She Bop

It Didn't Start with Babes in Toyland: A Short and Eccentric History of Women in Local Music, 1931-Present

1987: Bernadette Anderson, the woman known for welcoming a teenage Prince into her home, opens Bernadette's, a hip-hop club for teens, in the Uptown YWCA. Anderson's son Andre (professional name: Andre Cymone) had played bass in an early incarnation of Prince's band, but left in 1981 to pursue a solo career.

1989: "Calling You," as sung by Jevetta Steele on the soundtrack of the movie Baghdad Café, is nominated for an Oscar alongside Carly Simon's "Let the River Run" and Phil Collins's "Two Hearts." Simon's song (from Working Girl) wins the prize.

City Pages:Do you remember what you were doing when you heard about the nomination?

Jevetta Steele: I was standing in my living room, I was about eight months pregnant, I was vacuuming, and I saw it on Siskel and Ebert. And when I went to sit down, the phone starting jumping off the hook. I was getting calls from my manager, and I had a lot of friends who were in the press at that time and they were saying, "I can't believe this. This came across the wire and your name is on it." I thought, wow, that's bizarre.

CP:Normally the nominated songs are performed live at the awards show. But they didn't do that in '89.

Steele: That was the first year that they hadn't done it. The only reason why we didn't perform was because Carly Simon had severe stage fright. So neither myself, Phil Collins, nor Carly performed that year because of it. If we all didn't perform, no one could. I was very, very pregnant, so I was okay with it.

1989: Shampel C (a.k.a. Sheryl Jackson) becomes the first female rapper in town to cut a track. Wide Angle Records puts out a 12" single of "G-G-Get on Down" and "Posse in Effect." Jackson now lives in California where she raps under the name "Pain."

1991: Local music rag Cake tells Jessica Hopper she's too young to write for them. So the high school freshman launches a handwritten zine called Hit It or Quit It. The first issue features interviews with Walt Mink and the Style Monkeez. "Reading it now, it is a bit mortifying," says Hopper of the piece on the latter band. "I did the interview with a friend, and we were in ninth grade and had braces, and here are these dudes in their mid-20s making boner jokes at us, while talking up their vision for their punk-funk band. Towards the end of making issue one, I found out about riot grrrl, so it was half music, half spreading feminist gospel, I guess."

1991: Leslie Ball begins Balls Cabaret, an open-mic night for musicians, poets, jugglers, dancers, playwrights, comedians, etc. The show continues to take place every Saturday at midnight at the Southern Theater.

1991: The 30-piece choir Sounds of Blackness, featuring lead vocalist Ann Nesby, wins a Best Gospel Album Grammy for The Evolution of Gospel. They also have a number one hit on the dance charts with "The Pressure Pt. 1," and another one three years later with "I Believe."

1992: Having spent years working as a barmaid in local nightclubs and VFWs, Arnellia Allen opens her own bar and names it after herself. Arnellia's remains the only nightclub in the state owned by a black woman.

1992: Babes in Toyland—featuring Kat Bjelland, Lori Barbero, and Maureen Herman (who replaced original bassist Michelle Leon)—stand at the fore of an all-girl band explosion, which includes Zuzu's Petals, the Blue Up?, and Big Red Ball. The band plays a free record-release show for its Reprise Records debut Fontanelle in Loring Park the day after drummer Lori Barbero learns that her father has passed away.

City Pages: What do you remember about that Loring Park show?

Lori Barbero: It was really intense, because my father and I weren't the closest but he had made a really huge deal about telling everyone at work and they planned this huge picnic to go down to Loring Park and see me play. He was really excited. So all of his co-workers showed up, like 80 people. They all came down anyway and it was really hard for me. He just suddenly died in his sleep. He'd just turned 55 and he was a marathon runner for 22 years, really healthy and then boom. Honestly, I remember a lot of people being there but I don't remember a lot of other stuff. I just remember seeing a lot of people who helped me, people who meant a lot to me and were there for me.

CP:Early on, the band faced some harsh criticism from the local press. Was this show a turning point for you?

Barbero: Yeah, even the Walker said it was one of their biggest. We played for free for the longest time. I think the turning point was when Sonic Youth took us to Europe with them. If we were endorsed by Sonic Youth, then we were okay. We came back from touring and we started getting paid, because we had some street cred. For the most part, we've been respected and I'm grateful for it. Sure, at first when we were playing, it was a novelty, but I don't think that anyone would have come to the second or third or 500th show if we weren't actually doing something right.

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