Stylus - Lollipop Lounge Review
Genya Ravan and the Lollipop Lounge
I recently finished Genya Ravan's Lollipop Lounge: Memoirs of a Rock and Roll Refugee. It's a fascinating read of someone whose been largely forgotten in the music world, despite her truly incredible voice and her series of "first woman to" landmarks.
The book itself has a breezy, conversational tone -- it's not a prose masterpiece -- but the tone adds an element of emotional depth. When Ravan mentions her sexual abuse, almost as a passing comment, it's more striking than much writing that dwells on and analyzes trauma (oddly, Ravan spends extremely little time talking about her childhood time in a concentration camp during the Holocaust). That lack of self-analysis generally works well, as we avoid any pop-psychology.
And the straight-ahead narrative works well. Genya was the leader of the first all-female rock'n'roll band (Goldie and the Gingerbreads) and the first female producer (her best known work is probably "Sonic Reducer" by the Dead Boys). She's certainly proud of her accomplishments, but she's more interested in telling her story than in setting herself up as a pioneer. She just did what she wanted to do, which in some ways is the strongest form of feminism.
As you might expect in a rock bio, there's a slide into sex and drug problems. Ravan handles it well, not asking for sympathy and not asking for excuses. She's clean now, but not self-righteous, and the tone she started writing continues, letting you feel as if you're listening to a friend tell you how it was for her, rather than reading a didactic morality play (which this book isn't).
More important than the story, perhaps, is the fact that the world has forgotten Ravan's music. I've managed to track down only two full albums (both on LP, good luck with the CDs, although I believe she has reissued two through Hip-O) and assorted other tracks. Her voice gets compared to Janis Joplin's, but Ravan's is fuller and more interesting. Put her in front of the jazz-rock (in the best possible sense) of Ten Wheel Drive and the results are magnificent. Start with Construction #1.
Posted by Justin Cober-Lake