A few programmes on 1970s TV were excellent for portraying female friendship and everyday life as a young woman. Initially, I was under the spell of The Liver Birds and believed that I would grow up to share a flat with a best friend, go out dancing and get into lots of humorous scrapes. But all that changed when Rock Follies came along.
Overnight, I decided to become a musician or a singer. The band ‘Little Ladies’ fronted by three strong female characters was a low-budget theatre-style drama; each episode included several original songs and lots of gritty realism. I thought it was full of glamour, and it made me want to be in a band – especially with other girls. Punk hadn’t quite come along, and the songs were decidedly vaudeville and prog rock influenced. However this TV series sowed the seeds, ready for me to be a punkgirl.
And I’m not the only one; there are plenty of women musicians who became inspired by the Little Ladies – Julie Covington, Rula Lenska and Charlotte Cornwell. Members of Dolly Mixture cite the Rock Follies as influential:
“Me and Debsey already had a pretend band of our own… it sounds so childish… so obviously it was exciting to be in a real band, even if we were just backing singers. Then we decided to form our own… You know what it was, it was Rock Follies. That was really exciting! We used to watch it every week and found it really thrilling. It would look so tacky probably now, but yeah!”
Hester Smith of Dolly Mixture interviewed in The Lost Women Of Rock Music by Helen Reddington
Years later, a court case established that there had been a real girl band ‘Rock Bottom’ fronted by Annabel Leventon, who had come up with the idea for the TV show and signed a contract with Thames TV on a restaurant paper napkin. She and her band mates were horrified when they later found out that other actresses had been given the roles in a copy-cat series. In 1982, Leventon won her case against Thames TV.
I can only find one episode of Rock Follies on Youtube; it’s a bit creepy at 10′ 22 when the members of the commune decide on some ‘holding therapy’ for a distressed Julie Covington but it shows the close-filmed style before video, and how the songs integrated into the drama. I reckon that the women had a lot more to say than in previous TV dramas.
So, Little Ladies, and the real ‘Rock Bottom’, we love how you sparked off the right to be ballsy; with that, you helped to create the punk attitude!