I’ve been listening obsessively to Thee Headcoatees this week and last. I recently posted about two of my favorite femme garage rock bands from the 2000s, and, this band is one of my favorites from the 1990s. But, the truth is, I’ve never really listened to them until last week, and, now, I’m like a Headcoatees superfan, 15 years after they disbanded! So, let’s pretend I’ve been a fan since they began …
Thee Headcoatees were formed, in 1991, in Kent, England, by prolific U.K. garage rock auteur Billy Childish as backup singers for his band Thee Headcoats and as a band backed by that band. Thee Headcoatees were Holly Golightly, Kyra LaRubia, Ludella Black, and “Bongo” Debbie Green. Ludella Black formerly headed up The Delmonas who were formed by Childish as backup singers for his band The Milkshakes and as a band backed by that band (and, later, Thee Mighty Caesars). The Delmonas were inspired (mostly) by ’60s girl groups, while Thee Headcoatees, like Thee Headcoats, kicked out (mostly) raw ’60s-influenced fuzzy garage rock with hints of ’60s surf and ’70s punk rock. Billy Childish wrote most of the Thee Headcoatees‘ original songs, and, all four girls sang lead, with vocal styles that ranged from sexy and soulful to raucous and snotty. Kyra LaRubia‘s accent, in particular, is quite lovely. She was born in Belgium. Billy Childish, by the way, wrote most of the songs.
Thee Headcoatees released six studio albums, a collection of singles, and two live albums with Thee Headcoats, whom they toured with until Childish dissolved the band in 1999. Holly Golightly, while still a Headcoatee, began a solo career, in 1995, and has since released over ten solo albums; and five more, beginning in 2007, as Holly Golightly & the Brokeoffs. She was also featured on The White Stripes track “Well It’s True That We Love One Another” from Elephant (2003). Ludella Black and Kyra LaRubia have also released post-Headcoatees solo work, though not as frequently as Holly Golightly.
Anyway, let’s rank Thee Headcoatees‘ six studio albums …
1. Ballad of the Insolent Pup (1994), the group’s 3rd album, is the grittiest, punkiest, and most scornful of them all, and, it’s brilliant, start to finish. Holly‘s “You’ll Be Sorry Now” is the album’s best track, followed by Kyra‘s “All My Feelings Denied”, Debbie‘s “It’s Bad” and “Now Is Not the Best Time”, and Ludella‘s “No Respect”. But, other favorites are Holly‘s “Again and Again”, Kyra‘s title track and “When You Stop Loving Me”, and Ludella‘s “This Heart”. Best Headcoatees album, hands down.
2. Have Love, Will Travel (1992), the group’s 2nd album, includes Holly‘s sexy “You Know You Can’t Resist”, one of Thee Headcoatees‘ best songs. It’s like Nancy Sinatra, surf style. Other favorites are Kyra‘s title track [which is a cover of The Sonics‘ 1965 version] and “Something Went Wrong”, Debbie‘s “Baby Please” and “Tear It To Pieces”, Holly‘s “Come Into My Life”, and Ludella‘s “I’m Gonna Make You Mine” [originally recorded by The Shadows of Knight in 1966].
3. Punk Girls (1997), the group’s 5th album, is a collection of three-chord ditties, including covers of punk classics by the Ramones (Kyra‘s “Pinhead”) and The Undertones (Debbie‘s “Teenage Kicks”). But, the best tracks are Kyra‘s “Punk Girl” and Debbie‘s “Punk Boy”. Other favorites are Holly‘s “You’re Right, I’m Wrong” and Ludella‘s “Don’t Wanna Hold Your Hand” [a punky re-working of The Beatles‘ “I Want To Hold Your Hand”].
4. Bozstik Haze (1997), the group’s 4th album, opens and closes with a cool surf instrumental theme (“We Are Thee Headcoatees”), but, Ludella‘s “I Need Loving” [originally written by Mickey Hampshire for The Milkshakes (1983)] is this album’s best track. Other favorites are Holly‘s “You Ruined My Night’s Rest” and “Just Like a Dog”, and Kyra‘s Ramones-esque title track and “Name Your Poison”.
5. Here Comes Cessation (1999) was the group’s 6th and final original album. “Bongo” Debbie had departed to pursue other projects, so Holly, Kyra and Ludella carried on as a trio. Holly‘s “You Say That You Love Me” is the best track, followed by Ludella‘s “All Night Long”, and Holly‘s ballad “Hurt Me”. Other favorites are Kyra‘s “Is There Any Chance Of You Coming Into My Life?” and Ludella‘s “You’re Gonna Get What’s Coming”.
6. Girlsville (1999), the group’s debut, is my least favorite of Thee Headcoatees‘ original studio albums. It’s good, but, the rest, overall, are better. Kyra‘s “Wild Man” and Ludella‘s “Give It To Me” are the best tracks, but, Holly‘s “When the Night Comes” is good, too.
Finally, I’ll mention some favorites from The Sisters of Suave (1999) which collected the group’s non-album singles and B-sides. Holly‘s “Come Into My Mouth” [from the 1992 single We Got 7 inches, But We Wanted Twelve], an x-rated version of “Come Into My Life”, is the best track. Kyra‘s Ramones cover “Swallow My Pride” [from a 1996 split-single with Thee Headcoats] would have made a great B-side! Other favorites are Kyra‘s “Strychnine” [from a 1993 split-single] and a fuzzier version of “Ballad of the Insolent Pup” (1996).
No videos, so watch Thee Headcoatees perform live here: