Jam Today (1) 1976 – 1978
Alison Rayner, bass; Angele Veltmeijer, sax/flute; Corinne Liensol, trumpet; Deirdre Cartright, guitar; Diana Wood, vocals/alto sax; Fran Rayner, sound; Frankie Green, drums; Joey ?, 1st singer; Josie Mitten, keyboards/vocals; Sarah (Greaves) Baker, sound;
Terry Hunt, guitar; Josefina Cupido, percussion/vocals and Laka Daisical, vocals/keyboards, also played with the group
‘The rule is, jam tomorrow and jam yesterday – but never jam today.’ ~ Lewis Carroll, ‘Through the Looking Glass’
‘The banner we displayed at gigs and demonstrations read JAM TODAY FOR WOMEN: both a statement (this band is for women’s liberation) and a demand (and we want it now.) Making demands was about not asking (the state, government, husband, father, boss) for women’s rights but claiming them. Nor were feminists prepared to wait (in a process of reform, unfulfilled promises or ‘after the revolution’) or look back to a mythical matriarchal past. We named the band in that spirit and the eponymous song we wrote about freedom, financial independence, housing, autonomous control over our own lives – expressing the demands of the WLM as formulated at its national conferences, really.
‘Love Isn’t Enough’ – Jam Today
We announced ourselves at gigs as ‘part of the Women’s Liberation Movement.’ The musicians in the band varied in our politics and attitudes to music, but I’d say generally it represented a kind of feminism hoping to transform, rather than just reform, society – and a cultural activism seeking new forms to manifest feminist political values through lyrics, structures, production, methods. A great proliferation of women’s film and theatre groups, visual art, literature, publishing projects, performance art, poster-making, street theatre, etc, was happening – alongside and sometimes overlapping with community, alternative, left-wing projects, seeking not commercial success but to contribute to processes of political change. It was a time buzzing with activism and debate, combined with huge optimism and joyfulness; as a badge said, quoting Emma Goldman: ‘If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution.’
Jam Today – ‘Hard Times’
At that time women’s rock bands were a groundbreaking phenomenon. Journalist Vivien Goldman, writing in the music newspaper ‘Sounds’ wrote that women musicians had few strong role models, with notable exceptions such as Patti Smith, Joan Armatrading or Suzy Quatro, and that ‘…when women perform a professional, hard-rocking set, with no concessions to female stereotypes, they’re an automatic threat. They’re a threat to men because they challenge male supremacy in a citadel that’s never been attacked before; they’re a threat to women who’ve perhaps never dared acknowledge that THEY want to be onstage doing the energising instead of watching their boyfriends doing it, in passive admiration.’ (‘The New Other Wave,’ ‘Sounds,’ 11 December 1976.)
There was a lot of feminist musical activity during this time that I remember: bands included The Stepney Sisters and Ova; WL Music Projects was set up. Punk was bursting forth and Palmolive, the Slits’ drummer, came round to practice on my kit. Various mixed bands and theatre groups, with members sometimes overlapping with feminist bands, I also remember as part of the contemporary scene, with alternative or socialist or pro-feminist or anti-racist politics, e,g, Dire Tribe, The Derelicts, Red Brass, People’s Liberation Music (Cornelius Cardew etc, from Scratch Orchestra), the Brass Band with Kate Westbrook, Henry Cow with Georgie Born and Lindsay Cooper e.g. We played on the same bill with some of these bands. (I don’t mean to lump them together or imply they were similar; it’s a very rough category and, like other stuff I’m writing, drawing on – increasingly! – fallible personal memory.)
