Sugar Babydoll were a short-lived US band formed by friends Kat Bjelland and Courtney Love in 1985.
Bjelland had learned to play guitar as a teenager, but at nineteen, she dropped out of the University of Oregon and relocated to Portland, where she became involved in the city’s punk rock scene. It was there that she first encountered Courtney Love and the two decided to form their own band. While Kat had the musical training, Courtney herself had been racking up a text book CV for the role of controversial rock star from a very early age. By the mid 1980s, Courtney already had a history of being expelled from school, shoplifting, time in a correctional facility, leaving foster care and more recently had been working as a stripper.
Love was keen on the idea of an all female band, and without an instrument of her own she took on the role of vocalist. Relocating to San Francisco, they recruited drummer Deidre Schlepper and bassist Janis Tanaka, then changed their name to Pagan Babies, although Love would later use the term “Babydoll” as a song title on the first Hole LP.
“We were going to make the most obnoxious music in the world,” Love said in 1998. “However, I had a doctor who gave me a hundred sedatives a week. So we ended up making this faux Cocteau Twins music, but I didn’t really have the voice, and I was singing in a register that was way too high for me.”
Courtney had already flexed her vocal chords during an ultimately unsuccessful tryout with Faith No More in 1982, who despite recording some demos with Love, decided they needed a more “male energy”.
Courtney and Kat’s apartment in San Francisco became their punk rock hang-out and rehearsal space, and it was here, in December 1985, that that they recorded a demo tape on a 4 track cassette recorder.
The band only performed live twice, once in a friend’s bedroom, where they played electric versions of their songs, and secondly in a friend’s living room, this time with acoustic guitars. By this time Kat was already moving towards a more hardcore punk sound, while Love was still pushing the band’s new wave dream pop, and like so many fledgling bands …there followed a heated debate. The internal feud resulted in Love being ejected from the band, apparently telling them “you’re never going to get anywhere playing that punk rock noise.”
However, with no Courtney, and instead of living the hardcore dream, the Pagan Babies broke up and both Bjelland and Love took their talents elsewhere. Courtney turned her attention to acting auditioning for the part of Nancy Spungen in Alex Cox’s film Sid & Nancy, which in hindsight was probably absolutely made for her and she should been cast, but at the time her lack of acting experience worked against her. However director Alex Cox was impressed enough to cast her as Gretchen, one of Nancy’s friends, and later as Velma in his follow up film “Straight to Hell”, a sort of spaghetti western also starring Joe Strummer and Grace Jones. She also appeared in a 1988 video of The Ramones “I Wanna be Sedated”, before finally learning the guitar, forming Hole, marrying Kurt Cobain, and becoming a mother. Grunge – she was there, Riot Grrrl – that too, sell out shows, bad reviews, good reviews, seen as unpredictable, ambitious, confrontational, and disarmingly honest, Courtney continues to live through whatever “this” is.
Kat Bjelland went onto form the band Babes In Toyland.