L7: Punk Rock Revolutionaries
L7's legendary raise began back in 1985, when a pair of guitarist/singers by the names of "Donita Sparks" and (ex-Debbies/guitarist/vocalist) "Suzi Gardner" met up in LA and decided to join forces and put together what would become one of the '90's most influential female punk rock bands.
Over the years the line up would change to include "Jennifer Finch," who had previously been in the band "Sugar Babylon"...aka "Sugar Baby Doll," (a group which featured "Courtney Love" (Hole) and "Kat Bjelland" (Babes in Toyland), "Gail Greenwood" (who also played in the band "Belly"), and "Janis Tanaka" (who also played in "Stone Fox," "Auntie Christ (with Exene Cervenka)," "Fireball Ministry", "Hammers Of Misfortune") on bass, as well as the only male member in L 7 "Roy Koutsky"on drums (who would play on only one L 7 album, their self titled debut) and 'Demetra (Dee) Plakas' (ex-Problem Dogs) on drums.
The line up that really launched the band to the heights of their success was comprised of 'Donita Sparks' (Guitar/Vocals), 'Suzi Gardner' (Guitar/Vocals), 'Jennifer Finch' (Bass/Vocals) and 'Demetra (Dee) Plakas' on (Drums/Backing Vocals) this would be the line up that would take the world by storm and set a new standard for female punk rock music!!!
Now with their line up set, the female punkers needed a name. The name L 7 was taken from an early '50's slang phrase meaning "square." Not the often referred to sex position, also know as 69 but, then again you can never be to sure with these girls (tongue firmly planted in cheek).
Catching the ear of Epitaph Records (an independent record label owned by "Bad Religion" guitarist "Brett Gurewitz") in 1987. L7 was set to record their self titled debut album produced by Brett Gurewitz, the first album to be released on the label, which was distributed thru Chameleon in 1988.
The album was raw, and full of passion! It wasn't the best produced album ever but, their was an energy, a certain vibe that you just couldn't ignore that would soon become their own distinctive style. NOTE - ( 'Demetra "Dee" Plakas' did not play drums on this album. 'Roy Koutsky' played drums on this album.)
Now armed with their self titled debut album in hand and their line up solidified the girls set fourth on what would become world domination in the punk rock world! Touring heavily the world over, L7 brought their high energy live show, fun banter back and forth between the audience, along with their own distinct self styled heavy, riff-oriented guitar grind to all the ends of the planet!
In 1989 the L7er's were signed by Sub-Pop records which released their 2nd album entitled "Smell the Magic" (Produced by Jack Endino, Michael James & Daniel Rey) on July 8, 1991. "Smell the Magic" saw the bands songwriting skills start to evolve and gel and spawned one of the girls first underground/mainstream hits with the track "Shove" which would later be featured on "The Grunge Years" album (Sub Pop - 1994) as well as on the "Tank Girl" movie soundtrack (WEA - 1995).
In that same year the girls formed the "Rock for Choice" non-profit organization for women's rights group (1991). The organization, which put on several benefit shows over the years, and was also supported by such other noted musical luminaries as Nirvana, Hole, Pearl Jam, Neil Young, Red Hot Chill Peppers, Rage Against The Machine, amongst others, and helped to raise money and awareness for pro-rights.
Showing the world that not only were L 7 a powerful force in the punk rock music world but, the girls were also mindful of the state of the world around them. They also made time to play other benefits for organizations over the years like Greenpeace, and Act Up LA, to name but a few.
With the arrival of the early '90's and the breakthrough success of bands like Nirvana taking over the airwaves, L 7 was signed to Slash/Reprise in 1992 and proceeded to return to the studio with the premier producer "Butch (Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins and Sonic Youth) Vig," Who some of you may also know from his band "Garbage." The girls set up shop at both Smart Studios in Madison, WI. and Sound City in Van Nuys, CA to record what would become their most known and successful album to date.
Released on April 14, 1992, L 7's 3rd album "Bricks Are Heavy" featured the songs "Pretend We're Dead" and "Shitlist" both of which were fan favorites, with the song "Shitlist" being featured in the movie and on the soundtrack for "Oliver Stones" film "Natural Born Killers" .