Jam Today’s music was rock of a funky kind (AWB, Chaka Khan, Doobie Bros, Santana) and included lyrics about women uniting and breaking free, being in control of our own lives, love and friendship between women, criticising romantic pop songs (‘Love Isn’t Enough.’) We composed our own songs and adjusted lyrics of others by changing the genders, e.g. We tried experimental things like trying to break down the hierarchical separation between performers and audience (keeping lights on in venues); holding practical workshops to share skills at events such as conferences and at youth clubs to encourage other women; playing in marches (on back of lorry in NAC demo) and rallies (supporting the Grunwick and Trico strikers e.g.); working collectively, taking turns to organise gigs; playing benefits for women’s causes; debating (endlessly!) amongst ourselves and with others various issues (problems arising from collective working; what constitutes ‘women’s music?’ or ‘feminist music?’ and how can art contribute to social change?) We committed ourselves to playing at as many and various events as possible, feeling it was important for women to be widely seen not only playing the instruments and singing but mixing the sound, carrying and setting up equipment, driving, roadying. To balance gigs with mixed audiences (colleges etc) we set up the Women’s Monthly Event, held in central London, to create a regular woman-only space for women musicians and other artists to perform and exhibit work, develop feminist cultural activism and for women to socialise together. At that time, women often danced together not only in pairs or singly but in groups and celebratory circles (see also London Women’s Rock Band.)
You’d meet sexism everywhere, from casual – like shopping in Denmark Street percussion shop for a sizzle cymbal (a kind with rivets around the edge to produce a particular sound) and being told ‘ask your boyfriend to drill holes in it’ – to heavier stuff. We didn’t look for confrontation but noticeably in mixed events an atmosphere of solidarity would spread amongst the women, they’d dance together, then men would react aggressively. We found a lot of hostility – I remember Alison jumping off the stage to swing her bass guitar fretboard at a bloke who was attacking a woman, and we threw off another one who had jumped onto our lorry going along Oxford Street in the middle of a 10,000-strong National Abortion Campaign march.
A man aggressively yelled ‘stroppy cows’ at us in a recording studio when we failed to pay him the attention he felt he was due (and thus was born Stroppy Cow Records – ‘a feminist record label, which stated: ‘we are anti-commercial – we aim to make living as musicians rather than profit as a business.’) We decided we’d stop playing if there was male violence during gigs until it was sorted out and the problem-causer removed. With supreme irony, tabloid papers would criticise women-only events as ‘sexist.’
We discussed the politics of everything constantly. Invited to play at a kids’ street party during the silver jubilee, whatever our views on the monarchy, we came to an agreement to accept, because of our desire to play to as wide a range of audiences as possible, within obvious limits. We collaborated with The Women’s Film Group on their film ‘Rapunzel, Let Down Your Hair.’ (BFI synopsis: ‘The problem of women’s sexuality in a patriarchy, and how they receive ideas about themselves; told through a treatment of the Grimm fairy tale.’) Like the London Women’s Rock Band, which Angele and I had been in a couple of years previously, Jam Today got together through a notice in the London WLM workshop newsletter, in spring 1976. Women turned up at a flat I rented in Peckham and a line-up emerged: Terry the guitarist, who knew Deidre, Alison who decided to take up the bass, Josie on keyboards, Corrine with her trumpet and Fran who became our sound engineer. A singer we liked, Joey, parted company with us when she revealed she didn’t support abortion rights, and Josefina was our vocalist and percussionist for a while. Diana joined us when we advertised for a new singer, and when the Women’s Film Group asked us to provide music for ‘Rapunzel’ we met Laka, who sang with us sometimes, and Sarah Greaves, another sound engineer. Some of us had played in mixed or women’s bands before and some were absolute beginners. I think all were fed up with sexism and found it exciting to get together and make music with other women; we didn’t intentionally form as a lesbian band but were predominantly so. My landlady kindly let us practice in her garden shed; later, when I moved to one of the many houses that women squatted in London Fields, Hackney, we rehearsed in women’s houses or Camden Women’s Centre, and rented studios when we could afford it. We were busy quite quickly, the band becoming a full-time occupation, practicing on average twice a week and performing regularly at benefits and women’s events and colleges. We began recording what was to be an album but didn’t complete it, and the remaining recordings of that time are unfinished and from live gigs or rehearsals. We seemed constantly to be on the road, touring in Holland twice and travelling to some of the many women’s conferences of the time, at first using our own cars, in a borrowed van and then buying an ancient one of our own, which belched out fumes of such toxicity we had to drive around wearing face masks.
