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Pussy Galore

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Biography

Pussy Galore didn't invent noise rock, but they did change the way many musicians approached the notion of transforming chaotic noise into music. Early on, most bands that embraced noise as an aesthetic either had an arty world-view, a philosophical axe to grind, or some combination of the two. Pussy Galore, on the other hand, simply embraced godawful racket for the hell of it, laying out willfully primitive and technically ragged music drawn from '60s garage punk, gutbucket blues, and several generations of attitudinal and misbehaving rockers (most notably the Rolling Stones), all wrapped up in a simple but aggressive agenda of annoying anyone within earshot, even those who had sympathy for their approach.

Pussy Galore were formed in 1985 in Washington, D.C. by vocalist and guitarist Jon Spencer, vocalist and guitarist Julia Cafritz, and drummer John Hammill; they also frequently included additional percussionists who would bang on pieces of metal. In the interest of greater ear-splitting chaos, the band did without a bassist, and a few months after forming they booked time in a tiny recording studio to cut their debut 7", an EP called Feel Good About Your Body, which was released on the trio's own Shove Records label in January 1986. A few months later, Pussy Galore were back with a 12" EP, Groovy Hate F**k, which introduced the band's third guitarist, Neil Hagerty. Groovy Hate F**k's cover photo was snapped by a young photographer named Cristina Martinez, who caught Spencer's eye and would soon join the lineup on guitar and organ, despite her lack of musical experience (something that didn't burden most of the members of the group).

Between their frantic, noisy attack and song titles like "Teen Pussy Power," "You Look Like a Jew," and "F**k You, Ian MacKaye," it didn't take long for Pussy Galore to get noticed, and after thoroughly polarizing the D.C. music community, the band relocated to New York City in search of a larger audience. Drummer Hammill opted to stay behind, and former Sonic Youth timekeeper Bob Bert joined the group in his place. When a rumor began to circulate that Sonic Youth were working on an album in which they would cover the Beatles' White Album song by song (a rumor that proved to be false), Pussy Galore decided to create their own preemptive response, cutting a jagged, lo-fi reinterpretation of the Rolling Stones' Exile on Main St. that was issued on a limited-edition cassette; the release earned Pussy Galore a great deal of press attention, even though they only produced 550 copies of the tape.

Independent New York label Buy Our Records teamed up with Pussy Galore for their next release, the EP Pussy Gold 5000, which arrived in stores in early 1987. Pussy Galore soon headed to Chicago to record their first proper album with fellow curmudgeon Steve Albini at the controls, and Pussy Galore, Right Now! was issued by Caroline Records in September 1987. Neil Hagerty sat out the sessions for the 1988 EP Sugarshit Sharp, as did Cristina Martinez, but Hagerty was back (along with additional guitarist Kurt Wolf) for 1989's Dial 'M' for M**********r. However, the band was starting to run out of steam, with Julia Cafritz dropping out prior to the recording of 1990's Historia de la Musica Rock, and not long after the album was released, Pussy Galore finally broke up.

Given Pussy Galore's busy and often contentious existence, most of the bandmembers went on to surprisingly successful careers in the wake of the band's breakup. Jon Spencer would, of course, front the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, and formed Boss Hog with Cristina Martinez, who had become his wife. Julia Cafritz would go on to perform with the bands Guv'ner and Action Swingers, and would perform in Kim Gordon's side project Free Kitten. And Michael Hagerty (also billing himself as Neil Michael Hagerty) would record with Royal Trux, Weird War, and Howling Hex, as well as cutting several solo albums.

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