The Best of Diana Ross & The Supremes: The Millennium Collection
Diana Ross & The Supremes
1999

Special D and I were talking about all-female tribute bands – Hell’s Belles, Iron Maidens, Zepparella, Judith Priest, PRISS – when she asked, “Why are there no all-male tribute bands?”

Leave it to Special D to ask uncomfortable questions that upend the male-dominated hierarchy bestowed on us by God. Might as well ask why male roller derby disappeared while female roller derby flourished. But I’ll take this question on.

The bands women impersonate tend to be metal. The inherent excesses of the genre make it promising ground for parody. Watching women sing this testosteronic, misogynistic material subverts it. I’m not sure what a group of men could subvert by forming a Bikini Kill tribute band. Unless you’re playing the Republican National Convention, do you really want to come out against Riot Grrls and female empowerment? Besides, Bikini Kill had a guy in it. Hole had one guy and The Breeders had two.

It’s been said (by my wife) that women gain status by acting like men, whereas men lose status by acting like women. Oh yeah? I was quick to retort, and then I changed the subject: There aren’t a lot of all-female bands for men to pay tribute to.

The Slits were empowering, but they weren’t very good. The Donnas are already a copy of The Ramones. How about The Runaways? Disqualified. A bunch of guys singing “Cherry Bomb” wouldn’t make sense because no one cares if a boy is a virgin* whereas our entire world economy and all of our literature, art, and music are based on female virginity: why you must fight to preserve it, 1,001 hot hot hot ways to surrender it, and how to live with yourself now that you’re a slut.

* I am of course writing from a heterosexual male perspective.

Your Runaways all-male tribute band would have to be drag queens. Same with Madonna, Bananarama, Destiny’s Child, and Diana Ross & The Supremes. In fact we saw a drag-queen ensemble impersonate The Supremes and they were absolutely fabulous.

This leads me out of dangerous ideological territory and into the safe haven of The Best of Diana Ross & The Supremes. Buy it! All of the ’60s milestones are here, including three songs that haven’t lost one goddamn bit of their femininity: “You Keep Me Hangin’ On,” “Love Child,” and “Reflections.” If you’re a woman of a certain age and you spent some time as a teenager practicing your girl-group moves in front of a mirror, this record will send you into orbit. I don’t qualify, but I just now played “Reflections” three times.

Bonus: This record does not include “The Happening.”

Random Pan of the Day
Beck, Morning Phase (2014)
It saddens me to pan this one because I think so highly of Beck, but this record, while beautiful, is perfect for combating insomnia. If you liked The Moody Blues’ Every Good Boy Deserves Favour, you might like Morning Phase, but be warned that nothing here moves as quickly as “The Story in Your Eyes.”

 

Comments
  1. verlierer says:

    I had a feeling I’d messed up Bruce and Patti’s relationship. Sorry and thanks.
    Hope you had an enjoyable dinner.

  2. verlierer says:

    Cross gender singing = camp. You said it yourself, “Zepperella…Helle’s Belle’s…add their own twists to camp things up.” So don’t be raggin’ on the boys for doing the same thing.

    As for your battles, more appropriate pairing might be: Anne Wilson vs. Robert Plant, Pink taking on Rob Halford, Freddie Mercury vs. Madonna, and of course David Bowie schooling his disciple Lady Gaga.

    Your right, That Girl (sorry, I don’t have italicization) is an OLD reference. I was just trying to write to the audience. Breaking Bad doesn’t really work because Walt and Skyler never really explored much role reversal. It might be better to compare Breaking Bad to Weeds to see the differences in how men vs. women deal with society forcing them into starting their own drug cartels to save their families. Same with Walking Dead, too busy surviving to explore the issues of sexism in a stable society. Instead, check out Jessica Lange and James Cromwell in American Horror Story to explore the inequalities between women and men being evil bitches and bastards.

