Cut & Paste: Zines About Women Musicians

Cut & Paste is a column highlighting zines and small press publications. 

Last year,  I was asked to write about the first time I attended a music event that inspired me to make music, it was for a zine that documented the fifth-annual Gatas y Vatas women’s music fest. Out poured my memory of seeing Wendy O. Williams’s controversial appearance on the Tom Snyder talk show where W.O.W. literally set the stage on fire and destroyed a Dodge Charger—it was 1984 and I was enthralled. It would be many, many years before I joined a punk band, but the seed was planted, and I reclaimed that memory in a mini-zine called I Heart Wendy O. Williams.

Creating my own zine about a woman musician made me ask if there were more zines like this out there. Where’s that zine about Grace Jones? (Maybe there is one!) Where’s that zine about Patti LaBelle, when she was dripping with space jewels and was the belle as a member of the Blue Belles? What about funk icon Betty Davis? In my search, I found some gems, including the following zines about women musicians and artists who have inspired me in myriad ways.

Hey Lady #1: Yoko Ono

Visual artist and writer Regina Schilling has taken her love for Yoko Ono and turned it into a full-color compilation zine made up of 17 unique illustrated interpretations of the singular Ono. Young Yoko, mature Yoko, wraparound visor-wearing Yoko, tresses jaggedly shorn Yoko, a woman who kind of looks like Yoko. Yoko Ono as a landscape, a goddess, and a howling banshee are all captured in this small zine. The illustrations are as individual as the artists who’ve interpreted the icon. Self-proclaimed, clairvoyant/illustrator Jen May uses photo collage to illustratrate her meta-vision of Yoko. Brooklyn-based artist Yura Osborn uses watercolor to share a more whimsical version of Yoko as possibly the Egyptian Goddess Nut, a galaxy of black hair, festooned in tiny star-like, white daisies. Hey Lady reminds us that there are no rules to zine making. A zine can be all text, a zine can be a collection of images and no words.

Amy Wilson’s drawing of Ono features a white-faced and featureless Yoko Ono wearing John Lennon’s round glasses superimposed on an uneven pavement of mustard-colored bricks felt so haunting. In the same drawing, a thin pair of scissors barely sketched, poke out of her raven hair. Clearly these scissors are no match for the cutting of Yoko Ono’s mane. Her hair appears to be slowly swallowing her whole. Floating on the surface of this sea of black, it reads: “The Isolation + Sadness (Tragedy) of YOKO ONO.” It becomes painfully apparent that while she was an artist in her own right long before she even met John Lennon, her hair is a symbol of a sea she swims in her for her own survival.

Hey Lady #1: Yoko Ono is available at himynameisregina.com

Franzine 

Los Angeles based artist and illustrator Bijou Karman’s portfolio is rich with lady musicians, real and imagined, from portraits of The Runaways, Bjork, the beehived beauties of the 1960s, to the fictional punk grrrl, Corinne Burns from Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains. So it makes perfect makes sense that Karman effortlessly encapsulates the timeless allure of French pop musician and fashion icon Françoise Madeleine Hardy in her impeccable Risograph-printed zine, saturated in the colors red and electric blue, Franzine.

For those unfamiliar with Hardy, you may remember the catchy song from Wes Anderson’s 2012 film, Moonrise Kingdom. It’s the scene with the two pre-teen runaways, Suzy and Sam, dancing on an isolated beach in their skivvies featuring her track, “Le temps de l'amour.” Hardy was part of a pop music movement in Europe made popular in Spain and Italy, and when mixed with a French spin became yé-yé (yeah-yeah!). At times a rough, jangly, pop sound, scraped off the floor of some parent’s garage or unfinished basement to the refined melodious and jazzy tones of an orchestra with an obscene number of  flugelhorn horns (what’s a bunch of flugelhorn horns even called? An orgy of flugelhorn horns? Ok, nevermind). Few did yé-yé better than Françoise Hardy.

