(This feature originally appeared in issue #57 of Shindig! Magazine. To read the full interview click over the jump.)
DJ Sheila Burgel talks about the enduring appeal of '60s girl-pop.
One point missed by many commentators on Prince's recent death was how much he championed female singers and musicians. A point not missed by DJ Sheila Burgel who dedicated part of her Sophisticated Boom Boom show on WFMU to highlight some of Prince's lesser known girl-pop moments. It was an affecting and insightful tribute, put together by someone who knows a thing or two about female-fronted music.
“When I first heard British singer Maxine Darren’s “How Can I Hide It From My Heart?” off the first Here Come the Girls compilation in 1995,” says Sheila explaining her eureka moment. “That shrill vocal! Those melodies! That bizarre arrangement! It completely floored me. Soon after the gates to girl-pop heaven opened, Francoise Hardy, France Gall, Sandie Shaw, the Cookies, Billie Davis, Twinkle, the Exciters, Dorothy Berry poured in….and my life was forever changed.”
Sophisticated Boom Boom features an eclectic mix of predominately female-fronted sounds and airs on WFMU out of New Jersey each Friday afternoon. When asked for a mission statement for the show Sheila says it's “restoring gender equality with the toughest, dreamiest, sweetest, sassiest, most infectious, hook-filled, girl-fronted pop from yesterday and today, and from all over the world!” Don't be surprised to hear '60s beat, yé-yé , Brill Building sounds and Japanese Pinky records alongside shoegaze, metal and gritty R&B. “Melody. Hooks. Magic,” says Burgel explaining what holds it all together, ”which is why I can love the Shangri Las, Alan Parsons Project, Janelle Monae, Megadeth, Lou Christie, Big Maybelle, Madonna, Fleetwood Mac, the Orlons, Slowdive, and so many more. It’s what they all have in common.”
WFMU is a beacon of music-led FM broadcasting, whose ad-free stance
has gained the station a worldwide audience. Its commitment to specialist knowledge and passion also gives its presenters the chance to share their vision with that audience. “With Sophisticated Boom Boom and all that I do, I am showing that female-fronted pop music is as valid, worthy, important, and enjoyable as many of the (mainly male) acts that are so fawned over by the rock establishment. Long ago, the rock critics somehow decided that Led Zeppelin are extremely important and worthy of our respect and that the Shangri Las are not, and I have a problem with that judgement.”
Aside from the radio show Sheila can be found DJing every third Friday at Our Wicked Lady Club in Brooklyn. Europeans will also get a chance to hear her club selections as she undertakes a two-week European DJ tour in August with dates in Helsinki, Copenhagen, London, Paris, and Montenegro.
Having put together the Nippon Girls and Love Hit Me compilations on Ace Records, Sheila's quest to bring us the best in rare records shows no sign of letting up. “I just took on an enormous compilation project producing four volumes of '60s girl-pop. The access I get to photos, master tapes, and recording information is just unbelievable. And I get to select and sequence the tracks, write the liner notes, and art direct, so it’s a dream job, really.”
Sophisticated Boom Boom airs each Friday 3pm – 6pm (EST) on WFMU with shows archived at www.wfmu.org
Nippon Girls Vol 1 & 2 and Love Hit Me: Decca Girls 1962-66 are available from Ace Records.
For more on Sheila Burgel visit www.chachacharming.com