lifeblood: songs: backgrounds: lucystoners
note from amy ray on the daemon records site:
"i started lucystoners on a lazy day hanging out under the kindness of the sun. i have rotten cat named johnny who is the inspiration behind most of my songs about bad boys. i started a little rhyme about 'rolling stones' most fearless leader' it really came out of nowhere while i was scolding my cat for being a bully. my girlfriend was laughing and we started playing around with what the antithesis would be 'bingo' lucy stone. lucy was an early feminist who kept her name when she married. the song was meant to just be a set of nursery rhymes about feminist and sexist but i couldn't really get anywhere with it. it had been a long year of dealing with the overblown rock media machine with most commercial radio stations becoming indistinguishable from each other and maxim becoming the flag bearer of a new generation of magazines. the boy's club of rock and roll has taken many forms in my career so it was easy to find images to draw on. when emily reported on an exceptionally rude interview experience with a morning show d.j., the last piece of my lyric puzzle was completed. the day i finished the song, i called my lady and sung the whole thing on the phone. after playing it for emily-who indulges me-and my manager, i realized it was destined to be a solo song. i played lucystoners acoustically for awhile but it didn't take on its real meaning until the butchies put their mark on it. at some point i realized that i needed to change the lyric 'lucystoners don't like boners' to 'lucystoners don't need boners.' it just made more sense considering lucy probably did like boners, she just insisted on her own autonomy from them. there is an really out of tune acoustic version on a compilation just released by mr. lady records. ( mr. lady is the superpower punk feminist/gayfriendly label out of durham , n.c. they have an amazing roster of artist including the butchies, tami hart, sarah dougher, and le tigre.) we recorded the song live in chris stamey's studio. the butchies came up with the jumprope ending and they recorded it together in the hallway of chris' house . i took the tracks back to atlanta and finished the guitars and other stuff at glenn matullo's studio-orphan studio. i mixed at david barbe's studio in athens, ga. when i went to nashville to master, this was the first song we put up to work on. after the punk environs of the mixing studio i was a little anxious when the chorus came on loud and clear, but i told my mastering guy not to take it personally and he was cool
thanks for listening. xoxo a.r."
2001-xx-xx: (excerpts from an interview with amy ray), (unpublished):
"i think coverage is very sexist. i sense that during lilith everybody was excited. even tho it was a media heyday for women rockers, their was an unwillingness to give it its due and some coverage was snide or sarcastic.
that was a great tour and it helped women. people argue constantly about whether it ghettoized women musicians. that's a lot to think about and i think we wont know all the til later. that was a very corporate tour tho, more corporate than i like to get. but so much money was given away to grass roots organizations, a lot of money went to battered women's groups. and people had a great time. but the backlash now is frustrating. there are no women on the playlist in rock radio anymore. the thing that im saying in lucy stoner is that when the system fails you you have to create your own system and make it so good that it is undeniable. you do that by forming coalitions, and doing grass roots things. doing whatever you can to make things less corporate. for every amazon.com event you do, do a woman's book store also. if you are an upper ladder rock star, lower your prices. do whatever you can do".
-on whether it is difficult to switch gears between the indigo sensibility and the punk sensibility. i said this punk persona on stag fit her well and seemed really organic and it left me wondering if this is the beginning of the end for the indigo girls.
"no it's not. we're stronger than ever. for me it's easy. it's no problem for me to shift gears. i have the folk seed inside of me and it is just as big as everything else. i talk to emily about three times a weeek. and we're going to start working on a new record this summer. and we're thinking it will be out about a year from now.
2001-03: interview with amy ray, borders website chat:
darcy: have you gotten any feedback from rolling stone or jann wenner regarding your lyrics in "lucystoners"?
amy ray: no, i haven't. and i doubt they will give me any feedback.
2001-03-29: amy ray, indie girl, the orlando sentinel:
in "lucystoners," ray takes on rolling stone publisher jann wenner as poster-boy for rock's perceived gender-bias: "janny wenner, janny wenner, rolling stone's most fearless leader/ gave the boys what they deserve/ but with the girls he lost his nerve."
as owner of atlanta-based independent label daemon records, ray is acutely aware of the underdog's perspective.
"it affects all kinds of women and it also affects men. the less diverse the industry is, the less open it is. it means only music of the mainstream establishment gets played. but how women are treated is a good barometer."
she is highly critical of corporate consolidation in the radio industry, although she stresses that musicians outside the mainstream can't afford to reject the notion of commercial success.
