With all due respect to perfectly worthy female '80s music stars like The Go-Go's
, The Bangles
and Joan Jett
, such names do not tell the full story of women in rock music during that decade. In fact, it's quite possible that none of these three artists should even be considered the best of the Los Angeles-area crop of rock and roll women of that period. That's all because of a band called The Pandoras, which sadly remains relatively unknown to this day to most who failed to encounter the group on the West Coast as an authentic underground act. Led by the late Paula Pierce, one of the most ferociously charismatic frontwomen of all time, The Pandoras emerged during the early '80s from the L.A.-based paisley underground movement, inspired by a shared affection for gritty garage punk and a uniquely retro vibe. Unfortunately, I can speak of Pierce and her band only in the very distant past tense - partly because I was utterly unaware of the group growing up in the mid-Atlantic South but mostly because Pierce died suddenly in 1991 from a brain aneurysm. That premature loss of an acknowledged but unsung rock and roll legend robbed the world not only of a major talent but also of the chance to find out if The Pandoras would ever get the chance for stardom they so deserved. It's another tragic pop music tale, to be sure, but thankfully there is plenty of Pandoras music to be had for the intrepid souls who seek it out.
The band produced only two full-length records during the '80s (1984's It's About Time and 1986's Stop Pretending), but both feature a fierce throwback sound the decade could have used a whole lot more of. "In and Out of My Life (In a Day)" is one of many standout tracks that demonstrate not only the toughness and attitude of Pierce as a performer but also her visionary take on keeping the passion and danger of garage rock alive for a new age. The Pandoras' music certainly shares plenty of common ground with Jett and early Bangles, but in many ways it better crystallizes the allure of '60s rock and blends it magically with punk rock attitude. Pierce's ragged but sexy persona would have cut through plenty of stylish '80s pop-princess nonsense with the aid of a break here and there. Unfortunately, that never happened, and Pierce was gone before her band got the opportunity for even a second - much less a third - act. That's a painful, inescapable truth, but it's a wound that can be endured by turning to the music for solace. And really, is there any other way?
Album Cover Image Courtesy of Rhino