On the new Gore Gore Girls' Get The Gore album, sultry front-siren Amy Gore sings: "I am a pleasure unit, eating cake and credit cards/ I am a pleasure unit, stealing shoes and cruising bars." In her own uniquely eloquent way, Gore has managed to summarize the spirit of her band in two lines. Anyone who's seen these girls live can attest that "fun" is the name of their game, thanks to a glorious combination of surf-rock, garage punk and '60s girl-group glamour. As Amy Gore says during a phone call from Germany during the band's recent European tour: "The main concept for me was a band that looks like the Ronettes but sounds like the Stooges."
Named after a 1972 blood-soaked B-movie by cult director Herschell Gordon Lewis, the Gore Gore Girls have been playing locally since 1997, perhaps the most fruitful period for Detroit garage rock since the late '60s.
"There definitely was a rock 'n' roll fever going around, with everybody creating, writing, forming bands," Gore says. "A lot of it was just about partying, though. I went to my first session at Jim Diamond's studio. He had beer, so we would go there. Obviously the bubble's burst now. There was even a gold rush for a while, which got kinda gross. But the majority of the same people are still here. And they all still have great record collections."
Several bands that came out of the scene would, of course, achieve success way beyond anybody's expectations. Gore was simply happy to see her friends do well: "I remember seeing the White Stripes and, even though the band was in its infancy, there was just something about Jack that was charismatic and captivating," she recalls. "Suddenly, people started to embrace him and that was really cool. But then it got out of hand. I mean, Grammys? Wow! That was amazing. I have a copy of a guitar magazine that has Jack on the cover with Jimmy Page. I couldn't be more thrilled that he's considered a guitar hero because there're not that many good guitar heroes right now for young people. Jack is the closest thing to a blues player for young teens."
The Gore Gore Girls 2008 are a slick, high-energy, long-legged rock monster, but it wasn't always so. "It's morphed from a three-piece of limited ability," says Gore. "I was listening to a lot of surf music and Black Sabbath back then. But it's come into its own. We have two guitar players now and that really fills out the sound and adds another dimension to it, especially since my main influences include Bo Diddley, the Kinks, Blue Cheer, the Gories, Screaming Jay Hawkins, Back From The Grave Vol. 1 [a 1996 Crypt Records compilation featuring such underground punk artists as the Rats, the Banshees and the Novas]. I also love the Cramps. The best live show of all time, hands down. I can say that because I've seen them close to 100 times. We did two tours with them, and every night was different. There's an element of spontaneity and true danger with them. They were the nicest, sweetest, most well-behaved rock 'n' roll animals I've ever encountered."
Less a raw, ramshackle garage show, a Gore Gore Girls concert today is far more together and, well, rehearsed. As Gore says, "It's a feral, visceral, eight-legged, big-haired rock 'n' roll machine." And "feral" is a great word to describe the girls; they might be blessed with more musical ability now, but they're still not compromising one jot. And they're still gleefully untamed. Gore claims another main inspiration has always been "powerful women who played music because they had something to say." Nevertheless, there'll always be that struggle of getting the public to take an all-girl rock 'n' roll band seriously.
"I think girl rock bands will always be considered a novelty," says Gore. "The impression will be 'What's this all about. Who do these girls think they are?' Seriously, each player is judged on their own merit. If you have the good fortune of getting four good players together, then you're gonna have a good band. And at this point, our band is one of the best all-girl bands around, of all time, within the rock 'n' roll genre."
The band returns to Detroit this week for a homecoming show — but they're equally excited about sharing a bill with the Readies, the new band headed by Dan Kroha, formerly of the Gories and Demolition Dollrods. "I've seen them," Gore says, "and I love them." The girls should be in fine form, as they spent the past few weeks trooping across Europe, on their first major trek across the Continent. "We're loving Europe," she says, describing Germany as "very punk rock. I don't know why, but the whole place has a punk rock vibe to it."
Having conquered Europe, and with a great recent album already behind them, 2008 may well be the year that the Gore Gore Girls show the rest of the world why they're held in such high regard in Detroit. As for the next 10 years, though, Gore opted to be deliciously enigmatic with her final words: "Never say never. That's all I can say to that question."
Friday, May 16, at Smalls, 10339 Conant, Hamtramck; 313-873-1117. With the Readies.Brett Callwood, a recent Brit transplant to Detroit, is a music writer for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org