Babes in Toyland: The Making and Selling of a Rock and Roll Band

Babes in Toyland: The Making and Selling of a Rock and Roll Band

by Neal Karlen
     
 

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Babes in Toyland is a rare peek into the glamorous and tough world of rock and roll—an exclusive backstage pass for anyone who has ever fantasized about starting a band, being discovered by a major label, recording an album, and touring the country to play music in front of thousands. Also, with its revealing look at the record business—an industry

Overview

Babes in Toyland is a rare peek into the glamorous and tough world of rock and roll—an exclusive backstage pass for anyone who has ever fantasized about starting a band, being discovered by a major label, recording an album, and touring the country to play music in front of thousands. Also, with its revealing look at the record business—an industry that makes the rest of show business seem positively tame—this book is as immediate as a new issue of Rolling Stone, as colorful as a good mystery, and as tart and explosive as a top-ten hit.
 
Told with the gritty, up-close feel of a behind-the-scenes documentary film, this is the story of three young women who wanted to play rock and roll like the boys. It follows their coming together in the underground grunge-rock scene in Minneapolis, their early club days, and their discovery by Warner Bros. Records. It tracks their dramatic breakup (and reconfiguration), goes through the often funny, sometimes inspiring, and always emotional recording sessions for their album Fontanelle, and goes stage-side as they film their all-important video for MTV. Veteran journalist Neal Karlen was given unprecedented access to Warners marketing and strategy meetings, where he observed firsthand the star-making machinery that runs the pop music business. From punk rockers in the mosh pit to rock stars in mansions, Babes in Toyland contains revealing snapshots of Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love, Soul Asylum's Dave Pirner, Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder, and R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe, as well as Beavis and Butt-head, today's most powerful rock critics.
 
Center-stage in this story are the members of Babes in Toyland: Kat Bjelland, the punk-rock poetess who'd dreamed of being a star since she was five years old; Lori Barbero, the dreadlocked drummer and band mother who was best friend to everybody in the alternative music scene; and Maureen Herman, the brainy bassist who struggled to fit in with the group. There's also Tim Carr, the Warner Bros. A & R man who saw in the Babes the talent and drive to make it to the top of the grunge scene. Finally, there's Babes in Toyland's triumphant spot on the 1993 Lollapalooza, the most prestigious tour in rock and roll. In this real-life version of The Commitments, readers will also see how success can do more to damage a band of best friends than failure.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Minneapolis grunge rockers Babes in Toyland are neither famous nor critically acclaimed, which is why rock journalist Karlen chose them as subjects for this profile of the day-to-day life and career trajectory of a young band whose fate remains uncertain. He follows the band as it appears variously to be on the cusp of either superstardom or disollution in the volatile world of the rock 'n' roll industry, chronicled here at both its most sordid and most exhilarating moments. The Babes's struggles with overbearing record labels, drug-abusing friends, long tours on a shoestring budget and a precarious future represent the experiences of many young bands. Their story is also of interest because they are one of the first all-female bands to play the kind of loud, angry rock 'n' roll which typically has been claimed by male groups. Karlen's often verbatim record of conversations he heard over three years of following the Babes seems occasionally invasive, yet the band members' willingness to reveal themselves so thoroughly to him lends credibility to his account. Author tour. (Aug.)
Library Journal
Babes in Toyland is a female grunge-rock trio who, while struggling for steady work on the Minneapolis bar circuit, were signed by Warner Records and suddenly thrust into national renown. Journalist Karlen (New York Times, Rolling Stone) presents the intense, often grueling experiences of this individual band as a microcosm of the MTV-age rock industry. The author describes in sharp detail the rigors, internecine conflicts, tragedies, and triumphs of a 1990s rock group and shows with equal clarity the marketing strategies, schemes, and power struggles of the big business behind the group. Karlen's vigorous craftsmanship, his rich knowledge of the rock scene, and the remarkable intimacy of his investigation combine to make Babes in Toyland a uniquely valuable asset to collections concerned with either the realities of modern music or mass media. Highly recommended.-Bill Piekarski, Southwestern Coll. Lib., Chula Vista, Cal.
Mike Tribby
The latest "instant" history of a current pop music group is justified by the singular story it tells. In this case, the story is about how the rock-star-making machinery is being applied to a so-called alternative act. Such bands face a dilemma: if they broaden their appeal, they risk being shunned as sell-outs by their original fans; and if they cling to alternative status, they risk poverty and career oblivion. So alternative acts--e.g., R.E.M., the Red Hot Chili Peppers--try to walk a tightrope between popularity and fidelity. The difficulty of maintaining balance is what this book is about. With a major record company contract, Babes in Toyland is under pressure--from the record company, to make a best-selling album; from its fans, to resist commercialism. The attendant conflict occurs under the watchful eyes of the rock press, who are no longer the rapt cheerleaders of the past. Add to this the antipathy between Babes leader Kat Bjelland and rival Courtney Love, plus the novelty of being an all-female band in the still testosterone-soaked world of rock, and you have one spicy pop music stew.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780307830722
Publisher:
Crown/Archetype
Publication date:
07/24/2013
Sold by:
Random House
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
312
File size:
4 MB

Meet the Author

NEAL KARLEN's work appears regularly in The New York Times. During the past decade, he has also been a crime writer at Newsweek, a contributing editor to Rolling Stone, and an essayist for CBS News. He is the co-author of a rock opera with Prince, and of Take My Life, Please, the autobiography of Henny Youngman. He lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

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