A couple of weeks ago Rolling Stone magazine published a list of their selection of the Top 50 Albums from Women Who Rock and, for better or worse, the list generated a lively conversation about female musicians. The website The Skinny asked Garbage frontwoman Shirley Manson to compile her list of Top 10 Albums from her favorite Female Vocalists and I think you can see below, she has excellent taste in music. I’m not sure if the selections are ranked in any particular order but, IMHO, Manson has chosen an superb collection of albums, which you can see below.
1. Siouxsie and the Banshees – The Scream (1978)
The first female artist that really blew me out the water was Siouxie Sioux. I used to hang out with two other girls and we hung out with older boys who came from a different school than us. These boys were basically responsible for introducing us to a whole load of incredibly cool records like London Calling by The Clash at the same time as Dirk Wears White Sox by early Adam and the Ants and then The Scream by Siouxsie and the Banshees. I just fell insanely in love with that band – Siouxsie Sioux has remained a touchstone for me throughout my career and is still inspiring to me. I loved everything about the fact that she was in a band, she was a writer, that she sang completely differently from everybody else, that she was rebellious and intelligent and incredibly articulate. I still think The Scream holds up as a fantastic example of post-punk fury. I’ve met her and was invited to write the foreword to their biography; that was a huge honour. I’m in complete awe of her.
2. Patti Smith Group – Wave (1979)
I was in a band myself by the point I heard this – an Edinburgh band called Goodbye Mr McKenzie. I used to date Martin Metcalfe, who was the lead singer of that band. He basically gave me my musical education; he introduced me to Patti Smith and this record. I’d never heard anything quite like it before, it felt sort of androgynous to me in a way. I found it intriguing, mysterious…she’s another person whose been my lifelong inspiration. When I met her I burst into tears! She’s an incredibly serene individual; she’s very powerful. She’s never really compromised herself in any way, shape or form. As a result, she’s very pure. She still holds a lot of mystery, in a way, as an artist. I love the fact that she doesn’t just make music – she takes photographs; she makes films; she writes books; she writes poetry – she just won’t be confined by anybody’s expectations, criticisms or observations. She just does whatever the fuck she wants. I find that inspiring.
3. The Cocteau Twins – Head Over Heels (1983)
Martin Metcalfe introduced me to the Cocteaus too, around about the same time; one of my all-time favourite bands and I probably want them played at my funeral, y’know, to see me out of the world. Again, they’ve stayed with me. The fact that they were Scottish too really had a big impact on me. For some reason I thought ‘if they can make music, so can I’ and ‘if she can sing, so can I.’ They are unique, timeless and they make incredibly beautiful music. Liz Fraser’s one of the greatest, most inventive singers I’ve ever heard in any genre. Her fragility is what I find so mesmerizing. Head Over Heels was the first album I became obsessed with, but their first five are exquisite.
4. PJ Harvey – To Bring You My Love (1995)
Well then, after a few years of being introduced to music by different forces, I started religiously buying NME, Melody Maker and Sounds – I was obsessed by music papers. It’s all I ever read, I poured over them and I discovered the incomparable PJ Harvey through those three music papers. She was my first discovery on my own, so to speak. I just have immense respect for her; she was somehow incredibly sexual at the same time as being untouchable and impenetrable. I loved the fact that she embodied a sort of threatening, powerful sexuality that I’d never seen before, and had this incredible voice and was this great guitar player. She was the whole thing. I was incredibly jealous of her and still am. I think she’s a genius. I’d just started touring America at the point To Bring You My Love came out and had it on continual play, so I associate this album with getting out into the world and making music. She and Flood – his production style and her talent, her voice and all the instrumentation on that record – they managed to paint something almost like a Cormac McCarthy novel, that’s what it felt like to me. I don’t think you can really fail with any of her records. I don’t think she’s made a bad one – ever.
5. Hole – Live Through This (1994)
This will be an unpopular choice, probably. It’s the voice of complete rage and rebellion – female rebellion. To me that’s a touchstone record for any girl that’s interested in starting a band and kicking against the pricks. It’s a perfect record. I know she’s a very polarizing figure and gets a lot of flack, Courtney, but at her height there’s never been a greater female rock star ever – as threatening, challenging and provocative. She’ll be the last one standing.
You can see the rest of Shirley’s list and read the rest of her commentary at The Skinny HERE. Based on the 5 albums listed here, I think you can guess that Shirley Manson’s list of Top 10 Albums from Female Vocalists is quite excellent. What has always impressed me about Shirley is not merely her personal musical talents (which, you have to admit, are extraordinary) but also her knowledge and appreciation for the talents of other musical artists. That she lists Siouxsie and the Banshees first on this list says a lot about how much he understands and appreciates the impact that Siouxsie Sioux has had on modern music. I see some of Siouxsie Sioux, Patti Smith, Liz Fraser, PJ Harvey and, yes, even Courtney Love in Shirley Manson … but not in a copy cat sort of way. These women are fierce and fearless and they are quite talented musicians. This list of albums compiled by a woman of such impressive talents carries a weight that I feel the list complied by Rolling Stone lacks. I know Shirley is far too humble to ever do so herself so I would list the debut album by Garbage as the 11th album on this list.