Karman captures some of the most iconic photographs ever taken of the musician in French Tricolour glory without missing a look. Turn the pages of Franzine as you listen to Hardy’s acclaimed 1971 album Le Question, recorded with the late Brazilian guitarist Tuca. Or, put Comment Te Dire Adieu? on repeat. Sure, if you don’t speak French, you’re experiencing the music in a half-life sort of way. But, you know what cool sounds like, so sink into those desolate velvety landscapes unfolding in your mind. This limited edition zine comes with a pinback of Hardy staring back at you.

Franzine is available at www.etsy.com/shop/BijouKarman.

Girl Groups of the Sixties 

In this 24-page zine, Karman and her gorgeous artwork is at it again. In Girl Groups of the Sixties, Karman inks eleven portraits of her favorite recording artists from the golden years of girl groups. Leaping back and forth along the timeline, from 1957 to 1968, Karman presents ink-saturated, sophisticated drawings made of classic lines and curves, before those wacky psychedelics in graphic design kicked in. Karman’s well-researched zine is succinct, offering each girl group’s name in its own hand-scripted font, the band’s chart-topping hit, obscure facts about how each group came to be, the name of each group member, where the band got its start, and the years they were active—like your favorite trading cards. Karman reveals in these drawings, predominantly of black women, a sweetness and a vulnerability seldom depicted anywhere in popular culture today where, if we are seen, it’s through a funhouse mirror. All too often we’re portrayed heavy-handedly, as caricature.  

The zine is printed on simple pink copy paper but Karman’s brush strokes are so rich, you’ll be tempted to put the needle down on the solid black bouffants accented by radial streaks of shine to listen along to each of these groups. Karman captures the likeness of each woman in her portraits with uncanny accuracy prompting you to want to curate your own Youtube video mixed tape and watch these girl groups in action.

Girl Groups of the Sixties is available at www.etsy.com/shop/BijouKarman.

ALL GRRRL ASSAULT: Women in Punk and Hardcore #2

Where Karman’s art is smooth and shiny like licorice, ALL GRRRL ASSAULT catapults us into the present, with wonderfully raged-filled drawings that feel like days of soreness in the aftermath of getting a stick-and-poke tattoo. The fonts are practically cut into the pages as if carved with a knife into your desk in homeroom. I wish I’d had this zine in my back pocket the day a fellow musician asked what kind of band I played in. He laughed in my face when I told him I was in a punk duo. I froze as I watched him guffaw at me as he spat, “You don’t look like someone in a punk band.” I wished I'd quoted Bess Castle of Common Enemy, “Punk Rock is not just boys fun.” 

ALL GRRRL ASSAULT drawn, compiled, and created by zine maker, Rose Wadsworth and Dead End Design, confronts the male-dominated punk scene that passively and aggressively attempts to silence the voices of women like me. The struggle to be heard has always been real. This zine provides empowering words that ring like fierce clapback and feedback, using the amplified voice as affirmative text. Sadie Smith from G.L.O.S.S., Dyke Drama, Shawn Potter from War on Women, Cairo Harper from Binkicker and more, lend their words to these pages. The illustrations are derived from real-life drawing of grrrl punks in action creating the comic book of your dreams. If you read these words aloud that herald and hark, “Girls Living Outside Societys SHIT,” and, “We need to stand up, we need to fight, there’s power in numbers, we can make this right!” you might find yourself singing, or better yet, screaming. It’s like a punk hymnal and it’s taking you to church. The voices of women active in punk today speak their truth in these pages, creating space for themselves and other women to follow them into the swirling mosh pit of men where many wish we’d remain on the sidelines.  All proceeds from the sale of this issue of ALL GRRRL ASSAULT will be donated to Rape and Domestic Violence Services Australia.

ALL GRRRL ASSAULT #2 is available at Dead End Design

Marya is a writer/performer/musician, the founder of ABQ Zine Fest, the Albuquerque Zine Library, and is a founder and lead curator at The Tannex, an independent, DIY performance venue in Albuquerque. Her zines can be found in the zine collections of Barnard College, University of Iowa, London College of Communications and Tate Modern, among others. Follower on Instagram @maryaerrin

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