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Betsy Bitch is arguably one of the first female voices of heavy metal. Before Doro Pesch set the bar so incredibly high in the power metal genre with a metal scream unlike any other, Betsy was tearing up the West Coast with Bitch, producing two brilliant EP’s and three full-lengths before calling it a day as Bitch and adopting just Betsy as a moniker. Now that Bitch has re-emerged, Metal Blade has intelligently reissued the first EP and full-length as yet another history lesson worthy of indulgence.
Ms. Betsy’s voice is strong, not overwhelming, which is truly its charm. Her basic yell is a controlled euphoria that doesn’t shatter glasses or cause shivers up the spine, but in its most medium form lay the true treasure of Bitch. One listen to “Leather Bound” shocks the system right back the early 80’s Sunset Strip scene that seemed to end as quickly as it began, with glamsters and posers lining up the streets with poofy hair and make-up that would have made Tammy Faye Baker’s gag reflex go ballistic. This aforementioned track in particular always struck a chord with me simply due to its Deborah Harry vocal style ala “Rip Her to Shreds”; if you can imagine Ms. Harry tearing it up in a metal style you’d have Betsy Bitch in all facets. Ms. Betsy was to heavy metal what Ms. Harry was to early New York punk and New Wave. That said Ms. Betsy was one of the first females men revered and lusted after in our movement, all respectfully of course.
The leather-laced S&M themes were enough to entice and illuminate any young boy’s fantasies back in ’83, all the while providing a stellar soundtrack of heavy metal majesty. Bitch wouldn’t destroy the Los Angeles scene with its music in those days, but for all of the bravado emerging from every club from Gazzari’s to the Starwood and back they provided a strong sensibility of heavy rock that was quickly overshadowed by the plasticity and generic vibe created by other bands. Rather than allow herself to be manhandled in a genre made up of mostly alpha males, Betsy Bitch used to prowl stages like an unleashed panther in black leather bras and whips, screaming her way through tracks like “Heavy Metal Breakdown”, “Live for the Whip” and “Riding in Thunder”, all the while letting the audiences know she and her band were the real deal.
When this band emerged in my local shop nearly 30-years ago I was introduced to my first heavy vocalist that made me forget all about Pat Benatar and Ms. Harry for a while. Betsy was cool long before Tarja made Goths everywhere lose their collective minds. The standard was set for females like Ms. Pesch, Dawn Crosby, Lee Aaron (even though her first album predated Bitch by one year), Ann Boleyn, Debbie Gunn, Leather Leone, and a slew of others. I believe the only female band of this type around the California way was Leather Angel, a short-lived, one-EP act nurtured by Nikki Sixx that never made it past one release. Ms. Betsy had her work in motion and kicked down a few dozen doors for metal women all over the planet, and while she gets no real credit for this it should be noted some 30-years later she was the first to garner the attention from the underground.
These collective works are a true piece of history that sound as important and relevant today as they did years ago, not to mention cleaned up beautifully. Stripped down, bare-bones heavy rock is what you’re getting on the Be My Slave/Damnation Alley reissue and it’s worth every solitary penny you might muster because, quite openly, the historical references here are too intense to ignore or dismiss; the music is top quality Los Angeles club metal, which is exactly what you hope to revisit, right? Before Ratt and Poison took over the Strip metal was still an ugly word filled with elitists very selective about with whom we associated and shared our music with, and that’s exactly where we should be again. Bitch was there, and the line formed out the door for them in a time when the most fundamental metal music was all we hoped for to get us through a swelter Saturday night.
I wish I could have seen it firsthand; damn my youth for being rooted in Midwestern comforts.
(Originally written for www.MetalPsalter.com)