Before Wet Leg, Dry Cleaning and sundry damp post-punk/ new wave- inspired bands so beloved by Lammo etc, there was a band formed by a bunch of Ohio misfits, The Waitresses.
Effortlessly cool, the band fused skronky saxophone, a la No Wave band James Chance and The Contortions, with pop sensibilities.
When Chris Butler, who had just formed the band, looked for a singer, Patty Donahue simply jumped in and said, “I’ll do it”. She was a great choice, the epitome of no fucks given- tall, glam but not too glam, imperious but funny. She was the ideal frontwoman.
Initially, they were sceptical about where they fitted in after Ze Records signed them. After all, Ze at the time looked after Lydia Lunch and others. But the outsider status worked in their favour- punk had kicked open the door to the weirdos, anti-fashion, sore thumbs in the music industry.
Their music could have been recorded yesterday. You can hear their punky, funky sass in countless contemporary bands today, and the sound went from the goading, dripping with sex and sarcasm I Know What Boys Like from debut album Wasn’t Tomorrow Wonderful ? to poppier fare like Make The Weather from follow-up Bruiseology .
Live, they were a riot: catchy, silly, smart, unpredictable and hard to pin down. They were anathema to the try hard aesthetic of the late seventies/early eighties pop stars, more interested in their haircuts than creating anything of substance… The Waitresses were always ahead of the curve- more clever, arch and satirical, with raised eyebrows and no time for bullshit.
Even their sitcom theme for Square Pegs, and perennial Xmas classic Christmas Wrapping, has their trademark underwhelmed and wary storytelling. Dive into their back catalogue. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.
Tragically, Donahue passed away aged just forty in the mid nineties, but she is still an inspiration, and they’re a timeless band who still resonate today. Bass player Tracy Wormworth currently plays with the B52s. Now that’s cool.