Not every band makes it. The B-Girls, a Toronto all-female rock band, formed in the late '70s. They opened for the Clash on the East Coast dates of their London Calling tour. They played regular gigs at CBGB and Max's Kansas City. Numerous labels wanted to sign the B-Girls, and even more people wanted to produce their debut record. But it just didn't happen.
The B-Girls wanted something more than the music industry would offer them. They wanted to play their own instruments, write their own songs, and craft their own identity. Then, as is too often the case now, all they found were men at record labels who wanted to turn them into something else, something more marketable.
Now, on the band's 40th anniversary, bassist and singer Cynthia Ross has reunited with original member Lucasta Ross (no relation) to reform the B-Girls — one of the great female bands that never came to be. The group is releasing Bad Not Evil, their first record on August 11 crafted from demos recorded between 1977 and 1982 that were produced by absolute legends, including Debbie Harry of Blondie, Mick Jones of the Clash, Craig Leon (producer for Blondie and the Ramones), and themselves. Fans can get a special edition on pink vinyl.
Here, Cynthia Ross talks to Lenny about forming the band, why they didn't release an album, and what it was like to be a self-sufficient group of women in the punk-rock scene.
Courtney E. Smith: How did the B-Girls form?
Cynthia Ross: The B-Girls formed in early 1977. At the time, punk rock was exploding in Toronto, in New York, in London, and in basements around North America. We actually formed in Phil Lynott's [the singer of Thin Lizzy] hotel bathroom after his band played a concert. We went to the show that night, and we were just hanging out with the guys in that band. I think I was just turning 21. There were a few other girls that I had seen at every concert that I'd gone to — you know, New York Dolls, Roxy Music, Iggy and the Stooges, the Velvet Underground, that type of band. A lot of bands were starting to form then with guys who really couldn't play their instruments, so I saw it as a time of opportunity to form my own band.
I met another girl, whose name was Lucasta Ross. We were in the hotel bathroom doing our makeup. I said to her, "Have you ever thought of starting a band?" I was tired of standing around watching guys doing it, and I thought that we could do it too. Why not?! She responded that yes, she thought about it every day. So I said, "Let's do it."
CES: Why did you decide to form an all-girl band?
CR: Because there really weren't any, besides the Runaways, who were playing rock and roll. I'm a girls' girl. We were a girl gang. We were hanging out together. We liked each other. We looked up to girl groups from the '60s like the Shangri-Las and the Ronettes, so we brought that aesthetic into what was then the modern day. I think we were ahead of our time. Some of our song titles, like "Who Says Girls Can't Rock," "I'll Be Your Alibi," and "Fun at the Beach," they sound like pretty inane topics. But we're singing about things that we were going through at the time. We weren't trying to be intellectual or political. We weren't an art band. We weren't punk, but we emerged during the punk time because it was a good opportunity to come out.