In the months ahead "Pretend We're Dead" became a staple on MTV and radios around the globe. "Bricks Are Heavy" was later also noted in the May/1999 edition "Rolling Stone" on their list of "100 Essential Recordings of the 1990s".
Touring the world over, from clubs to concert halls to some of the worlds biggest music festivals, including a very memorable performance (for more reasons then one) at 1992s Reading Festival in the UK that even earned the girls a spot on "VH1's 100 Most Shocking Moments." L 7 had now gotten there own breakthrough success that they had all worked so hard to achieve.
What had started out as 2 "Girls w/Guitars" that each had a dream to put together a kick ass cool punk rock band, had them all now making their mark on the music world forever!!! With their legions of fans now growing worldwide, L 7 entered the studio with producer "GGGarth Richardson." to begin work on their 4th album "Hungry For Stink" released on July 12, 1994, this would unfortunately also be the last studio album with L 7 that "Jennifer Finch" would appear on.
While the album was well received by the bands faithful, it wasn't as widely appreciated as "Bricks Are Heavy." All though the "NYC's Village Voice" praised the album, as well as the band's "...sense of adventure coupled with a sense of humor... they're staking a claim for the things that all people, not just super-heroines, should do."
With the "Hungry For Stink" album released L 7 landed a spot on the coveted "Lollapalooza Festival" and preceded to do what they do best, play live! In between their hectic touring schedule L 7 was asked to put in an appearance in the 1994 "John Waters" film "Serial Mom" under the clever name of "Camel Lips" which refers to a certain part of the woman's anatomy in a pair of jeans that fit a bit to tightly (again, tongue firmly planted in cheek). They were also featured on the movies soundtrack -- with the song 'Gas Chamber.'
Shortly before L 7 were to begin recording their 5th album found the unfortunate departure of Jennifer Finch a key member in the bands success. Now, needing a new bass player L 7 brought in Gail Greenwood from the band "Belly" and set forth to record "The Beauty Process: Triple Platinum" with producers "Rob Cavallo" (Green Day, the Muffs) and Joe Barresi and was released on February 25, 1997. This would be L 7's last studio album for the Slash/Reprise label.
L 7 continued to tour thru-out the world in support of "The Beauty Process - Triple Platinum" album and around this time the group found itself the subject of a rockumentary concert film made by former "Nirvana" bassist "Krist Novoselic," and was filmed on Super 8mm. It features some skits plus live footage of Fast & Frightening, Drama, Must Have More, & more. It was also entitled "The Beauty Process."
What would follow next would be a live album produced by "Travis Dickerson," In 1998 called "Live: Omaha To Osaka" released on the Man's Ruin label. L 7's last studio album to date was 1999s "Slap Happy," produced by L 7 with Brian Haught. At this time the girls recruited a new bass player (after 'Gail Greenwood' decided to leave L 7 to pursue other projects).
"Janis Tanaka" moved down the coast from San Francisco to sign on with the band as their full-time bassist. Janis previously had played bass for the bands Stone Fox, Auntie Christ (with Exene Cervenka), as well as Fireball Ministry and Hammers Of Misfortune. Released on the girls own imprint Wax Tadpole (deciding upon the name Wax Tadpole, after one of the band's earliest tunes, "Bite The Wax Tadpole," from their self titled debut album) and distributed thru the Bongload label.
Before this album was finished though Suzi Gardner decided to leave the band, ending her 15-year run in L 7. "Slap Happy" appears for now at least to be L 7's swan song.
In closing, L 7 definitely set a new standard for female punk rock music, hell at least in my opinion for punk rock music in general female or male! Their music was loud, fun, heavy, yet catchy, their lyrics were straight forward and honest, and the girls always had a great sense of humor and put on a high energy kick ass live show! L 7 for me were all the things that punk/rock and roll music should be. The girls of L 7 truly had a style all their own and If you have yet to hear and appreciate their music I would highly recommend you going out and giving them a listen. Trust me, You won't regret it!!!
L 7 will be remembered as arguably one of the most important and influential female punk rock groups ever!
Written by Jeff (NYC) "3" The Cover
Zone © November 2005
( TCZ would like to give a shout out to Jeff for the dedication and work he put into writing such a kick ass tribute to this amazing band. You Rock! )