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Music

Watch L7 out-rock the rest on ‘Pretend We’re Dead’ in 1994

@TylerGolsen

Rock and roll has always been a prominent boys club. Despite being invented by a woman, rock music is still mostly associated with testosterone. There are plenty of killer acts that have kicked back at this shortsighted slight against roughly half the population, but grunge proved to be a major proving ground for women who could rock just as hard, if not harder, than the boys.

Hole and Babes in Toyland carried the torch for grunge, while riot-grrrl bands like Bikini Kill, Bratmobile, 7 Year Bitch, and Jack Off Jill were making louder, heavier, and more aggressive music than any of the guys hanging around Seattle in the early ‘90s. But the one band who truly played harder, partied harder, and hit harder than any other group was L7.

Formed in Los Angeles in the mid-1980s, L7 had a more direct line to hardcore groups like The Germs and Black Flag than the Seattle sound of Mudhoney and The Melvins. Still, they signed with legendary Seattle label Sub Pop in 1989 and released their second album, Smell the Magic, on the label as Seattle was beginning to emerge as the centre of the rock universe. L7 contributed to that notoriety by being the most badass of all the upstart grunge bands.

The stories that surround L7 are legendary. There are the frequent flashings and punch ups that the band have had with fans, famous musicians, and even within their own ranks. There’s the time that the band raffled off a one night stand with drummer Demetra Plakas. And there’s also, most infamously, the time that singer Donita Sparks removed her tampon and threw it at the crowd at the 1992 Reading Festival.

1992 also saw the band’s most infamous television performance on the British variety programme The Word. The band were there to promote ‘Pretend We’re Dead’, the lead single from their third album Bricks Are Heavy. Sparks described the show as “really fucked up”, and decided to add to the wildness herself. The performance is chaotic from start, but as the song reaches its final climax, bassist Jennifer Finch climbs on top of the drum kit as Sparks scales an amp.

It’s at this point that Sparks pulls down her pants, becoming naked from the waist down as the song’s final notes are bashed out. There are a couple of different shots where Sparks is visibly nude, but the singer remained unapologetic about the incident, claiming that gonzo stunts like “a men’s bum contest” and a hidden camera in Oliver Reed’s dressing room were all occurring. She was just adding to the insanity. There was nothing particularly sexual about Sparks actions: it was more about spontaneity and iconoclastic behaviour, which is what L7 deserve to be remembered for.

Check out the infamous performance of ‘Pretend We’re Dead’ down below.