The first phase of the band ended in 1979. We’d had intense and exciting times together and, of course, difficulties and tensions – over, e.g., fairness of distribution of work, there being-huge amount of admin, organising, equipment and van maintainance, etc, plus the psychological stresses that collectives bring; frustrations over different levels of musical competence and different musical tastes; wanting to do different things in life; burn-out from the intensity of inter-relationships and workload. Generally I think and hope the band was a positive contribution to women’s liberation. We played a ‘farewell’ gig at the Drill Hall, and then arose the phoenixes of phases 2 and 3 …‘ Frankie Green 2010
Click to read the whole of Vivien Goldman’s article in ‘Sounds’
For more on the Amsterdam, September 1976, Women’s Festival see the Dutch feminist archive site http://www.vrouwennuvoorlater.nl/festivals/vf1976.htm and for Dutch feminist musicians also http://www.vrouwennuvoorlater.nl/divers/muziek.htm
For an interview with Jam Today in Spare Rib (January 1978, issue no 66) click here: Jam Today Spare Rib
Gig list 1977:
January: Red Rag benefit (‘Red Rag: A Magazine of Women’s Liberation’, 1973 – 1980? published by a Marxist feminist collective); The Women’s Monthly Event, Covent Garden Community Centre; Brighton Women’s Group party
February: Canterbury University; North London Polytechnic; Spare Rib benefit (‘Spare Rib: A Women’s Liberation magazine’ 1972 – 1993)
March: Working with the London Women’s Film Group, recording soundtrack for ‘Rapunzel, Let Down Your Hair’; International Women’s Day celebration/fair, London; Manchester University; Midlands Regional Women’s Liberation Conference, social and workshop (Leicester or Nottingham?); Spare Rib benefit
April: National WLM Conference, London, social plus workshop; The Women’s Monthly Event; Islington Bus Company benefit, Caxton House; North Kensington Play Association benefit; recording; Spare Rib benefit
May: Recording; York Women’s Aid Conference social, York; benefit for WIRES (Women’s Information Referral and Enquiry Service) and the Chapeltown Community Playgroup, Leeds; Thames Poly women’s group benefit; National Abortion Campaign demonstration for a women’s right to choose/opposing the Benyon bill, through central London to Hyde Park on lorry; North-east London Poly; London Women Youth Workers Group girl’s disco and workshop; Music for Socialism workshop, London
June: Birmingham; Yorkshire Regional WL conference, Bradford; Islington street party
July: Camden Women’s Centre social; Spare Rib bop; Claimants’ Union benefit, University of London; Kids’ Community Centre benefit, Caxton House; Whittington Park festival; Women’s Liberation Music Projects benefit
August: Jam Today benefit, Waterloo Action Centre; Grunwick women strikers’ benefit, Notting Hill (During the Grunwick industrial dispute of 1976 -1978 the WLM London Workshop had a rota of groups attending the picket line, which JT was part of); Lesbian Line benefit, Camden Women’s Centre; (London Lesbian Line, helpline for support and information, grew out of Lesbian and Gay Switchboard); Whittington pub; Women’s Aid party
September: Second tour of Dutch women’s events including Amsterdam Women’s Festival, Vondelpark and Vrouenhuis (Amsterdam’s Women’s Center), Nijmaken, Utrecht and Rotterdam; Lewisham Women’s Aid party; Upstairs at Ronnie Scott’s; Women & Mental Health conference, London
October: Middlesex Poly Women’s Group event; South London Women’s Centre benefit; Winchester Women’s Group social; Essex University social; Canterbury University; Women’s conference, Nottingham; NAC benefit, Birmingham, Team Two women’s theatre group also on bill
November: Girl’s school music workshop; North London Poly (Ladbroke House), the band Dire Tribe also on bill; Women’s Aid Federation (England) National conference, Leicester; Advisory Service for Squatters benefit
