of Celebration and Resistance-The Chicago Women's Liberation Rock
by Naomi Weisstein
(Editors Note: Naomi played keyboards for the CWLU affiliated Rock
Band. She is currently living with Chronic Fatigue & Immune Dysfunction
Syndrome. This memoir also appeared in The Feminist Memoir Project
edited by DuPlessis and Snitow. The photo shows Naomi at a band rehearsal
Yet you might not believe this.
Oh man, this alone believe:
All sleeping women now awake and move
Yosano Akiko, 1913
Adapted and performed by
The Chicago Women's Liberation Rock Band
Chicago, one cold and sunny day in March of 1970, I decided
to organize a feminist rock band. I was lying on the sofa listening
to the radio -- a rare bit of free time in those early days
of the women's movement. Perhaps a meeting had been canceled.
The trendy station that had just switched to all-rock was playing
a medley of hits. First, Mick Jagger crowed that his once feisty
girlfriend was now "under his thumb." Then Janis Joplin
moaned with thrilled resignation that love was like "a
ball and chain." Then The Band, a self-consciously left-wing
I'm gonna give it to you.
Ain't no pretender,
That's what I'm gonna do."
somersaulted off the sofa, leapt up into the air, and came down
howling at the radio: "every fourteen-year-old girl in
this city listens to rock! Rock is the insurgent culture of
the era! How criminal to make the subjugation and suffering
of women so sexy! We've got to do something about this! We'll...
We'll organize our own rock band!"
course there was more to my desire to organize a rock band than
this small epiphany on a cold sunny afternoon in Chicago. I
wanted to form a rock band because I was dissatisfied with the
low state of feminist consciousness in the Chicago Women's movement
and, in particular, in the Chicago Women's Liberation Union
(CWLU), the magnificent city-wide umbrella organization that
we had created, which nonetheless often placed its version of
socialism ahead of feminism. Much of the leadership in Chicago
was still trammeled by the dictates of a New Left whose misogyny
meshed with its insistence on the primacy of class analysis,
and I thought a rock band might help turn things around. Looking
back from today, it may sound odd to bemoan the low state of
feminism in the early women's movement. But the culture's enormous
hatred of women and our own misogyny made it difficult for us
to be steadfast in our feminism, to put feminism first. My primary
goal for the rock band was always to reach out to sectors of
the female population that the CWLU was not getting to; but
a strong secondary goal was to try to make the CWLU more feminist.
research neuroscientist then teaching at Loyola University,
I had been organizing women's liberation in Chicago since 1966.
That summer, Heather Booth and I had taught one of the first
courses in feminism at a radical organizers' summer school for
which the University of Chicago had grudgingly provided space.
Then, I had been a founding member of the Chicago Westside Group,
the first independent group of radical women in the country
(1967-1969) and we couldn't talk about the oppression of women
without getting a peculiarly guilty look on our faces. We were
always switching to how-are-we-gonna-help-our-brothers-organize-draft-
in 1969 we formed the Chicago Women's Liberation Union (1969-1977)
to pick up all the women's projects left stranded by the breakup
of Students for a Democratic Society and to provide structure
and leadership for the exploding feminist changes going on at
that time. In many respects things were going quite well for
feminism in Chicago. We early organizers had developed an empirical,
pluralist, open politics which functioned wonderfully in maintaining
unity through the bitter waves of sectarianism that had begun
crashing through the New Left and the feminism that arose from
the New Left. We had projects, demonstrations, meetings. Our
influence was growing.
while there were many ardent feminists, and many exciting feminist
projects that had started up -- I'm thinking for instance of
"Jane," the underground abortion service -- low feminist
consciousness and deference to the Left were still plaguing
us. The week before my epiphany, for instance, a returnee from
one of the Venceremos Brigades that went to Cuba to harvest
sugar had described at a CWLU meeting how she preferred to cut
cane with the Cuban men because the Cuban women were so "politically
undeveloped." When I queried her preference, another CWLU'er
whipped out her little red book and started quoting Mao Tse-Tung.