"we don't have to be on major labels necessarily, but we have to work on that fact that rock radio doesn't play women. if alternative rock stations were playing women, they also would be playing the guys that should be played. there's a lot of good music out there that we're not hearing and a lot of people who just don't listen to the radio anymore."
2001-05-08: chasing amy, the advocate:
the same goes for stag, which daemon released in march. ray recalls that a few years ago she began writing songs that weren't quite fitting in with the indigo aesthetic. so, she says, she "started putting them in this other little pile. the pile was getting bigger and bigger, and i said, 'i've got to do something with these.'" ray had also become frustrated with being on a major label, and the idea of recording on her own indie imprint and playing smaller venues seemed a welcome respite. "epic is experiencing burnout with us," ray says of the indigo girls' record label. "we've been on the label a long time, and we're women, getting older. it's harder for women in the rock industry when they get older."
hence the 10-track, low-budget cd, which ray recorded with the help of the north carolina-based dyke trio the butchies and which has guest appearances by onetime daemon artists danielle howle and rock*a*teens. for one track, "hey castrator," ray assembled an impressive backing superband featuring joan jett, josephine wiggs (dusty trails, the breeders), and kate schellenbach (luscious jackson). to ray, making a record with her musician friends "was this great time where i could hang out with them and do something that was completely outside of everything i do."
wiggs, who recorded with ray in an old brooklyn, n.y., firehouse, says she was generous in the creative process. "it became clear to me that amy wanted me to do a lot more than just play the bass," says wiggs. "it was very flattering."
"i came to the studio after performing in my broadway show [the rocky horror show], so i thought i might have been too tired to get it going," remembers jett. "but once i got there, amy, her other musicians, and the aura of the studio got me in a very good place mentally. the studio was a very funky and good-vibe place. amy was looking for a natural performance on 'hey castrator' without a lot of polish. i think we got great energy in there." in addition to being made on the fly and on a very tight budget, stag is also far more lyrically arresting than anything ray has done. though she and saliers have always been political and painstakingly honest in their prose, nothing to date stings more than stag's best cut, "lucystoners." the song is a railing flip-off to sexism in the music industry, with a particularly high-profile target: "janny wenner, rolling stone's most fearless leader / gave the boys what they deserve, but with the girls he lost his nerve....lucystoners don't need boners, ain't no man could ever own her."
"he's sort of notorious for his resistance to women musicians," ray says of wenner, the famed magazine's publisher. "it's so much more than just him," she adds of the music media's chauvinism, "but he's a convenient scapegoat." ray's ruthless browbeating of the influential music glossy particularly inspired butchies drummer melissa york. "i really wonder what's going to happen with that song," york says, giggling nervously. "after working with amy, i really look up to her. she is so open with music."
ray uses stark, bare-knuckle lyrics to guide her through a number of painful topics. in "measure of me"-co-written with butchies singer-guitarist kaia wilson-a butch female protagonist wants to date a guy but feels stymied in a society that is forever shackling people in gender roles: "the boy he thinks i'm damaged goods / i know he does and i guess he should." though ray is in a long-distance relationship of three years' standing with a woman, a manhattan-based writer, she contends that sexuality is fluid. "that's what i mean when i'm saying [in the song], 'crossing over what you know.' what i was saying was, 'i'm here with this guy, and it's the last thing you'd expect me to be doing, but you should accept it. it shouldn't be you who is holding me back from who i am.'"
ray doesn't mince words, and throughout, her career as an out performer she has also been known as a tireless activist. in addition to daemon's activities, the grassroots projects she's been involved in include a fight to end the slaughter of buffalo in yellowstone national park; funding solar power for a village in chiapas state, mexico, where there was no electricity; and stopping a toxic waste incinerator from being built near her home outside atlanta.
"amy ray is one person that walks it like she talks it," says jett. "she is committed to doing whatever she can to make the world better and to fighting injustice wherever she can. that is one of the many reasons i am proud to call her my friend."
ray is fond of ending her written correspondence with the slogan "here's to the motherfuckin' revolution," though she doesn't necessarily believe that change can come only through so massive an act. "i think it can happen, but it's at a very local level-that's where victories are won," she says. "that's what ends up changing government and corporate accountability."
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