November – December: Workshops and performances at the Women’s Festival, Action Space/Drill Hall, London (Chenies Street, London WC1, a key venue for women’s and gay performance http://www.drillhall.co.uk) This women’s festival was a three week-long programme of events including e.g. film; dance; art (Monica Sjoo); drama (Clapperclaw, Pirate Jenny, Team Two, Jane Wibberley, Women’s Theatre Group, Susan Griffin); debate (prostitution, rape, health, violence); campaigning (‘Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital Stays OK’); children’s events; crafts; readings (The Three Marias); music (Ova, MoonSpirit, Saffron Summerfield, Lindsay Cooper, Maggie Nicols, Frankie Armstrong and Sandra Kerr, Adelphi String Quartet, Janie and Andrea and Tierl, Victoria Wood, Margit Sagov, Meg Christian and Teresa Trull, Jam Today); workshops on music, writing, publishing, older and disabled women, matriarchy and goddess, alternative birth, Third world/Black/Irish women women, feminist therapy, working class women and the Suffragettes …
In 1986, the radical feminist magazine Trouble and Strife published this interview with Terry Hunt, a founder of Jam Today
‘Cry of A Woman’
‘Don’t let men isolate us, together we have power, with our women’s struggle, we’ll take back what is ours. It’s the cry of a woman, a woman breaking free, I’m taking over complete control of my mind, my body and me.’
Jam Today (2) 1979 ~ 1980
Alison Rayner, bass; Josefina Cupido, vocals, drums, percussion; Nicki Francis, sax, flute; Terry Hunt, guitar; Vicki Aspinall, violin
Recording of a practise of Jam Today 2 playing ‘Where do we go from here?’
Recording of a practise of Jam Today 2 playing ‘Tower Blocks.’
Jam Today (3) 1980 ~ 1984
Alison Rayner, bass; Barbara Stretch, vocals; Fran Rayner, sound; Jackie Crew, drums; Julia Dawkins, alto and tenor sax, flute; Terry Hunt, guitar
‘UnEXCEPTIONAL Women’ live at Windsor Festival, 1981
Jam Today live at Windsor Women’s Festival
Jam Today 3 perform ‘Dinah’s Fandango’ at the Lyceum in 1981.
You can listen to and view more Jam Today 3 material on their YouTube channel here.
Oral History interview conducted with the band as part of the Heritage Lottery Funded Music & LIberation project. Interviewed by Deborah Withers, filmed and edited by Emma Shula Thatcher.
‘Being part of Jam Today 3 gave me quite a powerful view of what us women can do in terms of playing and composing music and in managing all aspects of the sound and equipment. The experience has influenced my life thereafter, and it was special to me in the fact that I had my first baby at that time (1982) and JT3 gave me the ability to get out there again, with baby!! That baby, Jay is now 29 and is becoming a skilled guitarist himself – surely he will never forget the JT3 gigs, being carried through the crowded gigs in a Moses basket, to the backstage, always awake and getting to know those familiar faces as we played the music!’’ ~ Julia Dawkins, June 2011
‘My music career started in the mid-70s. Apart from a couple of women who sang I didn’t meet any women instrumentalists until the 80s. I worked mostly with guys who were old enough to be my dad. Many were great and revered musicians, so it was a good place to learn. However, I was constantly confronted with sexism, but was supported by the few more enlightened guys, who tried their best to help me circumnavigate this. One of the guys, a well-known musician, whom all the others guys in the band looked up to sycophantically because he was a world famous musician, used to copy out my compositions in his own hand and give the music to the band at rehearsals. They’d play the music eagerly, and enthuse and say how much they liked it. Then, he would tell them I’d written it. They’d squirm a bit. If I’d have handed it to them directly it would have been trashed, and so would I. This technique of the ‘Great Master’s’ manuscript hand went on for a while until the other guys realised that my compositions were worth playing. They still remained sexist but conceded, and presumably reasoned they could allow for a woman composer because music transcends and hails from a higher realm than earthly politics. Whether they thought more after that and evolved from general sexist caveman think, I don’t know. I eventually left that band to do my own thing. A few years back I was invited to join a band who did almost the same repertoire as that 70s band. I accepted. The music was fun and I slotted in easily because of the familiar material. However, not only swirled back on the spinning ‘Hollywood calendar of time’ musically, I was also amazed that the guys in this other band, though three decades on, were stunningly sexist and no more aware than guys from the 70s band. We’ve got a long, long way to go. Fortunately, as a grande ol’ dame, I can hold my own with the best and the worst of ’em, but probably not a lot has changed for younger women coming in. A sad indictment on society as a whole.
