Today is the 29th birthday of Kathleen Hanna, lead vocalist and
songwriter of Bikini Kill, the archetypal riot-grrrl band from Olympia,
Wash., that broke up earlier this year. The band was formed in
the late '80s at Evergreen College in Olympia by ex-stripper Hanna, Tobi
Vail (drums) and Kathi Wilcox (bass), who initially came together to
produce a feminist publication entitled Bikini Kill. They added
guitarist Billy Boredom after deciding that they wanted to set their ideals
to performance. The group's political anthems and high-energy punk
wrought a whole generation of angry female rockers -- dubbed riot grrrls -- such
Bikini Kill's crazy, charged live performances encouraged gatherings of
women front and center in the audience to speak and rally about feminine
empowerment. The band's 1991
distributed-by-hand demo, Revolution Girl Style Now, established
Bikini Kill's point of view and led to 1992's eponymous EP, issued by Kill Rock
Stars, an Olympia-based indie label. The EP consisted largely of
better-produced versions of the demo songs, including the classic
HREF="http://www.addict.com/music/Bikini_Kill/Suck_My_Left_One.ram">"Suck My Left One"
My Left One"(RealAudio excerpt).
That same year, Bikini Kill issued an unusual record -- an
LP on which they shared sides with the British group Huggy Bear. Though
Bikini Kill's side, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, was not their best work,
their U.K. tour with Huggy Bear brought the riot-grrrl movement to a
much wider audience.
Joan Jett, the original tough rock-chick, produced
the New Radio EP, featuring "Rebel Girl," because of her
admiration of Bikini Kill, and Hanna reciprocated by writing the song
"Spinster" for Jett.
Pussy Whipped (1993) is generally
considered to be Bikini Kill's best effort, because of its full-tilt
lyrical and musical approach on such tracks as "Sugar," an ode to sexual
frustration. The album and its follow-up, 1996's Reject
All American, also included songs composed by Vail and Wilcox.
But Bikini Kill split up earlier this year when Hanna and Wilcox decided to move east to work on different projects. Hanna, who previously collaborated on the single "Rock Star" with Kill Rock Stars owner Slim Moon, has recorded an album under the name Julie Ruin that will be released in September. Kill Rock Stars will release a compilation of Bikini Kill's EP songs sometime this month.
Other birthdays: Dean Felber (Hootie and the Blowfish), 31.