I may be taking a break from research as last week my supervisor, Mark, took his own life. This news has hit me very hard and need to time to grieve. It may seem to odd to note this passing on a blog that only I look at but I need to recenter my self and my thoughts and this blog helps to to do so.
This week I have found it very difficult to work, think and even speak. On Tuesday I decided I wanted to re-read all of Marks work as a way to ‘speak’ with him again. It was and continues to be a painful experience but also highly valuable. I can start to see more clearly the connections he made between my work and systems of labour. Also, one particularly striking connection was from Ghosts of My Life. During the discussion about Tricky in relation to Jungle he discusses the two-fold dispossession of Tricky’s voice . One via Tricky’s insistence of speaking from a female position (the voice of his mother, grandmother and so on). Plus the use of female vocalists as a way to ‘speak’ Tricky’s words/lyrics. What is made clear here is how Tricky is never in full possession of his own voice. This notion of dispossession can be extended to the material of my own project. However, where Tricky possesses some level of possession with regards to his own voice and his choice to reorganise or use another. This is not the case for my material. Rather what is evidenced is a forced dispossession; a dispossession that aims to reconfigure subjects into objects, that offers no hope for possession. it is this notion of dispossession and possession that I had not thought of before. It is something that I want to continue and seems significant to my own project. I am heartbroken that this connection has been revealed under such tragic circumstances. but my hope is to continue writing as my supervisor had championed me to for so long.
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?)