Michelle Leon by Shelly Mosman

“SONG FOR EWE” is the feature where artists & music people beloved by VELVET SHEEP choose an obscure song they’ve been listening to that day.

Today’s is a bit special, as this was a band right at the heart of the original iteration of Velvet Sheep fanzine, and a band beloved by John Peel, our spiritual pater. She was a member of Minneapolis band  Babes In Toyland joining founders Kat Bjelland and Lori Barbero in time for their first album proper, 1990’s “Spanking Machine”, a record Peel called his favourite that year, featuring the storming VS favourite “He’s My Thing”. When she joined the band she was 17 and had never played bass before. You wouldn’t know it. She’s now written a memoir called “I Live Inside – Memoirs of a Babe In Toyland”, choosing her “song for ewe” it’s the supercharged Michelle Leon!

When Peel’s own record collection archives were publicised after his death, they showed the first 100 titles in each alphabet category. B’s were very much about Babes In Toyland.

Babes in Toyland - To Mother

Michelle played in the first 3 (out of 5) Peel sessions – 29/9/90 playing “Catatonic”, “Ripe”, “Primus” and “Spit To See The Shine”; 30/6/91 playing “Pearl”, “Dogg”, “Laugh My Head Off”, “Mad Pilot” – where the studio notes mentioned “At last! A Radio One session with a male:female ratio of 1:5” and finally 22/12/91 (the Year That Punk Broke) playing (the awesome) “Handsome And Gretel”, “Blood”, “Mother” and “Dirty”.

Babes in Toyland - Spaning Machine

Here’s another clip of Michelle era Babes…

After years of hard touring across the US and Europe in sweaty vans, two bit motels, strangers’ couches and bedroom floors (rock & roll rites of passage)…

Babes in Toyland by JJ Gonson

Michelle left the band in ’92 to be replaced by Maureen Hermann after the tragic murder of her then boyfriend J. Cole, the Black Flag roadie who infamously was shot while with Henry Garfield/Rollins, an event which had also left a well documented effect on the one time Black Flag frontman.

Without Babes In Toyland there would (possibly) have been no riot grrrl, no Bikini Kill, no Huggy Bear – bands which very much fuelled me to write and grow the fanzine. Michelle’s time in the band was sadly short, but her impact on the band was long lasting…

I Live Iside Memoirs of a Babe in Toyland

…and I’m pleased that in the wake of releasing her memoir I Live Inside she’s found the time to choose a “song for ewe”, so without further ado, it’s over to Michelle:

“I was at my neighbourhood Cub Foods the other night, which is the not-fancy big grocery store chain in Minneapolis/St. Paul.

The place is open until midnight and it was almost closing time. This is not the time I usually shop, but my husband and kids were asleep, and we were throwing a party the next afternoon (crawfish boil!), so I took advantage of being able to move freely through the store like a little gazelle, hands free of my one-year old son who constantly grabs for my boobs.

Grocery stores are weird late at night in the first place; the weary cashiers, everyone pasty in the overhead lighting, the lonely shoppers, the drunk ones with their friends or lovahs, or maybe other parents like me who are just SUPER PSYCHED to have a minute alone.

This song came on the speakers and it cracked me up mostly because of the “whoa oh oh ooooooh!!!!!” chorus, but also because it is all silly, and then remembering singing it as a kid with my hand as a microphone, and how the namesake of the band is not only BOZ, but also SCAGGS.

This is the perfect song for the vegetable mister going off one last time, quick selection of last remaining items on your list, and the 15 minute to closing warning announcement over the loud speakers. I hope y’all enjoy the “Lido Shuffle” too. Love, Michelle”

You can buy Michelle’s memoir I Live Inside here at Amazon, or check out more on the Facebook page.