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The words Jewish, folksinger and lesbian are those most commonly bandied about when discussing this uncompromising performer; or indeed when she’s describing herself. Changing her name to PHRANC in the mid-70s after dropping out of high school, the budding singer (born Susan Gottlieb, August 28, 1957, Santa Monica, California) subsequently fell in with the notorious late-70s L.A. punk/hardcore scene, playing keyboards and guitar respectively for NERVOUS GENDER and CATHOLIC DISCIPLINE. The latter of these (with also Claude Bessy on vocals, Richard Meade on keyboards, Rick Brodey on bass and Craig Lee on drums) had a few tracks on various artists albums `San Francisco Punks’ and `The Decline Of The Western Civilization’.
Eventually tiring of the scene’s insularity and relentless negativity, she retraced her folk roots and, in 1985 released a debut album FOLKSINGER {*7} for retro specialist Rhino Records. A characteristically candid and honest exploration of politics, both sexual and otherwise, the record – which featured sing-a-long `Female Mudwrestling’, the single `Amazons’ and a version of DYLAN’s `The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll’ – was heartily received by more radical critics and increased her small but loyal band of fans.
PHRANC then signed to Island at the end of the 80s and released a belated follow-up set I ENJOY BEING A GIRL (1989) {*7}; the title track being the Rodgers & Hammerstein piece; there was another Tin Pan Alley cue by way of Burke & Van Heusen’s `Moonlight Becomes You’. The task of bringing PHRANC to a wider audience proved too great a challenge even for a label as eclectic as Island and the singer parted company with them after 1991’s POSITIVELY PHRANC {*5}. A pity, as she demonstrated her wide ranging appeal – and through covers of The Beach Boys’ `Surfer Girl’ and an adaptation of JONATHAN RICHMAN’s `Pablo Picasso’ on `Gertrude Stein’ – by supporting MORRISSEY on his UK tour the same year. Her cult indie credentials were back intact in the mid-90s, courtesy of two releases – the single `Bulldagger Swagger’ and the `Goofyfoot’ EP – for the seminal Riot Grrrl imprint Kill Rock Stars, and both featuring Olympia musicians (TEAM DRESCH) headed by Donna Dresch; the latter showboated two further 60s nuggets via HERMAN’S HERMITS’ `Mrs. Brown You’ve Got A Lovely Daughter’ and BOBBIE GENTRY’s `Ode To Billie Joe’.
Her comeback was complete with the release of the long-awaited set MILKMAN (1998) {*5}, PHRANC’s back-up this time stemming from L.A. woman Anna Waronker, Steve McDonald and a few seasoned auxiliaries to boost the likes of trad cuts such as `The Handsome Cabin Boy’ and `Tzena, Tzena’. Pity this proved to be her final release, taking up demonstrating Tupperware for the next decade or so; she now spends her time as a visual artist.
© MC Strong 2011/GFD2 // rev-up MCS Apr2015

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