How Come Everyone Still Wants to be in a Sixties Girl Group?
French pop star Chantal Kelly circa-1960-something, She & Him.
Remember how good the music was in the 60s? Of course you don’t! You weren’t alive then. Unless, you’re a really cool old person reading Noisey, in which case, hi, welcome! But seriously—the sound that dominated the airwaves back in the 60s was the sound of girl groups, the stylish and talented trios and quartets, or however many gals you wanted in your troupe, that sang songs about first dates, drive-in movie theaters, and—duh—heartbreak. Their uber-serious songs about getting married as teenagers, or never being able to go home cause your mom found out you were going steady, are funny to listen to now because we’re all sluts who are never getting married, right? Just kidding! Or… not?
Of course there were boy bands too, but powerhouse girl groups were just special. They had cute names like The Chiffons, and Candy and the Kisses, and they looked good; they looked like a gang. Anyway, it’s been going on for a few years now, but 60s girl group-inspired acts are currently a dime a dozen. That’s not to say they aren’t rad, it’s just you can spot them from a mile away. Oh, look! A peter-pan collar! Are those jangly pop songs about teardrops on your pillow? These days there’s a whole crop of talented bands who not only sound, but also look just like the fuzzy pop acts of that long-gone era. Allow me to map the sonic and stylistic lineage and serve up the cold, hard, evidence.
The Supremes, Shannon and The Clams.
BEEHIVES AND BANGS
From the sky-skimming heights of The Supremes’ beehive updos, to the hair bumps on the crown of yé-yé pop stars like Chantal Kelly, modern singers have taken note of the retro ’do and are copying it to death. It’s a given that if you’re some 60s-inspired pop singer with long tresses and perfect fringe, a shitload of bobby pins and a bumpit are in your future.
Oh, and hairspray is a must to maintain this glamorous, Valley Of The Dolls-esque steez, whether you’ve got all your hair piled on your head, or half up, half down. Zooey Deschanel of She & Him has this look down. Did that girl come out of the womb coated in 60s pop realness instead of afterbirth? Or maybe she’s got a time machine hidden away somewhere (in her hair)? Whatever she’s doing, we’re jealous. And, then there are the unapologetically messy, John Waters-esque crooners Shannon & The Clams, whose blonde beehive matches their soulful, R&B-tinged garage-pop. The major plus of embracing a beehive? You can hide all sorts of things in it, like candy, small pets, or various pieces of pocket-sized weaponry.
The Ronettes, Dee Dee from the Dum Dum Girls.
Nancy Sinatra, Lana Del Rey.
CAT EYE MAKE-UP
Right now everyone’s doing bold cat-eyes, even the singers who aren’t trying to pretend they’re from 1965 like mega-stars Beyoncé, Katy Perry, Gaga, and more. But before it was a look you could learn at any Sephora counter, 60s girl groups like The Ronettes were pioneering Egyptian-inspired eyeliner. Why women weren’t doing this before, I don’t even know. Forget smokey eyes, the heavy winged look is flattering on anyone and everyone, from The Dum Dum Girls to Lana del Rey (who clearly stole it all off Nancy Sinatra).
The Like (now defunct), Summer Twins.
If there’s one thing you can count on with a 60s-inspired pop group, it’s that they’re wearing super-cute clothes. Looking cool on stage is probably the most important part of being in a band, like probably more important than playing your instruments correctly, or possibly, even writing good songs. Maybe. Any band that tells you they don’t care how they look is LYING. Even the punk dudes who show up to play in sweat stained clothes with Cheeto dust on their collar? Yup, that was totally intentional. Image is important. Modern girl groups are keen to prove you can still wear a lace dress and velvet gloves and play badass rock music. Whether it’s The Like’s previous penchant for knee-high socks and baby-doll dresses, or Cherry Glazerr’s subtle sock hop-ready ensembles, the fashion trends of decades deceased are alive and well in a plethora of venues near you.
Lesley Gore's "Don't Call Me I'll Call You." Props to Lesley for turning what sounds like a typical 60s, hanging on the telephone sob-tune into, hey-boy-there-are-too-many-hot-guys-in-my-hood-for-me-to-go-steady-with-you song.
THEY’RE ALWAYS SINGING ABOUT THE SAME OLD STUFF
Maybe you’re waiting by the telephone for your guy to call? Are you crying about it? I mean, we all remember Vivian Girls, “Take It As It Comes” right? What’s up with the phone calls and the crying?! We don’t even use
landlines anymore, y’all. What would the 21st century equivalent to this classic phone-centric, cliché ballad be? “Standing by My Mac Waiting for My Baby to Tweet Me?” I guess everyone in a band is in some state of arrested development, but there are just so many of twenty-somethings who think they’re 15 years old, writing twee songs about teen lovers carving their names in a cherry tree and asking someone to ask you to the school dance. Okaaay, didn’t know we were in Bye Bye Birdie, but whatever!
The Shangri-La’s, Habibi.
Peach Kelli Pop, Dum Dum Girls.
MATCHY, MATCHY, MATCHY
Matching your friends is the best. (Matching if you’re in a couple—like these guys—is a little weird though.) If your band all dresses the same there’s a way bigger chance you’re gonna land a fashion magazine spread—if that’s what you’re aiming for. The Shangri-La’s were all about this. Habibi work leather jackets like they're in The Ramones doing a cameo in John Waters flick, while The Dum Dum Girls are channeling Elvira gone rock. Peach Kelli Pop got all cute and cat-eyed (and cat-faced like, whoa, that’s a whole other level of cute), in their video for their song “Do The Egg Roll.” Dress like you’re sisters, especially if you are sisters (we’re talking to you Bleached). And if this Cold War-inspired (um, hello, what decade are we in?) La Luz video for their song “Brainwash” isn’t cold, hard, proof that girl groups these days are totally crazy for decades past, then I don’t know what is. I mean, the beehives, the eyeliner, the outfits, even the stage set up, shit, it’s all here people:
La Luz - "Brainwash."
BECAUSE SIXTIES GIRL GROUPS WERE AT THE VANGUARD
Okay, so you know that whole fuzzy, lo-fi, Wall of Sound thing that every band and their grandmother utilizes? Sixties girl groups totally invented that noise. Well, really Phil Spector invented it. He’s in jail now, but before he went fully mental, he produced music for The Ronettes, The Crystals, and Bob B. Soxx & The Blue Jeans, among others. (And yes he worked with The Righteous Brother and Ike and Tina, but we’re not talking about them right now.) Without the pioneering sound of 60s girl groups, you wouldn’t have the MBV, Primal Scream, and Jesus & The Mary Chain. You wouldn’t have the Cocteau Twins. Or Spiritualized. You wouldn’t have Tame Impala. You wouldn’t have half the lo-fi groups currently keeping Brooklyn’s venues afloat.
Before The Beatles, before The Beach Boys, before so many big boy bands that everyone hails as musical gods, there were groups of girls who continue to influence music and style trends to this day. Of course the difference is, most of back-in-the-day girl groups were served up tunes by behind the scenes songwriters and 360-degree producers. Girls in the aforementioned modern bands are largely autonomous, writing music by themselves for themselves. So even if the penciled on feline flicks have remained the same, at least these girls are in the driver’s seat.
Hazel will not confirm or deny whether she's ordered a Bumpit online. She's on Twitter - @HazelCills.
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