Too angry to type properly. The Cake have given me countless hours of enjoyment, and to see Eleanor and her ladies dismissed so casually, and with such gendered bias…
I have always argued that if there wasn’t such an institutionalised gender bias around representations and mediations of rock, The Cake’s two studio albums, in particular the fantastical 1967 debut Cake, would long ago have been hailed as some of the Greatest Pop Music of the 1960s, easily up there with the more usual and pedestrian boy offerings.
The Guardian strapline for their obit reads, Other lives: Singer who duetted with Tiny Tim and sang backing vocals for Dr John alongside a photograph that foregrounds two male stars (Otis Redding and Jimi Hendrix) very heavily. The implication is implicit, if unspoken: a famous female groupie has just died. HOW DARE THEY?! How dare they? Who gives a FUCK that Eleanor duetted with Tiny Tim and sang backing vocals for Dr John? Cake made greater music than Hendrix OR Redding. I thought that The Guardian was above defining women by their male counterparts.
This is shameful. Pretty much the entire obit is about her more-famous male colleagues. Even Kevin Ayers gets a bigger write-up than Cake in the obit. Kevin Ayers!!! The ALL-FEMALE Cake were incredible… but I guess, even in death, gender prejudice rules.
Look at the clips posted here. Look at the way they are subverting the whole expectation of performance simply by refusing to go along with it. And such incredible music! TURN THE VOLUME TO A HUNDRED! You either get it or you don’t. And if you don’t, then baby… you better fuck right off.
I have played these clips so many times to students in Brisbane over the last seven years.
As I wrote for The Quietus (about the letter ‘c’ in John Peel’s Record Collection),
Further proof, if any were needed, that the history of rock would be entirely different if it hadn’t been written along such fixedly patriarchal lines. The two Cake albums from ’67 and ’68 are truly wonderful flights of fancy: baroque psychedelic pop with girl group overtones and intricate, madrigal-style harmonies that never cloyed. In any sort of reasonably gender-balanced overview, they’d be held up as pinnacles of 60s pop perfection to rank alongside The Kinks and The Shangri-La’s. The fact they’re not is both absurd and embarrassing.
Watch the video below. Go on. I know what you’re thinking. Why isn’t that girl dancing?
And of course, the timeless…
R.I.P Eleanor Barooshian. Many thanks for the wonderful music you gave me. So sorry you were never afforded the respect you deserved.