Sunday, October 7, 2012

Rerun: Femme Fatale/ Lorraine Lewis

Femme Fatale

 Femme Fatale blasted out of Albuquerque, quickly landing a record deal with MCA.  They would sell 200,000 copies of their debut album, the videos for "Waiting For The Big One" and "Falling In and Out of Love" received massive airplay on MTV. Then just as rapidly it all fell apart and the band dissolved.  Femme Fatale  was best known for the big voice, big hair and sex appeal of lead singer Lorraine Lewis (former lead singer for Babe Ruthless) who along with  her brother Rick Rael and guitarist Mazzi Rawd (that's a great 80's metal name) added Bill D'Angelo and Bobby Murray (both from Durtie Blonde) to form the band. (with D'Angelo replacing original member Michael Downey.)

Is was all about sexual innuendo, as Lewis sang about, "The Big One" "My Baby's Gun" or begged for some of that "Touch and Go" (what the hell does that even mean?) Lewis played the heavy metal rocker chick, but her stage persona and vocals were more Tina Turner meets Pat Benatar. Even by 1988 standards, they were cheesier than a can of Cheese Whiz, and between them they used enough hairspray to totally damage the ozone. But Femme Fatale received more airplay and recognition than any Albuquerque band ever had, it wasn't until The Shins hit the scene that anyone would match or surpass their success

Lorraine Lewis

Lorraine Lewis was the face of Femme Fatale, Albuquerque's aborted big time glam metal band. It would probably be safe to say that many of that band's fans were drawn to it, not so much by the music, but rather by Lorraine's sex appeal. Femme Fatale and Lewis did not shy away from dishing out the sexual innuendo, the comely Ms. Lewis had her slutty schtick down pat and the guys just ate it up. Yeah, her milk shakes got the boys to the yard...making her the fantasy queen of many a wet dream in the process. 

It was mostly an act, Lewis was not the rough and ready rocker chick that she played. In fact on stage she was more Tina Turner than anything else. Just think Tina as the Acid Queen in the movie version of The Who's Tommy but dressed in denim, lace and black leather. Her vocals were somewhere between Tina Turner and Pat Benatar without the power or range of either one. 

However from the start her looks if not her voice took her beyond  the ordinary. Lorraine Lewis had grown up in Albuquerque and cut her teeth playing the local bar circuit with Babe Ruthless. From there she teamed up with her brother Rick and they put together the group of musicians that became Femme Fatale. They moved to Hollywood and almost landed the big 'un, thanks mostly to the rock press' instant love affair with Lorraine. 

Ultimately, the band was flawed and after just one fairly successful album they broke apart faster than a Yugo.  What happened? the success of the first album was enough to warrant another two albums and a few rounds of touring. Lorraine offered an explanation in an interview with a Spanish metal music 'zine "The days of the big hair metal bands were finished, it was all about timing." Their label MCA felt that they had peaked after just one album, and the band was cut loose.

Lorraine stepped away from the music scene for a few years after that. In 2000 she returned as part  of Snowball, which was a messy mash-up of styles: metal, growling vocals, soft indie pop and electronic beats, all thrown together and mixed with loud guitars. Two years later she came out with her first truly solo album, "Lorraine Lewis", which lo and behold was a country album. Lorraine tried to explain the sudden departure from her rock foundations: "  "It's a little bit country, a little bit rock n' roll, I was born and raised in Albuquerque New Mexico and I love music with a twang, I used to listen to Linda Ronstadt and Lynyrd Skynrd." It was an all out effort by Lewis to crossover to the country market, but nobody was buying it, the album got decent reviews but sold poorly.  With Lorraine's initial dreams of country stardom dashed, she teamed up with country rocker, Tonya Watts to form Betty Sue on the Strip, which sounds like a musical version of Thelma and Louise, with a much happier ending of course. 

Lorraine Lewis is "Gypsy Femme", while Tonya Watts is "The Calibama Kid" together they go searching for their Hollywood dreams. Lorraine is a rocker who secretly dreams of being a country girl. Tonya is a country girl who dreams of livin' the rock and roll life style. It might've made a good sitcom on Fox but it came up craps when the Dixie Chicks stole all their thunder.  Not one to give up, Lorraine then teamed up with Jan Buckingham in the aptly named country chix duo, BuckinghamLewis. Lorraine's quest for a crossover to country was hampered by one small but significant detail, she was not a country singer!  Though raised in Albuquerque, her twang is not genuine, her country is not cool and she winds up sounding like what she is, a rock vocalist aping country vocals. 

Lorraine came to her senses in 2009 when she teamed up with former Vixen's drummer Roxy Petrucci to form the unfortunately named Roktopuss.  Lorraine has never been that subtle when it comes to sex, after all, she was the one who was Waiting for the Big One. Roktopuss is as subtle as a frying pan to the head, and that also describes the music the two produced. That's not to say it was bad, it's actually pretty good retro heavy metal, too bad it's not 1988 all over again. Roxy Petrucci was an "on again/off again" member of Vixen, an all female metal band from St. Paul, Minnesota. Their biggest claim to fame was an appearance in Penelope Spheeris' film "The Decline of Western Civilization II: The Metal Years" Vixen was signed by EMI and scored a hit with "Edge of a Broken Heart" a song written and arranged by Richard Marx. In 2010 Lewis hit the unemployment lines and put together a band made up of castoffs from bands long gone. 

The very unfortunately named L.A. Nookie consists of  Lewis on vocals, Alex Kane on guitar (U.K. band AntiProduct) guitarist Lisa Leveridge (Courtney Love/Hole) Share Pedersen, bassist (Vixen) and Jeff Bowders a drummer she found at Trader Joe's.  It seems that Lorraine's reasoning behind the band's name is "Sex Sells" and if you beat the public over the head with sex it'll sell more. Lorraine Lewis has firmly established herself as a heavy metal icon, and at the age of 52 she still has the looks, although now she's more gilf than milf.  I don't care, flaunt it if you got it...hmm!...I wonder if she's still up for some of that Touch and Go?