Some women at the meeting sighed with relief to see the problem
so easily resolved. Watching this scenario unfold, I thought
I was hallucinating.
our sense of our own profound oppression was also "undeveloped."
Indeed, for many women, it was fast asleep. I wanted to awaken
that sense and shake that sense; to dislodge the notion that
men are where it's at, to instill a deep urgency about our own
feminist revolution; to put forth a vision of a just, generous
and egalitarian feminist society. But how to do it? We already
had consciousness- raising, a spectacular wave of writings and
ongoing projects. That Sunday afternoon I asked myself why we
didn't try to turn to our own advantage the techniques used
by the wider culture to keep us in our place. Why not see what
would happen if we created visionary, feminist rock?
idea of direct cultural intervention in order to change consciousness
was held in low esteem by most of the CWLU leadership at that
time. This was due to another assumption we had inherited from
the New Left. This was that if we change the structures which
maintain our oppression (such as if we won equal pay for equal
work) consciousness would follow. I had started to disagree.
Structural change is absolutely necessary if we are to overthrow
our oppression, but it is not sufficient; we also need to change
our consciousness. Structure is the tip of the patriarchal iceberg.
Subjugation and submission gets inside our heads, and it takes
direct confrontation with culture to extirpate them. We had
to go through the culture, both mainstream and Left, with a
fine tooth comb, confronting every thing from why we thought
that a working-class revolution -- indeed any revolution --
was more important than a feminist revolution, all the way to
why we believed, along with the mainstream culture, that male
domination and a little bit of cruelty would always turn us
about Rock?" I said to myself as my epiphany boiled over.
Rock, with its drive, power and energy, its insistent erotic
rhythms, its big bright major triads, it's take-no-prisoners
chord progressions, was surely the kind of transforming medium
that could help to alter the culture in which we lived, and
thus help us to change our consciousness.
not only did every fourteen-year-old girl in the city listen
to rock, but also every CWLU'er did. We all identified with
the counter culture; rock was considered "Our Music":
dangerous, sexy and our harbinger of the social changes to come.
No matter that rock assaulted women more savagely than anything
in popular culture before it: "Under my Thumb," "Jemima
Surrender," as well as Bob Dylan's "It ain't me, Babe,"
Grateful Dead's "Hello Little Schoolgirl," and a host
of similar lyrics. Many of us lived cocooned in rock's sound,
oblivious to, or even worse, delighting in the message.
task would be to change the politics while retaining the impact.
In subsequent weeks, while I was looking around for musicians
for the band, many people told me, some with huge sneers, that
it couldn't be done. Rock was its own thing, they said, and
you couldn't mess with it. "Art and politics don't mix,"
they said. I dismissed this.
the pre-eminent theater of sexual politics; in this sense, rock was
already deeply political. Moreover, as a Red Diaper baby and the daughter
of a musician, I had grown up on political art: not simply agitprop,
or socialist realism, but frontier art. I loved Bertoldt Brecht's and
Kurt Weill's classic "Threepenny Opera"; Kurt Weill's moving
and eye-opening "Lost in the Stars," about race relations
in South Africa; and, a decade later, Lenny Bruce's morally outraged
pre-feminist anti-authoritarian, brilliant stand-up comedy. Coming from
such a background, while I loved all sorts of art and music, I thought
that constructing a new kind of political art -- if you could pull off
both the art and the politics-- was a most worthy project. It was a
thrill to contemplate trying to make feminist rock.
