In his third column for the site, Roadsaw bassist Tim Catz takes a look at a few of the “Evil Women” from classic rock’s days of yore. From ELO to Black Sabbath, there never seems to be a shortage of witchy ladies to serve as muse. Please enjoy:
It is a premise so old and familiar it’s hardly worth mentioning. But for the purposes of this article I’ll explain: The idea is women are evil. They have been since the dawn of time. And the badder they are, the more inspiring they are those who honor them in song, story and art. Just ask Adam about Eve. Shakespeare had Macbeth. Greek mythology had Pandora. And rock ‘n’ roll in the ‘70s had scores of hit records about them.
Probably the most popular was Electric Light Orchestra‘s “Evil Woman.” Taken from their 1975 album Face the Music, it was the band’s first Top 10 hit on both sides of the Atlantic. With its sing-song chorus and crazy phasor string breaks, “Evil Woman” very succinctly packed every ELO pop-rock trademark neatly into a four-minute spoonful of pure FM sugar that still gets ample play to this day on “classic hits” radio.
Crow‘s “Evil Woman (Don’t Play Your Games with Me)” may have shared the same name, but not the same music, nor the same popularity. Driven by a muscular bluesy rhythm section, the Minneapolis quartet was quite surprised to find an “enhanced” version of their original “Evil Woman” on their Columbia Records debut. Whether against their wishes or even unbeknownst to Crow members, label bigwigs conspired with the studio engineer and overdubbed a full horn section over the song in an effort to cash in on the wildly popular Chicago/Blood Sweat and Tears sound of the day. And it worked. Crow‘s “Evil Woman” was a Top 20 hit, peaking at #19.
My personal favorite is Spooky Tooth‘s version. Deep on side one of Spooky Two, their nine-minute version of Larry Weiss‘ much covered original finds frontman Gary Wright in prime form, with his ragged voice switching between a pleading growl to high-pitched accusations, all while smashing on organ keys. The entire record resonates with a loose rough ‘n’ ready sound, which is nowhere more evident than on this track. Of course Gary Wright would soon leave the Tooth of Spook and smooth out much of his rough edge in a bid for the Pop charts. “Dream Weaver” and “My Love Is Alive” are evidence of such.
Whether its “Witchy Woman” by The Eagles or “Devil Woman” by Cliff Richards, one thing remains certain even to this day: Bad girls are good for rock ‘n’ roll.
* Black Sabbath recorded a version of Crow‘s “Evil Woman” and released it as their first single. Though it didn’t appear on their Warner Bros. debut in the US, it was on the UK version.
* Before everyone sends terse emails my way, yes, I know both Spooky Tooth and Crow released their versions in 1969. That’s close enough for me…