My dear friend Clint, down in Melbourne Australia, recommended me to read the HEART biography “Kicking and Dreaming: A Story of Heart, Soul, and Rock and Roll“.
He reads rock-biographies and what he liked about this one was that it was told from a female perspective, which was different and interesting. It just highlighted a different aspect of being a musician – with your balls placed slightly higher up.
It took me a while, but I finally got around to reading it. Or rather, listening to it, as I’ve become obsessed with audio-books. It really had me spellbound pretty quickly. It’s very rare to come across a story where I feel like I could have written big chunks of that story myself.
Listening to Ann Wilson, the undisputed goddess of rock vocalists, telling her story about her constant battle with her weight while growing up, the bullying in school, feeling like you never quite belong anywhere, and the escape into the magical world of music…. I did that – all the time.
I got so many presents that Christmas. The only thing I cared about was this plastic “electric” guitar with steel strings. I was four.
I would lock my door and listen to old vinyls that one of my mother’s best friends had given her, cause they didn’t want them anymore, LP’s with Ike and Tina or my favorite, an Australian band called Walrus – or colorful vinyl singles from my grandfather who had worked at a jukebox factory.
When the songs fell off the charts, the jukeboxes had to be “refilled”, so the old singles were thrown away and filled up with new, fresh hits. So, instead of throwing them away, he would take some of those singles and bring them home.
My mom had a portable record player that looked like a tiny suitcase, so I inherited that, and listened to those old, scratchy Brenda Lee and Connie Frances-singles.
They were worn out, cause they had been played all day long for months in that jukebox and weren’t really supposed to be used ever again. I wouldn’t let them retire though, I loved “Dum-Dum” by Brenda Lee especially when I was a little girl.
Anyway, music was ALWAYS my escape. So to hear one of the Wilson sisters talking about growing up with similar thoughts and experiences really hit home with me.
Their story of how they discovered The Beatles. How it was like being hit by lightning, how life was defined as before and after The Beatles. I can barely even remember a time before the Beatles, but I grew up two decades after the Wilson sisters. I loved the Beatles more than life itself, I can’t even explain that feeling. I still get in touch with that feeling nowadays, going to see Paul McCartney in concert.
But one thing definitely also sounded VERY familiar to me. Not quite belonging in a group of other girls. I honestly felt like I didn’t belong with other girls my age, most of my teenage years. Because most girls didn’t care about music on the same level as I did. To me it wasn’t just entertainment, it was everything. It was life. It was…well, it was ME. I can’t even imagine an existence without music.
I didn’t care about chasing guys, I rather wanted to be one of the guys – cause they had the same interests as me – for the most part.
I wasn’t interested in fashion and makeup or going to the latest, coolest clubs. I honestly didn’t give a flying patootie about any of that.
Beatles was the most powerful experience I had had up until I discovered Judas Priest, but that’s a different story. There was a short period of worshipping Duran Duran too – but the one thing that the Wilsons brought up in their bio, is a detail I never really thought about, but it’s very true: Other girls wanted to be somebody’s girlfriend. Live someone else’s life, support their boyfriends in their dreams and goals, but they didn’t have too many of their own.
I didn’t want to be someone’s girlfriend. Don’t get me wrong, I was usually head over heels crazy about some dude – or cried over one – most of my life. But I would never ever allow anyone to get in the way of my dreams. I had lots of them and I pursued them. I ended up staying single for longer than I thought because of it. :)
On stage with my band, winning the award for “Band of the year” 1989 – 99% dudes, and…me. :D
Ann and Nancy were outcasts who found that playing and singing was like “coming home”, it brought them happiness and a sense of purpose. This must have been especially difficult in the sixties and seventies when women definitely weren’t expected to have a mind of their own.
That’s another thing. I will forever be grateful to my parents for never ever uttering the words: “That’s not for girls” – or have strong opinions about what was supposedly male or female.
They let me do whatever made me happy. If I wanted to race guys down the street on a bicycle, that was fine. If I wanted to climb trees, no problemo. Play cowboys and indians, play with toy cars, listen to rock’n’roll? No problem, what would you like to do today?
