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Katie Hambor

Pop & Rock 1
Honors Contract
Marketing Female Bands in the Sixties
When looking back at music of the 1960s, the majority of what is
remembered is male musicians, with a few bands of mixed genders. There were
certainly female musicians that worked independently of men—Joan Baez and Joni
Mitchell are just two that first come to mind—but for the average person, the list of
remembered female musicians is significantly shorter than the list of remembered
male musicians. As making music is not a gender-specific occupation, the reasons for
the lack of remembered female musicians must come down to one simple reason:
they were not memorable. Of course, there are many factors as to why these
musicians were not memorable to music lovers as the years went on, but there is one
word to explain it all: marketing.
It is no secret that marketing is a big part of the buying and selling of almost
all products, including music albums. When consumers walked into the record store,
the only thing their brains could register would be the album covers or promotional
photos, as they most likely could not hear the music from the album yet. If they had
heard some of the music, possibly on the radio or on the television on a program
such as The Ed Sullivan Show, they probably hadn’t heard all of the music from an
artist in order to know they definitely wanted to buy a specific album. Therefore the
album covers were extremely important when trying to get buyers to buy before
they’d even heard the music inside.
The problem, however, was that certain types of bands—namely certain
genders—were largely marketed in different ways than others in the sixties. Females
were marketed as, of course, feminine, and exceedingly so—short dresses, low-cut
tops, and alluring poses were just the beginning. When
looking at largely male bands, album covers didn’t even
always include the band members. The Beach Boys’
Wild Honey album art featured an artistic rendering of
flowers and a honeybee (Stiernberg). If album art did
feature the artist, it usually consisted of the members
looking at the camera, unsmiling, in some sort of artistic
fashion. For example, The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society consists of a
multicolored overlay of concentric circles over the band members’ faces (Figure 1).
One prominent group that formed in the early sixties was Peter, Paul, and
Mary. This was a mixed gender group, but by being a non-gender specific band, the
album covers are not branded as feminine
simply because Mary Travers was a part of
the group. The majority of their covers
show them smiling together, just as friends
do, not purposefully sexualizing any
member of the band in any way (Albums).
Another mixed gender group was
The Mamas & The Papas. This band
consisted of two men and two women, but
Figure 2: The Mamas & The Papas album (John’s
Music Boxes: The Albums)
Figure 1: The Kinks' album
when looking at their albums, such as their self-titled album in 1966, they just look
like four friends not smiling for the camera. Cass Elliot, the woman in yellow, is
certainly not posing in a conventionally attractive way in an attempt to look
attractive to the average heterosexual male—instead she is vaguely smirking (Figure
2) (John’s Music Boxes: The Albums). Therefore she is not marketing herself as an
alluring woman for men to look at, she is simply marketing her music.
All-female music groups had a much slower start than all-male groups. They
were only just forming in the late twenties, and even then were usually only just
around for other bands’ recordings. In the fifties, there were no white female rock-
and-roll stars, only some black R&B singers, such as Etta James. Their songs were
typically about love, but usually not in the first person. These black female groups
were fashionably dressed just as the white women were dressed, with beehive
hairstyles and fancy dresses, which helped break racial barriers (Campbell 134). As
time progressed, naturally more female groups came onto the scene and more genres
of music formed, and the fifties quickly became the sixties.
One of the first all-female bands to be signed on to a major record label was
Goldie & the Gingerbreads. They signed to Decca in 1963 and Atlantic in 1964, but
they were formed in 1962 (Brightwell). They were certainly exploited for their
femininity, seen as a “novelty” band who could “do the whole thing, tits and ass,”
according to their guitarist, Carol MacDonald (Gaar 64). Though the Gingerbreads
were previously performing songs like “Harlem Shuffle,” as they became more
famous they were given more “girly” and lovestruck songs to record, including
“Can’t You Hear My Heartbeat.” Said MacDonald, “I hated the song… [T]hey give
us this ‘Every time I see you . . . dee de dee de dee.’ […] It’s like we had to do
everything they said or we were not going to be successful” (Gaar 65). However
much they didn’t like this marketing tactic, this song made it to the British Top 10,
but Herman’s Hermits released the song
in the United States two weeks before
the Gingerbreads were able to, so they
never charted in the U.S. (Gaar 65-66).
The Tremolons, formed in 1963
in Michigan, recorded four songs for
Dunwich Records (Brightwell). One of
their albums, Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’
On as pictured (Figure 3), featured the
four musicians posing with their
instruments. The entire album is tinted pink to be more feminine, and the musicians
are all posed with a slight bend in their front
leg, as if they were models, not musicians.
Unlike many male-only album covers, this
band is seen as smiling happily.
Though it is unclear what an album of
The Beat-Chics looked like, promotional
photos are also important parts of marketing
and therefore are important to discuss. The
Beat-Chics were a short-lived band, only
Figure 4: The Beat-Chics’ promotional photo
Figure 3: The Tremolons’ album (“Whole Lotta
Shakin’ Goin’ On”)
recording one cover single in November 1964, but the band certainly had a sense of
style. This is clear in the band’s title, with the use of
the word “chic,” that fashion was certainly a
priority. With big hair, shiny leggings, and equally
shiny blouses, this British female band brought the
chic to beat music if only for a short time (Figure
4). Many other bands’ promotional photos include
their instruments, while The Beat-Chics’ photo
does not—this suggests even more that they were
marketed for women’s fashion more than they were
marketed for music.
In 1964, a group of girls from Montréal formed a band Les Beatlettes, riding
the wave of The Beatles’ success. Their hairstyles were similar to The Beatles’ bowl
haircuts, but much bigger. Just like The Beat-Chics,
they had sparkly costumes (Figure 5). Their matching
outfits were also fairly low-cut. Their only song was a
cover, “Ton amour a changé ma vie,” or “your love has
changed my life,” hereby keeping with the general
notion that most of the girl bands played love songs.