so I organized the Chicago Woman's Liberation Rock Band. My
goals were much too ambitious -- a common problem at the time
-- but the band turned out to be remarkably successful in achieving
many of the goals. For starters, we actually got an effective
band together. After the first shake-down months (at our first
performance in Grant Park in August of 1970, we had thirteen
singers all bellowing happily to their individual muses), we
grew into a distinctive group of hip, even talented if inexperienced
school dropout Sherry Jenkins was our resident rock genius with
her wonderful alto whiskey voice and lyrical lead guitar. There
was no rhythm that our hippy rhythm guitarist Pat Miller couldn't
master. She was also wildly comical. In the middle of our drop-dead
Kinks number, she broke in with a stone-perfect slob macho rendition
of "Alouie, Louie," which drove the audience into
the rafters. Bass guitarist Susan Abod was steeped in rock,
if just starting out on the fret board. Both her bass line and
her song lines were lyrical and inventive. Fania Montalvo and
Susanne Prescott provided a double drumming rhythm. As for myself,
I had seven years of classical training on the piano plus an
additional 2 years of jazz piano. But my more important function
as a performer in the band was to provide and direct theater
and comedy, two areas in which I had some experience.
were explicitly, self consciously political about our performances,
while avoiding leaden sloganeering. To combat the fascism of
the typical rock performance where the performers disdain audiences
and the sound is turned up beyond human endurance, we were extremely
interactive with our audiences, rapping with them and asking
them which songs they liked and keeping the sound level at a
reasonable roar. We were playful, theatrical and comical, always
attentive to performance. We sang "Papa don't lay that
shit on me," to the tune of the old-time dirty song, "Keep
on Truckin', Mama," in carnival fashion with slide whistles
and whoops of derision, the audience laughing and singing along:
Poppa don't lay that shit on me,
It just don't compensate.
Poppa don't lay that shit on me,
I can't accommodate.
You bring me down,
It makes you cool.
You think I like it?
You're a goddamn fool.
Poppa don't lay that shit on me,
It just don't compensate.
Fuck Around with Love" offered a parodic voice-over above
a sentimental 'fifties doo-wop chorus: "Love is wonderful
/ Love is peace / Love moves the mountains / Love cuts the grease."
Then we'd sing "Ain't gonna marry" and "Secretary"
("Sister I believe you when you say you hate / Sister can
you hear me, better break your date.") But at all times
we wanted our politics to be artful: revolutionary poetry, as
in "Mountain Moving Day" (lyrics above).
were an image of feminist solidarity, resistance and power,
and audiences loved us. Just the fact that we were all women
standing up on the stage playing our heavy duty instruments
into our heavy duty amplifiers was enough to turn many women
on, but we received a wildly enthusiastic response not only
from women in the movement but also from a wide range of different
groups including the crowd at the Second Annual Third World
Transvestite Ball, and the fourteen-year-old black girls at
a summer camp for inner-city children.
University, where we played with the New Haven Women's Liberation Rock
Band (organized by my close friend, Virginia Balled), women stripped
to the waist and danced together in undulating circles. (Outside the
room, angry fraternity boys were threatening to jump us. "Put your
clothes back on," we sang, "We're in a hostile situation."
The women kept dancing. "No we won't," they sang back. "We're
free. We are... FREE.") At the inner-city camp, the girls made
us play "VD Blues" six times before they would let us pack
our bags and go home:
I went to the preacher, said preacher can you help me please.
... He looked at me and said, girl, get on your knees.
I went to the doctor and said doctor can you help me please.
... He looked at me cross-eyed and said,
You've got A SOCIAL DISEASE!
we went, we would be mobbed at the end of a performance, with
the audience hugging the band and other members of the audience.