    I agree, “the tribute-band phenomenon” is based on parody and as Marlo Thomas taught us, parody is sexist. Women making fun of men is much more PC than men making fun of women. Besides, women can hardly make a living in music (or any line of work) compared to men, but that’s a whole other topic. So, what male group can ever make it paying tribute to women (outside of celebrity impersonators at your local tribal casino). Special, one-off, however, do exist. Your main man Bruce Springsteen, for instance, did a serious cover of the Patti Smith song, “Because The Night.” He also did The Shirelles, “Will You Love Me Tommorrow” and just earlier this year, live from a stage in Auckland, he covered Lorde’s “Royals”. But, even these cases are, unfortunately, quite rare, the only others coming to mind, Stevie Wonder doing Aretha Franklin’s “Respect,” and the boys from the Glee cast covering Madonna’s “What It Feels Like For A Girl.”

    Sorry, no Bangles or Bananarama cover bands, male or female, but the Google did turn up this canine crew…https://i.chzbgr.com/maxW500/883631872/hF34F78EF/

    • Run-DMSteve says:

      C’mon, Verlierer, I didn’t start this blog because I wanted to think!

      I can’t even begin to grapple with your reasoning, because it’s too good and anyway it’s Sunday night and I want my dinner. Your third paragraph is particularly funny. Poor Walking Dead characters, too busy firing off improbably head shots to reflect on larger issues of gender parity.

      Women have so much trouble making a living in music that last year Cat Power, who is a terrific artist, had to file for bankruptcy.

      Springsteen didn’t cover “Because the Night,” he wrote it with Patti Smith. Then they each recorded their own version. Too bad they didn’t do more of that.

      I haven’t the strength to say more, but thanks for the Bananarama tribute band pic. Now I have my Halloween costume; I just need a crew!

  3. verlierer says:

    Sorry I’m late to this party. Great question Special D.

    From my point of view Mr. Run has got it wrong. As the genre indicates, tribute bands pay tribute and love their subject, not parody and ridicule them.

    Secondly, if women are covering men and men are cover women then gender, by definition, is the whole point. Is any lady going to prance and shake her locks better than Robert Plant? I don’t think so. What woman is going to sing any higher than Rob Halford? Don’t even try. And even if she could, what would it prove? Conversely, is any guy going to out butch Madonna? I’d like to see him try. What man can show more balls than Lady Gaga? Even if he won, he’d lose.

    It’s like that one old episode of That Girl. Marlo Thomas was hired to be a faux heckler to a male comedian friend of hers. Funny bit. One night, the comedian gets sick and to save her friends job, Marlo goes on stage to do the comedian’s routine and has her boyfriend take her role as the heckler. Not funny. In fact, the audience got so incensed they beat up the boyfriend and threw him out of the theatre.

    The point is, sexual equality means an even playing field. If an all woman cover band is paying tribute to a male group then they’re going to sing like men. If an all male cover band is going to pay tribute to women, then etiquette demands that they sing like women, too.

    Though admittedly not as prominent, all male tribute bands do exist: Rad Bromance (Lady Gaga), Mandonna (Madonna), Spearz (Britney Spears), and the aforementioned Surpremes impersonators.

    The Runaways, however, are off limits to any male cover bands.

    • Run-DMSteve says:

      Nice try, Verlierer, but you’re not lighting up the scoreboard.

      I agree that tribute bands pay tribute and love their subject, but I still believe that they can and do parody and ridicule them. Zepparella takes Led Zeppelin very seriously. Hell’s Belle’s knows AC/DC’s music inside-out, but they add their own twists to camp things up. Your comparisons are funny – I love your comments – but I’ll put Miley Cyrus up against Robert Plant, Buffy St. Marie against Rob Halford, Rob Zombie or Boy George (choose your flavor) vs. Madonna, and Prince vs. Lady Gaga (though you’re right: even if he won, he’d lose).

      Alas, you completely undermined your argument by choosing to illustrate it with a TV show that went off the air in 1971. You are OLD. Excellent example, though. Now find a contemporary equivalent from Breaking Bad or The Walking Dead. Or at least Downton Abbey.

      I’m all for an even playing field, but to me the tribute-band phenomenon seems like it’s based on parody (most of it good-natured).

      At least we agree on The Runaways!

      (PS from the next day: Are there any male tributes to The Bangles or Bananarama?)

  4. Accused of Lurking says:

    I’d love to hear an all-male tribute to The Bangles or The Go-Gos.

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