ONLY WOMEN BLEED by Jaimie Vernon

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. Every day of the year should be breast cancer awareness day. Though it occasionally affects a percentage of males, breast cancer is nature’s way of weaponizing the female body against itself – and frequently adds the ovaries and uterus just to add insult to injury. Mother Nature or God or whoever designed the human anatomy needs a slap up side of the head. “I have bestowed the gift of creating life upon the female of the species…and as a reward, I will kill her with the same gift.” Fuck you, cancer.

Women are also given the gift of longevity just to make the race really interesting. If they can survive the monthly torture of their periods, and then the cancer risks, and then menopause, they get to live out the final 30 years with the wisdom of knowing how to endure the whole thing. Where’s the awards and ticker tape parades? We celebrate our female warriors too little and too late. We must celebrate all of them NOW.

I would never presume to patronize any women. I can only hope they continue to be themselves. But truth be told, I have always been surrounded by incredibly strong women including my partner of 25 years, Sharon Vernon. You can get all Oedipal if you like, but I’d like to think these women consider me a suitable friend and/or sparring partner. I’m no Valentino and I certainly don’t have the charm that so many men mistakenly believe they possess. It isn’t about you, guys. It’s about how women view themselves – and whether we, as the opposing force, are friend or foe.

As a musician, my narrow world view during my salad days excluded women from the equation. They just weren’t “rock and roll.” Peppy, poppy, and cute was certainly fun in pop music. But rock? You had Ann Wilson, Grace Slick, and Janis. Only Ann Wilson came across my turntable – as a member of Heart – which also happened to be co-led by her sister and guitarist Nancy Wilson. My puny, 15 year-old brain saw this as an anomaly. I was ignorant. I was beaten with the musical machismo stick. Because, who wouldn’t have believed that Paul Stanley’s lipstick, leotards, and platform shoes weren’t the definition of masculinity? Rock and Roll was another male dominated patriarchal machine – even if most of its members wore silk kimonos and had Farrah Fawcett hair. Ironic then that Heart could perform Led Zeppelin on par with Plant and Page.

As punk and new wave shifted the world away from Prog rock and disco, I soon began to see women in assertive rock-oriented roles. Nina Hagen, Kate Bush, Chrissie Hynde, Grace Jones, Poly Styrene, Debbie Harry, Susan Ballion (aka Siouxsie Sioux), The Runaways, and Deborah Iyall (Romeo Void). Canada had its own powerful female innovators as well – Lisa Dal Bello (who wrote the Queensryche hit “Gonna Get Close To You”), Lee Aaron, Darby Mills, Holly Woods and Sheron Alton of Toronto, Jane Siberry, and Mary Margaret O’Hara among the many who innovated and changed the industry from the inside out.

The second band signed to my Bullseye Records label was Swedish Fish in 1985. Their singer was Martha Bouchier. The most vivacious personality in a singer you would never find. She sang wistfully in a coquettish style compared often to Young Marble Giants front-woman Alison Statton. It was a breath of fresh air. We also had a female keyboard player. Two ladies who had to endure a mansplaining musical existence. I’m not sure how they put up with it or us.

A late version of my band Moving Targetz featured Sharon Judd who forever supported her husband at the time, Ivan Judd. When she proved the hell out of us doing backing vocals on our sleeper hit “Do You Believe In the Fantastic?” it became apparent that we needed her to balance Ivan’s Alice Cooper meets Iggy Pop vocals. Together, the three of us became the Motorhead evil-harmony version of Paul McCartney’s Wings. In a newspaper article about the band, Sharon was dubbed The Velvet Hammer to describe her Marianne Faithful meets Bonnie Tyler growl. A decade later, she used that as her nom-de-plume, releasing a solo album called ‘Somebody Else’s Life.’ Ivan and I were her backing musicians this time. Check out her gender flip-take of Alice Cooper’s “Only Women Bleed.”

In the 1990s I was introduced to my future sister-in-law, Maureen Leeson. We formed a cover band in 1993 performing all over Southern and Northern Ontario for the better part of four years. She commanded every audience that saw her – including 7000 people in Gananoque at the Festival of the Islands.

I have spent the better part of the last 27 years working on dozens of projects with her including her solo band and several solo releases. She taught me how to sing properly. She has taught dozens of singers who’ve gone on to success in musical theatre and even a few who auditioned for the short-lived Canadian idol. For the past decade she has been the voice that stirs the crowd at the Durham Region CIBC ‘Run for the Cure’ breast cancer awareness marathon. With the pandemic this year, she was unable to rally the runners. Instead, she has released Melissa Etheridge’s “I Run For Life” on Bandcamp to help the cause.

And we come full circle with the celebration of women and their fight to stay alive. I am reminded at this point of the late Chrissy Amphlett of the Divinyls who died from breast cancer on April 21, 2013. Her case was felt so deeply by the Australian music community that fellow Aussies like Olivia Newton-John (also fighting a long public battle with the disease) and other women entertainers took The Divinyls’ global hit about masturbation “I Touch Myself” and turned it on its head – making it a rally cry for women everywhere to self-examine for breast cancer.

I suggest all women reading this do the same. NOW. My wife had her exam this past week. Please check with your physician and get a referral if you haven’t done so in the past. Strength comes from knowledge. And, you men, please be there for all the women in your life. It’s the one thing they actually need from you.


Jaimie “Captain CanCon” Vernon has been president of the on again/off-again Bullseye Records of Canada since 1985. He wrote and published Great White Noise magazine in the ‘90s, has been a musician for 41 years, and recently discovered he’s been happily married for 24 years. He is also the author of The Canadian Pop Music Encyclopedia and editor of “Sunny Days: The Skip Prokop Story.” Available through Amazon.

One Response to “ONLY WOMEN BLEED by Jaimie Vernon”

  1. Great read Jaimie. Thanks! Actually have a mammogram scheduled for tomorrow.

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