As a professional musician I guess I’d be put under the category of ‘male-stream’; I was turned down for a gig once at Manchester Pride because my material wasn’t specifically lesbian. I don’t know how women think anyone’s going to make a living as a pro musician doing only specifically lesbian material, and that brings up how not clued-in other women (or anybody for that matter) are to the life, work and struggles of a musician, female or otherwise. Indeed, any type of artist. By dint of being a lesbian and a musician I was asked to do gigs on the women’s circuit, the booking and organisation of which was often especially trying and lacking, in the professional sense. There was also the expectation by many, and there still is, that women should not get paid for their efforts. I see this as inverted sexism. If a bloke plumber turned up to mend their loo they’d pay him, but when a woman musician slogs away all night, then payment is often resented. Not always. The better-arranged women’s gigs are funded, contracted, and generally go smoothly.
Then there’s the thing that you can’t please all the people all of the time. Just because it’s a gig for women doesn’t mean they’re into the music you do. Paradoxically, I’ve always found the most unfavourable audiences to be women only audiences. I guess this is because there’s little on for women and they go there primarily to be amongst women, not for the performance. Only a handful will go specifically for the music, so the event tends to be a watering hole where women will meet up with their friends and talk all the way through a concert. Not always, of course. I’ve had some very well-appreciated performances I’ve done for women only audiences, but really we’re talking about a microcosm of the world, and when you consider what a small market there is for jazz and related material in the bigger arena, then there’ll probably be a maximum of three people in a women only audience who really understand the music and what’s going on, along with another percentage who like the idea that a women is performing, so are supportive, and the rest are there to get tanked up and couldn’t give a hoot. Oh, and I forgot the 1% who always miss the point entirely and can’t wait to grab you when you get off stage and tell you how you should have done it, what was wrong, and ask why didn’t you do such and such. These tend to be women who relish trying to deflate/criticise any other woman who is actually doing something with her life and because a musician is on public display they are therefore public property and fair game, rather than to be a respected human being. The thinly-disguised resentment, instead of support, is for the very doing and manifesting of a creative pursuit by a woman. Come on gals. Most of you may not like jazz and its spin offs, but there’s been enough guys decrying the efforts of women since the year dot. So, pay your women musicians, value and listen to them, without resenting that they’re getting on with something that they love.
There’s also the issue that because women only gigs are often arranged by well-meaning amateurs, the needs of professional women musicians are not met. Hence, things like being grabbed as soon as you get off stage, or there being no understanding of the technicalities and equipment involved, let alone the psyche and well-being of the musicians. If this all sounds negative, so be it. It’s the truth. I was never particularly embraced in the bosom of my lesbian feminist sisters, so to speak, musicians or otherwise. I’ve always felt like a loner. My main supporters, although there are many appreciative lesbians amongst them, have been people from right across the board. I’ve never been separatist. I see myself as part of life on the planet, with all its foibles and differences, and try to be inclusive and get on with it.
