Bradley

(Image via Bringsverd)


  • Holly says:

    Definitely Madonna. You know she has a twitter account now, right? @MDNA

  • EJ says:

    The danger is you’ll be disappointed. Rule of thumb, the only people more up themselves than rock stars are the journalists who write about them. That said, I’d like to see:

    Bjork – Though I probably wouldn’t understand a word.

    And Amelia Fletcher – Though she probably isn’t allowed.

    Maybe Tobi Vail?

    One I recommend – written by a music journalist(!) – Bye Bye Baby by Caroline Sullivan.

    • Jane Bradley says:

      I read Bye Bye Baby many moons ago, probably when I was much too young to appreciate it! I remember loving it though, definitely one I’d like to re-read at some point. Didn’t Courtney Love buy the film rights to it at one point? I’m sure I read that somewhere…

    • Lauren says:

      Oh… I’m a journalist and I think it would be a lovely job to write a memoir for any of these women….
      Although, I’d also really like to write with Dawn French.

    • Evangeline Jennings says:

      First I should point out that I am NOT the EJ who likes “Bye Bye Baby” and would like to see Bjork, Amelia, and Tobi Vail all write their lives. However I agree on all four points.

      Can I add Shirley Manson and Lucinda Williams? And especially Kim Gordon?

  • Cate says:

    Don’t know if I’d want to read her own account, but one day a respectful, talented journalist will gain the access and do the legwork needed to write the ultimate Lauryn Hill story. Now that I would pay to read.

    I hope PJ Harvey stays private, her enigma in these look-at-me times has made her even more appealing to me, if that’s possible.

  • Thom says:

    I’ve got a copy of ‘sex’ somewhere, will dig it out if you want Janie (that’s if you want to see some fairly vile photos of Vanilla Ice). Pamela Des Barres has written some very good rock memoirs, and Nancy Spungeon’s mum wrote one too, if you’re looking for something more peripheral

    • Jane Bradley says:

      Of course I do! I sort of fancy Vanilla Ice a bit.

      I’ve always fancied reading the Nancy Spungeon one – it’s ‘I Don’t Want to Live This Life’ or something along those lines, isn’t it? Suspected it might be somewhat traumatic though.

      And I love Pamela Des Barres. Also Jenny Fabian’s groupie stories. And Bebe Buell’s Rebel Heart has some scandalous Aerosmith anecdotes. And Angie Bowie’s Backstage Passes features lots of rock’n’roll orgies, which are always entertaining to read about!

  • Jo and the Novelist says:

    I’d definitely LOVE to read a Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s memoir.

  • Cariad Martin says:

    Yeah, I’d buy all 10 of those.

  • Becca Allen says:

    I second Jo’s suggestions for Karen O!

    I have a biography of Cat Power I have yet to read, but apparantly she really didn’t want it written – would love to read her memoir.

    Also really hope Patti Smith writes more, I loved Just Kids…

  • Alisande Fitzsimons says:

    I’m so glad that Poison Ivy is on this list! She’s the coolest woman ever.

  • Tempest says:

    I was happy to see Joan Jett on this list. I also would like to see Shirley write an autobio, however I disagree with Madonna appearing on a Grrrl Rock list. Yes, her three decades long career is impressive, but as stated in the article, she is the Queen of Pop. I am not saying this to be mean-spirited, it was just an observation.