Over the xmas break I have taken some time away from writing. At the end of November I sent my supervisor a 15000 word paper outline the problems of the term ‘girl group’. Having taken a small break (from writing, not thinking!) I feel I have more questions and points to raise about this term.
One of the central aspects of these groups or figures associated with this term (performers) is decentralisation. This decentralisation occurs in two key areas. First, the decentralisation of personnel due to the organisation and insistence of the ‘group’ image. The insistence of the group makes it unclear who might be recognised as ‘lead’. Or in the cases where there are more distinct lead vocalist (see the Ronnettes) the insistence of the ‘group’ rather then a lead and backing (Diana Ross and The Supremes) allows for this decentralisation to take place. The transformation from decentralised to centralised in the Supremes-Diana Ross and the Supremes alteration is merely in name whereby the sonic organisation of material , i.e vocal, remains largely the same. Furthermore, the insistence of the ‘group’ enables the reorganisation of personnel (see Cyrus) whereby figures and voices can be replaced and reorganised with little fanfare. These reorganisations have evidently gone largely unnoticed by the listening or even viewing public (see Ronnie Spector’ replacement during live tour).
Second, this decentralisation is mirrored by the song writing teams that often produced the songs that would eventually be recorded. The group stand-in for the song-writers but the groups remain only symbolic figures for the songs. At times (see Greenwich, Thompson et al) it is the group that is the ultimate symbol (one voice being used and arranged as a group). This suggests it is the concept of the group rather then a group itself. Why is the ‘group’ at this time so important? Also, when considering the changes in radio airplay and distribution due to the demands of the new ‘top forty chart’ there is evidence of decentralised labour patterns whereby the idea of the group become the ultimate stand in.
Also, what proportion of vocalists or groups of vocalists had experience as backing singers for others prior to or following specific ‘girl group’ releases (The Cookies, The Blossoms, The Adantes?)