The Girl in the Back: A Female Drummer’s Life with Bowie, Blondie, and the ’70s Rock Scene | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Laura Davis-Chanin

The Girl in the Back: A Female Drummer’s Life with Bowie, Blondie, and the ’70s Rock Scene

Published by Backbeat Books

Jun 27, 2018 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

In the 1970s, Laura Davis-Chanin, then simply Laura Davis, was the drummer in The Student Teachers, a New York City band that released a single on Ork Records and played famed clubs CBGB, Max’s Kansas City, and Hurrah during the time when bands like Television, Talking Heads, and The Heartbreakers were at their early peak. Davis-Chanin was also, at the time, a high school student, balancing her life in the middle of the ‘70s NYC punk/new wave scene with exams and high school English.

The Girl in the Back tells Davis-Chanin’s story, from The Student Teachers to mingling with rock and roll royalty. While The Student Teachers never struck it big, they generated interest from Blondie keyboardist Jimmy Destri, and Destri took a personal, romantic interest in Davis-Chanin herself. Destri was working with David Bowie at the time, and much of Davis-Chanin’s memoir finds her immersed in the backstage inner workings and personal lives of Bowie as well as Blondie singer Debbie Harry.

It’s thrilling to read about Davis-Chanin being ushered into back rooms of restaurants or mingling at the homes of some of the biggest players in the ‘70s music scene, and most of the thrill is how her stories humanize these figures who have since been lionized to the point where they have become more “icon” than real living, breathing being. Debbie Harry provides comfort to Davis-Chanin when she is ill. Bowie lends advice on a bass part at a Student Teachers’ rehearsal.

Davis-Chanin’s tale takes a sad turn when an ocular difficulty becomes the precursor for a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis. But The Girl in the Back does not find Davis-Chanin pitying herself or spending much time focusing on her plight. Instead, it is a wonderful reminiscence of a former, and in many ways more innocent time. A time when rock and roll lived and youthful dreams could flourish.




Author rating: 7/10

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