Like so many people who read these articles, I grew up in the 80’s and 90’s. Discovering new music by not only what was on the radio, but by what was on the telly and what my older brother was listening to.
Fast forward to now, and there’s a massive discussion around why there aren’t as many women in rock music getting the recognition they should be, but that’s for another time. Right now, I want to focus on the brilliant women of Australian rock in the 90s, most of which still rock out today!
These names are in no order of preference, it’s merely a collection of legends. If I have forgotten anyone, I’m sure you’ll let me know in the comments - and I encourage that you do.
The first amazing woman that comes to mind, is Chrissy Amphlett. Her career with Divinyls spanned 17 years, and she certainly made everyone aware of who the boss lady was when on stage - and off stage for that matter.
Dressed in the early days in a school uniform, waving a neon wand around like she’s ready to punish you, Chrissy was an incredibly talented singer, instantly recognisable, and someone who commanded attention when she performed. You couldn’t take your eyes off her for fear of missing something. Chrissy was a beacon, an inspiration to girls and women everywhere listening and wanting to play music. She left a massive hole in our musical landscape when she moved on, but we will never forget her magic or legacy.
I’m sure I’ve written about Suze before, and I don’t mind repeating myself because Suze is arguably one of Australia’s rock best singers, male or female, period. Suze rules. It was in her bones from a young age to perform, and when the calling of home and the want to perform with a band became too strong, the Baby Animals were born, and we were treated to a plethora of hits and outstanding performances. To this day, I love seeing the Baby Animals live for the simple delight of listening to Suze sing. Her rasp, emotions, and power make a formidable combination that very few have to able to keep up with.
Brand new in 2018, the band have just released a new single, listen here on Spotify.
In the late 90’s I went to see Veruca Salt play live in 1997 at The Prince of Wales hotel in St Kilda. What made this gig even better was the fact that The Superjesus were the support band. I became a fan of theirs quickly after hearing their Eight Step Rail EP, especially the song, "Shut My Eyes". I was drawn to their music not only due to the riffs, but mainly because of Sarah McLeod’s voice. The crush I had was real. Sarah has an ability to go full noise, or (what drew me in) deliver a powerful but soothing vocal over frenetic rock n roll. It balanced out perfectly as far as I was, and still am concerned. A ripper woman, an outstanding vocalist, fast becoming an Australian legend.
The Superjesus recently re-issued their album Jet Age on limited edition blur vinyl - available here.
Just for fun, check out this tribute to Chrissy that Suze DeMarchi and Sarah McLeod did in Sydney back in 2013 (audio is not great!)...
Magic Dirt came along at the perfect time, when Australian record companies and radio stations couldn’t get enough rock off the back of the grunge phenomenon that took the world by storm. Luckily for us, Adalita was upfront jamming on guitar and singing the house down in Magic Dirt.
The thing that instantly stood out to me when hearing her for the first time was her vibrato. Adalita has a wider vibrato than most which gave her a distinct sound that really made the band stand out when you heard them on the radio in the 90s. Adalita’s evolution from the raucous "Rabbit With Fangs" through "City Trash" to "Plastic Loveless Letter" is super impressive, vocally, and She is another singer that I just love to listen to.
Adalita is currently playing the role of St. Jimmy in Green Day's musical production, American Idiot.
Switching gears from lead singers to bass players for a moment, there’s no doubting or ignoring Ness’ prominence on the Australian music scene. Known most notably for her work in Jebediah, I recently saw Ness play in a newer band, The Tommyhawks (check 'em out, very cool) when they supported The Bennies and there she was again, just slamming it brilliantly. Ness is full of energy and it’s so clear that she loves doing what she does on stage, and it’s infectious to watch.
When it comes to angelic voices contrasting against an often distorted guitar and thumping drums, you need look no further than Janet English from Spiderbait. Some of their best known and most loved songs are fronted by Janet. The last time I saw them play live, the crowd were frothing to hear her sing "Calypso", I was one of them. Janet’s voice, after all these years, is as good as ever, and her solid thumping bass lines were on time and bang on. Janet is a national treasure.
BECKY THOMAS (AKA Beki Thomas, Beki Colada)
Creating the band, The Mavis’s as a way to get out of Ballarat, Becky and her brother found some success with their band, touring with Green Day and Kylie Minogue, being nominated for ARIA awards, featuring often in the Triple J hottest 100. Becky and her band stuck in peoples minds when they released their single "Cry" that went to #13 on the ARIA charts. Becky currently resides in the US where she collaborates with writers, however, she was just in Australia for a cheeky gig around Xmas with her brother Matt.
JODI PHILLIS & TRISH YOUNG
In the early 90’s. The Clouds were very much on the rise in the Australian rock scene. Super catchy tunes like "Say It", and "Alchemy’s Dead" highlighted Jodi and Trish’s magnificent harmonies which added so much to their sound and made them instantly recognisable Taking care of guitar and bass duties respectively, these two were an absolute powerhouse in the song writing department, signing with Elektra Records in the US. Unfortunately, just a year later in 1995, they, along with all of Elektra’s overseas roster were dumped from the label. Despite that they kept going, as they should have, until 1997 when due to lack of promotion and support (how many times do we hear that of great bands), they disbanded. I URGE you to go back and listen to The Clouds, especially to a song like "Bower Of Bliss" from ’93 because it not only showcases Jodi and Trish’s abilty to harmonise, but the song is quirky and raw in parts that give it so much character.
I was late to the scene with Def FX, but when I heard them, I couldn’t get enough. I am a complete sucker for women in rock, and I encourage any one of my female friends, my nieces to get involved in it if they love it. Fiona Horne had me at ‘hello’ in the 90s, simple as that. I was taken by her presence and power on stage, the freedom of movement in her shows, she was (and still is) a force. Witch, pilot, skydiver, free spirit, Fiona Horne is definitely one of the most rocking Australian women from the 90s.
I think I first saw Nitocris supporting Frenzal Rhomb in the 90s. Standing in a venue with mostly dudes, it was a real sausage fest, so when I saw a group of girls dressed as they were setting up gear on stage, I honestly had no idea who they were or what to expect. As a young testosterone filled bloke, I was, of course, excited at the prospect of rock chicks playing right in front of me. They had so much anger and punk attitude I was instantly a fan, then they played a cover of Black Sabbath – "N.I.B." and you could have blown me over with a feather. Nitocris were the real deal, harmonies, screeching vocals, no bullshit attitude, solid songs that made me an instant fan. So, to Sara Anderson, Jessamine Finlayson, Andrea Stanway, Kira Taylor, and Morgana Ancone, I say thanks for being so bloody awesome. Check out this performance at the Big Day Out, proving that they could more than hold their own on the main stage, and check those harmonies. Damn, I miss Nitocris.
There are just a few examples of absolutely rocking women from the 90s, and of course, we’d love to see the women who you think dominated the Australian rock scene in the 90s in the comments below!
Plus. all these amazing women and more from around the globe can be found on our 'I'm Every Woman' Spotify playlist...