With all of the bands that came out of Haight-Ashbury in the 60s, there’s one you don’t seem to hear about as much as others, and that’s why It’s Bad For You But Buy It! by The Ace of Cups (Big Beat/Ace – 2019) is my record of the day. One of the first all-woman rock bands, the group consisted of five ladies: Mary Gannon on bass, Marla Hunt on organ and piano, Denise Kaufman on guitar and harmonica, Mary Ellen Simpson on lead guitar and Diane Vitalich on the drums. They all sang lead and they all sang back-up. And by the way, they wailed.
It’s probably not surprising that the vocal harmonies are on-point, and I’m such a sucker for that organ sound that when you combine the two, well, that’s when the magic really happens.
The group never released any records, but they were pro-giggers, playing psych ballrooms around San Francisco, even opening for Jimi Hendrix (one of their biggest fans), along with the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane. So, why don’t we hear more about them? We might never truly know, but I can’t help thinking that the band being all women held them back somehow. I worked in college radio in the 90s, and too often heard guys say things such as, “Women can’t play drums,” or “Aw, a girl band, how cute,” so I can only imagine those attitudes were even more rampant in the 60s.
But if the times they are a-changin’, then thank goodness. Perhaps that’s why Big Beat & Ace Records put out this compilation of demos and live recordings by the band. It was previously available on CD or online only, but is now available on shiny LP, if you’re willing to shell out the conversion and shipping costs. And I, for one, am.