Nadia Elkharadly: Sometimes you need a woman’s touch

This past weekend I had the pleasure of seeing one of my favourite local bands live for the first time in over a year.  Toronto’s own White Cowbell Oklahoma took the stage at Lee’s Palace for their CD release party, but there were a couple of new faces on stage.  The most notable new face was that of guitarist Joan Smith (from another awesome local band Little Foot Long Foot).  Now, a great musician joining a great band is always worth mentioning, but in this case the value is twofold.  Besides the fact that Smith is an incredible guitarist and singer, she also happens to be a woman.  This wouldn’t be noteworthy either, except I’ve always thought of White Cowbell Oklahoma as one of the, well, manliest band’s out there.

If you’ve never seen WCO live and in person, I should probably give you a little bit of background.  This band has had anywhere from five to ten members at any given time, all sporting cowboy hats, boots, western shirts and matching dirty country personas.  Their musical style is just that; dirty country tinged rock and roll.  Their songs subject matter is at times adventurous, at times downright vulgar.  I mean, they have a song called “Put the South in your mouth”, and it’s not about trying Tex-Mex cuisine.

They produce loud, rough, balls to the wall performances, complete with a chainsaw wielding, flame throwing, shit-talking troublemaker, bringing the entertainment to another level.  The only women I’ve ever seen on stage have been voluptuous pinup vixens in various states of undress, writhing and dancing to the killer tunes (as I may or may not have been from the audience…) So, when I found out that they were going be joined onstage, by a woman, who not only kept her clothes on but was part of the band, the music lover AND the quasi feminist in me were both thrilled.  Not only does White Cowbell Oklahoma have a great new album (just out last week, Buenas Nachas, look into it) that is more musically complex and mature than ever, but they are breaking out of their testosterone coated shell with the addition of Smith.  I’ll go into more detail in my review (Toronto Live Music Examiner, look into it) but I have to say, they sounded better than ever.  And got me thinking; if the manly men of WCO could benefit from the addition of a female member, what other butch bands could be improved with a woman’s touch?

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

Formed in the mid-seventies, Tom Petty and company wrote a lot of songs about women, but never had a woman in the band itself.  When I was chatting with my dear friend Mary about this column earlier today, she let me in on a little music tidbit – the legendary Stevie Nicks actually asked Mr. Petty if she could join the Heartbreakers.

It wouldn’t have been out of the realm of possibility; Nicks had collaborated with Petty on his single “Insider” and “Stop Draggin my heart around”, and has joined him on stage multiple times.    But it was out of the realm of possibility to Tom Petty.  According to the documentary Runnin’ Down a Dream, Petty rebuffed Nick’s request, stating that the Heartbreakers were a boys club and no girls were allowed (read with the appropriate 8 year old boy sneering voice).  How different would the course of music history had been if Stevie Nicks had actually been allowed to join the Heartbreakers?  But thanks to Petty’s bullheaded stance, we will never know.

Rush

Canada’s legendary progressive rock band Rush has forever been known as a man’s band.  I’ve grown to really enjoy their music the more I hear it, but most women I ask really don’t like Rush.  When I ask why, it’s generally that they just don’t “get” the music.  It’s complicated, it’s technical to a fault sometimes, and it’s not always melodic and conventionally enjoyable.  But men seem to adore them, to a cultish degree.  If Rush had a female member, a keyboard player for instance (so singer Geddy Lee would stop playing with his feet – as badass as that is), would she be able to reach the female demographic that the all-male version was never able to?  This may be another musical mystery that will never be solved.

KISS

Yet another band with a decidedly male dominated fanbase, KISS already recommend themselves to adding a female member exactly how they are.  I mean, they embrace cosmetics with aplomb, they love their high heels and are no strangers to skin tight, revealing clothing.  If KISS decided to accept a female member, perhaps their makeup skills would improve – they’ve been sporting that exact same look for decades now.  Maybe it takes a woman’s point of view to get Peter Criss to move away from that “Catman” look.  And hopefully the new Miss KISS could finally make Gene Simmons see that a sexagenarian bragging about his prolific sex life is one of the unsexiest things, well…ever, because Shannon Tweed hasn’t managed to convince him yet.  Also, that haircut is atrocious.

Motorhead

Sometimes credited with reviving the heavy metal genre, the boys of Motorhead are probably some of the manliest musicians to ever walk this earth.  Their music is hard, fast and oppressive.  They’re almost always clad in black leather, and women have been throwing themselves at them for years.  Could a woman keep up with these godfathers of metal?  Considering that the band has been a veritable revolving door of members, with founder Ian “Lemmy” Kilmister remaining the only constant, we may someday see a leather clad lady on stage rocking out with the boys of Motorhead.  And I for one would love to see that happen.

Nickelback

The bro-iest of bro bands out there, Nickelback’s songs have probably been played at every strip club, every frat party and every mechanic’s shop in the English speaking world.  Despite their oft-times overly coiffed hair (I’m looking at you Chad Kroeger), they are definitely one of the manliest bands out there, and one of the most popular as well.  Could the addition of a female member repair the Alberta band’s image as the band everyone loves to hate?  Could a woman break Kroeger and co.’s boring,  though successful, formula for writing hit songs (angry song, badly sung ballad, dirty song, you get the idea)?  If the advent of #Chavril – ya, I went there, look it up if you want to ruin your day/know what I’m talking about – doesn’t end up Yoko-ing Alberta’s second most profitable export, maybe someday we’ll find out.

Know a testosterone overloaded band that could use a woman’s touch?  Share your contribution with me using the fancy comment section below.

Until next time,

xo

N

Nadia’s column appears every Tuesday

Contact us at: dbawis@rogers.com

Nadia Elkharadly is a Toronto based writer with a serious addiction to music. Corporate drone by day, renegade rocker by night, writing is her creative outlet.  Nadia writes for the Examiner (.com) on live music in Toronto and Indie Music in Canada.  She has never been in a band but plays an awesome air guitar and also the tambourine.  Check in every Tuesday for musings about music, love, life and whatever else that comes to mind.

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