Frightwig was an American all-female band from San Francisco, California, formed in 1983.

Not more than five minutes after the formation of Southern Records and our first release (Fontanelle by Babes In Toyland), I had Frightwig on my hit list. The band had been a massive influence on me during my time in San Francisco in the early 80’s. They were the first all-female American band I was exposed to.

Sure, I was a Joan Jett fan, but her band The Runaways were before my time. I had been existing on a steady diet of British women – Crass, Poison Girls, and Girlschool! Now here were these incredible, loud, awesome-looking women making a joyous racket, screaming lyrics like “Yes, I base my worth on who I get to fuck me”. They looked sexy too – but in a very cool, very intimidating kind of way. Like a Halloween pastiche of what a glamour girl should look like, they played with their feminine power and perverted the traditional punk roles. Frightwig questioned the sexual status quo just as much as Crass did with Penis Envy, but they did it in an utterly American way – full of sarcasm and wit, and laughing through their anger.

I eventually tracked them down and in 1993 Southern released Wild Women Never Die. The release compiled the band’s first two albums on that new-fangled compact disc format. Included are lyrics, photos and liner notes from the band and some of their “celebrity” followers, including members of L7, Hole, Butthole Surfers and Faith No More.

Blazing a trail later trodden by bands like Babes In Toyland, Hole, L7 and Bikini Kill, they were often cited as an influence.

Mia of Frightwig 6 by raybrazen
Mia of Frightwig 6, a photo by raybrazen on Flickr.

“Me, Kat (Bjelland) and Jennifer (Finch) all watched Frightwig the same night and decided to start bands the next day. Frightwig are the true grandmothers of riot grrl and everything. Without them there would be no Hole, no Babes In Toyland, no L7, no PJ Harvey, no riot grrl.”. – Courtney Love

Deanna of Frightwig 4 by raybrazen
Deanna of Frightwig 4, a photo by raybrazen on Flickr.

Frightwig tackled personal and political issues with their tongues firmly in their cheeks. They were known for inviting a male audience member on stage to “dance” during the song “A Man’s Gotta Do What a Man’s Gotta Do”, and thereby publicly ridiculing them.

Frightwig released their first album Cat Farm Faboo in 1984 on trailblazing San Francisco label Subterranean Records (also the home of Flipper, Dead Kennedys, Chrome and many other early SF punk and industrial bands). Their second album Faster, Frightwig, Kill! Kill! was released on Caroline in 1986. Following this the band, dissolving through seemingly contagious pregnancies befalling its members, squeezed out an EP “Phonesexy” on Boner Records.

The band gained momentary fame after Kurt Cobain was seen at Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged concert wearing a Frightwig T-shirt.

Frightwig was composed of Cecilia Lynch, Deanna Ashley, Mia Levin, Susan Miller, Megan Page, Lynn Perko and Rebecca Tucker. After the band broke up, few members moved on to form Mudwimin along with Tragic Mulatto drummer, Bambi Nonymous.

Rebecca of Frightwig 2 by raybrazen
Rebecca of Frightwig 2, a photo by raybrazen on Flickr.

Pick up Wild Women Never Die in the Southern shop now.

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