In the 80s, I performed on the main stage at many Prides, and benefits, such as ‘Pits and Perverts’, an L & G fundraiser during the miners’ strike. At that time, in London anyway, there was a general feeling of togetherness for all marginalised groups, and as a lesbian musician I was involved politically, out and proud. The people I worked with across the board were politicised, so that also included men – gay and straight – and people of all races from all over the world. Sometimes I ran women only workshops, but I often ran mixed ones too, and found the healing power of music more than brought people of all persuasions and backgrounds together. That was the really lovely thing about it then. On the whole, people wanted to try things out, and understand and join in.
For me the quality of the music has always been the thing.’ ~ Jan Ponsford, March 2011
(Ed. note: the ‘pernicious’ article referred to above is reproduced here for historical interest)
Janie and Andrea; Janie, Andrea and Tierl
Andrea Webb; Janie Grote; Tierl Thompson
Acoustic duo/trio members Andrea, Janie and Tierl also performed with the poet Gillian Allnutt as Women’s Own, and made a tape.
‘The Trouble With Me’ and ‘They’re Selling’ (both in Sisters in Song, published by WLMP and printed by Onlywomen Press) were both recorded by Proper Little Madams on Starward Records SWL 2004 1982
Thanks to Sue Regan for adding info on this group (please scroll down)!
Jazz Heritage Wales/Treftadaeth Jazz Cymru
please see also Women in Jazz
‘I set up the Women’s Jazz Archive in 1986, which eventually became Women in Jazz and then in 2008 was renamed Jazz Heritage Wales. This organisation comes from a feminist perspective and also reflects Black Heritage in Wales. We moved into Swansea Metropolitan University July 2009 and our Heritage Collection contains recordings, photographs, oral histories, journals, periodicals, stage gowns and all manner of music players. On behalf of JHW I undertake talks and/or illustrated lectures and give papers at conferences so jazz is included as an academic subject. We have a variety of bands that come under our umbrella, from solo piano right through to an all-woman Allstars Swing Band led by our young bandleader Deborah Glenister. The Swing Band was trained up by an Arts Council of Wales Training Grant and now the Allstars are out and about performing in public and tomorrow night they have a big gig for the Mayor and dignatories of Carmarthenshire for their big charity bash. I have my own Ensemble (3 women 3 men) and we launch our CD next Wednesday. We have plenty going on but keeping the funding coming in is a tricky business. I am a volunteer here. I did a master’s dissertation in 1996: ‘Syncopated Ladies: British Jazzwomen 1880-1995 and their Influence on Popular Culture.’ ~ Jen Wilson, October 2010
Jen now has a new record label and personal website, and has launched a new CD. You can hear sample tracks at http://www.jenwilsonjazzpiano.co.uk
Photo of Josefina © Jak Kilby, from Women Live 1982 programme, taken during a rehearsal for a theatre production of ‘Jelly Roll Soul’ by John Cummings and Tony Haynes/ The Grand Union at Red Brass Studios, 23rd March 1982. www.jakkilby.co.uk
Silencio © Josefina Cupido
Track 2 from Josefina’s CD, One Woman One Drum. To obtain a copy of the CD, please contact Josefina at firstname.lastname@example.org
Jo Richler has undergone a number of name changes. She started as Joanne Richler-Ostroff, then worked under the name of Joanne Richler and finally started using Jo Richler when she left the Women’s Theatre Group -where she had been musician/composer from 1979 – in 1984 and started doing more solo gigs on the alternative music and comedy circuit as well as working as a composer/musician/performer with Spare Tyre Theatre Company, Perspectives Theatre Company, 7:84 England, Age Exchange Theatre Company, and the Go-Go Boys. In her own career as a soloist she toured the feminist festivals and alternative venues and contributed to a record with Tom Robinson and other alternative musicians. She was the vocalist with Jam Today when they relaunched in their third incarnation at the Women’s Festival at the Drill Hall in 1978 (prior to Barbara Stretch joining the band), and also joined the Sadista Sisters at their relaunch at the Oval House, going on tour with them to Sweden, Denmark and Norway. She left London in 1986 when she was appointed Composer in Residence, North West Arts and Wigan LEA.