Authored by Dale Nickey:
Britain in the late 70’s was the place to be if you were a strong, creative and unusual woman artist. 1977 gifted the world with Kate Bush, 1978 brought us Chrissie Hynde. Finally in 1979, a braided, shrieking, East-Euro dervish of a woman kicked the door off its hinges and twirled into our consciousness like some transgender, Rock and Roll incarnation of the Tasmanian Devil. Her name was Lene Lovich.
Please think of Lene (pronounced lay-nah) next time you watch Lady Ga Ga, Cindi Lauper, Dale Bozzio or Bjork. Lene Lovich was unusual before unusual became the new normal. She will always carry around the inaccurate tag of New Wave ingénue. But that’s like saying Jimi Hendrix played rock and roll. Yeah he did, but that’s just part of the story.
Heading into the second half of the seventies decade, the debris of 60’s counterculture was still smoking and smoldering. Though Britain was undergoing the upheaval of punk, in America it was still a boutique industry. And, though gender roles were starting to change, women were still expected to occupy a certain place in the music landscape. Joni Mitchell sold a lot of records when she wore jeans and crinoline and sang about being, “strung out on another man”. However, when she jazzed things up and became more of a ball buster, her sales dipped. Emmylou Harris, Carol King, Karen Carpenter……the list goes on; long hair, jeans and “just touch my cheek before you leave”. Glitz? Glamour? That was selling out to the man. Plastic soul. Even strong, intelligent, ‘fuck you’ women artists had to toe a certain line and content themselves with being “the chick singer” in a successful band (Example: Grace Slick, Stevie Nicks). Black music you ask? It was Disco or die.
One could argue that Lene Lovich was the first commercially successful Outsider woman artist. If you check out her backstory, you’ll find that being different and unique was Lene’s only available option and not a jaded construct.
Lili-Marlene Premilovich was born in Detroit, March 30.1949 to a Yugoslavian father and an English mother. It was an unpleasant and intolerant urban environment for someone of Lene’s European sensibilities. Lene described herself as the “Wednesday Adams” of the school she went to. Clearly, her Outsider roots formed early.
Reprieve came in the form of a move to Britain with her mother when Lovich was age 13. Even though Lene ended up in Hull (arguably ‘the Detroit’ of Britain), young Lene flowered in a way she would never have done in America. She found her muse by the same method many seminal British artists did; she attended art school. She studied drama, sculpture and learned to play the saxophone. She worked as an Oriental dancer, a Go Go girl, a voice over artist, lyricist-for-hire and busked the London underground. She absorbed many diverse influences and her drive to realize her musical vision was relentless. The fact that she was pushing 30 by the time she signed to Stiff Records (1978) was probably a positive thing. When Lene finally did hit big, she was a mature woman who knew who she was and what she wanted. Moreover, the themes of independence and self-determination would become lyrical cornerstones of her art.
Lene Lovich was that rarest of all animals, a virtuoso with no formal musical training. Lovich developed her vocal technique by making sounds and noises on her walks to school; testing her range to see how high she could go, and then dipping down and see how low her voice could go. She was extreme and fit in perfectly with the Punk/New Wave zeitgeist that thirsted for all things strange and thrilling. She could swagger down low on a verse and then kick it into the stratosphere on a dime with death defying shrieks and screams in the chorus. However, her excesses were always musical. Listen to “Bird Song” (on the album Flex). It affects me physically every time I hear it. Sometimes it chills the spine; sometimes it brings tears to my eyes. But it’s not background music for other pursuits.
Lene Lovich (along with Bush and Hynde) were girls of a different feather. All the aforementioned were hot, strong and under the thumb of no man or record label; nor did they need to ghettoize their art as women’s music. Lene Lovich is still with us tours Europe regularly. Do revisit her music and see her live if you’re lucky enough to have her performing in your town. She is a force of nature and irreplaceable. And, for those of us who are settling into our recliners for a very wintry and climactic final act, she’s divine inspiration.
Click Here to visit Lene >>>> http://lenelovich.net/