Friday, December 09, 2011

Genya Ravan - Lollipop Lounge - Memoirs of a Rock and Roll Refugee

A daughter of Polish immigrants who - barely - escaped the Nazi Holocaust, Genya came to America and learned to love the country and, especially, its rock'n'roll. A lovely woman, she eventually started doing "cheesecake" modeling to make money and then, after sitting in with a band in Greenwich Village, decided to start her own group. But not just any band, she wanted an all-female band! And so, Goldie and the Gingerbreads were formed. This was in the early 60's and this was so unusual (obviously long before the Runaways or even Fanny) that they had no trouble getting gigs, despite having problems keeping members. They became the toast of NYC and even moved to England for a while, playing with - and screwing - some of the biggest stars of the time. Eventually the band split up, moved back to the states and Genya decided to start a jazz-influenced group, Ten Wheel Drive.

While 10 Wheel Drive did quite a lot and played some huge shows, Genya was never completely happy since this was someone else's concept. Of course, having an affair with one of the main guys in the band wasn't the best idea, either, and, after a couple of years, the group split apart. From there she attempted a solo career, but had bad luck with producers and management and was not happy. Eventually she learned record production and made a name for herself with that.

One of her most well-known productions is the Dead Boys' Young, Loud and Snotty, though she worked with quite a few other NYC punk/new wave groups and even produced Ronnie Spector's Siren LP with many of those same NYC rockers as session players. She has some very unkind words for Ronnie, supposedly in retaliation to comments made by Spector in her auto-biography.

Genya also had another shot at a solo career with one of her best known records, Urban Desire, but record company, management and promotional problems caused another crash and burn and contributed to her alcohol and drug abuse, which got out of hand at this point.

She wasted a number of years of her life on drugs and alcohol and, in a sickly ironic twist, once she began to recover from substance abuse, she discovered that she had cancer. This almost killed her, but she learned of her own inner strength that she didn't know that she had and, with the help of friends and family, beat the cancer and regained her life.

This is a story with many ups and downs - lots of fun times with r'n'r music and stars as well as desperate times of addiction and sickness. This shows the reality of the music business from someone who lived most aspects of it and lived it in its most interesting times. A very cool read.