And the band hugging the audience. And all of our faces wet
with tears of joy.
and "Mountain Moving Day" were our strongest songs,
as Kim observed; and sometimes, when we were really on, they
transformed our performance. A gig we played at the University
of Pittsburgh in April of 1971 is etched in my memory. The room
we played in was large and bright, with the mixed male and female
audience sitting in tiers as if in a science auditorium from
which the chairs had been removed. In front of the shallow stage
was a sizable dance floor.
were on stage and at our instruments before the audience showed
up. This was a rule with us. In accord with our subversive resolve
to be audience-friendly -- unheard of with male rockers -- we
tried always to be on time for a performance. There is nothing
worse than sitting someplace for forty-five minutes waiting
for an arrogant band to show up.
the room was filled, Tanya did a cracking drum intro and Susie
sang, "I don't need no doctor cause I know what's ailing
me." Then I went to the mike, and assuming the sneering
voice of your average low-life male sexist, said, "A women's
liberation rock band. Farrrr Out! Farrrrr fucking out. Hey,
I'd like to see you chicks in your gold lame short shorts and
feathers on your tits." I went on to imitate Mick Jagger
sing "Under My Thumb," "There is a squirrelly
dog, who once had her way..." I ended with, "and do
you know what he says then? he says, "it's alright.' Well,
it's not alright, Mick Jagger, and IT'S NEVER GOING TO BE ALRIGHT
AGAIN. [CHEERS FROM THE AUDIENCE] IT'S NEVER GOING TO BE ALRIGHT
another cracking drum intro from Tanya, and Pat, Susie and Sherry
began their sweet harmony opening "Secretary":
Get up/ Downtown. Don't you wish you could get out of this.
No trust/Big bust. Doesn't all those mumbles ever bother you.
Men's eyes/Fantasize. Memorizing thighs and getting off on
Elevators/See ya laters. Don't you think it's time you had
a change of life.
bars of piano and bass and then Sherry launches into an acid
lead guitar solo that is meant to signify a monumental head
changing in the protagonist. The band members all improvise
their solos which sometimes leads to very bad results. But this
time Sherry just takes off and flies. Using a blues scale she
plays syncopated cascades of fourths and fifths mixed with single
stretched notes. It sounded as weird as she wanted it to be.
Also it was lovely. After a caesura that followed her solo,
Sister I believe you when you say you hate
Sister I could be you but it's too late
Sister can you hear me, better break your date
Stop it right now it's already too late
my solo came up. I was so high from listening to Sherry's that
I just copied it with my right hand while my left hand provided
a second voice of triads and sixths. Sherry decided to play
with me, and the audience started clapping. "Rain forest"
is how we described the sound later on: lush and dense. At the
end, Sherry spoke the protagonist's final head change:
Get up/Downtown. Think I'll talk to Alice she may understand
And Susie and Pat joined in a cappella:
No trust/Big bust. Wonder if the new girl lives alone
Men's eyes/Fantasize. Jodi wants to tell the boss to fuck
Elevators/See you laters. Tell all the girls noon in the lunchroom
Then the entire band spoke the last line in a sing-song:
And maybe we'll all wear pants tomorrow!
audience didn't stop screaming for five minutes.
and Pat's adaptation of my setting and additional verse for
Japanese feminist Yosano Akiko's "Mountain Moving Day"
(1913) was our final song. I played a soft sixteen-bar piano
intro in dorian mode (like the "Greensleeves" scale),
and Susie joined with a descending sixteenth note bass and then
began to sing:
The mountain moving day is coming
I say so yet others doubt it
Only a while the mountain sleeps
In the past all mountains moved in fire
Yet you may not believe it
O man, this alone believe
and Sherry's true harmonies amplified the last line:
All sleeping women now awake and move
All sleeping women now awake and move
who formerly played in a marching band, then did a haunting
martial snare drum roll, as if to call legions of women to battle.
Can you hear the river
I can see the canyons as they stretch out for miles
But if you listen you can hear it below
Grinding stones into sand
Yet you may not hear it
O man, this alone hear
The waters now will tear the canyons down
The waters now will tear the canyons down
folks in the audience began to scream and sing with us. Sherry
and I always did a fugal coda to bring the excitement down at
that point. But it was no use. The audience shouted and wept
and rushed up on the stage and hugged our instruments and hugged
us, and surely, we felt, we had produced a new world that would
never go away, that would never fail us.
back to Chicago, we had a flat tire and pulled off into a rest
stop surrounded by tall trees. Amid the band's standard jokiness
after a performance -- "tire's flat like your voice, Susie."
