Gorgeous Gorgeous Girl Groups: DJ Night at Alibi Bar & Place
On June 12, Salt Lake City will experience Gorgeous Gorgeous Girls, a celebration of girl groups from the late 1950s to ’70s. Gorgeous Gorgeous Girls (the name of which is inspired by a TikTok trend) is hosted by record-spinning DJs Rockin’ Robin, Yéx-Yéx (pronounced ‘Yay-Yay’) and Woody. Taking place at Alibi Bar & Place on Sunday, June 12, the event is free entry to enjoy a night of garage rock, go-go dancing and girl-group magic as the DJs spin tracks from some of the most iconic female singers of the time.
We all have our musical guilty pleasures—the songs we wail to in the shower and for which we blow out our car stereos. For DJ and artist Robin Banks, this pleasure comes in the form of girl groups from the second half of the 20th century. Think The Liver Birds, R&B soul bands like The Ronettes and The Dixie Cups and other female singers from the time, including Lesley Gore and Yé-Yé girls worldwide.
I sat down with Banks to talk tunes and their love for girl groups. In the ’60s, girl group styles went against everything else in music. Groups like The Shangri-Las and The Marvelettes embodied an array of tempers, from sweet-pea, motown soul to melodramatic teen spirit to leather jacket-wearing, chain-smoking rebels who all had one thing in common: they were way ahead of their time when it came to defying gender roles from the prior baby boomer era.
“Women tended to be painted as one-dimensional, helping a man with his screen identity or with his job.”
Banks explains how girl groups hit their peak around ‘64 before The Beatles took over, and music was subsequently consumed by rock. “I feel like [the genre] was really glazed over,” Banks says. “When people look back, it’s really male-centric and rock-centric. That’s too bad because the influence is clearly still there.” Banks talked about the fashion back then, rotund bouffants and thick eyeliner. This fashion could immediately be pinpointed to, and choruses like, “Wait a minute, Mr. Postman” or, “It’s my party, and I cry if I want to” would come flooding back. The fashion and music scenes at the time were inseparable. Whether it’s the background singers in Hercules or The Supremes, girl groups are still constantly referenced.
Growing up, Banks listened to oldies on the car radio with their mom. “Those kinds of memories penetrate your psyche,” they say. At first, Banks was mostly into punk and rock. Only later did they delve into girl groups. One thing that Banks observes is how the groups broke every social rule in the book about what it meant to be a woman. “Women tended to be painted as one-dimensional, helping a man with his screen identity or with his job,” Banks says, “but then you have musicians like Lesley Gore who famously sang ‘You Don’t Own Me’. What woman had the right to say this in 1962? ‘Don’t parade me around?’”
Banks developed a keen admiration for The Shangri-Las. Songs like “Leader of The Pack” are so melodramatic and represent, for Banks, some of the teen and adolescent sentiments from the time. “They have like four different songs about either dying, love, or ‘Mom didn’t understand that I wanted to be with this guy, she said no, I ran away from home, and then my mom died from loneliness.’ They’re so overly dramatic but fun,” Banks says. There was an obvious dichotomy between The Shangri-Las and other groups like The Dixie Cups.
For Banks, the genre offered an array of vibes and feelings, from the tenderness of The Dixie Cups’ “Chapel of Love” to The Shangri-Las talking about death. Banks added an anecdote about The Shangri-Las: two of them were sisters originally from Queens. They got in trouble with the feds on their first tour because they were trying to transport arms across the border. Banks says, “When they were asked about it, their response was ‘Well we’re a group of women traveling outside of our city. What do you expect us to do?’” It’s this won’t-settle-for-less attitude that makes fans fall in love with these groups well past their time in the spotlight.
The Gorgeous Gorgeous Girls trio—DJ Rockin’ Robin, DJ Yéx-Yéx and DJ Woody—was born out of a common love for girl group tunes. Banks told me that Yéx-Yéx is a nod to notable Yé Yé girl bands from France, Spain and Japan, which is truly Yéx-Yéx’s jam. Banks met Woody through the ISRR (International Society of Rock & Roll) group, and ever since, Woody’s musical knowledge has come in handy as the group spins together.
“When people look back, it’s really male-centric and rock-centric. That’s too bad because the influence is clearly still there.”
Banks is confident that girl groups are making a comeback. They talk about being at the grocery store and realizing the shop had released old-school Captain Crunch boxes. “That’s wild!” Banks says. “Retro art is coming back now too. With music, The Shangri-Las song ‘Remember (Walkin’ In The Sand)’ is trending on TikTok,” Banks says. Banks feels that many people want old-time music, art and fashion to make a comeback and that not everyone is so consumed by the zeitgeists of our time.
If you want to step back into the mid-twentieth century to beehive do-ups and female singers like The Liver Birds, The Ronettes and The Dixie Cups, head to the 21+ Alibi Bar & Place on Sunday, June 12 at 8 p.m.