Pretend We're Dead

The Rise, Fall, and Resurrection of Women in Rock in the ’90s

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By Tanya Pearson

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From the founder of the Women of Rock Oral History Project, an exploration of women in the '90s rock scene, featuring original interviews by Shirley Manson, Courtney Love, Alanis Morissette, Sheryl Crow, Kim Gordon, and more

When musician and public historian Tanya Pearson decided to go back to school at Smith College, she was surprised to discover that there was no archive for holding the stories of the women who had shaped the art form she loved, and so she started the Women of Rock Oral History Project, which now houses dozens of original interviews. Though many of the interviews provided interesting anecdotes and unique insight, one interview in particular, with Shirley Manson (vocalist of seminal rock band, Garbage) in 2018, ended up staying with Pearson long after the tape finished recording: "It’s a blanket fact that after September 11th, nonconformist women were taken off the radio.” This comment, which expressed a reality Pearson had personally witnessed as a musician and a fan, launched her into a quest to figure out just what happened–and this book recounts the tale in full.

PRETEND WE’RE DEAD: The Rise, Fall, and Resurrection of Women in Rock in the ‘90s seeks to answer two big questions: First, where did all these wildly different, politically conscious, and supremely talented women in rock come from in the 1990s? And second, after their unprecedented breakout, did they vanish from the mainstream by the early aughts? Along with analysis and narrative, PRETEND WE’RE DEAD presents the unfiltered voices of legends including (but not limited to): Shirley Manson, Melissa Auf der Maur, Patty Schemel, Courtney Love, Kate Schellenbach, Nina Gordon, Louise Post, Josephine Wiggs, Tanya Donelly, Kristin Hersh, Tracy Bonham, Peaches, Donita Sparks, Liz Phair, Lydia Lunch, Zia McCabe, Alanis Morissette, Sheryl Crow, Kim Gordon, and Kim Deal. Through these thought-provoking conversations, readers learn all about how these women fell in love with music and started bands; fought labels, their coverage in the media, and sexism; and wrote deeply political and feminist music. Readers also learn about the effects of Woodstock ’99, the corporatization of the music industry, the rise of Clear Channel and its ties to the Bush administration, and finally the nationalist sentiment after 9/11. While sonically diverse, the musicians included in this narrative all wrote fierce, socially conscious, feminist lyrics, and this book commemorates the overlooked contributions of these trailblazing women, trans, and gender non-conforming musicians.

Perfect for readers of Lizzy Goodman's Meet Me in the Bathroom and Sara Marcus' Girls to the Front; as well as pioneering memoirs by icons like Carrie Brownstein, Kim Gordon, and Viv Albertine; this book is a must-have for the bookshelves of feminists and music lovers everywhere.

On Sale
Jan 28, 2025
Page Count
320 pages
Publisher
Hachette Books
ISBN-13
9780306833373

Tanya Pearson

About the Author

Since starting the "Women of Rock Oral History Project" in 2014, Tanya Pearson has conducted 75+ interviews; given lectures on women, rock, and culture; and created her own undergraduate course where students look at rock music through the lens of United States political culture from the Harlem Renaissance through the early aughts. She currently play drums in a punk band called Feminine Aggression, and has been able to collaborate and perform with Alice Bag, Lydia Lunch, Frances McKee of the Vaselines, and members of the seminal rock band Hole, as well as produce compilation albums featuring Women of Rock interviewees. Her first book, Why Marianne Faithfull Matters, was published by University of Texas Press in July 2021. Her essays and criticism have appeared in The Washington Post, Pop Matters, Bust Magazine, and the Oral History Journal, and she has appeared on The Lydian Spin, C86, Feminist Magazine Radio, and BBC 4 Radio podcasts. Currently teaching at Ball State University, she's based in Muncie, Indiana.

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