"Fuck you, Pat." "This car is a piece of shit,
Tanya." "It's a bright new shiny red Ford, so fuck
you Sherry" -- we changed the tire. It had rained in the
morning, and new huge blurry clouds were racing northwards.
The trees, probably wild cherry, were just beginning to sprout
little lavender buds. Tiny bird tracks across the wide blurred
sky. We became silent and stood against the car. It was April
of 1971, and we were getting good, and we were making history.
weekend, we crisscrossed the Chicago area, flew or drove to
Colorado Springs, Bloomington, Madison, Pittsburg, Lewisburg,
Toronto, Ithaca, Indianapolis, Buffalo, Boston, and so on. (Professor
of Psychology aside, I flew as "Susan Young" at youth
fare.) Audiences invited us back, and by the second visit knew
half our lyrics. A cult began to form. We flew east to Boston
to make a record for Rounder Records (1972), which became an
underground classic for many feminists. This is when that congeries
of styles and songs called Women's Music began. Years later,
in 1994, Chicago New City music editor Ben Kim said of our record,
"the band displays more than a fair amount of musicianship
and spirit..." Calling Sherry Jenkins' "Secretary"
"wonderfully angry," and my "Mountain Moving
Day" "stirring,"Kim goes on to say:
....though "Mountain Moving [Day]" doesn't rock
hard by conventional standards, its strong convictions lends
it considerable weight. In a sense, it's the mother of Riot
Grrrl, Foxcore, any rock by women who ask no quarter.
we did fail. The band lasted three years and broke up in an
agony of hatred and hidden agendas. This fact is not unusual;
it even happened to the Beatles. But the way our band broke
up reflected all the conflicts that were at the same time devastating
the radical women's movement, and hence it is worth exploring
in some depth. In a sense the band was a microcosm of what was
happening all over the country: we were losing our women's movement
and we didn't have much guidance on how to stop the dissolution.
are many reasons for the band's failure. Some were external.
With the radical feminist and radical movements of the preceding
decade fast receding, our solidarity broke up as a result. But
many of the reasons for our failure were internal: conflicts
that once seemed easy to resolve, such as those of lesbians
versus straights, now seemed almost insurmountable, and we began
arguing too much and rehearsing too little. But there were two
conflicts in particular which finished us. These conflicts lay
at the millenarian heart of the prefigurative politics of the
women's liberation movement.
movement's utopianism included the ideas that: 1) any woman
should be able to do anything as well as any other woman; and
2) there should be no leaders. We soon learned these ideas were
untenable, but we persisted in thinking that if we were good
enough feminists, we could abolish inequality of skills, and
we could function without leaders; the contradictions between
what we knew to be true, versus what we pretended was true,
destroyed us. In our band, the first conflict expressed itself
as a tension between expertise on the one hand and, on the other,
enthusiasm-in-place-of-expertise (or "militant amateurism").
Our early women's movement said that any woman could do anything,
if given the right social context and sufficient social support.
(I said something like this myself in the early days).
think this principle worked at the beginning, while our rock
band was the first of its kind and women even appreciated its
amateur qualities. After all, the band's amateurism conveyed
the message that the audience itself could do things formerly
considered taboo for women. But we owed it to our audience to
be the best musicians we could. Some members of the band were
willing to take up this challenge, but others were not. Feeling
that the band needed a sharper beat, one day I suggested to
one of our drummers that she take some lessons. She replied
somewhat contemptuously, "I'm good enough for this band."
