Record Collecting for Girls by Courtney E Smith

I wouldn't have looked at Record Collecting for Girls by Courtney E Smith twice if it hadn't been for Michelle (my books. my life.). The title didn't appeal to me. I saw it and had visions of Girls Guide to Hunting and Fishing (which I hated). Fortunately, this is actually non-fiction, part guide to music collecting, part music history from a lady's perspective. From the beginning, I was hooked. There isn't much of an age gap between myself and Courtney Smith so I knew of the bands she discusses. The Bangles, The Go-Gos. Aw, it's the 80s again and I'm rocking the mall hair.

One day recently, I was driving with the girl and the hubs listening to the only radio station we can sort of agree upon. It's a classic rock station. The girl, in great annoyance, huffed, "Why aren't there any girls on this station?" Amen, sister! (Well, daughter.) The sad playlist may include a female voice once every couple of hours. Maybe some Heart. Most of the time they play songs by men trying to get some tush. Their sexist promos set my nerves on edge. Hello, women listen to rock too! Not just the other stations that play Katy Perry 5 times an hour. Do all we have for girls to look up to now is someone who shoots whipped cream out of her boobs in videos? Is that all there is? So, yes, Smith's chapter "Where Have All the Girl Bands Gone?" spoke to me in a big way. 
The utter dearth of successful girl bands is enough to make me wonder: Do women feel they have to remain on the outside because the female voice is not considered universal?
Smith discusses the history of the girl band and hypothesizes on why female artists are reluctant to join the mainstream. That was my favorite chapter.

Not that the rest is anything to sneeze at. I was entertained by Smith's anecdotes, some of them very personal, often about a boy. These stories are sprinkled in between music history lessons and advice on how to create playlists for every situation, from making out to what to play at your funeral (don't worry it's not as depressing as it sounds). Smith was a music programmer for MTV. Music is her life. If anyone can give advice, she can. I read Record Collecting for Girls with my ipod in one hand. If she mentioned a song, I'd look for it either in my own collection or online. I downloaded a few while I read. (How did I miss #1 Crush?) The Interludes tell readers how to use internet resources to find and organize their music. The Choose Your Own Adventure-style interlude on Rhapsody was pretty cute.

I enjoyed just about everything about Record Collecting for Girls with the exception of the music snobbery. I don't understand why a band is hip until someone mentions them in a movie or on TV. All of a sudden they become lame? If you like something, you like it. Who cares if 10 or 100000 people like it too?

Don't let the title fool you. The book is about more than record collecting and it's not just for girls. I suspect it's more appealing for someone like me not only for the nostalgia factor but because I'm a causal listener who wants to learn more. It's a good place to start.

Highly recommended.


  1. Oh goodness, I'm so with you on the snobbery. This is why even though I love indie music I can't get on with the hipster culture surrounding it at all.

  2. So glad you enjoyed it too!

    And I'm totally a hipster indie snob when it comes to music. A band I love becoming too famous makes me nervous. I can't help it. ;)

  3. I agree on the snobbery with music as well as books. I've noticed that there aren't that many female rock stars too. This sounds good to me.

  4. Oh, I think this one's going on my wish list - along with some iTunes gift cards so I can act on some of the recommendations! And your daughter's quite observant - most "classic rock" stations' catalog of women artists doesn't seem to include much beyond Heart and Pat Benatar (and occasionally some Pretenders, which is really Chrissie Hynde and some guys).

  5. I like the sound of this, but I'm not sure why!


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