When the Ramones wrote “Suzy Is A Headbanger,” chances are, their inspiration wasn’t a middle-aged mother of three who worked in a library. But, using some creative license, the classic punk tune could be 43-year-old Suzie Riddle’s personal theme song.
It would make sense, because this Suzie is, indeed, a headbanger. She formed her band, Frump, around the same time she bought a drum set, about six months before her 40th birthday.
To celebrate she rounded up three other women of the same age, and by the time her birthday party rolled around, they had learned five songs, including a cover of the Beatles’ “Birthday,” a parody of the Go-Go’s “We Got the Beat,” entitled “We’re Really Beat,” and, yes, “Suzy Is A Headbanger.”
She dubbed the project “the all-mom garage band.”
“It’s almost impossible to get all of us together at the same time, between everybody’s soccer schedules and ballet classes and piano and guitar lessons –the kids’ schedules,” Riddle said.
Riddle and her bandmates aren’t the only moms trading the gentle hum of the DustBuster for pounding drums and distorted guitars. Across the country, suburban mothers are getting together behind their white picket fences to make some noise and uproot the stereotypical image of women over 40. They sing about the things they know, like disciplining their children, disciplining their husbands, and the pressures of managing a family. Enough of these maternally-minded groups have sprung up in recent years to give birth to a brand new genre of music: mom-rock.
“It’s a cross between a new art form and a self-help movement,” said Joy Rose, 47, frontwoman for New York-based Housewives on Prozac and the self-proclaimed “queen godmother of mom rock.” She estimated there are currently 150 such bands in America, including her own, which she started in 1997 after surviving a life-threatening battle with lupus. She said the growing trend “is a direct reflection of a need women are feeling to expand the parameters of what it is to be a mom.”
“Once a woman becomes a mom, they sort of strap on the apron strings and the only place we have to go is back and back and back in time to the 50s, to the Martha Stewart-type age of perfection,” Rose said. “Let’s face it, that’s not who a lot of us are.”
In 2002, Rose established the Mamapalooza festival in New York to give the burgeoning mom-rock scene a central convergence point. Now in its fourth year, the festival is going to be held in multiple cities.
“Rock ‘n’ roll started as teenagers screaming out, rebelling against society. Now, it’s mothers rebelling against society,” said Kate Perotti, who decided to film a documentary on the upcoming Mamapalooza. “That’s what people of our generation find exciting. We don’t have to tell our kids to turn the music down; they’re telling us.”
Of course, all this empowerment is great for the mothers, but won’t somebody please think of the children? If most teenagers are embarrassed by their moms just trying to talk to their friends, the thought of them stepping onstage and rocking out in front of a crowd must be absolutely terrifying.
“I have a van that says ‘Housewives on Prozac–Not Just a Band, It’s a Way of Life’ on the side, and I will admit, my 15-year-old asks me to drop him off a block before he gets to school,” Rose said.
For Riddle, however, it was her oldest daughter, now 19, who gave her the green light to go forward with her dream.
“One time I was singing in the car, and she knew that I had thought about starting a band, and she said, ‘You know mom, you really could start a band,'” Riddle said. “It was pretty significant that she said that to me, because it’s like she gave me permission.”