L7 was an American rock band from Los Angeles. They were active from 1985 to 2001. Due to their sound and image, they are often associated with the grunge movement of the late 1980s and early 1990s, though they were initially a heavy metal act. However L7 influenced a lot of the riot grrrl bands of the 1990s.
L7 was formed by Donita Sparks and Suzi Gardner on shared electric guitar and shared vocals in 1985. A year prior, Gardner had performed backing vocals on the Black Flag song "Slip It In". The punk rock duo were soon joined by Jennifer Finch on bass guitar, and Roy Koutsky on drums. Koutsky left shortly after and Demetra "Dee" Plakas became their permanent drummer.
The band's name derives from a 1950s slang phrase meaning "square". The slang phrase "L7" can be heard in the Sam the Sham & the Pharaohs song "Wooly Bully" ("Let's not be L7, come and learn to dance..."), in the Rick James song "Bustin' Out" ("L7- just a little too damn straight..."), in the Paul McCartney song "C Moon" ("I could be L7 and I'll never get to heaven if I fill my head with glue") and the Sex Pistols song "I Wanna Be Me" ("Don't wanna be L7 I've had enough of this").
In 1991, the band formed Rock for Choice, a Pro-Choice women's rights group which was supported by other prominent bands of that era, including Pearl Jam, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Nirvana, and Rage Against the Machine.
Their 1992 third album Bricks Are Heavy, produced by Butch Vig, was featured in Rolling Stone's May 1999 list of 'Essential recordings of the 1990s', and was their most successful release.
L7's fourth album, Hungry for Stink, was released in July 1994 and coincided with their Lollapalooza tour, in which they shared the stage with many of the era's most successful acts such as The Smashing Pumpkins and The Breeders.
Finch left the band during the recording of their next album, with Sparks and Greta Brinkman playing bass on their fifth album The Beauty Process: Triple Platinum, after which Gail Greenwood, (formerly of the band Belly) became the band's full-time bassist.
The band's most recent album, Slap-Happy, was released in 1999 and did not chart on either side of the Atlantic. To promote the record, on July 17, 1999, a plane flew over the crowd at the Lilith Fair at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, with a banner that read, "Bored? Tired? Try L7." The following day, a second airplane flew over the crowd at the Warped Tour at the Stone Pony lot in Asbury Park, New Jersey. This banner declared, "Warped needs more beaver...love, L7." Greenwood later left the band and was replaced by Janis Tanaka, formerly of the San Francisco band, Stone Fox. Tanaka would later go on to play bass for the singer Pink, while Greenwood would later play with the singer Bif Naked.
However, by 2001 the band was no longer touring. According to the band's website, "L7 are on an indefinite hiatus. We know that's vague, but that's just the way it is. The future of the band is a bit up in the air at the moment." L7 appears to be defunct for all practical purposes, as Sparks is currently pursuing her own solo career, along with Plakas, and two other guitarists, in the band Donita Sparks and The Stellar Moments. Finch is working in a punk rock group, The Shocker.
The band made an appearance in the 1993 film Point of No Return starring Bridget Fonda, and an appearance in 1994's John Waters film Serial Mom under the name "Camel Lips", a reference to the visual imprint of a woman's vulva in the crotch of tight jeans, also known as a cameltoe. Their songs have also been featured on at least twenty compilation albums throughout their career; most notably the song "Shitlist" appeared on the soundtracks of the movies Natural Born Killers and Pet Sematary II. The Prodigy covered the Hungry for Stink track "Fuel My Fire" on their 1997 album "Fat of the Land". "Shirley" appears on the "Foxfire" soundtrack. "Shove" appears on the soundtrack of the movie Tank Girl, and "Pretend We're Dead" appears on the soundtrack of the video game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and can be heard on an in-game radio station and on the music video game Rock Band 2. "Andres" is available as downloadable content for the Rock Band series. The band was also the subject of a concert film made by former Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic and a rockumentary Not Bad for a Girl. Finch and Plakas performed several times with Japanese artist hide, in 1994.
L7 have been featured on shows such as Late Night with David Letterman, The Jon Stewart Show, The Word, 120 Minutes, and Alternative Nation. The band have played at the Reading Festival in 1992, the Glastonbury Festival in 1994, Lollapalloza in 1994, Finsbury Park in 1997, and the Warped Tour in 1995 and 1999. They've also toured with and opened for artists such as Bad Religion in 1988, GWAR in 1989, Nirvana and Alice in Chains in 1990, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Faith No More, Rollins Band and Beastie Boys in 1992, Pearl Jam in 1994 and Marilyn Manson and The Offspring in 1997.
The band, with Finch returning on bass, appeared in the 1999 cult video Decoupage: Return of the Goddess, performing a re-make of the Sonny and Cher song Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down) with actress Karen Black, and being interviewed individually by Decoupage hostess Summer Caprice.
During their performance at the 1992 Reading Festival, the band experienced "technical difficulties with their audio equipment" and were forced to stall their set. Quickly, the rowdy crowd grew restless and began throwing mud onto the stage. In protest, lead vocalist Donita Sparks removed her tampon on-stage and threw it into the crowd yelling "Eat my used tampon, fuckers!". Sparks has remained unapologetic about the incident. This has been referred to as one of the "most unsanitary pieces of rock memorabilia in history".
In 1992, Sparks again caused controversy in Britain when she dropped her pants on live television, appearing nude from the waist down, during an L7 performance on the UK variety program The Word.
In 1999, the band raffled a one-night stand with drummer Demetra Plakas at a London gig.
- Donita Sparks – guitar, vocals (1985–2001)
- Suzi Gardner – guitar, vocals (1985–2001)
- Janis Tanaka – bass (2000)
- Demetra Plakas – drums, vocals (1988–2000)
- Jennifer Finch – bass, vocals (1987–1996)
- Gail Greenwood – bass, vocals (1996–1999)
- Roy Koutsky – drums (1987–1988)
Singles and EPs
- 1991 - "Fast and Frightening"
- 1992 - "Pretend We're Dead"
- 1992 - "Everglade"
- 1992 - "Monster"
- 1994 - "Andres"
- 1994 - "Stuck Here Again"
- 1999 - The Beauty Process - documentary about the band by Krist Novoselic
- Official L7 website
- L7 biography at Rolling Stone
- L7 at Allmusic
- L7 Live Show Videos
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Image from Discogs