The band broke up when the lead guitarist died in a
car accident, but a year later another band formed
with their other guitarist. Les Guerrières were formed
in 1965 and their image was even more sexualized (Figure 6). With low-cut dresses
Figure 6: Les Guerrières (Brightwell)
Figure 5: Les Beatlettes (Brightwell)
and flip hairstyles, these girls were dressed to impress. In this photo, all five
musicians are, in some way, bending forward showing their cleavage and curves.
(Brightwell) There is no doubt that heterosexual males ogled at this sight.
Another band that sang about love—with “A New Love Today” and “Love is
Strange”—was The Debutantes, started by fourteen-year-old singer Jan McClellan
(Brightwell). As seen in their promotional photo
(Figure 7), The Debutantes wore extremely short
dresses with tights and go-go boots. Their legs are
certainly accentuated by these matching outfits, as
well as by the way all four musicians are posed in the
The Tokyo Happy Coats, formed in 1964, were
clearly a talented group. They were comprised of five
sisters and between them they could play 26
instruments. They released two albums and were even on The Ed Sullivan Show.
Everyone in this band has a similar hairstyle to those of Les Beatlettes, and the girls
all have very short dresses. They were obviously very
talented as they could play so many instruments and made
it to The Ed Sullivan Show, but they felt they needed to
market themselves with short dresses and a cute pose for
the camera (Figure 8).
There were also a few topless female bands, namely
The All Girl Topless Band, formed in 1967, and The
Figure 7: The Debutantes (Bubblegum
Figure 8: The Tokyo Happy
Coats (Brightwell)
Ladybirds, formed in 1968. These female musicians could not be any more
sexualized—the entire top half of their bodies were exposed for everyone to see, and
this is exactly what they were marketed for (Brightwell). They did not write any
songs, so they had no fanbase in their music—they simply were the group to see if
you were a typical heterosexual man in the sixties and watching naked female
musicians was your cup of tea.
Though there were plenty of girl groups that have been forgotten, a few have
been widely remembered over the years. One such all-female musical group, The
Supremes (also known as Diana Ross
& The Supremes), was prominent
throughout the sixties and well into
the seventies. Part of Motown
Records, The Supremes sang a mix of
blues, R&B, and jazz. Much of their
music was about love, like other
female bands—Stop! In the Name of
Love, Baby Love, and Back In My Arms Again were three such love songs that became
number one hits in their first year (Classic Motown). In almost all promotional photos
for The Supremes, the three singers wore matching, usually tight-fitting, dresses to
show off their curves. In fact, one album’s cover, Touch, keeps the viewer guessing
whether the three women are wearing any clothes at all, and the album title suggests
possible promiscuity as a result (Figure 9).
Figure 9: The Supremes' album ("Touch")
Looking back at album covers of male and mixed gender bands, the first thing
to notice is their prominent existence. The previous female bands’ album covers have
mainly been lost or forgotten, so we are mostly only able to look at their marketing in
terms of their promotional photos. The prominent and remembered girl groups—
such as The Supremes—are not even bands, only vocal groups, so when it comes to
actual female bands that play instruments other than their voices, we have next to
nothing. This shows that people—mostly the overpowering men in the music
industry—didn’t believe that women could be a “band,” and they could only sing. As
Carol MacDonald of the Gingerbreads put it, “We’d walk into a club with all our
instruments and you could see the owner going ‘Oh my God, these broads? They
know how to play? They really know how to play?’ […] And by the time we went on
and counted off the song, we were cookin.’ You could see the cigar drop and the guy
had a heart attack… We had fun with this” (Gaar 64). And yet, since we still have
the ability to look at so many all-male and mixed-gender band albums, it is clear that
males are the musicians who have conquered the sixties. As the all-conquering
Napoléon Bonaparte once said, “History is written by the winners.” In the sixties,
the male musicians were clearly the winners as the females were cast aside. But that
is not to say that after the sixties women were never be recognized for music—as the
years passed, women have been able to be more recognized and greatly remembered
as musicians. It seems another of Napoléon’s proverbs have also proven to be true:
“Let her sleep, for when she wakes, she will shake the world.”

Works Cited
“Albums.” Peter, Paul & Mary. N.p., n.d. Web. 6 Dec. 2013.
Brightwell, Eric. “All-Female Bands of the 1960s - Happy Women’s History Month!”
Amoeblog. Amoeba, 20 Mar. 2012. Web. 6 Dec. 2013.
Bubblegum Soup. N.p., 22 Dec. 2007. Web. 6 Dec. 2013.
Campbell, Michael, and James Brody. Rock and Roll: An Introduction. 2nd ed. Boston:
Schirmer, 2008. Print.
Classic Motown. Universal Music Group, n.d. Web. 8 Dec. 2013.
Gaar, Gillian G. She’s a Rebel: The History of Women in Rock & Roll. Seattle: Seal Press, 1992.
“John’s Music Boxes: The Albums of the Mamas and Papas.” David Redd. N.p., n.d. Web.
8 Dec. 2013. <>.
“Napoleon Bonaparte > Quotes.” Goodreads. N.p., n.d. Web. 8 Dec. 2013.
Psychorizon. N.p., 14 Sept. 2011. Web. 6 Dec. 2013.
Stiernberg, Bonnie. “The 60 Best Albums of the 1960s.” Paste Magazine. Paste Media Group,
30 May 2012. Web. 8 Dec. 2013.
“Touch.” Virgin Vinyl Records. N.p., n.d. Web. 8 Dec. 2013.
“Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On.” Sound Stage Direct. N.p., n.d. Web. 6 Dec. 2013.