The toy stores weren’t as divided into girls and boys back in those days either, thank god.
As a kid I was convinced that I could do anything, that there were no boundaries. So, when I walked into a toy store I was not presented any predefined ideas of who I was supposed to be. I would just go and pick out what I thought look like fun – so one day it might have been a Barbie doll and the next it was a super hero.
So I wasn’t raised to be that coquette girlie-girl. I had other dreams and plans, but it also meant that I was lonely a lot of the time, because most friends couldn’t relate.
To hear two women who have been highly successful, talk about going through all these things, but in their own way, is such an amazing feeling. It means more than I thought to hear that, after all these years. You don’t think much of it, until one day you’re reminded and you realize that you weren’t the only one.
I read Lita Ford’s biography too but I couldn’t relate to her life at all. She was more wild and destructive in many ways, she didn’t seem to have particularly strict parents like I did (and the Wilson sisters) so it wasn’t “my story”. This, however, is – in many ways.
They didn’t want to be girlfriends, wives or groupies. They wanted to BE The Beatles, they wanted to play like John and Paul, not date them. Bingo. That’s exactly it!
I used to be accused of being a groupie for years, cause people didn’t know what to make of me. I was always backstage somewhere or hanging out with some rockstar with a bad reputation – so naturally they took to the only explanation they knew of. A whore. A wannabe. A groupie. It took me almost two decades to earn the respect that I feel that I have nowadays. People know my deal now. Well, better than they did back then at least.
Ann and Nancy talk about their experiences of being the women in the band, life on the road, life in those circles. I didn’t experience it on their level, but yeah, I know what that is like as well. Being that ONE girl, that ONE woman in a male-dominated world.
I never thought of it that way though. I didn’t think of it as not fitting in, cause in my mind it was quite the contrary.
I had the same blunt sense of humor as the dudes, I had the same drive – sometimes even more – as they did, I was pushy and determined, like they were. I shared their passion for music, I was exactly where I was supposed to be.
But one thing that I’ve experienced my whole life, is that feeling of being different and sometimes being misunderstood or wrongly labeled.
I wrote a blog many years ago – before the term existed. I called it “diary”. I wanted to explain why I could never be a groupie.
To me, music was WAY bigger than the guy.
I admired them tremendously for the music they wrote, which to me almost made them GODS. They were above regular people. Anyone who could create something that amazing, was not of this world.
So, to sleep with these guys, would just degrade them (in my opinion) and make them common, regular..men. It would transform them into regular dudes with a dick, something trivial, something boring, something way too…. cheap.
What I wanted was their time, I wanted to know what drove them, what or who created the person who could write such music, I wanted to understand their magic, their treasure, their “divinity”.
I could never have slept with any of them. I just didn’t perceive them that way. They were beyond common sex. A monkey can have sex. But a monkey can’t write “Yesterday”…
It was far more valuable to me to understand these musicians, because I wanted to be where they were, being successful in doing what they loved to do and were good at. I had zero interest in being the whore of the evening.
Listening to “Kicking and Dreaming: A Story of Heart, Soul, and Rock and Roll” brings up so many memories and so many thoughts and reflections of my own journey. Sometimes it feels like it wasn’t even me.
I’ve lived the way I wanted to live but everything comes at a price. I didn’t marry or have kids. And quite honestly, I don’t regret a single thing. I would do it all again, exactly the same way. Maybe with a few alterations…
Men usually equaled heartache and pain, a waste of energy while my work, my passions and my dreams, fulfilled me. Much like men often prioritize.
I still have lots of things to do, I still love music and the whole world surrounding it, with every fiber of my body, mind, heart, and soul.
So this biography isn’t as much about the life of the Wilson sisters, but also a mirror that allows me to discover myself and see my own life in a different light.
There were others that went through similar things and thought similar thoughts. It means a great deal to realize that this late in life. :) But it all makes sense.
The pieces of the puzzle are falling into place. :D