The telling thing about this exchange was that nobody followed
up. The myth about equality in skills was so strong that not
one of us had the temerity to say, "You're not good enough
for this band. Get better, or quit."
second, and related conflict that did us in involved the question
of leadership. This question was to rend the women's movement
from coast to coast. Committed, as I have said, to what turned
out to be a myth of equal skills, the movement applied the same
kind of thinking to leadership, declaring that there should
be none. For instance, in another area, after my reputation
as a public speaker had increased and speaking invitations for
me multiplied, the CWLU decided that I should refuse further
invitations, lest I emerge as a "heavy." I willingly
went along with this. (Instead, I organized intensive speaker
training sessions, where I taught inexperienced women the skills
that I had picked up.) But no matter what leaders did to abnegate
and equalize, it was not enough. The utopian vision became cannibalism,
and the movement ate its leaders: in city after city, they went
is how the leadership conflict played out in the band. We built
the group painstakingly, and through much interpersonal struggle,
to be an egalitarian collective. Thus, for instance, every member
wrote songs, and these were accepted by the band as a whole
with few questions asked, although friendly adaptations and
amendments were usually received enthusiastically. But, amidst
the appearance of structurelessness and leaderlessness, I was
nonetheless clearly the theatrical director, theoretician, healer
of wounds, spiritual leader and, if only by dint of a slight
chronological advantage, "mother" to the band. Totally
committed as I was to a deeply utopian egalitarianism, I was
the de facto leader of the band anyway.
the women's movement started trashing its leaders, the band
turned on me for all the roles I had played. Its solidarity
split open, and I came under attack. After I wrote (with Virginia
Blaisdell) and published in Ms. a piece on the band's strengths
and triumphs, I was attacked by the band for egotism: "Why
did you sign your name to the article?" some members asked.
Interestingly, nobody questioned the importance of the article,
just that I should take credit for it.
band needed my experience and skills, but they did not want
to admit this. A gig we played at Bucknell University in 1972
made this clear to me. The audience was ferociously hostile,
riled by an earlier speaker and angered by the fact that only
half the band showed up. (In pre-performance confusion, they
had taken the wrong plane.) Huge fraternity boys were roaring
and piloerecting in the middle of the floor. At one point, Sherry
put an empty coke bottle on my piano and grabbed an empty microphone
stand because she thought they were going to rush the stage.
sought to calm the audience with a stand-up comedy introduction.
Concerned about my leadership role, the band refused to let
me do this. Instead, another band member, inexperienced in such
situations, made a stumbling presentation which further enraged
the audience. At this point I came out, delivered the stand-up
I had intended to present, and the hostile vibes from the audience
turned to warmth and enthusiasm. The band was enraged at me
for my success in turning the mood around.
After we got back from Bucknell, one of the band members --
the lead trasher -- suggested that we cut the band's repertoire
to exclude the songs I had written: "I've been hearing
that the sisters don't like your stuff, Naomi." I said
that I agreed with the general principle that we should play
what women want to hear. "So why don't we take a poll at
our next gig?" My songs came out very popular and so she
dropped that line of attack.
paraphrase Tolstoy, these unhappy disputes all have their unique
quirks and kinks, and it is beyond the scope of this paper to
dwell on them. I should point out, however, that by talking
about "the band" I don't mean to imply a monolithic
consensus about trashing me. As these dynamics go, one person
started the attack -- as it turned out, when I left the band
she attacked the leader who took my place. The rest of the band,
in varying degrees was reluctant to join the confrontation she
had set up, but their silence gave the trashing the appearance
reluctance of some of the other band members to stand up for
me stem from the ideology and culture that had so recently infected
the women's movement. Band members were just plain scared to
oppose the new dogmatism. They didn't want to appear politically
stupid. After all, hadn't the CWLU decreed that I should stay
silent? Maybe, reasoned some of the band members, I shouldn't
be performing at all.
much the band actually relied on me was to be sadly revealed
when I left Chicago. Struggling against the male power structure
in science, I leapt at the chance when Bell Labs in New Jersey
made me a scientific offer I couldn't refuse. In January of
1973 I took a six-month leave of absence from the band, in part
because the group's attacks on me as leader had become intolerable.
