cover image The Rolling Stone Book of Women in Rock: Trouble Girls

The Rolling Stone Book of Women in Rock: Trouble Girls

Barbara O'Dair. Random House (NY), $25 (608pp) ISBN 978-0-679-76874-6

If the 1990s have been the Decade of Rock Women, Madonna and Alanis Morisette didn't sneak past the guards disguised as groupies. As O'Dair and her all-female staff of contributors point out, women have played significant roles in popular music as far back the earliest recorded blues sessions. That pop history's scribes have often slighted these women's many accomplishments is finally righted. In this outsized collection, O'Dair collects works by Patricia Romanowski, Amy Raphael, Holly George-Warren, Evelyn McDonnell, Ann Powers and Ellen Willis on the full range of women's influence. Blues stomping foremothers Bessie Smith, Big Mama Thornton and Koko Taylor are no less important to today's Riot Grrls (Bikini Kill, Huggy Bear) and Alterna-Divas (Polly Jean Harvye, Me'Shell Ndegeocello) than the punk these women cut their teeth on. The history that allows a Bessie Smith to influence a Polly Jean Harvey is the story told in each of the included artist entries, from Patsy Cline to Karen Carpenter to Kim Gordon (Sonic Youth). But O'Dair's staff offers more than mere biography; they examine a subculture within what, until 20 years ago, was itself another subculture. In doing so, they reveal a lot about the making and marketing of popular music. Extensive discographies and a bibliography of further readings will gratify even hungrier fans. Photos not seen by PW. (Mar.)