Don’t let her sweet, smiling appearance fool you: Bonnie Raitt could eat most slide guitarists for breakfast. The bottleneck-brandishing queen of rootsy rock is one of precious few women to consistently appear in ‘Greatest Guitarists’ lists. Listen to her music and it’s easy to see why; the California native has laid down myriad gorgeous lines via solo albums and illustrious line-ups since the ‘70s.
With Siouxsie And The Banshees, Sioux nailed down a sound that would come to shape goth and post-punk as we know them. Her fearlessness in the face of experimentation, paired with her uncompromising approach and devil-may-care regard for convention, made her one of the most influential songwriters the genres ever produced.
While they might be most famous for spawning 80s pop powerhouse Belinda Carlisle, The Go-Go’s – who were forged in the underbelly of LA’s legendary punk scene – single-handedly catapulted new wave into the charts when their debut album, Beauty And The Beat, was released in 1981. They pioneered the sound while paving the way for dozens of bands in its wake.
The ultimate all-girl ‘gang’ of hard rock, Girlschool emerged from NWOBHM-era London – gathering the Lemmy seal of approval in the process. A successful female group in an overwhelmingly macho scene, they had the chops and tunes to back-up the Motorhead support – and in guitarist Kelly Johnson they had a true star, whose life was sadly cut short by spinal cancer.
Tina Turner was one of the first women to take rock’n’roll to the mainstream in a major, all-conquering way. Yes she’s also a massive pop/soul/RN’B icon, but the likes of Nutbush City Limits (which she wrote), Proud Mary (originally a Creedence Clearwater Revival track, made stratospheric by Turner) and Acid Queen (from The Who’s Ken Russell-directed trip-fest Tommy) are the work of a rockstar, no question.
Nico may have been positioned in the Velvet Underground because Andy Warhol understood the value of a beautiful face, but it was her voice that made people stand up and notice. Alluring, devastatingly cool and almost incomprehensibly exotic, she was the voice of the band that launched ten thousand other bands.
My Bloody Valentine are the most influential shoegaze band to ever have existed, and it’s a widely-accepted truth that it was with the introduction of Bilinder Butcher that they really found the sound that would come to define an entire genre. Butcher’s intricate vocals provided the perfect foil to MBV’s bludgeoning wall of noise, and birthed shoegaze in the process.
Laura Jane Grace
When Against Me! frontwoman Laura Jane Grace came out as a trans woman in 2012, it was a massive step in raising awareness around the challenges of living as a trans person in an alternative scene which had been lacking in role models until that point. Against Me!’s boisterous, rootsy punk rock continues to inspire countless of bands today.
Few bands before or since have captured the sound and feel of Los Angeles quite as well as X. They transcended the late-70s punk scene they emerged from to shine a light on the underbelly of both their home town and modern America in general. Leading the way was Exene Cervenka, with her vintage dresses and thrift-store-boho chic, a singer whose charisma and unconventional voice made of her an icon in the eyes of Henry Rollins, Dave Grohl, Michael Stipe, Courtney Love and many more.
A perennially enigmatic force to be reckoned with in progressive rock, Kate Bush flew in the face of all that was current in 70s Britain (i.e. punk) and created her own fiercely unique brand of music – and sold millions of records doing it. Living proof that you can be wonderfully weird, a bona fide individual in rock’n’roll, and an absolute megastar.