Three months later, I read in my copy of the CWLU newsletter
that the band had dissolved. The group described its dissolution
as the outcome of natural, organic processes: "women's
music lives and grows." But the reality was that the band
had died. Women's music doesn't necessarily live and grow (although
from the 'seventies to the 'nineties, many wonderful kinds of
women's music did, but not the kind played by the CWLRB: bust-out
bad-ass visionary political poetry.)
band dissolved not because of spiritual, organic processes,
but because we were not honest about the skills we needed to
develop. The good musicians in the band resented the tenured-for-life
members who refused to learn their instruments, and the inept
members of the band -- to my surprise -- resented the good musicians
even more fiercely. And, perhaps more important, the band collapsed
because trashing had replaced compromise and negotiation as
the dominant political modus operandi of the radical women's
I heard the audio portion of a video tape of a CWLRB performance
that took place shortly after I left Chicago. It's labeled "last
concert," and I hear Susie on the tape announcing this
to the audience. Jesse, who has seen the tape, tells me that
it is grainy, fragmentary, black-and-white. It makes me nostalgic,
bringing back both the conflicts and the euphoria of the period.
For the rest of my life, I'll always be obsessed with the conflict
between the band's ecstatic side and its amateurish side.
the poor tape, we nonetheless see Susie (a natural performer)
working like mad to keep a lively tempo for the band. Sherry's
deadpan voice shouts out, "Keep on truckin, everybody...
there's plenty of space back there to truck." And Pat Miller's
slide whistles and banjo-rhythmed guitar makes an old-time honky
tonk festival out of the song. The audience is delirious, cheering
is the audience cheering so hard? Many of the other songs are
done quite poorly, revealing -- at least to someone familiar
with the band's previous performances -- the extent to which
the band has disintegrated. In another step in the de-skilling
of the band, one of the drummers is now singing, "Ain't
Gonna Marry," tunelessly and without rhythm. Sherry has
omitted her lovely modal solos in "Mountain Moving Day."
Even precise Susie loses the bass line in "Don't Fuck Around
with Love," the key to which cannot be discerned. And the
drumming has shifted from a rock beat to a polka. The demoralization
that the band members are feeling as the drummer looses the
beat and the singers can't stay in tune is palpable.
yet, in the grainy shadows of that last tape, the audience is
the CWLRB's flaws, beyond the disintegration of the last performance,
the band nonetheless conveys movingly celebration and resistance.
Its performance deliberately sets up a pre-figurative politics
of strong, defiant women, absolute democracy, and an intense
desire for audience participation. Through the intensity of
the medium, through our bad-ass revolutionary poetry, it shouts
the news: we can have a new world, a just and generous world,
a world without female suffering or degradation. It is an irony
that the utopianism that had destroyed us was the same ingredient
that made our performance so powerful.
the death of the CWLRB, I played with the more durable and musically
more proficient New Haven Women's Liberation Rock Band, whose
dominant forces were Virginia Blaisdell and Jennifer Abod. (Blaisdell
was a professional musician who could play trumpet, french horn,
drums, piano and even electric bass, and directed the beginner
musicians into a tight ensemble sound. Jennifer Abod -- Susan's
sister -- had the family's stunning dramatic presence, and a
deep blue voice she could have taken to Hollywood.)
when I became Professor of Psychology at SUNY, Buffalo, I sat
in with a South Buffalo lesbian band. But it was never the same.
I mourned the band, and the radical women's movement that fell
apart in that same period; for years, I mourned it. The Women's
Liberation Rock Band was, in Chelsea Dreher's words, "Like
a lover who abruptly walked out on you and never did tell you
-- For Susie, Sherry and Pat: time sharpens the intensity.
Jo Freeman collected some memorabilia related to Naomi
and was kind enough to share them with the Herstory Project.
You may view them Here
(will open a new window)
Naomi Weisstein can be reached at:
890 West End Avenue, 8b
NY NY 10025
phone: (212) 222-6649;fax (212) 222-1624